Artisan Du Chocolat – 20 Piece Couture Box

British company Artisan Du Chocolat, create chocolates which are beautiful to look at and a pleasure to eat. I’m not a chocolate snob and I enjoy a wagon wheel, as much as I do a Single Origin truffle, but if I could give a prize for the “Best in Show” for chocolate packaging, presentation and the whole eating experience, then it would surely be a Gold Medal to Artisan Du Chocolat’s 20 Piece Couture Box.

The box itself is a white textured square, with a tiny brown toggle as the fastening. A really lovely and decadent touch. Almost as luxurious as the chocolate inside!

Image

Image

Inside is a short (but inspiring) blurb, printed on an orange woven material which states:

“This box tells the story of our passion for chocolate

For the lush exotic lands that nourish it and give it it’s distinctive taste

For the farmers who nurture it

For it’s magical refinement in our conch and our mill

For it’s whimsical union with herbs and spices, nuts, fruits or flowers

For the pleasure it gives”

The chocolates are very fresh and there is another note stating that they are best devoured within two weeks of purchase. Although, for such sumptuous chocolate to last this long in my house is unthinkable!

There are twenty chocolates and twenty different flavours inside the box. A small booklet is  also provided which describes all of Artisan Du Chocolate’s flavours, and it is by consulting this that I can discover which flavours I have in my box. It is almost like a chocolate lottery, as there are 38 couture chocolate flavours on the list!

Image

The couverture chocolate coating is ultra-thin and has a satisfying “snap” when you bite into the chocolate. Although these chocolates are not hand-made, they have had the finishing touches added by hand, which gives them a lovely appearance, unlike the uniform mass-produced chocolates that you find in supermarkets.

In my selection, I have the following flavours (from left to right; top to bottom):

Pure Origin: Madagascar Dark – A smooth, rich ganache with a melt-in-the-mouth consistency. The dark chocolate has a well rounded fruity flavour, which leaves a pleasant after-taste.

Marzipan – This ganache has a slightly grainy texture, which reminds me of the blocks of marzipan used to make cakes. The flavour is somewhat muted, but does not have the same chemical after-taste of the mass-produced marzipan. The almond flavour lingers for quite some time afterwards.

Violet – The flowery flavour is not overpowering and leaves a lovely floral after-taste. The ganache is one of the more softer fillings, and disappears in my mouth almost instantly.

Coconut – A gorgeous, crunch to the ganache is a nice surprise, with slivers of toasted coconut mixed in with the creamy mixture, leaving me with a big smile on my face. This is definitely one of my favourites!

Passion Fruit – I have to admit, that I wasn’t looking forward to this flavour, as I am not a fan of passion fruit. However, I am completely blown away by the strong initial “hit” of the tart, fruity jelly, which sits atop the smooth, dark chocolate ganache. My eyes are literally wide open as the flavours mingle in my mouth to form a very pleasant flavour, which leaves no after-taste, and cleans the palate in preparation for the next chocolate. Absolutely divine!

Ginger – A subtle, almost candied-ginger flavoured ganache, which melts instantly in the mouth. There is an overwhelming feeling of warmth and contentment after devouring this chocolate.

Lumi – The main flavour in this ganache is from Iranian sun-dried limes, and is my favourite chocolate in this box. A very unusual taste, zingy and fresh, which leaves a taste of fragrant lime zest on my tongue and is complemented perfectly by the dark chocolate couverture. The flavour reminds me a little of Indian Lime Pickle!

Cinnamon – The cinnamon ganache is very strong and very sweet, however I believe it needs the sweetness to balance the strong flavour. Interestingly, this leaves no after-taste in my mouth.

Unknown chocolate with pink hearts – This is a flavour which is not listed on the booklet, so I was very excited to see if I could guess what it was correctly. On biting into the dark chocolate, I find a trembling jelly which tastes of either blackberry or raspberry, or a mixture! The flavour is strong and acidic, and is complemented beautifully by the creamy chocolate.

Rose – A rich, smooth ganache, which tastes like a gooey Turkish delight. This leaves a fragrant after-taste for a short while.

Orange – The ganache is thick, slightly bitter from the dark chocolate, but has a lovely, subtle orange flavour. The orange tastes freshly squeezed, and sun-drenched.

Tonka – This is a spice that is said to resemble vanilla and bitter almonds. Unfortunately, the flavour is just too subtle to be distinguishable, and tastes rather bland. Maybe to prepare us for the next tantalising treat?

Fresh Mint – Another zingy flavour, with a great hit of stimulating mint from the first bite. It is almost like eating a chocolate-coated mint leaf and, I imagine, will taste fabulous alongside a Mojito.

Sea Salted Caramel – A sticky, chewy ganache, which is heavier than the other chocolates. This leaves a caramel after-taste, and is not too sweet, unlike some of the other Salted Caramels on the market.

Pure Origin: Java Dark – This is a smooth, melting ganache, which disappeared in a second. The initial flavour is an earthy one, which is hard to describe, but the final hint was of smoke.

Honey – A highly honey-perfumed chocolate which is not too sweet and well balanced by the dark chocolate couverture.

House Tea – We can only guess at which tea was used to create this smokey, aromatic ganache, Earl Grey or Lady Grey is my best estimate, but I am not tea connoisseurs so your guess is as good as mine. A delicious and intriguing blend of flavours.

Vanilla – This smooth, sweet ganache has a very subtle vanilla flavour, but has no real “punch”. However, it does well to cleanse the palate in readiness for the next wonderful concoction.

Coffee and Star Anise – Biting into this decadent chocolate brings a crisp, sugary crunch. A strong, bitter coffee hit is followed by a subtle, fragrant hint of anise. There is something very comforting about this combination of flavours, almost like the smell of baking bread and coffee brewing in the morning. It leaves me feeling warm and content.

Sechuan Pepper – A very bold flavour, bringing a warmth from the pepper, which is not harsh or overpowering at all. It has an aromatic chilli kick, that leaves a faint, tingling sensation in the mouth, and lingers for several minutes afterwards.

There is something in this box of treasures to suit everyone, from the fussiest chocolate lover to the most unadventurous of people. The unusual flavours were my highlight, with the Lumi, Passion Fruit and Coffee and Star Anise, being my absolute favourites. If I could bathe in the stuff, I would.

Advertisements

The Grove Restaurant – Hammersmith

Today was our work’s Annual Christmas Lunch, thrown by our extremely generous Chairman and CEO. We were treated to a three course extravaganza at The Grove Restaurant, in Hammersmith.

I dined on Pan Seared King Scallops with Grilled Black Pudding, Pea Purée and Saffron Beurre Blanc,  Chargrilled Argentinian (Pampas Heights) Grass Fed Rib Eye Steak  (cooked to perfection) with Rustic Fries, Mixed Salad & Béarnaise Sauce and finally, Strawberry Tiramisu.

The food was absolutely perfect, and this was the second time we have been lucky enough to experience the excellent service and ambiance of the Gallery Bar, the private function room upstairs at the restaurant. This room has enough capacity for 35 people to have a sit-down meal, and has it’s own bar and serving staff.

The food is so good at this unpretentious gastropub. The staff are prepared to accommodate fussy eaters, difficult diets and the arrangement of the Gallery bar can be changed to suit your occasion. I highly recommend visiting for lunch, dinner, or just a cheeky pint!

Paul A Young – Lapsang Souchong Tea and Rosemary Chocolates

Today I sampled a limited edition flavour of chocolate, bought from my latest trip to Paul A Young Fine Chocolates, located on Wardour Street in Soho.

I am very partial to a nice, strong cup of Lapsang Souchong tea when I am at home, relishing it’s earthy smokiness. I have been told that it is an acquired taste, but I was hooked from the first sip.

So you can imagine my excitement, when I was drawn to a tiny, shiny ballotin box of Lapsang Souchong Tea and Rosemary chocolates. I was initially unsure of the Rosemary element, as although it pairs wonderfully with Lamb, it is quite unusual to see it matched with Tea.

Image

The small cubes of chocolate snapped cleanly, exposing a dark, water ganache. Immediately, my mouth filled with an intense smoky flavour, and a subtle hint of rosemary. This faded quickly, but the smoke remains even now, and is rather pleasant! The chocolate is a dark 72% cocoa, which leaves an oh-so slight bitterness at the back of my tongue and has a nutty, roasted after-taste, similar to the aftermath of drinking an espresso coffee.

Image

I really loved trying a new flavour, and was surprised by the unusual combination, which works together beautifully. I look forward to trying some of Paul’s other wonderful creations!

The Chocolate Festival

This weekend, a friend and I visited the Chocolate Festival held at the Southbank Centre in London. We arrived at 12pm, and the place was completely packed! There were stalls, showcasing some amazing chocolate creations, and we must have spent at least three or four hours, perusing the area, finding some unusual flavour combinations and fantastic Christmas-y smells.

We ended up spending a fortune at William Curley, Artisan Du Chocolat, Demarquette and  Herzog. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to even reach the Rococo stall, as there were so many people clambering to sample their fare, but we left happy and content nonetheless.

Afterwards, we hopped onto the tube, and hotfooted it to Paul A Young‘s boutique, in Soho, where we guzzled their sublime Hot Chocolate (made with water, not milk!) and I sampled their infamous, award-winning Chocolate Brownie.

Of course, a trip to Soho, is not complete, without collecting some chocolate-covered coffee beans from The Algerian Coffee Store. I also picked up a block of my favourite hot chocolate – Xocolata Pedra – a blend of high quality cocoa and warming spices, delicious melted in a cup of hot milk.

Such a wonderful weekend, and I am looking forward to tasting all of my chocolate goodies over the next few days. I feel so lucky to live near London, where there are so many talented chocolatiers and unique food businesses. I’m looking forward to sharing my food adventures with you and hope you are able to experience some of them for yourselves.