Droste Orange Pastilles

My friend Neil, who’s currently living and blogging in the Netherlands, brought me a generous assortment of Dutch goodies when he was back in the states over the holidays. Included among the treats were these Droste Orange Pastilles.

The packaging is unusual – a hexagonal paperboard tube with an inner sealed roll of silver. The chocolates’ shape is unusual too: large, flat disks, each etched with the Droste logo.

I think the disks were a good chocolate delivery device. They were the perfect shape to place flat on the tongue and let melt against the roof of the mouth.

The chocolate was snappy with a creamy, tongue-coatingly thick melt. According to the packaging, the chocolate was 35% cocoa, making it technically dark chocolate.

With chocolate and orange, it’s hard to avoid Terry’s Chocolate Orange comparisons. This was far better. It tasted very strongly of orange oil with a lot of citrus zestiness, far less artificial than Terry’s version.

I enjoyed it in small amounts, but any more than a disk or two, and the chocolate’s sweetness became cloying, with that cloy lingering in the finish.

I give it an O. I liked it, but the mounting sweetness keeps it from being addictiable.

Yes, I just made a mash-up word.

Hedonist Raspberry Chocolate Truffles – TweetHeart

Valentine’s Day is exactly one month away, and I’m about to help you score big with your sweetheart.

For the third year in a row, Hedonist Artisan Chocolates has put out a special Valentine’s Day collection of truffles featuring artwork by local artists. You can read more about it on their blog. I got a free sample box to taste.

This year, Erica Guilfoyle won with her TweetHeart images, which fortunately have nothing to do with Twitter. They’re kind of ridiculously adorable:

The truffles come with a cute little story: “Legend has it that every Valentine’s Day, Mother Nature beckons all young birds to gather and choose their mates. Once they have chosen their TweetHeart, they fly off together and celebrate with a song.”

The truffles themselves were “made with fresh raspberries, raspberry liqueur, and semi-sweet chocolate.” They had a crisp outer shell of pure chocolate with a softer ganache inside.

The ganache had a melt that felt cool and fatty on the tongue. Unlike the raspberry wasabi truffle from their Spice Collection, the ganache is totally smooth and free of seeds, and the raspberry flavor is quite mild.

It brings a light sweetness rather than an in-your-face fruitiness that melds nicely with the chocolate. This truffle is understated and mild, with nicely genuine cocoa flavors that are lightened just a bit by the raspberry.

This truffle was admirably restrained, and its combination of subtle deliciousness and endearing art earn it an OM. It’s a truffle that’s meant to be given away for others to ooh and ahh over, though you may have trouble relinquishing it.

If you’d like to taste it for yourself, Hedonist is having a tasting/meet the artist and chocolatiers event on February 4th from 5-8 pm at their retail store.

Chocolate for the New Year

Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? I don’t bother because I’m already perfect…

That’s a total lie. I don’t bother because I’m lazy.

Whatever your stance on New Year’s Resolution, Serious Eats has a nice round-up of appropriate chocolates for the determined/delusional and for the lazy/indulgent.

Dagoba’s Superfruit bar is on the resolution makers’ list. I’d add Hedonist‘s Fruit and Nut Collection to that, as it’s nearly as much fruit/nuts as it is chocolate!

Hedonist Fruit and Nut Collection

Hedonist Artisan Chocolate‘s Fruit and Nut Collection seems to be one of their year-round staples, yet I’d never tried them until now. Fortunately, I recently got a free sample box to taste.

From left to right, top to bottom, they are Dried Apricots, Crystallized Ginger, Cranberry-Pecans, Candied Orange Peels, and Pistachios.

These are a departure from Hedonist’s other truffles. Rather than having flavor-infused ganaches, these are fruits and nuts nestled in dark chocolate. The visual effect is quite stunning.

Dried Apricots featured dried apricots that were sliced into slivers. They were stiff and chewy at first bite. After a bit of chewing, the apricots’ sweetness and light fruitiness was released.

I’m not that big on apricots, dried or fresh, so this didn’t play to my taste preferences. It was a little on the chewy side but still a nice flavor combination.

Crystallized Ginger featured a single generous chunk of sugar-crusted crystallized ginger nestled in a chocolate bed. The ginger was soft with an instant give, which contrasted nicely with the snappy chocolate.

The ginger was sharp and spicy, as it should be, but not overpoweringly so, which I appreciated. Ginger isn’t one of my favorite chocolate accompaniments, but here it was tempered enough by the chocolate to work for me.

Cranberry-Pecans was a mix of chopped pecans mixed with dried cranberries. I loved the pecans, which were lightly caramelized. They brought a hint of extra sweetness, crunch, and crisp nuttiness.

The cranberry was mild and contributed just a hint of sweet and sour, but the pecan was the star here. And it shone – this was my favorite piece of the collection. I thought it was better than the bark version, thanks to the intense pecan density.

Candied Orange Peels was a shiny chocolate dome filled with chopped candied orange peels. There were two in my set. One had peels that were moist, soft, and sweet, while the other’s peels was drier, stiffer, and not as sweet.

It tasted like a toned down version of their Chocolate-Covered Orange Peels. The flavor of the peels was mostly that of citrus oil and orange zest, which paired well with the chocolate.

Pistachio was chock-full of whole pistachios. They were dry and extremely nutty with a strong saltiness. I felt like they overshadowed the chocolate a bit, as their nutty flavor was quite strong.

I enjoyed these chocolates, but I prefer Hedonist’s truffles, which are better at showcasing their mastery of crafting creatively flavored ganaches. The Fruit and Nut Collection is more about showcasing pure chocolates and pure ingredients. They were all tasty, but I find the truffles to be more exciting.

One exception, however, was the cranberry-pecan – that was a standout OMG. The rest get Os. And ooohs for being so pretty.

Consumer Reports’s Chocolate Reviews

Thanks to Candy Yum Yum, I now know how Consumer Reports ranked fancy chocolates in their own tasting:

  1. Norman Love – the truffle of choice at Chocolate and Vines, one of my new favorite places in Rochester
  2. Woodhouse
  3. Christopher Elbowtasted in a Cocoa Bella box at a Calhoun College tasting
  4. L.A. Burdickintroduced to me as a gift; I’ve now also had the pleasure of visiting them in person
  5. Candinas
  6. Jacques Torres – has been on my NYC to-visit list for ages
  7. John & Kira’s
  8. La Maison du Chocolat – visited in person in NYC, where I sampled sipping chocolate and bought an intense 100% bar
  9. Fran’s – they’re pretty widely available, including at Whole Foods
  10. Nonnie Waller’s
  11. Theo Chocolate – their bars are pretty easy to find. I’ve reviewed 3 of them.
  12. Martine’s Chocolate

Six out of 12 ain’t bad! The rest are on my endless candy bucket list. I should make a page for that on the site…

Mentos Fuji Apple

I have a soft spot in my heart for Mentos – I grew up on their corny “Freshmaker” commercials.

I got these Fuji Apple Mentos in a box of free samples from tsunami.hk. It’s a flavor that I’ve never seen in the U.S. I guess they’re only available in Asia.

Like all Mentos, it had a hard shell that cracks and splinters when bitten into. Inside, the Mentos (Mento?) was extremely chewy, with a slight grain to the chew.

The flavor was that of super sweet apple juice. While the flavor was pretty spot-on, it was too sweet for my taste, with nothing else to temper the pure sugary-ness.

I think it needed a bit of sourness or some other note to bring some complexity and to counteract that sweetness. That’s my beef with Fuji apples too, so I guess you can’t blame Mentos for being accurate. An O.

If you want another take or two, Cybele from Candy Blog and Debby from Snack Love have reviewed these as well.

Vosges Gingerbread Toffee

I have a soft spot for Vosges Chocolates and have reviewed them often in the past. They’re usually beyond my regular budget, but this Gingerbread Toffee bar was on sale after the holidays. Vosges at half off? I couldn’t resist!

The bar was described as gingerbread spiced toffee, dark chocolate, and 65% cacao. The box’s front had some nice glamor shots of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger. All the spices that you need for gingerbread!

The bar smells deeply of cocoa with a light spiciness around the edges. The chocolate has nice spice notes, mostly of ginger with just a hint of nutmeg.

Bits of toffee are sprinkled throughout the bar. They are the best part of the whole thing! They’ve got a light, dry, brittle crunchiness with no stickiness that contrasts nicely with the smooth melt of the chocolate. And flavor-wise, they add awesome scorched flavors of toffee.

The chocolate itself has a light, coffee-scented burnt finish with a deep cocoa duskiness. I do believe there are sprinkles of sea salt in the bar as well, which add flashes of flavor intensity.

This bar was perfectly balanced in every way. It was a great mix of flavors and textures. An enthusiastic ZOMG!

How Dark is Too Dark?

Via the Kitchn, here’s a Wall Street Journal piece that wonders if cacao percentages have gotten too high to be tolerable.

I’ve tried a few 100% cacao bars and generally find them inedible. In fact, I like to finish my chocolate tastings on a 100% bar, just to underscore that higher doesn’t necessarily mean tastier.

On the other hand, Michel Cluizel’s Cacaoforte truffle, made from his 99% cacao, is one of my favorites. I’m sure the addition of cream helps.

Salazon Chocolate Co – Organic Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt and Crushed Organic Coffee

I got back to Rochester after being home for the holidays and was pleasantly surprised to find a free sample of Salazon‘s newest bar, Organic Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt and Crushed Organic Coffee, waiting for me in my mailbox.

I originally reviewed them when they first debuted a year ago. I just saw them for sale at a Central Market in Austin. It was nice to see that they’re doing well and have made it to market.

The bar smelled strongly of lovely roasted coffee. Like Salazon’s other bars, the additions – in this case, sea salt and crushed coffee bits – blanket the underside of the bar rather than being incorporated into the chocolate. The effect is quite pretty.

The texture of the bar was a nice mix of smooth, melting chocolate and the crunchy coffee and sea salt bits. The salt adds sudden flashes of sweet and sour. The coffee is neither overpowering or bitter, and the effect is that of a cafe mocha.

It reminded me of a Starbucks Frappuccino, with that diluted milky coffee taste. I found it to be a tad sweeter than what would be my ideal. I wanted a little more rich, roastiness.

Still, it was a great addition to the Salazon lineup. An O.