Friday, February 3, 2012
While in San Francisco I made sure to pick up some chocolates from Michael Mischer Chocolates which is based in Oakland. I’ve been to the shop before and have picked up both bars and bon bons. But it’s about time I did a full review.
For All Alcohol Week, I have Michael Mischer Kentucky Bourbon Whisky Truffles which is a set of six dark chocolate truffles filled with a soft bourbon infused ganache and dusted with cocoa.
The box is simple, just a set of truffles in fluted cups sealed up with a transparent plastic top. If I had one complaint, it was that most of the truffles touched the lid and got a little smashed against it. It didn’t break the shell, but did make smudges on the lid and take off some of the cocoa.
The truffles are exquisitely formed and picture perfect. The dusting of cocoa was exactly the right amount. It coated the surface, but not so much that it came off on me as I ate it. It was like a coating of velvet.
The center is a soft but not quite flowing ganache. It’s almost like a pudding, it was thick and rich with a silky melt. The bourbon flavors were not as strong in this truffle as some of the other alcohol infused confections I’ve had this week. The bourbon flavors are well rounded, a little on the rummy side with notes of leather, vanilla, toffee and cedar. The chocolate is also excellent, some of the best chocolate of all the confections I’ve had with the alcohol. It was dark, a little bitter, absolutely slick and smooth on the tongue and well matched with woodsy and coffee notes to the bourbon.
Michael Mischer Chocolates are available in a few locations in the Bay Area and on the web. His assortments are interesting, with a lot of influences from Asia and classic confectionery with a little bit of an amusing American twist with flavors like Root Beer. Like most fine confections, they’re pricey. There’s no statement on the website about the ethical sourcing of the chocolate itself, but Mischer notes that he uses only the finest premium beans, many sourced from the Americas, not Africa where slavery issues still exist.
Thursday, February 2, 2012
While in San Francisco for the Fancy Food Show, I was introduced to Twice the Vice Spirited Chocolates at a PR event called Food Fete (photo).
The confections are made with Callebaut chocolate from Belgium with an extra helping of premium spirits. In fact, there’s so much alcohol in there that they can’t be sold to folks under the age of 21 and are prohibited in most states.
I got to try about six different varieties while chatting with the founder and chief chocolatier, Craig Boreth. The two varieties I have for review are from different chocolate collections.
The big selling point with these infused chocolates is the specificity of the spirits. For example, it’s not just Scotch, oh no, the Single Malt collection has The Macallan 12 Year, Glenlivet 15 Year, Lagavulin 16 Year and Tomatin 18 Year.
The Glenlivet 18 Year Single Malt Scotch is a lovely piece. I like that they’re clearly marked on the tops. (Well, they’re clear when you’re sober.)
They’re very large pieces, probably 1/3 larger than I’m accustomed to these days. (1.25” square and .75” high and about .7 ounces.) That’s not a bad thing, think of them as the generous pour.
The ganache is creamy and soft at room temperature. That helps the aromatics and volatiles come to the nose much quicker. The first notes I got were smoke and a lot of leather. There are also some rather unpleasant aspects of the smoke that I notice, a little like burnt broccoli. But that’s Scotch for you. There’s a lot of vanilla and a little touch of honey as well. It’s an intense piece of chocolate and really does warm my throat, without the searing medicinal heat that straight Scotch can provide.
The Chocolate Martini bonbon is from the The Chick Drinks Collection (gah, what a terrible name) and features vodka and chocolate liquor in the rich chocolate ganache. The Chicks collection is all about those sweet things that are so popular on Sex and the City and reality shows. The others in the box would be Cosmopolitan, White Russian and Margarita.
It’s a nice looking piece and as far as a chocolate it’s quite good. The alcohol was much more sedate and the filling had a lot of chocolate notes. Part of it was a strong vanilla as well as a sort of chocolate frosting flavor, like it was a flavoring (probably a chocolate liqueur) instead of the actual chocolate. The texture is wonderfully smooth and mercifully less sweet than an actual chocolate martini. There’s still the light burn of alcohol in the back of my throat from it.
They’re a little on the pricey side (the equivalent of $71 a pound for their small box) and I’d suggest that they have a short shelf life, since alcohol tends to evaporate even from chocolates within about 3 months. The source chocolate, Callebaut, can be purchased by chocolatiers with certifications about sustainability and ethical standards, but there was no indication on the website about that type of sourcing.
The other current collections are The Kentucky Bourbon Collection, Top Shelf Spirits Collection and The Classic Cocktails Collection. The cocktails don’t interest me much, but the idea of going with high quality chocolate and then infusing it with distinctive Bourbons and Scotch Whiskeys is quite intriguing. From my tastings at the event, I really could tell the difference between the flavor profile of a 16 and an 18 by different makers. If you’re looking for a gift for Valentines or really for anyone that enjoys the hard stuff, this might be the thing. Just be sure to check if they ship to your state.
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Here’s a little shift of gears in my All Alcohol Theme Week. I have a couple of rolls of Mentos that are inspired by mixed drinks:
Mentos Pina Colada & Mojito is available in Europe right now, but should be sold in the United States shortly.
The pieces are divided, each flavor is on the advertised side of the roll. But if you get them confused, they’re all white with either green or yellow speckles.
Pina Colada tastes a little different than the standard Pineapple that’s available in the Rainbow and Japanese Pine Fresh rolls. That’s because it is actually a pineapple and coconut combination. The coconut here is less of the toasted variety and more of the creamy coconut milk flavor. The pineapple is floral and only slightly tart. On the whole it’s a rather sweet chew, but has a satisfying combination that keeps it from getting too sticky.
Mojito is not one of my favorite mixed drinks. It’s weird. I don’t know who decided that citrus and mint are supposed to be good together, but I guess if you put in enough rum, no one will care. I’ve had a few citrus and mint combinations, so I’m not coming into this candy unaware of good and bad versions. The mint here tastes like dried spearmint leaves, like a spearmint herbal tea. The lime is tart but has no zest to it. Some lime and mint combinations can taste a bit like cough drops, but that’s not the case here. Instead this just tastes a little old. I didn’t get anything even remotely like rum, but that wasn’t there in the Pina Colada either.
On the whole, I liked the idea of two flavors in one roll. But I didn’t care much for the Mojito, so half of the roll was suddenly off the table for eating.
Mentos Duo only seems to be sold in Europe. I tried them last year in a licorice version. Those were like the version above where there were two flavors in the roll. The added bonus on top of that was that the outside was one flavor and then the center of the chew was another. Mentos Drop Citroen & Drop Aardbei
I wanted to be fair to the poor lime after being so harsh on the Mojito, and the good news is that this version called Mentos Duo (Strawberry & Lime) is like a Strawberry Daiquiri.
All of the pieces are the same, a strawberry outside with a center of lime. The outside is a soft pink and smells like cotton candy. The initial strawberry flavor was light and fragrant, a little floral and sweet. The chewy center gets a little more intense with a tangy lime note. It’s not very sour, but different enough from the strawberry layer that it creates a counterpoint. Lime can be too sour and sometimes bitter; strawberry can be bland and too sweet. But together they make a great flavor combination that I think is all but ignored in candy.
Both European versions of Mentos are made with natural flavors and natural colors.
I’m more likely to buy the Duo than the Pina Colada/Mojito, but both are great additions to the range.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.