Chocolate That’s “Too Good To Use”

Once upon a time, I worked in a restaurant that was well-known for using ingredients of exceptional quality. The most magnificent fruits and vegetables would come barreling through our kitchen door every day, from plump, rare black raspberries to teeny-tiny wild strawberries, fraises des bois.

While I can’t really guess the psychology behind it, we would often treat these marvels like precious jewels, reserving them for the perfect moment.

Or we’d just forget about them, then throw them away.

Unfortunately, because they were so fragile, they’d often last no longer than a day or so, and we’d arrive the next morning to find they hadn’t been used the previous evening and had to be tossed. While I don’t want to apologize or make excuses for this inexcusable behavior, restaurants are odd places full of strange people acting unusual…and no, it’s not just the customers. There’s mis-communications, too much going on all at once, and frankly, things don’t always happen like they should. And don’t tell me that you haven’t let something accidentally spoil in under your eagle-eye either.

Because I’m not buying it.


So one day, one of the other cooks started to dub things as they came through the door, “Too good to use.”
He used the phrase to refer to things that were so special, that we just couldn’t bear to use them. And soon, the rest of us picked up the phrase too, and when something beautiful would arrive, it became the joke to label it as being something that was “too good to use.”

So, last year when I led an Italian Chocolate Tour through Tuscany and Torino, we stopped at Slitti in the tiny town of Monsummano Terme. Although Slitti started out in 1969 as a coffee-roasting company, Andrea Slitti (the son of the founder) started applying his roasting expertise to chocolate-making and now Slitti is regarded as one of the top chocolate-makers in the world. After our visit, on the way out, Palmira Slitti (Andrea’s wife who runs the shop) pressed a jar of their Crema da spalmare al Cioccolato Fondente ricca di nocciole into my already loaded-up bag of chocolates with a cheerful ciao bella.


When I got home, I put the jar on my kitchen shelf so I could admire it, and it sat there day-after-day. Each day I would gaze up, all glassy-eyed, imagining the chocolate-y goodness through the glass of the jar, and I could practically taste the tiny bits of roasted Piedmontese hazelnuts, embedded in a rich, dark chocolate paste that were speckled throughout.

One day I decided it was no longer “too good to use” and abruptly pulled the jar down from its perch, opened it up, and with knife poised, got ready to spread.

Instead of dipping into the tasty spread, I peered inside first and saw that the entire surface was covered with green, dusty mold. Ick! So at 6:30am, I had the unenviable task of cleaning moldy chocolate. Not a pretty thing to wake up to. I managed to get all visible signs of mold off, then I poured in a shot of Jack Daniels (which around here is definitely not too-good-to-use) and swished it around to kill any microscopic traces of green hairiness.

Thankfully I didn’t toss it, and the hazelnut-chocolate paste was the best I’ve ever tasted. Unlike commercial hazelnut and chocolate spreads, this crema da spalmare from Slitti was made from the best, just-blended chocolate imaginable, studded with the world-famous Piedmontese hazelnuts from Langhe. And I’ve been enjoying it for the past few weeks, the warm weather in Paris makes it the perfect spreadable (ie: heap-able) consistency for my morning toast.

So maybe you have something in your cabinet, something you picked up on a trip that you’re holding on to. Or do you have a bottle of wine you’ve been saving for a special occasion? Or is there something else that’s so special that you can’t bear to open it?

Do you have something that’s “too good to use”?

Cioccolato e Caffè
Via Francesca Sud, 1268
Monsummano Terme
Tel: 0572.640240

Note: Slitti chocolate but you might want to try the Askinosie Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread, or try my Chocolate Hazelnut Spread recipe.

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  • Nancy
    June 17, 2006 5:33pm

    I just went to the cupboard to check out what I have that ‘is too good to use’. Yikes! What an eclectic dinner I will be having!

  • June 17, 2006 5:46pm

    My mother, who lives in Australia, still keeps a litre of pure white vanilla essence that I brought back from Mexico for her in 2002. Thankfully, vanilla isn’t one to cultivate mold.

  • June 17, 2006 6:07pm

    Ah yes, actually I have a bottle of Jenke Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 that I’ve been saving for just the right occasion and meal. It goes exceptionally well with a thick juicy medium rare eye fillet, but we don’t have any of those so it’s still laying there in the pantry, next to the bottle of Elderton Boitrys Semillion that’s also “too good to use”. Although our 5th wedding anniversary is coming up in October so maybe one of those bottles will meet it’s end then….

  • June 18, 2006 2:22am

    Oh goodness. The other day June Taylor came to my house wu=ith a mutual friend. I showed her my famous preserves collection. She spotted one I have from many a year ago, “Crab Apple & Rose Geranium Butter.” Then she uttered the straight version of, “Girl you have got to be kidding me?!

    But I know what you mean. This is why I think the freezer has got to be our friend. Especially this time of year. If I am not working at a restaurant capable of buying fruit by the flat I sort of re-create this experience at home.

    This is why I am taking June’s classes. Soon, hopefully, I will be gazing at my own jars of out of date jams!

  • June 18, 2006 5:09am

    Though i guess the experience of cleaning the jar at 6.30 must have been quite painful; i’m sure the taste and creaminess of the spread made you forget the hard task you had achieved a minute before.
    I think i might drop by Monsummano Terme quest’estate.


  • kat
    June 18, 2006 7:54am

    gah! my kitchen is full of things that are ‘too good to use.’ as if they will fail to please us if we do not wait for just the right moment to consume them…why do we torture ourselves like this?

  • June 18, 2006 3:08pm

    I admire you for your frugality. Who would have known that liquor could disinfect chocolate?

  • J. Bo
    June 18, 2006 3:59pm

    Ooh, this happened to a friend who waited too long to use a precious white truffle he’d been given (you have to use those little suckers RIGHT AWAY or they lose all their delicate aroma).

    Saddest fancy risotto ever.

  • June 18, 2006 5:12pm

    I adore Slitti dark milk bars, so I can only imagine what the hazelnut spread is like. Good warning for us to not save “our best china”…until it’s too late.

  • June 19, 2006 12:52am

    I don’t think I have anything. I do have two frozen quails though. I am waiting to figure out exactly how to cook them.

  • anne
    June 19, 2006 1:18am

    I love the people at Chocosphere. The lady helping me on the phone seemed genuinely loving her job. Who wouldn’t being surrounded by lovely, lovely chocolate! I once emptied their stock of Valrhona Easter Eggs and half were instantly consumed and given away while I reserved half for my ‘too good to finish right away (as opposed to use) stash’. I found them three months later, still good but the chocolate had gotten a little grainy after being in the refrigerator.

  • June 19, 2006 5:26am

    Gabriella: Try pouring Jack Daniel’s over them. That outta do the trick.

    Anne: I’ve never ordered from Chocosphere, but they have such as great selection, and their site it terrific. So many chocolates you can’t geet elsewhere. Glad they were helpful.

    J. Bo: That IS sad…almost as bad as losing a jar of Slitti gianduja. Do I sense an Italian there here?

    Shuna: Hmmm, a jam collection? Well, those June Taylor jams really are too good to use. Better send ’em to me.

    Kat: Yes, watching a jar of Slitti gianduja grow mold is surely the consequence of our torture. Glad I’m not the only one. Or at least we’re some of the few to admit it.

    Bonnie: Vanilla does have a shelf life, so make sure your mom keeps it out of light and away from heat.

    Kevin: Kevin…? Kevin…?

  • June 19, 2006 9:37am

    OMG, David, you are strumming my pain with your fingers (so to speak!!) I am sooooo bad at having stuff that is “too good to use”!! I have two tins of foie gras sitting on my shelf from my 2 most recent trips to Paris. I have seasonings from my trip to the USA and Mexico. I have jars of sauces and preserves that people have given me as gifts. I am the WORST!! And yes, occasionally I have had to throw stuff out as a result. Often my husband notices stuff isn’t getting used and sticks it out of the way at the very back of the cupboard – and if I can’t see it, it just stops existing for me! And then a year later I find it and chuck it out ;-) Too good to use, but not too good to dispose of…

  • June 19, 2006 10:18am

    If you need me, I’ll be helping Kevin.

  • June 19, 2006 1:39pm

    chocolate would NEVER last that long in my house.

    but, i’ve got a bottle of 90 year old balsamic that i have been saving since i got back from italy a year ago. i can’t bring myself to open it. it’s like using it would take away the memories of the trip or something. :(

  • June 19, 2006 1:49pm

    Jeanne: Gulp. I have a few jars of foie gras and confit de canard that I made and preserved about 3 years ago (in glass jars, using the boiling water method.) I don’t know if they’re still good. Anyone know?
    I’m afraid to open them, but I can’t bear to throw ‘them away!

    Barbie2be: A 90 year old balsamic?

    I wouldn’t worry. I don’t think a few more years ain’t gonna make a difference.
    (But I bet it’ll be sensational when you finally open it up.)

  • June 19, 2006 6:34pm

    Tonight might be the night I eat the Lonzo I’ve been hoarding — Corsican Sausage…

  • Steve
    June 19, 2006 9:17pm

    Those photos are pure food porn.

  • June 20, 2006 1:49am

    Jack Daniels? That sounds good. I was thinking of a little bit of guava actually.

  • June 21, 2006 4:19am

    You ate it! I didn’t realise that you could ‘clean’ mould off chocolate – WOW! Must have tasted great, David.

  • Vivian
    June 21, 2006 9:07am

    I think my mother-in-law still has caviar she brought back from Russia in her freezer. From over 10 years ago. She thinks the freezer is a magic box…not that I’m one to speak. I’m almost as bad. I’ve got a big pot of duck fat in my second fridge for making duck confit…it’s been there for 4 years since I’ve made my last batch of confit.

  • June 26, 2006 10:53am

    Jam, jam and more jam…

    I’m afraid my “too good to use” stash is bigger than my “use it all the time” stash. Unless it’s really frightening looking I won’t throw it away.