Friday, February 29, 2008

Upscale Hollow Chocolate: Michel Cluizel & Hotel Chocolat

Jacques Torres BunniesThough the standard big item in an Easter basket is a chocolate bunny, there’s nothing in the books that says that is must be a bunny. In fact, many companies make things like eggs (often filled with other chocolate or confectionery items), chicks, ducks, filled baskets, geese and some folks even do crosses.

This week I looked at four different options that could be purchased at just about any drug store or discount retailer: R.M. Palmer, Wonka, Russell Stover & Lindt, though this isn’t the first time I’ve reviewed hollow chocolate items.

Two years ago I visited Jacques Torres Chocolate Haven, and if you were ever looking for a Tiffany-style experience for Easter baskets, that’d be the place. You can get a hollow chocolate bunny the size of a toddler. (Well, toddlers aren’t hollow.)

imageOddly enough at this writing there’s nothing on the Jacques Torres website that mentions anything about the impending holiday (I always figured Lent was the classic time to display Easter goodies).

So I thought I’d wrap up the week with two other devilish hollow chocolate items, though they’re not exactly for Easter, they give a good sense of some more pricey items that are out there.

Michel Cluizel Chocolate GnomeMilk Chocolate Gnome by Michel Cluizel with a white chocolate beard - I was sent this as a sample a few days before Christmas along with some other items that I’d already tried (the single origin tasting kit, being one of them).

Cluizel is known as one of the few bean to bar to bonbon companies in the world, so they have exclusive control over everything from the quality of the beans to the molding and packaging of the product. This fellow came in a flat bottomed clear bag and in perfect condition. He’s made with a dark milk chocolate that is tempered to perfection. It has a nice milky scent and perfect snap when I bit the top of his hat off.

The chocolate itself isn’t very thick at the top but moreso as I got down to his little feet. The chocolate is sweet, perhaps a little too much for me, but extremely creamy with a well balanced chocolate flavor.

I also had a white chocolate flat snowman with a candied orange peel scarf and a nose and buttons made from chocolate pearls. The white chocolate was indeed buttery and sweet with wonderful vanilla notes.

I don’t know what you can get from Cluizel in the States via the web, but a visit to their NYC shop or any of their French locations would probably be divine. The closest item I can find online right now is in the Chocosphere “Bargain Basement”.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Hotel Chocolat - PenguinChocolate Penguin from Hotel Chocolat - again, just before Christmas I got a package of some items from Hotel Chocolate which included some things that I couldn’t eat because of walnuts (okay, I actually ate one of them and besides being very uncomfortable from a swollen throat I was mostly cross).

The mostly milk hollow figure is a bit thicker than the Cluizel. It’s nicely formed and decorated in the shape of a penguin with both dark and white chocolate accents.

The Hotel Chocolat dark chocolate is 40%, which is really high in cacao for a milk. It’s very creamy with a strong dairy component, good malty tones and a mellow chocolatey base.

Hotel Chocolat is new to the States, but has a strong following in the UK (see the coverage at Chocablog for more reviews). They source their chocolate ethically and use natural ingredients. They don’t actually have any chocolate bunnies here in the States, but a really attractive “engraved egg” that’s either hollow or filled with an assortment of their chocolates. Their UK assortment is much wider (and has a great mix of elegance and casual kookiness.)

Rating: 7 out of 10

My hollow chocolate adventures are not over, I’m still planning on getting some from See’s (which uses Guittard milk and dark chocolate), Vosges, L.A. Burdick, Lake Champlain among others.

Related Candies

  1. Hotel Chocolat Crostini Fruit & Nut Slab
  2. Godiva Easter Eggs
  3. See’s Egg Quartet
  4. CocoaBella “World’s Best Box”
  5. Michel Cluizel Les 1ers Crus de Plantation

POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:53 am Tracker Pixel for Entry     CandyReviewEasterMichel CluizelChocolateEthically SourcedNovelty/Toy7-Worth ItFranceUnited Kingdom

  1. Amazing about the giant bunnies. I’ve been wanting to try some Hotel Chocolat with all the coverage it gets.

    Comment by Jeanna on 2/29/08 at 10:46 am #
  2. i have to say that the gnome is my favorite

    Comment by Alyssa on 3/01/08 at 5:50 am #
  3. Why no dark chocolate hollow rabbits? I can appreciate good milk chocolate, so I have to admit that some of these actually sound good. I’m hoping you find some dark ones!

    Comment by brian on 3/02/08 at 5:11 pm #
  4. Cybele's avatar

    brian - Lindt was the only dark that I found at the drug store for this week o’ rabbits. However, I did some more shopping over the weekend and picked up the See’s rabbits (Guittard chocolate), Lake Champlain and Art CoCo. I still have my eye out, I think Whole Foods will have some better choices coming up as we get closer to Easter.

    I also saw some small molded chocolate rabbits from Frey at Target. Their chocolate is pretty good (not terrific) and certainly better than many of the other cheap options out there.

    Comment by Cybele on 3/02/08 at 5:22 pm #
  5. Brian, I believe I saw dark chocolate Russell Stover rabbits in CVS today. smile

    Comment by Sera on 3/02/08 at 5:26 pm #
  6. I’m excited you are trying L.A. Burdicks! They make the best easter baskets I have ever seen. I hope you got a hold of their little chocolate bunny truffles. White chocolate on the outside and dark espresso ganache within.


    Comment by Gigi on 3/02/08 at 6:50 pm #
  7. Cybele Im really looking forward to Egg week…im expecting some really good stuff from it smile

    I was thinking of doing something similar here at ChocolateMission but it looks like you have it covered smile

    Good luck look forward to reading smile

    Comment by James@ChocolateMission on 3/02/08 at 11:46 pm #
  8. How funny - I just got back from Seattle, where I visited Chocolate Box and saw Michel Cluizel items there.  I’d never heard of him before, but the name struck me.

    You can order his bars on the Chocolate Box web site:

    Comment by Maura on 3/03/08 at 8:53 am #
  9. I don’t know…growing up as a Catholic kid Lent seems like it would be a time with low chocolate sales. Everyone gives things up for Lent and we used to always give up chocolate.

    Comment by Allison on 3/04/08 at 10:32 am #
  10. That penguin looks too cute to eat!

    Comment by Jackie on 4/07/08 at 10:52 am #
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