Get ready for a Brazilian chocolate indulgence and prepare to find some of the most exquisite bonbons in Rio de Janeiro. That’s right, even in this hot tropical city, mostly known for beaches, soccer and samba, chocolate too as become a cultural phenomenon, and a new class of chocolatiers is finding innovative ways to revive the country’s cocoa’s production.
This past summer, I had the opportunity to interview one of my favorites chocolatiers of Rio for this blog: Solange and Adriana Wiltjen from Cacau Noir.
My belief in Cacau Noir goes back to an enlightning encounter, circa 1994 with this mother-daughter team, who, at that time, were already directioning the faith of chocolate in the mega metropolis with a tiny store located at Hotel Cezar Park.
I got a taste of Cacau Noir’s production on a beautiful day in Rio. To streamline my visit, we first went to the kitchen in Vargem Grande (pass Barra da Tijuca) where they maintain a staff of fifteen, then to a store.
I spent a morning circling between German and French equipments like tempering machines and special refrigerators, watching Solange and her staff prepare a bonanza of delicacies.
I sampled pepper ganache bonbons, macarrons and pão de mel. I tried a coffee dark truffle, pistachio praline and bolo de laranja. All incredibly tasty and comparable to the bonbons found at Madison Avenue in New York, I can attest.
The more I strolled thrugh an impecably clean kitchen, the clearer it was that the level of sophistication is constantly evolving at Cacau Noir. Jacques Torres would love this place!
The packaging and presentation is another detail to pay attention to. Graphic design may not be at the heart of a chocolate program, but the patterns of Rio’s boardwalk and its landscapes speaks volume about Brazilian identity and the direction the company is taking.
Solange’s creations are designed to evoke a sense of celebration with flavors that range from coconut and mint, to dulce de leche and cachaÇa. These chocolates bring the bliss and spirit of carioca culture into a bite size of joy.
Where experience becomes essential is in making the ganache, where chocolate, cream and butter bond and become greater than the sum of its parts. For that , Solange studied at Barry Callebaut Chocolate Technology in Chicago.
Solange Wiltgen, 63, founded Cacau Noir with her daughter Adriana, after parting ways from her twin sister Elvira, which they previously ran Chez Bombom. They attracted a following among foodies, parties, events, and coporate clients, and Cacau Noir has since grown into a company with four boutiques in Rio (located at Rio Design Leblon, Rio Design Barra, Quartier Ipanema, and Village Mall).
The store front is as slick and modern as any art gallery showroom, while the assortment of products highlights a variety of chocolate indulgences.
Solange and Adriana both feature an extremely calm style that matches the sophisticated and serene vibe behing their brand. Rarely have I witnessed such tranquility in what is typically known as a caotic kitchen enviroment. It positively affects they way they run their business and handle such a temperamental item like chocolate.
Summer months in Rio can distant carioca’s crave for chocolate, even though the product remains in a temperature controled enviroment at all times. To maneuver Rio’s hot temperatures, Cacau Noir has diversified its products to other confections like brownies, cakes, ice cream, and spoon brigadeiros.
I take one bite at this intense variation of brigadeiro and forsee the landscape of Rio printed all over, with faith and unlimited confidence in the greatness of both destinies: Cacau Noir and Rio de Janeiro.
If you would like to read more of my articles about the upcoming rise of Brazilian chocolate, click here.
Rio Design Leblon, 1 piso, Leblon Tel: (021) 2529-6977
Rio Design Barra, 2˚ Piso, Barra Tel: (021) 2432-8281
Quartier Ipanema, Terreo, Ipanema Tel: (021) 2247-9843
Village Mall, 2˚ Piso, Barra