Did you know that Theobroma cacao, the scientific name of cacao, means “food of the gods” (from Greek) plus “bitter water” (from Nahuatl)? To elevate chocolate as it rightfully deserves is the aim of Ralfe Gourmet Chocolate Boutique, which is located within Cebu City. In working toward its aim, the artisan chocolate boutique’s focus is on creating quality chocolate from cacao pods that are grown at local sources. This chocolate boutique was recommended as an excellent one by an Everything Cebu reader who’s particularly interested in the local dining scene.
One positively fascinating attraction at Ralfe Gourmet was its delightful and strictly-by-appointment snack buffet, which had its finale on September 5 and 7, 2012. A few of the buffets had themes like cinnamon-vanilla chocolate, chocolate orange and spiced chocolate. In lieu of the buffet, Ralfe Gourmet plans to have Apreciación de Chocolate (chocolate appreciation), showcasing its cacao creations that use the finest local chocolate.
As you would expect of any skilled chocolatier, Ralfe Gourmet has chocolate truffles, a type of candy that is made of chocolate, sugar, butter, and sometimes liqueur shaped into little spheres and often covered in cocoa. The truffles have an assortment of flavors that include tablea choco peanut butter, caramel with cacao nibs and tablea ganache. Cacao nibs are an interesting food item because they are bits of the cleaned-up raw cacao beans that, in some varieties, are lightly toasted. In other words, cacao nibs are pure chocolate, and because no sugar is added to them, they retain a hint of earthy, bitter flavor. They also contribute texture when they are added to chocolate bars and other delicacies.
Other chocolate goodies that Ralfe Gourmet featured are its old-fashioned chocolate cake, choco moist cake and dark chocolate crisps with sesame seeds & black pepper. It also serves savory food, like pizza and pasta, which were part of its previous buffet menus.
The woman behind Ralfe Gourmet Inc. is Raquel Choa, who was interviewed by rappler.com for its life & style section. She and her spouse Alfred have been suppliers of tablea to prestigious hotels in Cebu and other parts of the Philippines. Filipinos know tablea as those brown tablets used in making the chocolate drink that we here in the Visayas named sikwate.
In cottage industries, farm workers process the harvested cacao pods by sucking the mucilage (a plant substance containing protein and polysaccharides and having a pulpy consistency) that surrounds the cacao beans to remove this substance adhering to the beans. In doing so, they also remove a considerable amount of flavor from the bean. Ralfe Gourmet’s tablea is not made from cacao beans processed in this way. Instead, the beans are separated from the surrounding mucilage through a fermentation process that breaks down the mucilage and is much more hygienic as well.
When the cottage-industry method is used, only a third of the weight of a cacao pod is processed into commercially viable chocolate. Thus, traditional tablea is usually made with fillers that may include cacao pod husk, sweet potato, jackfruit seeds, or peanuts. Fillers are insoluble, and they cause a somewhat grainy consistency in sikwate or the traditional Filipino hot chocolate.
Since tablea from Ralfe Gourmet is made of 100 percent cacao beans, it is free from the grainy texture associated with traditionally made tablea. Some people who drank the chocolate made from Ralfe Gourmet tablea found its texture so unexpectedly smooth that they were even skeptical about whether the tablea was for real.
When she was growing up in Balamban, Chef Raquel learned from her grandmother how to make hot chocolate with the use of a traditional batirol. A batirol is a small pot with a shape like an urn. Used in tandem with the batirol is a stirring utensil with a handle that is rotated between the palms of the hands.
Chef Raquel’s youthful experience with the art of tablea- and sikwate-making evolved into her present advocacy of locally made chocolate. Even though the cacao bean seems underrated as a crop here in the Philippines and the local supply might not be reliable, Chef Raquel wants Filipinos at some point to be able to stop asking their relatives or friends who are coming home from abroad to bring them chocolate, because our local chocolate would already be greatly improved.
Ralfe Gourmet Chocolate Boutique is located at 3349 Topaz Street, Casals’ Village, Mabolo, Cebu City. You can send [email protected] an e-mail message, and Ralfe Gourmet’s landline number is (032)316-2220. You may also call cell phone number (0917)628-7661 if you want to make a reservation at Ralfe Gourmet, which announces its upcoming events from time to time on its official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ralfe-Gourmet-Chocolate-Boutique/187109351389119.