Saturday, March 6, 2010

Parisian Chocolates in the USA

Sisters and Brothers, today your Chocolate Priestess is going to reveal a 17-piece collection from Antoine Amrani Chocolates. These are preservative-free chocolates, so if you decide to order or buy some yourself, remember that you should consume them within three weeks for the best quality. The entire collection is labeled "Organic," yet some of the individual varieties are also labeled "organic." The ingredients are listed for the entire collection and include the potential allergens dairy, wheat, nuts, and eggs.

When we look inside we find that some of the flavors included in the gift box appear more than once, so I don't need to review 17 different flavors, which is great, or I would have had to split this review into two Saturday Sacraments.  There are twelve "signature flavors" offered at Antoine Amrani, and I have one or two of each of these flavors to share with you today.  So go get some water, and settle down for a long and full sensory review with some more photos to help you decide if these might be something you want to check out on your own.  Some of them, as you can see, are imprinted with edible dyes, while others are fully colored with more edible dyes, and others differ only in shape and decoration.  The little guide booklet that came with the box is good, but I find the online link I gave you is even better.

We'll start with the "Pure Dark" pieces, which are imprinted with with the company name in a sort of light moss-green ink.  Each piece is a 1 inch square that is 0.75 inches thick.  This 70% cocoa chocolate has a nice deep scent that already makes my mouth water.  The outer shell is cool and smooth and breaks silently when I take a bite.  Inside is a bitter and intense semi-soft center whose essences linger for at least half a minute after a bite.  Letting it melt in my mouth slowly heightens the flavors, allowing me to taste the unique character of this chocolate and increasing the rush into my mind.  A worthy choice for us who love dark chocolate.

The "Earl Grey" flavor is identical in shape to the previous chocolate but has a light brown edible ink imprint in an abstract floral design.  It has a scent both of dark chocolate and tea.  Inside this smooth, cool shell is a solid Earl Grey flavor that fades into cocoa bitterness as I chew the first bite.  Since I'm not a huge fan of teas I don't let this piece melt in my mouth, but the Milk Chocolate Acolyte, who loves tea, reports that the bergamot flavor that is so characteristic to Earl Grey tea is unmistakable here but is not overstated, and the lingering flavor is that of chocolate, which is as it should be.  The flavor is not unlike dipping a cookie with a solid chocolate overlay, such as a "Petit Écolier" cookie (you may have seen these; they are made by the French biscuit manufacturer Lefèvre-Utile, although the company is now owned by Kraft), into a cup of Earl Grey tea, then taking a bite.

The next piece is the "Organic Coconut Kaffir Lime," which our Chocolate Coconut Acolyte reports: "This piece measures 1.5” by 1” by 0.5” The dark swirling pattern is visually appealing making this almost too pretty to eat. But I will make the sacrifice for the Cult. The scent is predominantly coconut, with a bit of chocolate. There’s another scent too but not one I can identify and might be the lime. The first bite reveals a “wet coconut” filling (think Mounds bar). My teeth silently sink through both the chocolate and the filling and in just moments the chocolate begins to melt in my fingers. I let the second bite slowly dissolve on my tongue and taste sweet coconut, good dark chocolate and that mystery ingredient. I’m more convinced now that it’s the lime as it has a certain bite to it. And the filling, while not green by any means, is not as white as I would expect a plain wet coconut filling to be. The lime scent is slightly more pronounced once the filling is exposed but it’s still not overwhelming. It is, however, different than anything I can recall having before. And while it’s not something I think I’d like every day, it is a very nice change from the usual chocolate coconut confections of this variety."

The same shape and size as the previous piece, the "Almond Crisp" flavor differs only in the pattern on top of the chocolate, a pattern that almost remains me of old leather with stress lines that make it more attractive than the newer, shinier fabric of a new coat.  All I can sense when I take a deep breath of this piece is a light chocolate fragrance.  It makes a soft snap when I take a bite and reveals a solid and very crunchy lighter colored milk chocolate with pieces of rice and pralines.  The flavor is very sweet and earthy at the same time, and it does allow the cocoa to resurface as the combination of ingredients changes with each bite.  It's complex but not too much, which is a risk in some chocolates we've revealed.

The 1.25 × 0.25 × 0.25 inch shiny gold rectangle is the "Organic Cinnamon Honey" flavor and is next in line to be revealed.  Two pieces came in one paper cup.  With these metallic colors I won't use our Sacred Dish in hopes of showing you truer colors against a simple white background.  This slick-feeling chocolate has a very strong cinnamon scent that matches its intense spicy flavor, tempered by a touch of sweet honey.  The smooth, soft chocolate ganache is both creamy and bitter and counters the spice nicely to create a unique and excellent variety.  Sadly, this is not a chocolate for our Mocha Acolyte — sorry, davebear_in! 

The purplish-red version of the cinnamon chocolates are a pair of "Raspberry" chocolates.  They have a definite raspberry scent when I take a deep whiff of one.  The soft center feels like it may have seeds in it, hinting at real raspberry filling and not just juice flavoring.  This has a sweet and sour taste to it, but the chocolate finds a way through, though not as strongly as with the other varieties I've revealed so far.

I have to review the two coffee flavors myself this time, since our Mocha Acolyte is now more difficult to get samples to than he was when he began — without preservatives, these chocolates would likely no longer be fresh by the time they reached him.  Let me be clear: I am NOT a coffee expert, nor am I particularly fond of it.  Companies sending me these flavors risk a bias when I try them.

The coffee flavors have raised dots and lines connecting them together on the top.  The "Duo Cafe" is plain dark chocolate and has La Colombe coffee in it.  The dark maroon "Coffee Sour Cherry" has the same coffee, but with a Grand Marnier soaked cherry that has been de-pitted by hand.  The first has a nice coffee and chocolate scent, while the second really has just a light cocoa essence.  Both measure 1.25 inches across and rise to 0.75 inches high.  The maroon half-globe is much slicker to my fingertips than the "Duo Cafe," which probably reflects an edible ink.  Both have a semi-soft center and make a snap when I bite through their thick ganache coating.  The "Duo Cafe" has a strong, dark coffee flavor that is the first and last flavor I sense; the chocolate essence pops up in the middle of my chewing.  The sour cherry does temper the coffee in the second piece, but overall the coffee wins out in the flavor combination of both varieties.

The two chocolates with leaf patterns on top include the "Orange Grand Marnier" in the plain chocolate, while the golden yellow one has "Organic Banana Rum."  These are the same shape and size as the coffee varieties.  The first has only a light chocolate scent, which is not what I was expecting from an orange flavor.  This breaks apart easily to reveal a softer center that has a good balance of orange, alcohol, and cocoa flavors, though the alcohol lingers the longest on my taste buds.  The banana flavor also does not have a real scent, not even chocolate, and I wonder if that is the gold coating at work.  This center is firmer, as is the shell, and it makes a dull sound when I take a bite.  Inside is the definite rum, banana, and cocoa flavor, which blends well if you like those.  I am surprising myself by finding that I prefer the banana over the orange between these two varieties.

The final two have swirl patterns on top of them.  The "Hazelnut Praline" is the plain chocolate, while the coppery one is "Pistachio."  These are the same shape and size as the coffee varieties.  Like the other colored half-globes, the Pistachio lacks a fragrance until I take a bite.  Inside is a yellow semi-soft center with a slightly sweet taste that doesn't really remind me of the nut, though this allows the cocoa to come through, meaning that I like this more than other pistachio varieties I've tried before.  The Hazelnut Praline has only the lightest of cocoa scents at first but attains a strong earthy fragrance when I take a bite.  Inside is a milk chocolate semi-soft center with pieces of the nuts, so it makes a good crunch.  The chocolate is superior to Nutella quality, though, so the cocoa shines through, again making me very pleased by the combination. 

As an overall retrospective, I would say that most of these varieties were solid and blended well, but only the "Pure Dark" had that buzz we often search for.  Most of these, though, were unique and delivered the promise of their titles, so we here in The Chocolate Cult are pleased by the selection.  If this 17-piece Classic selection sounds good to you, you should check it out.  They also offer larger 34- and 68-piece gift boxes as well as smaller 9-, 6-, and 4-piece selections.  They ship from their online store throughout North America and are available in retail locations as well along the East Coast and Georgia.

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

1 comment:

mavido79 said...

These look absolutely delightful. Can't wait to try the Coconut confection.