Saturday, December 5, 2009

Lovely, Tasty Truffle Gifts for Your Holidays

When these truffles from Coastal Mist arrived as an offering to The Chocolate Cult last week, your Chocolate Priestess was impressed with their simple and economical packaging, with nothing extreme or over the top.  Inside was this simple brown box with a ribbon and an information card.  After taking this picture and logging the product for us on my table of offerings received and schedule to review, I open it, and I am in for a visual and olfactory treat.

I'll show you more close-up photos as I take you with me today on this Journey through their truffles, but here, just look at the ten lovely pieces in this box.  They are well guarded, but not what I would consider overpackaged, with bubble wrap, a protective paper layer, and waxed paper as well, so environmentally speaking this is fine, if not as good as some other chocolatiers who use recycled and organic packing materials.  Inside the box is also a tri-fold insert with a photo listing of the truffles that might be in this box, so I get to play a matching game as well.  I count 38 flavors on this insert, and on the first page of their website I count 31, which is an interesting difference, since normally I'd think the website would list more flavors.  As I look around the website between flavor experiences, I'll see what more I can find — for one thing, on a deeper page where you can order the truffles there are more flavors listed, because you can custom order a box.

Beyond the visual, I also immediately smelled the chocolate as well as a mixture of other fragrances before I even folded back the wax paper layer protecting them.  As we've seen before, Sisters and Brothers, smell does not necessarily equal taste — one can be weak and the other strong — but what you see and what  you smell often entices you to try a food, especially something new.  So I am definitely eager to start today's Sacramental Journey.

Ten flavors do not neatly divide into a few photographs, so I'll take these in groups of three, four and three.  Please consult the appropriate picture if you want a visual to go along with my full sensory description, Sisters and Brothers.  I'll begin with the three chocolates that have inked designs on the top — remember, these are edible inks, so don't worry about eating such pieces of art when you see them in chocolate shops.  So I don't have to keep repeating this and bore you, each piece is about 0.75 inches tall, so they fit fairly neatly in the plastic tray in their box.

I'll start with the "Criollo Caramel with Nibs" which is the square piece with gold and green lines on the top; it tapers slightly from its 1-inch base, which makes it a square frustum, geometrically speaking, as the Milk Chocolate Acolyte informs me.  This has a dark and interestingly spicy scent to it when I bring it to my nose.  The chocolate shell is cool and smooth to my touch, even the sparkling gold on the top.  As I bite this piece in half the bottom snaps easily, but the sides are thicker, and inside is a very soft dark center.  As I chew I can feel little pieces of what must be the nibs, and I clarify that by letting the second bite melt in my mouth, which intensifies the cocoa rush and leaves a pleasant bitter and tangy aftertaste.

Next I'll try the teardrop shaped 1 inch wide "Strawberry Balsamic," which has pink and mauve flowers on the top.  One of the first things I noticed about this collection was that they did not include their raspberry flavored chocolate, and after my small rant last week that raspberry seems overdone, I was pleased to see that Coastal Mists sent other fruit varieties.  This piece has an equally nice dark chocolate scent, but when I bite in, the strawberry mixes well in both smell and taste with the dark chocolate.  I think I feel little strawberry seeds as I chew and let it melt, demonstrating that this is made with all natural fruit.

I'll end this trio with another tapered-square piece that has a reddish marble pattern on top, the "Almond Chipotle Caramel" flavor.  This has a kick to its dark cocoa scent, so I take a bite prepared for hotness.  The caramel center almost bursts out when I bite, but soon its sweetness is overpowered by the chipotle, which fades in a dozen chews to leave the cocoa and the almond flavors behind.  A very interesting interaction between the four distinct flavors results in a unique spicy chocolate that does not leave me gulping water but does open up my sinuses.  Just keep chewing if you want to get beyond the heat, or chew it quickly if you enjoy that sensation; the complexity here allows you to choose your experience by altering your approach, and I like that each of you, Sisters and Brothers, is empowered in this way by this variety.

I will start off this next set of four chocolates with a white chocolate piece, "Vanilla Epiphany," which is a 1.25 inch diameter short cylinder; the top is decorated with an indented section that has etched waves issuing from it.  It smells like white chocolate always does to me -- rather plain and creamy, sort of like whole milk.  Inside is a semi-soft white cream with a nice vanilla taste that mixes perfectly with the white chocolate.  This is definitely the choice for white chocolate lovers, and one of five white chocolate truffles Coastal Mist offers.

I'll counter that with a dark teardrop shaped piece called "Brazil Nut Smoked Salt Caramel," which reads like it should have several flavors.  I've probably had a Brazil nut in the past, but it has been so long ago that I'm not sure what they should taste like, and the dark cocoa smell of this piece gives me no hints.  Inside is a lightly tangy soft caramel that tries to ooze out after I take a bite, as well as visible pieces of nut that taste very earthy.  These two flavors overwhelm the dark cocoa unless you let it melt in your mouth, but then I am left with only the nut flavor, so I recommend chewing slowly to get the most cocoa here.

The "Apricot Amaretto" has "Coastal Mist" embossed on the top, which is milk chocolate, but the rest of this 1.5 inch oval piece is darker in color.  This is an odd piece, not in what it looks like, but because of a weird lack of fragrance compared to the other pieces so far.  Or perhaps I'm floating too high on this cocoa buzz that has built up steadily from the first chocolate.  When I bite into it, though, the taste is strongly amaretto with an undertone of apricot, and this seems to bring out the dark cocoa far more intensely than the scent suggested it would.  There are even little pieces of apricot in here underneath the top, which provide of bit of sourness and another interesting texture when you let it melt in your mouth or chew slowly.

The final piece of this quartet is a stout half globe of deep red marbled color with a streak of white down one side, which identifies it as the "Blood Orange" flavor.  This has a slight orange scent to it and again no cocoa scent.  This is the smallest of the ten truffles in this box, with a 1.1 inch base and a gently sloping dome that rises up just over half an inch.  Inside is a firm dark chocolate with a strong sweet tang of orange.  As before, what is inside intensifies the dark cocoa, and this makes my mouth and eyes water from the strength of these two flavors.  A wonderful surprise that I am greatly pleased with.

The last trio from this box begins with an appropriately shark fin shaped "Kahlúa and Cream."  Your Chocolate Priestess is not a drinker.  Oh, she'll have some wine every now and again, she's tried beer, and of course she's had alcohol flavored chocolates, but she doesn't know if she's had Kahlúa.  I hope our Mocha Acolyte forgives me, because I want to try this, despite the fact that Kahlúa is a coffee flavored liqueur, since the information I could find says it should be a heavy and sweet flavor as well.  Oddly, I've always associated the term "Kahlúa" with Hawaii for some reason, but various sources (including its own website) say it is Mexican.  The milk chocolate shell does not have much of a scent, but when I bite through it's thinness I get a burst of coffee, sugar, butter, and cocoa in a soft light tan cream.  Yes there is a hint of coffee's unique bitterness, but it is definitely countered by the sweetness.  Sadly, the chocolate flavor lags behind, though it is there.

Next I try the lightly golden tinged, multifaceted "Black & Gold" piece.  I have no idea what this flavor may be, and the scent is only dark cocoa.  While this shell is smooth like all the others before it, the faceted sides make for an interesting sensation in my fingertips, and the gold shine to it plays with the light in the room.  Inside is a firm much darker center with little pieces of what I know must be nibs in it.  The result is an immediate uptick in my senses and my mind as the buzz I've built up over a few hours of this journey gets pushed further quickly.  If you want your truffle to send tingles through your mind and body, this is the truffle you want to try.

Last, but I hope not least, is the oblong "Belgian Style Truffle: Dark Chocolate," which is wrapped in gold foil in the box.  This appears to be a hard, dark chocolate shell covered with powdered cocoa and flakes of cocoa, with a powerful cocoa essence when I breathe it in.  Inside a rather thick shell I find a light but almost powdery chocolate when I take a bite.  The inner chocolate is smooth and creamy in taste but not in texture, which is interesting.  It blends really well with the shell and the outside flakes to make this a great truffle, though I have to say it doesn't change my mind about the "Black & Gold" being my favorite from this box.

This box did not come with a list of ingredients or nutritional information, so just remember to think about the flavors if you have allergies and to eat in moderation.  If you think these truffles sound like a gift you want to give to a loved one or yourself this holiday season, I would agree.  These truffles from Coastal Mist are certainly worthy Sacraments for The Chocolate Cult.  But you'd better hurry and order them before you have to pay extra for speedy delivery.  Ordering in larger quantities yields the best price per chocolate, but regardless of which box you choose (or if you create your own), the prices are identical.  

Remember, if you do order from any company who has submitted potential Sacraments to us, please mention that you read about them here in The Chocolate Cult.  I look forward to any more samples that Coastal Mist may wish to share with us.

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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