Saturday, May 1, 2010

Fresh Chocolate from Madison

The offerings of chocolate sometimes don't slow down unless your Chocolate Priestess makes the effort to slow them down.  While on our mid-March trip, the White Chocolate Acolyte accepted a dark chocolate assortment from Gail Ambrosius, a chocolatier in Madison, Wisconsin.  I'll have to have the Mocha Acolyte check them out directly, since that's where he lives.

Until he can write a report for us all, we'll look at this dozen dark chocolate truffles they sent our way.  On top of the box was a flyer, rich in color and photos, that lists a lot of their flavors and the various collections they offer -- you can also check out their variety at this link.  What they sent me isn't a specific collection but has pieces from several of them, so I have a great variety to sample and reveal to you all.  This review was pre-written weeks ago, but with a lot of companies responding to our latest shout-out at the beginning of 2010, we've had to do the physical reviews before posting them for all of you, Sisters and Brothers.  Don't worry, these are written as we try them, so the information is as fresh as the chocolate.

Since there are a dozen of these, I'm going to focus on two at a time for the photographs so I don't make your computers slow down too much, Sisters and Brothers.  Each truffle is darker chocolate in the 60% range of cocoa content for the most part.  The traditionally shaped truffles measure just over 1 inch across and rise to about an inch in height as well.  The chocolate shells are all smooth and start to melt quickly on my fingertips, testifying to the purity of the chocolate.

I'll start with the "Earl Grey" and the "Jasmine" tea flavors.  The "Earl Grey" has little purplish seedlike decorations, while the "Jasmine" has dried pieces of the leaves on top, also purple in color.  They both smell like dark chocolate, but the "Earl Grey" has a touch of another scent as well.  The shells are smooth and start to melt on my fingertips.  The "Earl Grey" makes a solid snap when I take a bite, and immediately my mouth is flooded by bitter chocolate and a more intense tea flavor than the last Earl Grey chocolate I reviewed a few weeks back.  The two flavors compete, and it seems that the tea may win out, but ultimately both remain in balance to the very end of a very long aftertaste that last for minutes.  I'm sure I feel a slight cocoa buzz, which means these are high cocoa content truffles.  The "Jasmine" tea truffle does not make a snap when I take a bite.  Inside is a semi-soft center which is both creamy and bitter with a slight jasmine taste that grows with each second until it intensifies the dark chocolate's bitterness.  You need to really like dark cocoa to enjoy this piece because of the intensity.

The next two are "Blueberry" and "Lemongrass with Ginger," flavors we have tried from other chocolatiers in the past.   "Blueberry" has what looks like a purple crystal on top of it while the other has orange blossom pieces and a yellow crystal on top.  Both have a dark cocoa scent that is basically identical.  One of my favorite fruits to mix with chocolate has to be blueberries, and when I take a bite of this truffle I am not disappointed at all.  The shell breaks with no sound to reveal a soft center with creamy texture and tiny pieces of the fruit.  The sweet yet slightly tart blueberry mixes well with the dark chocolate, allowing me to fully enjoy both flavors.  The "Lemongrass with Ginger" is more complex in flavor, including a coconut puree that adds a bit of sweetness to the overall tart quality of the semi-soft inside.  The shell doesn't make a sound when I take a bite, but there still isn't really a scent.  This complexity of essences breaks down into the dark cocoa and the lemongrass after a while, so if you like that combination you'll enjoy this.

The "Cinnamon/Cayenne" truffle is wrapped in orange foil but inside is a cocoa-dusted French-style truffle.  The "Rica Organica" truffle has a bronze-dusted coffee bean on top of it.  Both cinnamon and cayenne in one truffle sounds like a hot affair, so I take a sip of water before I take a bite.  The exterior isn't hot and simply smells like cocoa, which of course makes perfect sense as my fingertips are covered in the powder.  I take a small bite, maybe 1/5 of the truffle, expecting it to be burning. At first it has a very sweet, smooth flavor, but with each moment that passes the heat builds up, and I'm glad I took a small sample.  The sweetness is a nice counter to the heat, and I really like this, though you should take it slowly.  The "Espresso" does have a light coffee fragrance to it when I take a whiff of it before biting off a third of it.  A soft snap can be heard when I take a bite, revealing that the semi-soft center is creamy and lightly coffee flavored, though the bean adds a kick to the flavor.

The next two flavors are more tame, at least in name.  "Lucille's Vanilla" has a simple swirl on top, while the "Caramel" has a grey salt decoration on top of its shorter, square body.  "Lucille's Vanilla" has a definite vanilla scent to it, but the "Caramel" is just cocoa with a hint of salt.  "Lucille's Vanilla" makes a soft sound when I take a bite and reveals a semi-solid, lighter colored centered that has a strong cocoa flavor and a smooth creamy texture and taste, but also that strong vanilla kick.  In the description it mentions that this was inspired by homemade pudding, but I think it's also like an intense mousse.  I don't hand off the rest of the truffle to any of my assistants because I love it that much, Sisters and Brothers.   A very worthy flavor for any Chocolate Cultist.  The "Caramel" is square and measures 1 x 1 x 0.5 inches in dimensions.  This square is soft when I take a bite, and the dark golden caramel inside is sticky and tangy, pulling out as I try to take a clean piece of it.  The salt on top is an interesting balance, but some of the crystals are bigger than others, and the largest ones overwhelm the chocolate and caramel.  The sections with smaller amounts of salt are very well balanced, and as I chew the flavors come together to be really very tasty.

The next flavor is "Cognac" coupled with the other square piece, "Gianduja," which has an etching of cocoa beans on the top.  "Cognac" makes a solid snapping sound when I take a bite to reveal a semi-solid, lighter colored center.  The cognac flavor is strong but not overwhelming to the dark and lighter chocolate, resulting in an excellent blend.  The crystal on top is strongly cognac, so be forewarned before you take it into your mouth and let it melt and then burn your mouth slightly.    The "Gianduja" has only a chocolate scent.  The first bite makes a loud crunch, and inside is a firm, crunchy, almost toffee-like center that has a light nutty flavor with a hint of sweetness.  It mixes fairly well with the dark chocolate, but I can't find this variety online or in the little booklet that came with the box.

Our final two flavors are a "Fig" with a piece of the fruit on top and a "Raspberry" with some pieces of perhaps nibs on top of it and a solid raspberry flavor even through the shell.   The "Fig" is very soft to bite into and utterly silent.  Inside is a very creamy and lightly sweet, semi-soft center that just gently counters the cocoa bitterness.  The "Raspberry" makes no sound when I take a bite, even though the shell is firmer. It has a definite tartness to the fruit and a much more intense sweetness compared to the "Fig," yet it does not overpower the dark chocolate or the creaminess of the semi-solid center.  This makes this one of the better raspberry chocolate combinations I've had, though I'm still a bit tired of that variety in general in the chocolate world.

Each of these truffles were primarily chocolate in flavor regardless of the fruit, spice, coffee or sugars added to them.  This makes these quite worthy Sacrament for The Chocolate Cult, Sisters and Brothers.  If you are a dark chocolate fan you need to give Gail Ambrosius a visit or check out their website.  Of course if you visit them, mention us here on The Chocolate Cult and let them know we reviewed their delightful works of art.

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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