Monday, 28 September 2009

September 28th: Chocolateque Assorted Selection


I get a fair few e-mails nowadays from companies offering to send me samples to appear on this site but a mail from Thomas at Chocolateque a few months ago really grabbed my attention. Thomas told me that him and his business partners were young Belgian entrepreneurs who were on a mission to 'make handmade & fresh Belgian chocolates widely available online'. I must say I admired their ambition and after a quick read of their website (HERE) I told them to send a sample of their chocolates for me to review. I would strongly suggest you do take a look at their site as it is very informative of their chocolatier Federic Blondeel and his methods of creating his chocolates.

About a week or so ago this fabulous looking little box arrived to me in the post. Unfortunately I haven't been able to do it much justice with my photo above - it was in actual fact decorated with a lovely looking bow which nicely complimented the sleek, charcoal coloured box. Despite the air miles these clocked up inside the chocolates remained in top condition looking both extremely pleasing on the eye and tempting wafts of cocoa ensuring me of their freshness.

Below are my thoughts on the chocolates - some have been grouped together based on the fact they looked similar in the box:

Trianon - This was a wonderfully unique truffle that really set the standard nicely. The outer portion of the piece was formed of several honeycomb like crisp cookie pieces which were drenched in rich tasting dark chocolate. These pieces delivered a unique crunchy texture when the chocolate was bitten into but more importantly set up the taste of the sweet centre nicely. The inner ganache was insanely creamy and had a caramel influence that left a burnt sugar note in the mouth. Superb.

The above chocolates all had fantastic quality outer shells of dark chocolate though varied slightly in terms of their inner fillings. The dark chocolate was wonderfully full rounded in flavour and provided a blanced non-bitter cocoa led taste that melted with the ultimate ease in the mouth.

Green Cayenne - (left) - This had a very unique filling indeed and combined a slightly tart lemon fruit flavoured ganache that had a touch of heat in the mouth thanks to a dash of cayenne pepper. Very Good.

Coriander - (back) - I wasn't expecting to enjoy this piece all that much due to some previously bad experiences with herbs and chocolate, however the coriander was only very subtle in terms in the strongly cocoa led inner ganache. Not really my cup of tea but it was hardly bad. Standard.

Cognac - (right) - I left this for my father to try who is a real fan of liqueur truffles and he gave this a big thumbs up. He said the dark chocolate and Cognac were very finely balanced with both fully expressed in taste. He also commented that the Cognac provided a nice bit of heat in the mouth which made for a lasting impression. Very Good.

Much like the square shaped dark chocolate pieces above these baton pieces incorporated the same high quality dark chocolate. Some of the fillings though weren't quite as on the money in my opinion.

Menthe - (ontop) - This piece looked fantastic and was labelled with silver squiggly writing that chaught my eye straight away. I was expecting a fresh tasting sweet minty influence though it soon became apparent that the inner ganache was flavoured with fresh mint leaves which made for a slightly odd overall taste. This was the only piece that didn't work for me. Poor.

Charles Hot - (cross-sectioned) - Conversely this chocolate was fantastic. It had a rich tasting inner ganache filling that was superbly hinted with influences of chilli and pepper adding both spicy flavours and warmth to the delicious tasting dark chocolate. Superb.

Laurier - (underneath) - This was another piece I was all too sure about when I read the description but it actually proved to be really rather good. The inner filling had a strong redcurrant influence which brought a fantastic fruity tartness to the non-bitter cocoa. Bay leaves were stated in the description though they were not all that apparent in the overall taste which may have been just as well. Good. These two were really something to behold and were two of my favourites out of the lot.

Carpe-Diem - (front) - Had head chocolatier been in my presence after I had eaten this chocolate I would have shook his hand there and then. This was one of the best tasting chocolates I have had this year - the outer milk chocolate was of a fantastic quality and produced a fine creamy outer shell to the outstanding filling. The filling was formed of a rich dark chocolate ganache that was expertly flavoured with a strong coffee influence that was almost espresso like in strength. At last a coffee chocolate that was as strongly flavoured as I desired. Superb.

Canelle - (back) - Although this chocolate wasn't quite as tasty as the Carpe-Diem this was still really very good and was constructed using the same outer milk chocolate that covered a darker coloured filling. Like the majority of the centres it had a stronger tasting cocoa led taste though this particular one had a cinnamon kick to it which made for an interesting and unique set of spicy flavours. Very Good.Cralin - This one was so good it deserved it's own photo ;) ... hmm ok I lie didn't know it was this good when I took the photo. This chocolate was formed of an outer layer of dark chocolate that held within a delicious vanilla hinted caramel which sat on top of a crispy biscuit like base. The mixture of the unsweetened dark chocolate and sugary, buttery caramel was near perfect and the crunchy base added interest with a delightful crunch in texture. Superb.

Cassonade - Help I am running out of superlatives here! This was one of the few whites chocolates in my selection and boy was it great. The outer shell was dusted with a thin layer of caramelised hazelnut dust which gave the chocolate a unique crispness when bitten into. The combination of the white chocolate and inner hazelnut praline was quite frankly to die. I have tried many good pralines in my time but this was up there with the best of them. Superb.

Couer - (heart piece) - Like the Cassonade above this was a very fine combination of outer white chocolate and inner hazelnut praline. The small addition to the party with this piece was the implementation of the cocoa nibs which conversely added crispness to the inner filling rather than the outer filling as in the previous. It was just as wonderful in my estimation. Superb.

Couer Caraibe - (left) - This was a solid gianduja piece that melted with the ultimate of ease once placed in the warmth of mouth. Like most giandujas the melt was silky smooth though this chocolate was notable for its fine hazelnut flavours which didn't disappoint in terms of fine woody, nutty influences that complimented the underlying creamy chocolate that provided a soothing chocolate flavour base. Very Good.

Escargot - (seashell) - I am not generally a fan of walnuts though this chocolate Incorporated the nut very well. With the addition of some ground almond pieces the walnut element produced a subtle nutty taste that a very obvious butter flavour influence on the creamy chocolate. Personally I think one of the best ingredients to compliment nuts is caramel and this chocolate inhibited exactly that with some sweet, butterscotch flavour providing yet another fabulous element to the taste. Very Good. Many of the above milk chocolate squares were very similar, though each had slightly different flavoured centres. The cross-sectioned piece in the middle was a milk chocolate version of the Coriander chocolate described above.

Tigres - (left) - The outer milk chocolate here was of a great standard with a fine creamy taste that was built upon nicely by the inner filling. At the centre a softer truffle like filling was nicely flavoured with a vanilla noted hazelnut taste that made for friendly flavoured chocolate and made for a nice change from the intensity of the rest of the selection. Very Good.

Gr Marnier - (bottom) - This was one of only a few fruit flavoured chocolates from the selection though it was executed with real prestige. The outer milk chocolate was wonderfully creamy and led nicely into the zesty orangey centre. I understand this is one of Chocolateque's master pieces and I can understand why. Superb.

Green Tea (right) - Green tea is good for us right? Perhaps not in chocolate form :) This chocolate wasn't my favourite from the selection but it was certainly one of the more diverse with the green tea influence coming through quite subtle in the inner creme. Give the really high standard of the rest I wouldn't choose to have this chocolate again but it was certainly interesting to try. Standard.

Overall I was hugely impressed by the standard of these truffles and have to hand it Thomas and his fellow team at Chocolateque for producing a really high quality selection of chocolate. Some of the chocolate I have described above were some of the best I have had in a long while with the likes of the Carpe-Diem, Cassonade, Cralin and Trianon coming to mind straight away. What really impressed was the consistent quality of their chocolate throughout - all three of their dark, white and milk chocolates were of a high quality and full flavoured. Were these perfect? No of course not - a few build for the Chocolateque team would be to include a menu with their chocolates and perhaps more fruit based chocolates to add a little more diversity to the heavily nut and spiced themed selection. These minor builds aside I really think Chocolateque have the beginnings of something special here. With delicious chocolates and an enthusiastic team I can see little holding them back. If you fancy treating yourself or a loved one to some chocolates that are of great quality but are something a little different from your readily available Hotel Chocolat, Thorntons etc I strongly recommend you try these.

9.0 out of 10

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