Dessert First

Moroccan Mint Cashew Chocolate from Stone Grindz, Scottsdale's Bean-to-Bar Producers

In the past few years, the selection of readily available chocolate has grown considerably beyond Hershey's and Ghiradelli to include artisanal bars sourced both nationwide and globally. Thanks to a few homegrown companies like family-operated Stone Grindz, you can even get chocolate that has been transformed from cacao bean to yummy bar right here in Arizona. (FYI, Glendale's Ceretta Candy Company uses an exclusive blend by Guittard.)

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What truly makes Stone Grindz chocolate unique, aside from being 100% raw and organic, is the texture. As the name implies, the company's entire product line, including coconut butter and superfood bars, is made using a stone grinder. This gives the chocolate a rough, sandy texture like that of traditional Mexican chocolate, and it means that mix-ins like nuts and fruit are ground into fine pieces along with the beans to be strewn evenly throughout the bars.

This is by far the smoothest stone ground chocolate that I have ever sampled, and the sugar crystals are barely discernible. In the Moroccan Mint Cashew (the family favorite, according to the company website), the nuts are ground nearly to the point of being flour, with some specks as small as the head of a needle. Although the chocolate isn't as smooth and silky as a typical tempered bar, there is a luxurious smoothness in the flavor profile from the cashews. In a way this inverts expectations, and the mint follows suit.

Forget about peppermint patties and candy cane-studded bark because this take on the classic combo of mint and chocolate somehow manages to be new and different. Stone Grindz sources pure distilled mint oil from a sustainable family farm in Morocco, which gives the chocolate a light minty flavor. It's fresh in the sense of earthy herbs, not like the icy blast of gum, and has a touch of licorice while staying distinctively mint.

Stone Grindz can be found at farmers' markets in metro Phoenix and Flagstaff. And as of last month, Moroccan Mint Cashew chocolate bars, along with flavors like Espresso Jolt and Salty Almond, are on store shelves at the newly opened Phoenix Public Market Café. Out-of-towners can get a taste too; orders placed through the Stone Grindz website can be shipped practically anywhere.

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