Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Hotel Chocolat The Serious Dark Fix Extra Thick Easter Egg
It bears repeating that I have a theory that any candy can be made better by putting it in egg shape.
I'm not really sure why it seems to work out like that but it does. So what do you get when you take already great chocolate and put it into egg form?- you get one freaking fantastic egg that's what you get!
Hotel Chocolat has some beautiful Easter products and they were kind enough to send me one of their ginormous eggs.
Since I have tried and loved Hotel's milk chocolate (I tried the Caramellow Slab) I was quite eager to taste Hotel's dark chocolate- Especially since Jim over at Jim's Chocolate Mission reviews Hotel's products on a regular basis and always makes me drool! (read some of Jim's Hotel reviews HERE)
The egg's are split into two thick shells. One shell is made of 74% dark chocolate and the other shell is 74% dark chocolate studded with Cocoa nibs. Then there are two lovely foil packs of individual candies that make up the center of egg. There are seven different candies which are:
* Chunky Nut
* Gin Truffle
* Caramel & Rum Truffle
* Blackcurrant & Champagne
* Single Origin Trinidad 72% Dark Chocolate
* Single Origin Ugandan 80% Dark Chocolate
* Orange and Lemon Sandwich
I started with the "plain" shell. First the aroma of the egg as a whole was outstanding. It smells just like I imagine Homer Simpson's version of Heaven would. Rich and just a little sweet. Almost like really strong hot chocolate.
The chocolate it's self- which was just thin enough to break off a piece with my hands was still pleasingly thick. The first thing I notices was almost a coffee like bitterness, but it is not so bitter that it gives you CBF (Cat Butt Face). There's just there tiniest bit of a milkiness to it, I think that's what keeps the bar from being too bitter. There is a sweetness to it that reminded me of the aftertaste of slightly unripe strawberries. I also liked that for such a strong chocolate the melt was nice and smooth. Not grainy or chalky in the least.
Next up was the other half of the shell the 74% dark chocolate with cocoa nibs.
I think for some reason I had the idea that the nibs would be larger and visible on the outer shell. They are actually quite small- they show up as the orangy specks in the picture.
The only difference between the two shells are the nibs. I am torn on how I feel about them. The nibs up the overall bitterness of the dark chocolate and it was a little much for me. When I isolated the nibs I really liked them on there own. Again I am going to keep using coffee as a comparison because the nibs reminded me of chocolate covered espresso beans. I think I would love them in a milk chocolate- that would be a great contrast. I also wasn't too keen on the texture, because the nibs are so small and because of the strong flavor it reminded me of chocolate with coffee grounds.
Next up was the Single Origin Trinidad 72% Dark Chocolate
This little bunny was beautifully molded and I almost felt bad for eating off his ears... almost
The first thing that came to my mind when tasting this chocolate was that it tasted nutty. I couldn't tell you what kind of nut- it was just nutty and then the nuttiness gives way to the other notes. This chocolate had strong lemony citrus notes. After tasting this it made me notice that the 74% dark of the main shell has more of a vanilla flavor then I noticed on the first go around. I didn't sense as much sweetness with the bunny. It also had a wonderfully crisp snap.
The Gin Truffle was the one thing in this egg that I was both really wanting to try and really sure I would like. I am not a fan of gin. I'm a vodka drinker and much like Coke Vs. Pepsi fans most people tend to like one or the other but not really both.
The chocolate is dark but not as dark as the outer shells or the bunny (not sure what the percentage is) the center is smooth and cool on the tongue- it also explodes into a burst of REAL gin flavor. I wasn't sure how the gin would translate but it comes through loud and clear. If James Bond ate truffles he would love this one! I don't even like gin and I LOVED this truffle. The gin adds a dryness to he chocolate. I also tasted orange- but that may have been the bite of the alcohol mixed with the strength of the chocolate. Oh, and should you ever want to really annoy a gin drinker tell them that gin is just juniper infused vodka- they tend to get all uppity when you say that.
The nut on the top was nice and crispy- I am not great with nuts and I am not sure what kind it was, I am guessing hazelnut. I realize I should probably have eaten it with the chocolate rather then plunking it off, but I did and we will all just have to deal with it.
I am not sure what nuts made up the chunky nuts but the inner ganoush was super smooth. It reminded me of a cross between hazelnut gianduja (hazelnut & chocolate paste) and natural peanut butter. The creamy center is also studded with little bits of crunchy nuts. I have said many a time that while I like chocolate, and I like nuts I tend to not like them together but this an exception. It was just plain yummy.
Single Origin Ugandan 80% Dark
"Hey there, I think your a groovy chick in a far out sorta way..." Sorry I watched The Brady Bunch Movie the other day and I could not resist. Anywho...
I was surprised that this wasn't as bitter as I thought it was going to be. In fact although it has a higher percentage of cocoa then the bunny I thought it was less bitter. This chocolate seemed almost salty to me, it was woodsy and deep. I think this would be excellent used for baking. There is just enough of a vanilla flavor to it that being used in say a cookie would mellow it out only slightly. This has been my favorite of all the solid chocolate.
Orange and Lemon Sandwich
Do I really have to remind everyone how much I love pretty much all conceivable combinations of lemon, orange and chocolate?
This was no exception. The citrus flavor in this piece sort of remind me of a bowl of Trix cereal- you know how after the first few bites all the flavors just sort of blend into just a general fruity flavor? that's what this tasted like. Don't get me wrong, it was great but neither the lemon nor the orange stands out independently. The filling is remarkably smooth and has a fantastic melt.
Caramel & Rum Truffle
When I think of rum the first thing I think of is my best friend. He grew up on the island of St. Croix and one of the main export of St. Criox is Cruzan Rum. As a good St. Croiz native as far as he's concerned it's THE only rum. I have no idea what brand of rum (or even type of rum) Hotel has used for this confection but in honor of my friend I would like to think it's Cruzan (and if it's not I feel safe to say he will survive) I've never had rum and caramel paired before so I thought it was an interesting idea. No one will ever accuse Hotel of not using real liquor in their truffles because let me tell you there is a different kick. The chocolate shell is great. The percentage is again not listed but it is strong enough that it holds it's own against the strong flavor of the rum. It has a nice thick shell. I was expecting this truffle to be chewy because of the caramel, but honestly if I didn't know that the caramel was there I never would have guessed it. There is no buttery quality. There is no sweetness and the texture gives no hints that there is anything remotely caramel like. For the filling the only thing you taste is the rum and even that is not so much a rum flavor but a chemically alcohol burn. I really hate to say this because overall I find Hotel to be outstanding but I wouldn't be telling the truth if I didn't say it almost reminded me of gasoline. I am not sure what went wrong here.
Blackcurrant & Champagne Truffle
Last but not least...
I LOOOOVE me some champagne truffles. My all time favorite can be found at a little shop on Manhattan's Upper West Side called Mondel's Chocolates but let me tell you Hotel has given them a run for their money!
The red hued outer shell has the fantastic sweet/tart flavor of blackcurrant. It's actually came off tasting in a way I can only call juicy. The chocolate is mild but still dark. Once again the truffle center was milky smooth but this center was very soft, almost to the point of being fluid. The champagne is so vivid you almost wait for the bubbles! I could have eaten an embarrassingly large amount of these!
All in all (even with the exception of the caramel & rum truffle) this was wonderful. It was nice to have such a wide selection of dark chocolates in one collection. Hotel has made this egg an 11!
Sample From Company
Be sure to visit Hotel's website to get your own!