David Menkes Shines the Light on LetterPress
by Eric Battersby
Here at Chocolate Connoisseur we absolutely love to discover chocolate makers doing great things, because we know our readers love it as well. There are some phenomenal people making a living in the world of chocolate, and the best of the best pay close attention not only to the fine details of their craft, but also to the big picture… to how his or her choices affect more than just a chocolate bar.
David Menkes is clearly one of those people, a fact I can vouch for personally after working with him on Chocolate Connoisseur back in 2013, before he actually started making chocolate. Indeed, he credits attending the Northwest Chocolate Festival for the first time, as a Chocolate Connoisseur reporter no less, as one of the turning points on his path to full-time chocolate maker.
At the show back then, David said, “We weren’t thinking of starting our own company at all. We were just asking around who was making chocolate in Los Angeles, and most people said nobody, which we found interesting.”
In those days, David worked full time as an animator for DreamWorks, but on the side he wrote for his own blog, Little Brown Squares, a website of course dedicated to his true passion. In March of 2014, David and his wife Corey took the plunge and started their own chocolate company in their tiny Los Angeles apartment. LetterPress Chocolate officially began.
Now here in 2016, David and his LetterPress Chocolate strive for the next level, with a new bar and brand new, absolutely stunning packaging as well, across the board. The bars certainly look amazing from the outside, but packaging in and of itself only sells a chocolate bar once. It’s what’s inside the wrapper that truly establishes greatness. Mr. Menkes does not disappoint.
“We prefer to use two ingredients – cacao and organic unrefined cane sugar, so it’s vegan. Some cacao origins are much lower in cacao butter, so we may add a small percentage to help the mouth-feel.”
Every chocolate maker practices his or her own philosophy for creating the best chocolate possible, and David, as you’d expect, is as powerful as it is humble –
“We try to get our hands on the best cacao beans we can find, and try not to screw it up.”
Don’t think for a second, however, that creativity plays no part in the process.
“Our newest bar, our Amaranth Crunch, has been a bar I’ve had on my mind for over two years now. Originally I wanted to puff my own rice (since I couldn’t just buy Rice Krispies…that would be cheating), but to do it the way I’d want would require 500psi pressure cooker (most available pressure cookers are limited to 15psi). So instead, I thought of amaranth. It was one of the main ingredients in the Aztec diet before the Spanish arrived. Amaranth is naturally gluten-free and high in protein and fiber, and it tastes really good. We pop it like popcorn and blend it with our La Red chocolate and a bit of fleur de sel. We’re pretty proud of it.”
“I’d like to think what we provide is a ‘clean read’ on our cacao. We spend an inordinate amount of time tasting raw cacao beans and really think about how those beans should be roasted. Roasting is everything… when you taste our chocolate, that’s pretty much exactly what we tasted in the beans. Those beans clearly made that chocolate.”
For the rest of this In Focus feature on David Menkes and LetterPress, click here to either subscribe or just pick up the December 2016 issue in the Chocolate Connoisseur store.
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