Saturday, May 23, 2009

Saturday Sacrament, May 23, 2009

A few weeks ago, as you will recall, your Chocolate Priestess received a selection of truffles from Anna Shea Chocolates. Initially these came, as many offerings have, in a very well-packed box designed to protect the chocolate inside from weather and transportation jostling. Inside was this dusky pink box you can see to your left. Opening the box was simple, and my senses were immediately hit by the scent of cocoa, which is always a good sign. Beyond the smell, though, a treat awaited my eyes.

Of course I looked at the website, but nothing prepared me for the beauty I found in this box. Just look at this picture to your right. I have seen and held several lovely pieces of chocolate in my revelations, Sisters and Brothers, but these are miniature works of art. Twelve types are in this selection. A little color booklet with pictures of each piece and a description of what was in each came with the box. It has 32 pictures, but I could only identify 6 of the twelve flavors, so I turned to the website for help. If you look under "Signature Collection" and click on the individual categories, you can find several pictures of the chocolates. Each piece is about 1 inch in diameter or across, depending on the shape, so about two to three bites.

Let's start with what I can identify. To give me a kick start, "Espresso" will be my first piece. As always, I have only had water to drink for some time before this tasting, so the flavors and experience are pure. The scent is dark chocolate with a hint of coffee. This is an almost perfectly round truffle with drizzles of dark chocolate all over it. The ganache snaps when I bite and when I look I see three layers — the outer shell, an inner shell, then the soft truffle center. The coffee scent is more powerful in the center, but the flavor is mild, not overwhelming the cocoa at all, which is exactly what I want, since I'm not a huge coffee fan. Letting it melt creates a slightly stronger buzz, but that rush is there from the first bite.

The next piece is clearly a French style truffle, the "Original Sin," which has no ganache but a cocoa powder on the outside. This dusting is intense, covering my fingers and thrilling my nose. Ah ha! There is a very thin ganache layer underneath the cocoa powder, my bite reveals, and then a soft almost sweet truffle center. The bitterness you want from dark chocolate is there, but this unexpected sweetness was a good balance. Letting one bite rest in my mouth, it literally all melts, flooding my head with a rush of sensations. I can taste why this is one of their best selling bon-bons.

The "Beauty" piece looks like someone pinched the top with their fingers; it is light pink with a sprinkle of red over it and a dark chocolate line over the top. I basically can smell only a very light cocoa, and I think this is because when I bite, the ganache is a white chocolate with a very soft center that tastes of Chardonnay and strawberry. It tastes good, just like the description leads you to believe, but as is usual for the white chocolate there is no buzz.

"Heart of the Ocean" is a square of dark chocolate with some crystals on one corner that the description says is sea salt. I bite the side with the salt first, and the salt is strong, then it blends with the ganache and soft inside, but frankly the salt overwhelms the cocoa, making me take a few sips of water. The salt flavor is less intense for the rest of the piece, and I like the rest better. It's a unique flavor I haven't had before, but I can't say I'm pleased by it.

The next piece is a sort of mustard color with three leaves drawn on top and a dark line across it, identifying it as "Madagascar," a vanilla ganache with milk chocolate. I can certainly smell the vanilla when I bring it to my nose. The soft center mixes well with the shell to make a very sweet taste that surprisingly also has a kick that rises from my mouth to my eyes and gets better with each bite.

Anna Shea has a heart-shaped collection, and my sample had one of these. It's a shiny burgundy-colored piece with only a light cocoa scent when I first examine it. "Strawberry Fields Forever" makes me think not only of the Beatles song but also an area of Central Park I've walked in several times. The dark chocolate shell cracks under my teeth and reveals a pinkish center that smells and tastes like the promised strawberry, but the bitterness of the shell is strong and delivers a slight buzz.

That leaves me with six more flavors to figure out. Three are new flavors not featured in the booklet, so I ask the Milk Chocolate Acolyte to help me identify three more flavors whose color may be slightly different from transport or simply because food coloring is rarely 100% consistent. This also gives my palate time to recharge.

The next piece is a flatter rounded piece with a wave of dark red and golden yellow on the dark ganache. This is the "Vadelina," but its shape seems shorter than the picture suggested. The shell hides a raspberry and milk chocolate center, but all three flavors blend well for a unique taste on several parts of my tongue for the first bite. With the next two bites the raspberry becomes the primary flavor, thorougly winning out over the chocolates.

The next square piece, which has a reddish square on top, is the "Puleo," which is a dark shell with a dark truffle inside and a port taste. The cocoa is the principal scent and flavor, but the port gives it an extra burn, as you would expect from alcohol. If you like dark chocolate and port, then this is a good choice for you, because it blends well without one flavor overwhelming another.

"Lia" is an Earl Grey flavored chocolate, which I expected from looking at the picture to be more square in shape, but this piece is a rectangle with a gray top decorated with lovely little flowers. The tea scent comes through the dark ganache when I lift it to my nose. The top decoration pops off when I bite into it. The orange of the truffle sweetens the flavor a lot, but the primary flavor is still the chocolate. Honestly I couldn't tell this was Earl Grey except by the scent, and the Milk Chocolate Acolyte, who is a huge tea fan, suggested it was more caramel in flavor.

These last three pieces are new flavors that I'm honored to have a taste of. The first I'll try looks like a milk chocolate dome shell with a wave of coppery color over the top half. The soft center of the "Scott's Peanut Butter" tastes like what you get with organic peanut butter that has very little sugar. This intense darker flavor is surprisng, but it mixes very well with the milk chocolate. Definite hints of hazelnuts add a roasted flavor. Very different from what I was expecting for a peanut butter chocolate, but also very good.

A rectangular piece covered by a yellow decorative top with chocolate swirls is next; this turns out to be "Krystels Banana Foster" when I take that first bite. The caramel textured center has a mixture of flavors here that strike different parts of my tongue — sweet banana and caramel, tangy brandy, intense brown sugar and a slight kick of cinnamon. This is the most varied flavor in this collection, but if you don't like bananas you will not like this. I like bananas; bananas and chocolate with these other flavors was great.

Finally a light pink piece with white and burgundy flowers on a pyramid shape will close out this "Saturday Sacrament." This is the "Cherry Baby," with a light cherry taste that comes both from cherries and from Kirsche, a cherry brandy, in the dark truffle center beneath the colored white chocolate ganache. It's very smooth, and yet after a few seconds it kicks in, making this a great way to end our sampling today.

All in all, Anna Shea Chocolates delivers beauty to your eyes, your nose, and your mouth. As with most assortments, I liked some flavors more than others, and so will you. If you are looking for very beautiful chocolates that taste good, I recommend looking into this chocolatier for your next special Sacrament such as a wedding or anniversary, which they specialize in.

Sisters and Brothers, may you too take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

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