I went back to Rochester over spring “break” to work on some brain data I left there. Grad students don’t get vacation! Fortunately, my visit was timed so that I was able to pick up a free sample of Hedonist Artisan Chocolates’s new Spring Collection (full description and “artist’s notes” here).
While in the shop, I got a chance to chat with head chocolatier Nathaniel Mich about his creative process in developing the collection. He was inspired by spring gardens and put together a collection that utilized a variety of flavors, textures, and techniques.
Strawberry Rhubarb is Hedonist’s first layered truffle. It was gorgeous to behold, with a bottom layer comprised of a creamy pink strawberry ganache and a top layer that was a translucent rhubarb fruit pate.
The strawberry ganache reminded me of super flavor-concentrated strawberry yogurt, a great mix of fruity sweetness mixed with dairy creaminess and just a tinge of tartness. The rhubarb layer was a soft gel that was bright and sweet. Apparently it’s made with a local rhubarb wine – who knew there was such a thing?
I loved the berry brightness of this treat, and its dusky chocolate chaser was a great ending note. It was like a perfectly ripe chocolate-covered strawberry distilled into one creamy bite. Easily my favorite of the collection.
The Earl Grey Caramel was a dark chocolate dipped caramel that was infused and topped with organic tea leaves. The dark chocolate coating cracked and flaked off when I bit into it, revealing a speckled caramel center.
The caramel was chewy and slightly sticky with just a bit of grit and grain to the texture.
I usually like chewing caramels, but I preferred to let this one melt into my mouth so that I could savor its depth of flavor – a deep burnt sugar caramel with woodsy tea notes that had a hit of salt and a slight bitterness at the end.
Porcini Thyme was a rolled truffle coated in chocolate and dusted with cocoa. It was deep and woodsy and earthy with a dash of smokiness. The thyme brought a mild herbal grassiness to the finish.
Mushroom and chocolate is a unique flavor combination that I’ve only had once before. The bittersweet and savory blend was well-balanced here. It’s definitely an unusual surprise for the tastebuds and harkens back to chocolate truffles’ original namesake.
Tarragon Carrot was a dipped truffle topped with a tiny piece of chewy dried carrot. It started off sweet from the chocolate, then turned earthy with a vegetal rootiness, and finished with carrot’s sweetness.
The tarragon added an herbal undertone that was hinted at throughout the flavor profile. The sizeable dried carrot bit on my pieces added a chewiness that distracted from the truffle. From the looks of the website, they’ve replaced it with a sprinkle of smaller dried carrot bits, so that’s probably no longer an issue.
Cardamom Rosewater was a pink striped dipped truffle that started off chocolatey sweet, then became full-on gingery (cardamom is a member of the ginger family!). The ginger flavor was more like what I associate with powdered ginger spice rather than fresh ginger – it had a light edge of dry bitterness to the finish.
This truffle was sweeter than the others, either because of its milk chocolate base or the addition of honey. I wonder if the honey was what also gave the ganache an unusually smooth look?
Nathaniel said the cardamom rosewater was his favorite of the collection. I feel bad for admitting that it was my least favorite – I liked it, but something has to be on the relative bottom! I just don’t like ginger enough to embrace the intensity of the gingery cardamom flavor here.
Cardamom rosewater gets an O, the tarragon carrot and porcini thyme get OMs, earl grey caramel gets an OMG, and the strawberry rhubarb earned a ZOMG! for its combination of flavor, texture, and sheer beauty in construction.
As a whole, this collection is a truly unique assortment with inventive flavor combinations that really set them apart. Compare that to Godiva’s more conventional (i.e. boring) and more expensive spring collection – there’s no question where your money should be going!