Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Teuscher

Teuscher Beverly HillsBeverly Hills is a different world from the funky and uneven aesthetics of Silver Lake where I live, even though they are only about twenty minutes apart by car. While Silver Lake has a few chocolatiers and bakeries that carry fine confections, Beverly Hills has been at it far longer and has international muscle behind many of its biggest names.

For quite a few years folks have been telling me to try Teuscher. People rave, far and wide, about their Champagne Truffles. I even went into the Teuscher shop in Rockefeller Plaza in New York a few years ago but the shop was packed with people and the ambiance was a little too fussy, confining and precious for my tastes.

As the years went by the fact that I hadn’t tried their chocolates was becoming a glaring omission in my chocolate experiences. So when I was contacted by a representative of the Beverly Hills outpost of the Swiss-based Teuscher, I thought the time was ripe. I arranged to visit their petite shop and cafe in Beverly Hills located on the corner of Brighton Way and Camden, a scant block off of Rodeo Drive.

Teuscher Champagne Truffles

Teuscher is a Swiss chocolatiers but they have fourteen North American locations in addition to their shops in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. All chocolates are made in their Zurich facility and express shipped regularly (usually once or twice a week) to the shops. Their array of chocolates is rather standardized, regardless of the location. They make a variety of truffles, nut-based confections like marzipan and gianduja. They also have classics like candied fruits (dipped in chocolate), nut clusters and novelty molded chocolates (usually seasonal selections).

I was introduced to Avivia Covitz, the owner of the Beverly Hills shop. She charmed me with her tales of pairings of chocolates, eating two at a time to increase the vast variety that already existed in single pieces to create even more unique confectionery experiences. (Kind of like me and my mash ups ... though I’m sure she’s classier and doesn’t actually smash them together.) She guided me through the offerings and I chose about 15 pieces (from the dozens available) as an introduction to the fine chocolates.

Teuscher Dark Chocolate Champagne Truffle

Since their Champagne Truffle is so well known, I picked up three - two in milk chocolate and one in dark chocolate. They look more like rum balls that truffles to me, especially the milk chocolate ones which are very light brown with a white confectioner’s sugar dusting. They’re not round, more narrow and tall. It’s a sweet flavor right away as well, but my concerns about it being too sweet were quickly dispelled. The flavor isn’t quite champagne but more of a deep yeasty and white wine grape note. There’s no fizz or bubble, but a crisp and dry finish.

The dark, in my opinion, was even richer and a little more yeasty. They’re dusted in cocoa, so far less sweet right when it’s placed on the tongue. The texture is smooth, with a little pop of flavor at the center where the champagne cream center is.

I also tried their newer truffle, the Vodka Truffle. This one was wrapped in silver foil and after being unsheathed the molded sphere looked rather like a Lindt Lindor truffle though the center was vastly different. The dark chocolate had berry notes and a little astringency. The truffle center was quite gooey (Aviva cautioned me that it was to be popped in the mouth whole, no biting in half) and had a strong alcoholic bite along with a smooth dark chocolate liquor flavor.

Teuscher Nougat MontilmarI’m a huge European nougat fan, so seeing this piece was encouraging. Also seeing the wide use of nuts such as pistachios, walnuts (even though I can’t eat them), hazelnuts, almonds and of course hazelnuts made me happy.

The Montelimar nougat is dipped in chocolate on all sides except for the top. (which is a little dry). It’s a little grainy but still soft and chewy. The nuts (pistachios and almonds) are fresh and the honey notes are definitely a plus. The nougat still has a wafer on it, which kind of confusing because it doesn’t seem to be necessary and creates a kind of cereal flavor to the chew.

One of the big things I noticed in the Teuscher line is the liberal use of honey, which I think is far under-utilized in chocolates.

Teuscher Honey Caramel

The Honey Caramel covered in dark chocolate was delightful. I love honey, I love chocolate and I love caramel. That doesn’t always mean a good combination will result, but in this case it does. The caramel has a dark flavor, a malty note and the beeswaxy and floral vibe of honey. There are also little bits of almond in there, which bring the whole thing together with a bit of texture.

Teuscher MarzipanMarzipan

There’s a large array of marzipan at Teuscher, which I found fascinating. The little logs like this are simply adorable and promised to have a large proportion of chocolate to the almond paste filling. (I believe it also came in pistachio.)

Sweet with a powerful almond extract flavor. The dark chocolate is creamy and offsets the sweetness well. The texture of the marzipan is dry but holds together without being sticky.

I also tried a Zebra Gianduja which is a striped combination of milk, white and dark hazelnut paste neatly dipped in dark chocolate similar to the Montelimar. The hazelnut notes were lost in the sweetness and the texture was just a little dry. Still, the nut notes were very fresh.

Teuscher Crunchy Chocolates

I was fond of the idea of these. They’re simply called Crunchy Chocolates and they come in milk and dark chocolate. They’re a homey dab of chocolate studded with little crunchy bits of honey and nuts. It’s like comfort candy. They’re basically everything I’ve always wanted a Toblerone to be. The chocolate is smooth and creamy with its own flavors. The honey bits give an added flavor punch and almost a salty note. The almonds give crunch and their own buttery note. I liked their thin shape, which made it easy to bite but thick enough to have lots of inclusions.

Teuscher Orange PeelI always like to try the candy kitchen classics when I go to a new chocolate shop. I feel like I can learn a lot about the attention to detail when a chocolatier does something as simple as candying some orange peel or ginger. There are lots of ways to do it well, so it really just gives me a sense of where their sensibilities are.

Teuscher’s sensibilities in the candied fruit rind arena are right in line with mine. The Candied Orange Peel is dipped in dark chocolate. Moist and almost jelly-like, there’s no hint of sugary grain. It’s rather sweet but all of the zesty notes of the orange are preserved and just a light hint of the bitter orange oil. It goes well with the dark chocolate couveture.

Teuscher Candied Ginger

The Chocolate Dipped Candied Ginger was a similar glace style. Tiny little ropes of roots, simmered in sugar until tender, then dipped in chocolate. These had a little extra flair with the white chocolate racing strip around the bottom. It was just a little accent that didn’t detract at all from the dark chocolate and the earthy notes of the ginger, just a little tip of milk flavors into it.

Teuscher NoirBelle Epoque was the only other truffle I picked up, again it was an alcohol inspired and infused one. This is a dark chocolate ganache with Gran Marnier. I loved the look of it and have found that I prefer enrobed or dipped truffles to molded ones.

There is a strong whiff of alcohol and orange zest. Little notes of tobacco and oak along with chocolate pudding. It’s definitely one of my favorites and would probably win out on my list of things to eat from there on a regular basis because it was just less sweet than the Champagne. (And given the choice, I’d probably opt for an aperitif of Gran Marnier over a flute of champagne.)

After completing my selection of the complementary fine chocolates, I also decided to also buy a few other items to get a sense of the rest of the Teuscher line of offerings. One of the charming items that vary from season to season are the molded chocolates. When I was in the shop before Thanksgiving, they had turkeys.

Teuscher Dark Chocolate Bees

I was drawn to the Chocolate Bees. (I have no idea if they have a formal name, as there’s nothing on the package.) They came in a double layer mounded on a four inch by six inch gold foil tray. That was wrapped in clear cellophane and decorated with a narrow, yellow gossamer ribbon.

The milk and dark chocolate bees have a wingspan of two inches. But they’re not just milk and dark chocolate novelties. They’re dotted with honey crystals and almond bits. The texture wasn’t quite as dense and flavorful as the Crunchy chocolate pieces mentioned above. Instead these were a bit more like a Toblerone piece. Not quite as vibrant or intensely textured. Still very pretty and fun.

Teuscher Gianduia

I also picked out a few straight Gianduja (they pronounce it John-Do-Ya) hearts. They’re beefy, over two inches wide and almost an inch high. One was milk chocolate (blue) and the other dark (orange).

The flavor was more milky and sweet chocolate in the milk chocolate than hazelnuts. This was my feeling about all the gianduja items from Teuscher. I’m assuming this is just the Swiss style, though I also noticed it with the Belgian brand Leonidas as well. Since I prefer more hazelnut and darker chocolate flavors, even then dark version here didn’t quite satisfy me and I didn’t end up finishing them. (Part of it is that I was so enamored of the Pralus Creme de Noisette that it’s going to become one of my standards.)

Teuscher Dark Chocolate Covered Orange Marzipan

Orange Marzipan covered in Dark Chocolate

The final item I picked up, also foil-wrapped like the above hazelnut hearts, was an orange marzipan piece. This was more like a decadent candy bar. The marzipan was moist, a little sticky but with a great citrus zest note instead of amaretto. The almond texture and flavor still came through, but without the bitter almond flavoring that so often pervades European marzipan. This is definitely one of the highlight pieces for me. I liked that it wasn’t fussy and if I were wandering around Beverly Hills and wanted something to go with my coffee (they do have a highly regarded coffee bar), this is a good impulse item for me.

Teuscher front DoorMy hesitations with the products are really minor. I’m not that keen on the packaging or the design of the shop. The confections are well labeled in the chocolates case, which is great for people like me who must avoid a particular item like walnuts, but the rest of the items were not. The foil wrapped items were just color coded and once you left the shop, well, you’d better have a good memory. The little trays of molded items are see through, so you can, well, see them but no ingredients or even product names. My feelings are that the look and feel of the place is dated, but if you’ve been shopping there for a dozen years, you might feel like they’re dependable and consistent ... so I can’t really fault them for that.

The milk chocolate and hazelnut items were on the sweet side for my preferences, but the dark truffles, especially the Belle Epoque are right up my alley. I will definitely plan on trying more of the flavored marzipans and the caramels since I was so fond of the Honey Caramel.

The prices are on the high side at over $70 a pound (an 8 ounce box of 16 Champagne Truffles is $37.50) and the website doesn’t allow you to build a custom box. However, in the store you’re free to get exactly what you want. I think the Champagne Truffles are worth the diversion if you’re in Beverly Hills (or any other neighborhood that has a shop) but I don’t think I’d special order them on the internet unless I was certain they were going to be spectacular and just what I wanted.

My trick when visiting Beverly Hills is to park in the valet parking garage on Dayton Way just off Rodeo Drive. It’s free for the first two hours during the day. Teuscher looks like a great spot to hang out sipping coffee at the sidewalk tables and sampling a little box of chocolates while people-watching.

teuscher chocolates Beverly Hills
9548 Brighton Way
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(888)443-8992
open 7 days (see website for current hours)

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POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:58 am Tracker Pixel for Entry     CandyChocolatierLos AngelesReviewAlcoholCaramelChocolateGingerNuts7-Worth It8-TastySwitzerlandShopping

Comments
  1. Normally I love this blog.  You speak your mind and the reviews are obviously independent.  This review seems far too much like an ad, though: -everything- is positive.  I am disappointed.  Instead of “telling it like it is”, you’ve presented something that appears biased, whether it in fact is or not.

    Comment by Anonymous on 12/22/09 at 11:44 am #
  2. To the Anonymous poster above ...

    That really is a ridiculous comment to post. Cybele is 100% truthful to her readers and would never recommend a product or shop that she doesn’t truthfully think is worth her readers while.

    Seriously grow up and at least have the guts to approach the publisher personally if your views are so barbed.

    Jim

    Comment by Jim on 12/22/09 at 12:17 pm #
  3. Mouth officially watering!

    Comment by Liz on 12/22/09 at 12:37 pm #
  4. I’m with Jim - keep doing what you do, Cybele!! Anonymous is a coward and should just have his OWN review site if he thinks he knows how to do it better.

    Comment by VeggieGirl on 12/22/09 at 2:29 pm #
  5. I remember when this blog reviewed candy that average people actually ate.  Gone are the days where I see reviews for the kind of candy I could actually find in my town.

    Comment by Anonymous on 12/22/09 at 2:45 pm #
  6. Cybele's avatar

    Anonymous #2 - as you did not note your city in the comment form, I cannot address the availability in your area.

    I’ve been doing this blog for nearly five years, I’ve reviewed probably 1,200 candies in full and referenced another 500 on top of that.

    I take photos of nearly all the candy I purchase/accept and post it on Flickr (over 4,000 pictures) and you’re free to chime in there as I post them so that I know there is interest. I cannot read minds but have this free comment field, a published email address and host the Candy Blog forum for even more ad hoc conversation (though of course you’d need an actual registered account so it’s less than anonymous).

    I’m sorry I’m not addressing your needs.

    I am one woman with a full time job, several part time jobs & volunteer commitments who writes, for the most part at her own expense, about the candy she eats 4-5 times a week. I like to balance between everyday drug store/convenience store candy and the stuff that I might be hesitant to buy because it’s more expensive. Around holidays I like to demystify seasonal candies, especially ones from large chains with house brands like Target, Trader Joe’s and Aldi.

    I also like to write about what I’m curious about. I don’t know you, I don’t know what you’re curious about.

    Anonymous #1 - I am a critic and of course am not surprised by criticism. In fact I welcome it. (Though sometimes I don’t know quite what to do with it.)

    I am unclear what’s too positive about the posting (which doesn’t quite fit my usually review format, as most chocolatier/shop ones that I do, which is why the review block with specs is left off the bottom).

    If you have questions, please ask them!

    As for my biases, yes, I certainly have them, and I usually present them freely. (I don’t like marzipan usually, I didn’t care for the packaging here, I’d like to be able see a list of ingredients, I was so put off by the interior design of the shop I avoided it for four years ...) Once stated I’m able to separate them from my actual assessment of the products in front of me, after all, that’s what we pay for and take home. I think a 7 out of 10 represents the company well and an 8 out of 10 for the standout confections that I particularly enjoyed. The company has been around for 70 years, so they probably know better than I what people want to buy. (Just not necessarily what I want to eat.)

    The review would probably have been vastly different if I had not chosen my own assortment of chocolates to try. I chose ones I thought I’d like and for the most part I did. If I’d gotten a generic assortment of everything they make, I’d probably have other things to say, though I’d hazard a guess it’d be a like a bell curve with the majority still falling within the 6-8 range.

    Liz, Jim & VeggieGirl - Thank You! I hope you have scrumptious holidays.

    Comment by Cybele on 12/22/09 at 3:12 pm #
  7. You tell them, Cybele.  I’ve been following this blog for over a year now and I have enjoyed every bit of information you have shared with us!  Thank you.

    The Teuscher shop in Zurich also looks like the picture of the shop in Beverly Hills… I guess they’re going for one look, albeit an extremely old-fashioned one (and not in a good way).

    I’m not fond of alcoholic confections so Teuscher isn’t for me.  I’m a die hard Sprungli fan myself.

    Comment by Mira on 12/22/09 at 5:22 pm #
  8. What ridiculous comments people leave sometimes. I look forward to reading this blog everyday. Have a great holiday, Cybele!

    Comment by Bill on 12/23/09 at 2:38 am #
  9. Hilarious—a person creates and posts to a personal blog, to share her personal preferences and opinions, and then gets castigated for doing so.  And Good Lord, you review chocs from Aldi, Wal-Mart, etc… how are *those* not accessible? People today want everything they see and hear to be directed specifically to them, and get offended if it’s not. Grow up, folks.

    Anyway, Cybele, I’m so glad you reviewed this brand… there’s a Teuscher shop in Boston I’ve walked by a million times but it seemed too pricey/chi-chi, and I knew nothing about it. I’ll be sure to check it out now (whatever’s too sweet for you, Cybele, is bound to be right in my wheelhouse). Perhaps on my way back from the new Hotel du Chocolat, which is right up the street…!

    Happy Holidays!

    Comment by Alix on 12/23/09 at 2:53 am #
  10. I don’t know how you can get more accessible then the many reviews you do on products from the 99 Cent store…

    In general I think some people don’t exactly grasp the concept of what a review blog is and isn’t.

    Now, about the actual candy…
    OMG! I have been meaning to try the champagne truffles since I did some window shopping in the packed to the gills Rockefeller Plaza shop a couple Xmas’s ago. I was planning to go back next month on my late holiday- now I have got to try them this year, no excuse you made them look and sound too good to resist.

    Comment by Gigi on 12/23/09 at 12:15 pm #
  11. Cybele~

    I read your blog often but hardly ever comment. You reviews are fair, honest and hey it’s YOUR blog:) I love that you review a variety of candy from upscale to Walgreens brand…it’s all up for grabs!

    Thank you for taking time out of your life to blog, entertain and inform us:)

    Have a Happy New Year!

    Barbara

    Comment by Barbara on 12/29/09 at 1:11 pm #

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