Monday, 31 January 2011

January 31st: Thorntons Continental Selection


If you have been keeping tabs on the site this month you will have seen me working my way through the different price tiers of Thorntons' selection boxes. If you need reminding, I started off by reviewing their pretty dismal standard Chocolate Selection (See HERE), then moved on to their Premium Chocolate Selection (See HERE). Today I bring you my review of their Continental Selection, a box I bought in it's 175.0g form, priced at £7.50 in my local Thorntons shop.

This Continental Selection came billed as 'pralines, truffles and mousses covered in milk, white and dark chocolate with Swiss, Belgian, Spanish, Italian and French influences', and supposedly contained fourteen pieces. I say supposedly as I was denied trying one of their Pistachio Marzipan chocolates, which was unfortunately nowhere to be seen. I have to say it was one of the of the pieces that stood out to me when I looked in the snazzy menu included in the pack, so I was disappointed not to see it included. Speaking of the presentation, this was a very nice looking box of chocolates and I liked the subtly and elegance of both the box design and the inner truffles.

Plenty of pieces to get through so lets get on with it ...

Alpini - This milk chocolate covered piece hosted a centre of hazelnut and almond praline, and was decorated by a light dusting of white chocolate. The textures of the crisp chocolate, exterior dusting and slightly gritty filling were pleasant, but the nuttiness of the praline was disappointing and was overawed by the sweetness of the outer chocolate. Standard.

Vanille Truffle - The outer white chocolate of this truffle made for a delicious creamy taste that led smoothly in to the bourbon noted truffle centre. Compared to the plainer filling pieces this flavoured one was more progressive and richer in taste as it detracted from the sugaryness sweetness and left a longing vanilla note in the mouth. Very Good.

Chocolate Truffle - I liked the aesthetic appeal and soft, sensuous textures offered by this chocolate, but unfortunately it didn't quite have the taste to match it's appearance. Although differentiated in terms of it's silky feel, the milk chocolate truffle centre was still equally as sugary sweet as the others. Standard.

Ganache Au Marc De Champagne - An absolutely fantastic chocolate! This was one of the finest champagne truffles I have tried - even up their with Hotel Chocolat's. The crisp outer chocolate shell led beautifully into the creamy, champagne noted cream below. The champagne volume was well measured and tickled the tongue to leave a lasting impression in the mouth. Spot on. Superb.

Vienesse Truffle - Every chocolate selection has it's dud and this was no exception. Remember when I reviewed this in it's bar form (See Here)? Unfortunately I was given a stark reminder when I tried this. Flavourless and bland. Very Poor.

Valencia - The Spanish influenced chocolate in this selection proved to be one of the best, and I loved this dark chocolate covered orange flavoured truffle centre piece. The dark chocolate coating really made the difference here and provided a beautifully contrastive unsweetened cocoa taste that was enhanced delightfully by the sweet orangey syrup held withing. A delightful fruity chocolate. Very Good.

Sicilian Lemon Mousse - This was another I have tried previously in bar form so I knew exactly what to expect here. As I perceived then, the white chocolate outer portion was delicious, but the inner mousse filling was unsubstantial and lacking the desired lemony zest. Still one that will satisfy white chocolate fans though. Good.

Catalana - This was one of the finer pieces in the entire selection and displayed a terrific amount of different textural elements for such a small truffle. The outer chocolate was further crisped by some tiny honeycomb pieces, whilst the inner caramel noted truffle was further supplemented by the most terrific smooth cream layer at the base. I delight for it's progressive cream and caramel flavours, as well as it's luxurious mouth presence. Superb.

Cappuccino - A complete carbon copy of the Caffee Latte piece included in the Thorntons Premium Collection (See Here). To repeat myself from there 'the coffee flavours were tasty, but mild mannered amongst the sweeter cocoa flavours that developed. Good.

Hazelnut Slice - As you can see from the photo, this was the piece that was portioned twice instead of the Pistachio Marzipan. Although I would rather of had the pistachio chocolate, this was a decent enough replacement, and unlike some of the other nut enhanced chocolates the hazelnut actually managed to cut through in the taste to a reasonable degree with it's woody influence. Texturally a little dry. Good.

Mousse Au Chocolat - I groaned when I saw this on the menu! This was a filler piece for the box i.e. an uncomplicated, generic chocolate included for the sole reason to take up space. Just as I thought it was pretty unexciting - sweet milk chocolate with a light, non-progressive chocolate mousse centre. If they had portioned this twice I would have been very annoyed. Standard.

Diplomat - 'Traditionally when one Continental diplomat exchanged a gift with another, it was custom for the present to be wrapped in a gold leaf' .... what!?? Unfortunately reshaping and wrapping the Alpini chocolate didn't make it any different :D Standard.

Cherry Truffle - We end on a high note here. The unsweetened dark chocolate shell, sour fruity cherry puree and sweet chocolate truffle centre made for a wonderful flavour and textural experience. I wasn't expecting to think that much of this chocolate but I really liked it. Very Good.

Overall this wasn't the best chocolate selection box in the world, but it was a noticeable step up in quality from the other two Thorntons boxes I tried earlier in the month. Whilst there were both 'filler' and missing pieces included in the selection, I would say the variety on offer was still very good, and it did contain a decent array of fruit, nut and caramels with different chocolate type exteriors. Priced at £7.00 I think this box comes in at half the price of the likes of Hotel Chocolat's selections and only a few pounds more than the Thorntons Premium Collection. On that basis I would tentatively suggest them as a sound option for gifting if you are in need of a chocolate selection box. I would suspect that moderate expectations would be exceeded.

8.2 out 10

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