February 25th, 2008 by Rosa
Ethel’s Chocolate Lounge is a chain of chocolate cafes owned by Mars. Think Starbuck’s but with truffles and hot cocoa and mocha lattes. For now, they’re only in Illinois and Las Vegas; I made it a point to track one down in the Fashion Show Mall on the Strip. I picked up four truffles at $1.50 each: a PB&J, a honey truffle, a cinnamon truffle, and a gingerbread tile. The stores are full of comfy couches, armchairs, and beautiful molded truffles in a huge variety of flavors.
I chose the PB&J (top right in below photo) because the girl behind the counter informed me that it was their best seller. Number two in popularity, if you’re curious, is cheesecake, which I tried on site (you get a free truffle for going into the store; the cheesecake was white chocolate, overly sweet, and could have been more cream-cheesy). The PB&J truffle was filled with grape jelly and peanut butter.
I like my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made with strawberry preserves on 12-grain bread, which skews heartier and darker than the peanut butter and grape jelly on Wonderbread classic that I felt this truffle was trying to emulate. Its grape jelly filling was way too sweet for my taste, and I wish the peanut butter were saltier and nuttier. An O.
Moving clockwise to the bottom right, next is the Gingerbread tile from Ethel’s holiday collection. There were actually two gingerbread truffles to choose from; the other was called a gingerbread gem. I went with the tile because I was told it would be more heartily spiced and more heavily ginger-flavored.
The tile was prettily decorated, as you can see. The thin chocolate shell surrounded a rather thin but still creamy ganache with a wonderful gingerbread flavor. The ginger flavor was present without being overwhelming, earning an OM for this truffle.
The bottom left truffle with the visible grains of sugar is a Cinnamon truffle. Like the gingerbread tile, the ganache was creamy but thin and encased within a thin chocolate coating that carried a nice snap. I found the ganache flavoring to be spot on, with the perfect amount of nice, spiced cinnamon. Overall, however, I found the truffle to have a too sweet finish. Another OM.
Finally, there is the Honey truffle (top left). The ganache on this one was smooth with mild honey notes and a buttery toffee finish, which I found to be quite nice. It, too, was on the sweet side, just shy of cloying, and yet another OM.
Overall, Ethel’s truffles are nice and accessible. I wish their ganache fillings were richer and thicker, which would make them more indulgent. As they are right now, there’s nothing spectacular about the Ethel’s line, and you could get better truffles for the same price.