Customer Reviews


22 Reviews
5 star:
 (12)
4 star:
 (6)
3 star:
 (2)
2 star:
 (2)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Biography of Great Product. Excellent Read
`Chocolate - A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light' by culinary journalist, Mort Rosenblum reads as a collection of essays on various aspects of the contemporary world of chocolate and its history, going back to pre-Columbian America.

Anyone who has read Rosenblum's excellent book, `Olives', will recognize the style of this book, which seems to jump from one...
Published on January 31, 2005 by B. Marold

versus
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable but flawed...
I quite enjoy non-fiction works about food, and so I was delighted to find this in the library before an afternoon session of quiet reading in bed.

Indeed, it is quite an enjoyable look at the worldwide growth of fine chocolate, particularly in relation to French chocolatiers. It is an easy, fast and relatively light read. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on...
Published on November 13, 2005 by Kate


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Biography of Great Product. Excellent Read, January 31, 2005
This review is from: Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light (Hardcover)
`Chocolate - A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light' by culinary journalist, Mort Rosenblum reads as a collection of essays on various aspects of the contemporary world of chocolate and its history, going back to pre-Columbian America.

Anyone who has read Rosenblum's excellent book, `Olives', will recognize the style of this book, which seems to jump from one time, place, and situation to another with little rhyme or reason. The narrative is neither chronological nor in the order in which cacao is grown, harvested, refined, formed into wholesale chocolate, and used as an ingredient in truffles, bonbons, and other confections. There is actually a lot of good sense to this structure (or lack of it) in that you are much less likely to become bored with the tale.

Rosenblum is not a culinary practitioner such as Elizabeth David, Julia Child or contemporary chocolate writer David Lebovitz (to whom Rosenblum owes a considerable debt, as Lebovitz shared information with Rosenblum, in spite of the fact that Lebovitz was writing his own book on chocolate). He is also not an observer of human gastronomic desires such as M.F.K. Fisher. He is not even a hybrid of these two breeds, the culinary columnist, such as James Villas, Jeffrey Steingarten, or John Thorne, who deal in both appetites and techniques. Rosenblum is a rather rare breed of journalist who specializes in writing about food, but seems to have no overriding passion for the subject. He simply seems to be interested in the subject, and, he is a very, very good observer and reporter of what he sees. The writers with the most similar approach seems to be Eric Schlosser (author of `Fast Food Nation') who, like Rosenblum, is as much interested in the economics of a food business as with taste. These writers are more like one another than they are like other writers I have mentioned, although Rosenblum is much less polemical than Schlosser.

Unlike the subjects of `Olives' and `A Goose in Toulouse', where the author had an intimate connection with his subject before he began writing his book, Rosenblum was not intimately familiar with chocolate up to about two years ago. Thus, virtually all his historical information is from secondary sources, albeit, very, very good secondary sources, some dating back to the writings of the early Spanish Conquistadors. His modern information; however, is all based on interviews with primary sources, with some help from Lebovitz and a contemporary chocolate expert, Chloe Doutre-Roussel. And, just as his `Olives' book contained no recipes for sauteeing with olive oil or constructing salads or tapenades with olives, this book contains not one wit of instruction on how to do things with chocolate. For that, see Lebovitz' excellent `The Great Book of Chocolate'.

This is not to say there is no practical information in this book. One of the biggest revelations should be no surprise to anyone who reads about food on a regular basis. That is, our familiar Hershey's chocolate is about as similar to fine chocolate from Europe and American producers such as Sharfen-Berger as a Big Mac is to an entrée of boeuf au pauvre prepared at Thomas Keller's Bouchon or even at Tony Bourdain's Les Halles restaurant. And, this has nothing to do with European skill versus American ignorance. As a product, cacao has a lot in common with other natural products with characteristic terroir, such as olives, coffee, and grapes, leading to differences in the products made from these materials. A very high volume producer such as Hershey simply cannot deal with these variations, so they do everything needed to smooth out these differences as they use the very cheapest cacao they can get their hands on.

The big picture which develops in the course of this book is that the world of chocolate processing is complex, and things have to be done just right at every stage along the route in order to produce world class chocolate. This world is roughly divided into those who grow cacao in the tropics, gather it, dry it, and ferment it; those who buy dried cacao nibs and process it into bar chocolate, the raw material for fine chocolatiers, the most familiar of whom to Americans is probably Jacques Torres.

I confess that most chocolate history was less interesting to me than the shenanigans of modern chocolate businesses and chocolatiers. Just as I was surprised to have the belief about Hershey confirmed in a big way, I was also surprised to find that the widely touted Valrhona brand of French chocolate may be one of the best brands in the world, but it is by no means the largest maker of fine chocolate. That honor goes to Callebaut, also in France. But, Valrhona did present some of the most interesting stories in the book, as its representatives seem to have turned rudeness and chocolate politics into a rather gross art, in high contrast to the quality of their product.

This, of course, is exactly the same interest of Rosenblum's earlier books, although chocolate is not as heavily embroiled in European Union politics as is olive oil, as I suspect the difference in money involved is somewhere on the order of 100 to 1. And, just as Valrhona is about 1/10 the size of Callebaut, the leading American producer of fine chocolate, Sharfen-Berger, produces but 1/100 of Valrhona.

Near the end of the book, Rosenblum seems to remember that he is talking about a food and offers a chapter on nutritional research done on chocolate in the last hundred years or so. In a nutshell, most stories, whether ancient (as in Aztec) or modern (as in diet doctor) are somewhat mistaken. Most of the bad things attributed to chocolate are actually due to the sugar in chocolate candy. Chocolate itself has lots of things which are either good for you or make you feel good, with little or no undesirable side effects.

Every major food deserves a book like this and one like Lebovitz' work.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable but flawed..., November 13, 2005
By 
Kate (Australia) - See all my reviews
I quite enjoy non-fiction works about food, and so I was delighted to find this in the library before an afternoon session of quiet reading in bed.

Indeed, it is quite an enjoyable look at the worldwide growth of fine chocolate, particularly in relation to French chocolatiers. It is an easy, fast and relatively light read. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on Hershey and Valhrona. I did find myself consuming masses of expensive chocolate, just to discover that elusive quality which makes some chocolate truly fantastic.

However, all that is good is overshadowed by all that is lacking in Rosenblum's work. Essentially, its greatest flaw is its complete lack of referencing or sourcing, which really discredits any work of supposed non-fiction. It is difficult to think of non-referenced non-fiction as anything more than fiction with a possible element of truth. I really think Rosenblum should consider the importance of acknowledging his sources in his next work.

Furthermore, the structuring is somewhat haphazard, with varying chapters put sequentially but with little linking them to each other. For example, the aforementioned Hershey chapter is followed by a section on cacao in Africa and the (possible) exploitation of plantation workers. While it may seem innocuous, it makes for very disjointed reading. I think the text would be bettered with a more sequential structure, perhaps with the chapters on raw material coming first, followed by chapters about the processed goods.

Still, a reasonably worthwhile and light read. The sort of book best borrowed from the library.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting view of the Chocolate Biz, June 27, 2006
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light (Hardcover)
Rosenblum's book is a fun read and you'll learn a ton about the choco biz, but the tasting notes are lost inside all the gossip.

I prefer The Chocolate Connoisseur for more focused detail on just chocolate and learning how to distinguish between various grades. This is more of an industry approach and extensive and interesting as are Rosenblum's other food books.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars This book is candy, not chocolate, March 10, 2005
By 
icqcq (SouthxSouthWest) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light (Hardcover)
If you're truly obsessed with chocolate, or if you have a high tolerance for careless writing and indulgent editing, you'll make it through this book. As a chocolate obsessive, I made it through, but it is a slog. The paragraphs might as well have bullet-points for all the flow and logic of the writing, but there are plenty of names here to follow-up on if you're interested in fine chocolate, and undoubtedly his favorite chocolatiers will find themselves inundated with fans. The book itself is light on fact and solid information about chocolate and the process, and is heavy on suggestion, personal opinion, and gossip. He seems to have taken this opportunity to indulge himself, both in the eating of chocolate and the writing of his adventure. I can't recommend this book....
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Timely overview of this trendy topic, August 6, 2005
This review is from: Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light (Hardcover)
Chocolate is certainly trendy where I live (the San Francisco Bay Area) and probably as a result of our once independent Scharffen-Berger's factory tours. Will the appreciation of good chocolate go the way of the late 90's cigar fad? Or will it endure, like America's ever increasing willingness to search for great wine?

Before this book I read "The True History of Chocolate" (Coe & Coe) and found the Rosenblum book much more entertaining but still edifying. Sure, he's a reporter looking to get up to speed with something in just two years, but unlike the diligent Coes, the writing is brisk and enjoyable. I particularly appreciated his willingness to be critical of some producers for taking advantage of people willing to pay top dollar for good chocolate and not caring what the fantastic packaging contains. Yes, after doing this research he finds himself to be a chocolate snob, but he still knows that you should eat what you like, as long as you know the difference between chocolate and candy. He also shows how the European secretiveness and snobbery that has preserved the art form has probably gotten in the way of the rest of us ever knowing that such great stuff is out there.

With this book, I now how much good stuff is out there. And this afternoon I walked into Oakland's Bittersweet Cafe and paid a ridiculous six bucks for a chocolate bar. It was worth it--and way cheaper than a nice cigar.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Prepare to buy chocolate, July 21, 2009
By 
M. Hitchcock (Washington, D.C.) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I don't generally read books about food: mostly I remember the urge to eat whatever's mentioned rather than the content of the book. Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light, was an exception (although I did end up buying some of the chocolates Rosenblum mentions in the book). It was a light read that discussed everything from cacao plantations to Nutella. There's a bit of snobbery, but that was to be expected.

There were some organizational and balance issues. For instance, Rosenblum jumps from a rather soft discussion of Hershey to potential slavery on cacao plantations in Africa. The book jumped around from topic to topic, rather than moving through the process of making chocolate or discussing chocolate regionally. Also, there were no footnotes or a bibliography, which makes me nervous about how trustworthy all the facts (like the origin of the word chocolate) are.

Overall, a worthwhile introduction to chocolate, but one that should be read with a bit of skepticism.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Properly researched and well written, February 21, 2009
I'm not one that likes journalists as a rule. But, get a good investigative journalist and get him caught up in a subject as fascinating as chocolate, and you're on to a winner. This is a book that flows as beautifully as melted chocolate in terms of writing style. And yet a lot of research has gone into the book, which gives it depth. In particular, I like the way that Rosenblum has taken the time to visit a very significant proportion of the world's greatest chocolate bar maunufacturers and chocolatiers. This provides the reader with a wonderful insight into what is required to make top quality chocolate as well as what happens when you place commercial aims above that quality. Good chocolate can be made anywhere, and the author explodes the long held myths that only the Belgians and Swiss know anything about chocolate. The section on the UK is a bit thin, but if Rosenblum had been writing this book today he would undoubtedly have marvelled at the magical creations of William Curley (voted Britain's Best Chocolatier in 2007, 2008 and 2009), the Gordon Ramsay of the British chocolate world, or perhaps Paul A. Young, chocolate's Heston Blumenthal. This is an excellent and informative book. My only criticism is that I'm not sure I really needed a whole chapter devoted to Mexican mole, a chicken/turkey dish with a chocolate sauce!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile Read for the Confirmed Chocophile, December 28, 2012
By 
Robbin Warner (Alexandria, VA USA) - See all my reviews
If you've ever wondered what differentiates French chocolate from Swiss chocolate from Belgian chocolate? Or wondered how chocolate goes from beans on trees to high priced bars in fashionable stores? Or was curious about how some of world's finest chocolatiers got their start? Then you need look no further than Mort Rosenblum's Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light. Written as part fine chocolate ethnography and part first person travel log, Rosenblum looks at chocolate not as a mere confection, but a cultural phenomenon worthy of study at every stage from the growing and harvesting of beans to the art of processing, production, and presentation.

An easy and well worthwhile read for the confirmed chocophile.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars a scholarly look at a popular treat, June 18, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Many books about chocolate are filled with passion and love for the subject, that's less the case here as Mort Rosenbaum approaches his subject with a seasoned journalist's dedication and thoroughness. Yet, it's the moments of chocophile delight that enliven this book, particularly when he goes to Mexico in search of the perfect mole. Rosenbaum covers everyone from Milton Hershey to Michel Cluizel, in this book which is really a series of connected essays that provide a global picture of chocolate at all price points.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars A clever, funny account of chocolate, from tree to stomach, December 21, 2010
I was actually forced to buy this book for a chocolate class I took one summer. Although the class itself was a joke, the book was definitely not. Not only is it visually appealing- a glossy orange cover, and words printed in brown ink, with nicely drawn illustrations for every segment of the book- it is also a great read. The book takes you from Paris and the mysterious Valrhona factory, to the Ivory Coast and the difficulties of being a plantation owner. I thought I would get bored, despite the book being about a topic I love, but honestly, I could barely put it down.
Rosenblum writes with a bit of sarcastic wit, and intelligence, and writes from his own perspective of his explorations in the chocolate world. He gives you scientific facts, numbers, and history, and then talks about his experience making mole with a family in Mexico. It was a very interesting book, a sort of history of chocolate. And of course, it makes me crave chocolate every time I open it up.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light
Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light by Mort Rosenblum (Hardcover - February 15, 2005)
Used & New from: $0.01
Add to wishlist See buying options
Search these reviews only
Rate and Discover Movies
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.