Saturday, November 11, 2006

CocoaBella “World’s Best Box”

Yesterday I told you about the Night of a Thousand Chocolates. Today it’s all about the “World Geatest Box of Chocolates” and the Artisan Picks of 2006 from CocoBella.

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The box is interesting. It has a heavy focus on nuts with half of the offerings featuring nuts in them (hazelnuts as the top favorite).  Here’s the lowdown:

DSC05028r - Marquise de Sevigne Praline Noisette - France (Hazelnut paste enrobed in Chocolate) - mellow with a sweet and smooth paste center with a healthy dose of hazelnut but really not a sugary sweetness (or so it seemed).  It balanced really well with the thin coat of rich chocolate. The nicely toasted nut on top gives this candy my pick as the candy I would most like to wear as a hat.

DSC05038rMarquise de Sivigne Orange Amer - Belgium (Orange ganache in Dark Chocolate) - This one was fascinating. It tasted like orange juice - more like a whole orange than a caramel or ganache. It was kind of like the custardy filling of a lemon meringue pie (only orange) because of the tart bite to it. The mellow dark chocolate with its bitter bite pulled it all together.

DSC05025rKnipschildt Chocolatier Hannah - US (Liquid Caramel with Pink Hawaiian Sea Salt) - this one doesn’t look like much. I’d never had a Knipschlidt chocolate before, so I thought this would be interesting. It truly was. Lately I’ve been eating a lot of salted caramels and this one was interesting. The center was a soft, custardy caramel with a good rounded sugar flavor, maybe with a hint of molasses. The salt was not too much and did actually have a little mineral hint to it.

DSC05036rMichel Cluizel Vesuve - France (Madagascar Dark Chocolate Ganache) - A simple single origin dark chocolate truffle. It was soft and had a good mix of bitterness, acidity, dry finish with smoke and woodsy notes. I realized that my less than stellar experience with the Cluizel nibby bar last year should not dissuade me from trying more of their truffles.

DSC05019rCorne Port Royal Rocher Noir - Belgium (Hazelnut Praline in Dark Chocolate)  - another hazelnut chocolate, this one was more like a hazelnut halvah. It had an interesting crystallized texture. The nutty flavors combined really well with the shards of sugar, though I would have preferred a little more toasty caramel flavor to it. The chocolate was nice and mild and set off the sweetness really well. It was a good chocolate, but I don’t know if it’s among the best hazelnut chocolates I’ve ever had. (And I’m the girl who likes Perugina Baci.)

DSC05022rCharles Chocolates Almond Cluster - US (Lightly Salted Roasted Almonds in Milk Chocolate) - it’s not the most elegant looking piece of chocolate, in fact, there’s very little chocolate here at all. Everyone keeps going on about how nicely Chuck Siegel roasts his nuts, and though I agree, the milk chocolate just isn’t doing anything for me here. Too sweet. (Have no fear, I’ll say nice things about Chuck’s nuts in a few days when I get to that review!)

DSC05003rCary’s Toffee - US (English Toffee topped with Almonds) - I was surprised to see toffee there. I was also pleased. This generous bar has a wonderful caramelized scent with an immediate hit of butter. The toffee itself had a wonderful gentle cleave, breaking into shards when bitten. The dark chocolate really helped to bring out the darker smoke notes of the sugars. The extra nuts on top could stay or go as far as I was concerned, in fact, they kept falling off.

DSC04999rMaglio Tartuffini - Italy (Caramelize Dark Chocolate Almonds) - chocolate covered almonds rolled in cocoa. Simple. The nuts were more like the buttery

Carmona

Marcona ones I’ve had at tapas bars, and the different flavor of them and density of oils really set off the slightly salty zing of the cocoa outside.

DSC05009rChristopher Elbow Strawberry Balsamic - US (Strawberry Puree with Caramel and Balsamic Vinegar) - a lovely looking candy with an inventive design that really screams balsamic vinegar. But here goes ... I’m not fond of vinegar and chocolate. I’ve tried a few in the past year and maybe there’s one out there that will make me happy, but this one isn’t it. The center was a little too tart for me and the white chocolate a little too sweet. I think I would have preferred everyone compromising a bit in the middle. Perhaps a milk chocolate and a caramel with more butter to balance the acids.

DSC05015rChristopher Elbow Aztec Spice - US (5 Spice Blend with Ancho and Pasillo Chilis) - this one was lovely, one that I’ve actually had several of now. The spice is mellow and robust at the same time. I could make out the caramelized flavors of the roasted chilis and the cinnamon and allspice gave it a good woodsy boost.

DSC05006rChristopher Elbow Rosemary Caramel - US (Caramel infused with Rosemary) -  The caramel in here is the slow flowing kind with a slight grain to it and a strong infusion of rosemary. However, the white chocolate added no vanilla balance but a pure sweetness that just drowned out the balsam qualities. This chocolate with its eighties style gemtone brushstrokes of color gets my pick as the one that I would least like to wear as a hat.

DSC04993rValentino Framboize - Belgium (Whole Raspberry with Raspberry Buttercream) - I was really looking forward to this one. I have to say that it didn’t look very appealing to me, but the thought of a whole raspberry made me look past its bulging belly like a boa constrictor digesting an elephant. Aside from that, it was nice and floral with a really good raspberry flavor, but again too sweet for my tastes. I wanted more chocolate and less of the buttercream, I guess.

DSC04997rMarquise de Sevigne Creme Brulee - France (Caramelized Butter Ganache) - More like a praline than the custard I was expecting (like the Kee’s one I tried in NYC). Caramelized, a little grainy but rather light. Tastes a bit like coconut but not in a bad way. It kind of grew on my after I got past my expectations. It was more like the sugar crust of a creme brulee than the custard itself.

DSC04982rAmadei Supremo - Italy (Milk Chocolate Espresso Ganache) - simple and divine. I’d leave it at that, but the way I’ve laid out this page I kind of have to go on about each one the same amount. It’s not the prettiest one of the bunch, being from a rather common stock mold, but the milk and mellow ganache go well.

DSC04988rMaglio Stuffed Fig - Italy (Almond and Lemon with Fig) - when Michael Freeman was presenting the box and he got to this one I was just itching to bolt across the room to wolf one down. Billed as a dried fig stuffed with candied lemon and almonds, I was pretty much sold. Upon trying it was I in love with the figs and chocolate (as I’d already been downing the Trader Joe’s ones in my motel room earlier in the day) but didn’t get the lemon and almond notes I was promised. Don’t worry, I didn’t demand my money back. The dark chocolate was absolutely wonderful. I am surprised that I actually shared this with the neighbors (it’s pretty big and easy to cut into pieces) but I felt bad because someone pointed out that Amy spits out a lot of stuff I give her.

DSC04979rMichel Cluizel Champignon Caramel - France (Caramel Mushroom with Almond Praline Cap) - Were you wondering if I was saving the best for last? There actually aren’t in any particular order (I think the order I took the photos in). I didn’t know what it was, I think my mind was still on the fig thing when it was mentioned in the presentation. It looks like a mushroom. The stem is a wonderful firm caramel covered in mellow white chocolate. The cap is a little half-sphere cup of almond praline (like the florentine cookies) filled with a truffle ganache and then coated in chocolate. Genius. Cute and absoutely an incredible combination.

There was another walnut item in the box which I didn’t try.

On the whole, the box isn’t my favorite. However, after sampling the wares at CocoaBella, I know that Michael Freeman has good taste. I find boxed chocolates frustrating on the whole, because there’s usually such an assortment, as in this one, once you hit on a favorite you’ve eaten it and have to move on. The good thing is that it’s a great cross section of a lot of different chocolatiers that I probably never would have recognized before that are now on my “seek out” list.

So, my tip is, if you have the money, dive in and take a chance. If you don’t and you still want to explore, try the CocoaBella “Build a Box” feature on their website (or go into the store). The pre-selected boxes don’t actually tell you what’s in there but do have some good indicators (Dark Chocolate, Exotics, Milk Chocolate, Truffles and Wine Pairings). I think if I had to pick a box out for myself, I’d try either the exotics or the truffles.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:05 pm Tracker Pixel for Entry     Bay AreaCandyChocolatierReviewCharles ChocolatesMichel CluizelCaramelChocolateNutsWhite Chocolate8-TastyBelgiumFranceItalyUnited States

Comments
  1. Hi Cybele,

    I was searching some podcast’s food in iTunes Store,  and I found one.. it’s a huge coincidence! Called “Taste TV + Chocolate Television Podcast”, a program dated 19/7/2006 is about CocoaBella! The video is very short, only 3 minutes… but it’s very interesting.

    Comment by Vitor Hugo on 11/12/06 at 9:45 am #
  2. Interesting chocolates *and* a Little Prince reference!  Awesome.

    Comment by R on 11/12/06 at 10:43 am #
  3. I adore toffee, but the one I’d most like to try is the orange ganache (Marquise de Sivigne Orange Amer), with the Aztec spice running a close second…

    Comment by Tricia on 11/12/06 at 4:02 pm #
  4. Oh my god.
    This is making my mouth water so bad.  Your pictures are always beautiful.  I am into plays by the way too.  I like to write.

    Two things
    I tried to send you a story about the Hershey Canada chcolate recall but it might have ended up in your spam.  Go to the hershey site for deatails I think.  Bars and baking bits
    Ugg.  What depressing news.  they say no halloween candy was affected though the batch dates were from oct 13.

    Comment by Janet Shum on 11/12/06 at 4:47 pm #
  5. That Rosemary Caramel is a bit scary looking. At first, I thought there was a problem with the color resolution on my computer screen! Congrads on the courage to taste it.

    Comment by David on 11/13/06 at 4:10 am #
  6. Cybele's avatar

    Vitor - thanks for the pointer to TasteTV - I don’t often watch videos on the computer, but that sounds like a must see.

    R - yay! I figured even if folks weren’t interested in the chocolates themselves a little literary somethin’ somethin’ would jazz it up!

    Tricia - the orange one is definitely the one that struck me as unique (well, I’d never tried something like it before).

    Janet - thanks for the note about the recall! I’ve posted about it and I’ll keep an eye on the story up there in Canada.

    David - I told Christopher Elbow it reminded me of a pair of earrings that my grandmother used to wear. He didn’t seem offended at all, hee!

    Comment by Cybele on 11/13/06 at 8:34 am #
  7. I “heart” CocoaBella! But I think I’d write the same review about those particular chocolates. I bet I could put together a more “ooo-aaa” worthy box there. Charles’s “mojito” and C. E.‘s “cinnamon” were favorites of mine. And Christopher and Chuck are very nice!

    If CocoaBella gave me free reign over sampling, they’d be in serious trouble smile. You are so lucky.

    Comment by Kate on 11/13/06 at 1:48 pm #
  8. Wow, I think it’s the Champignon Caramel that puts it over the top.

    Comment by Jeanna Olson on 11/20/06 at 10:44 am #

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