Saturday, November 19, 2011

Italian Caramels for the Holidays

One of our Google affiliates, PastaCheese, wanted to draw more attention to their gift products as the holidays approach.  As their name implies, they specialize in gourmet pastas and cheeses, but they also sell chocolates.  Sisters and Brothers, we are going to feature four products from PastaCheese throughout the forthcoming year, starting with today's Saturday Sacrament and looking at the Venchi Chocaviar Gift Box.  One of our Acolytes commented that this product's title sounded horrible; I suggested he just look at the photo and consider the chocolates inside, as I will.  My guess -- I tried doing some research and could not find Venchi's own reasoning -- is that this is supposed to remind one of caviar and thus make a connection between fine, expensive food and fine chocolate. (This isn't as expensive as I thought it might be, so check it out please.)

Inside this 5.3-oz. box are nine individually wrapped dark chocolate caramel treats.  From the cover we see three varieties -- a 75% dark, a milk chocolate, and a caramel.  My Italian is a bit rusty, since I haven't been back to Italy since 1991, but everything on the box seems to be translated into English as well. The milk chocolate is at least 33.3% cacao and 18.6% milk.  It has cocoa mass, cocoa butter, and cocoa powder in two forms.  It also has added olive oil, hazelnuts, whole milk powder, skim milk powder, condensed sweetened milk, lots of sugar, and soya lecithin.  No artificial ingredients or preservatives at all.  One piece measures almost 1 1/8 inches across, has a height of 5/8 inches, and contains 93 calories, 6.8 g fat, 6.8 g carbs, and 1.2 g proteins.

We'll start with a black-wrapped 75% piece.   I know, normally I start with the lighter chocolate and work my way up, but I want something darker this morning.  (Yes, this review is being written LIVE for you all.)  The shiny paper wrapper is sealed with a gold sticker with "Venchi dal 1878" printed on it.  Looking closer I can see that what at first looked almost like fat jimmies on top are actually tiny chips of chocolate.  It is difficult to cut open, so the chocolates are unevenly cut, as you'll see in each photo, but I wanted you to see inside, Sisters and Brothers.  This is all very dark chocolate, so you may have difficulty seeing that there are three layers -- the external dark layer, a second dark layer, and then the large center. This chocolate has a very strong, simple, and dark essence when I bring a half to my nose and breathe in; that is delightful to smell early in the morning.  There is a very loud snap when I take a bite, and immediately the chocolate starts to melt.  The center seems lighter and sweeter in flavor, but all of it blends into a wonderful dark intensity that begins to create a light cocoa buzz with only 1/4 of this first piece in my mouth.  The little chocolate pieces on the top and sides add more complexity to the texture, but they, too, melt quickly.  The second bite I chew, and that really cuts the intensity, though a good half dozen chews make noise.  Let this one melt in your mouth after a few chews, and  you'll be flying quickly from the rush we want from chocolate.

The gold wrapper is marked as "Creme Cacao," so I think this is a milk chocolate piece with a dark shell over it, from what I can see when I unwrap it.  Splitting it in half I can see that there are three layers again -- the dark outside, a lighter second layer, and  a thicker even lighter layer.  Smelling one half reveals a scent with at least three components: one of dark cocoa, one creamy, and one even slightly sweet, each perhaps corresponding to one of the layers.  This chocolate is a little soft but still makes a sharp snap when I take a bite.  Ah! I taste hazelnuts in the center layer, as well as a slightly creamy and bitter chocolate.  The hazelnut flavor really dominates this chocolate, though, so if you don't like those tree nuts, don't eat the ones with gold wrappers; give them to a friend.

The single chocolate with an orange wrapper is "Caramel," a fact that isn't surprising, given the cover of the box, but that it is only one of the entire nine is a bit shocking.  Perhaps the others are also caramel -- a dark chocolate and a hazelnut caramel -- but if that is the case, the tangy sweetness of the caramel isn't apparent.  In the photo we have three items in the same color group, but I think you can still see the caramel dripping out a bit from the center under what appears to be one dark chocolate layer.  Yes, the caramel is a very dark, almost orange in color.  This has a mixture of dark and tangy fragrances when I take a whiff of one half.  The outside makes the loudest snap of these three pieces.  The dark essence is the first flavor I get, then comes a burst of uniquely tangy caramel that is unlike any I've had before.  Describing it is therefore a challenge, but it it has a sort of citrus-like sweetness to it as well as that tang one expects from caramel.  The bitter chocolate returns to finish off the flavor.  Normally, letting chocolate melt in my mouth gives me the most intense experience, but for this I found that chewing mixed the two flavors together, and since the darker chocolate essence lasts longer, the blend was more important for my enjoyment of this piece.

Venchi has a history of fine chocolate dating back to 1878, when it was founded by Silvano Venchi in Turin, Italy.  His goal was to find "chocolate's soul," and his procedures are still followed today.  Venchi shops are primarily in Europe, so you have to order the products through various retailers such as PastaCheese. 

You can find PastaCheese using this link or via their ad on the right-hand side of our posts; it is also shown below.  Note the special discount they are offering readers of The Chocolate Cult! Venchi is only one of 28 chocolate companies that PastaCheese imports, so your range of choices is fairly wide.  These are nice gifts for Christmas but also for almost any other occasion, including some of our national and international chocolate and fun food holidays.  The quality of the dark chocolate and the history of the company makes this a very worthy Sacrament, as well as a nice gift.

286891_$10 off $75 Order - Chocolate Cult

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