Fortunately, allergies don't have to be as limiting as they have been before.
A good friend of mine is lactose intolerant. He's dating a girl with a gluten allergy. I just pray that we never have them over for diner at the same time as our vegan friends. If we did, though, some clever chocolatiers have made desert not only possible, but incredibly tasty.
Madre Chocolate is a Hawaiian company with some absolutely fantastic flavors for their chocolate. I was given the opportunity to try their coconut and ginger bar. It was so incredibly light and creamy I institutionally want to call this a "milk" chocolate, but this vegan bar doesn't have a drop of milk in it. The fudgy texture of the chocolate reminds me of a fondant filling, but the ginger of this bar is what makes it truly spectacular. The ginger is slightly caramelized to release a powerful spice with more variety. It has a much deeper flavor than the sort you find in gingerbread. The coconut helps add to the bars cream flavor and gives the bar a good texture. Vosges and Chuao are both huge companies for us with dozens of flavors between them. Vosges is wherefrom the Bacon Chocolate Bar began, and Chuao consistently floors us with its Firecracker Bar. Both companies offer flavors that are either gluten free, dairy free, or both. Of these, the Vosges Black Pearl Bar is my favorite: gluten free and vegan. An unusual combination, this chocolate brings together black sesame, ginger, and wasabi. The chocolate is divided into three major tastes that run parallel. It takes sweetness from the chocolate and ginger and spice from the wasabi and the ginger; the black sesame brings out a little bit of bitterness in the cacao and the robust flavor intrinsic to the wasabi. Each of the flavors finds a compliment, rounding this bar out into a spectacular spectrum of flavor. The fact that the chocolate has been made accessible to the allergenic has not dulled its flavor or imagination.
A local Boston company, Taza makes a very different kind of chocolate. Specializing in darker chocolates, Taza uses a stone ground process to create chocolates in a very Mexican style. The chocolate is gluten and dairy free, and has a grainy texture more like traditional Latin American treats. The grainy texture encourages you to chew this chocolate quite firmly. Grinding these little granules of cacao release an amount of flavor that can really surprise you. I like to think of it as splitting the chocolate atom. Taza makes a "salt and pepper" cannister of chocolate bites, and the mixture of flavors is intoxicating. The salt brings the cacao flavors into sharp relief and the pepper accents it with a simple contrast. Stone ground chocolate in't for everyone, but it is a fantastic experience, worth trying. So when next you find yourself looking for a gift for your lactose intolerant, gluten allergy friend, please remember that chocolate is an option, and it will certainly make their day.