Saturday, September 24, 2011

Spice Rack Collection Revealed

Two years ago, back when we were all very, very young here in The Chocolate Cult, one of our readers and a friend of mine brought me a small collection of tea infused dark chocolates.  After doing a regular review of these with only a few senses discussed and over all feelings, I let the company she bought these from know about us. Many months later the people from Spice Rack Chocolates sent us their Spice Rack Collection which has five flavors in a 15-piece box.  With this box there was a small guide book that identified the chocolates but also offered advice for eating them and for using them with wine.  Given the spicy nature of these chocolates I think pairing it with a wine or a meal is a very good idea, complementing all the courses.  However, please note that if you have food or wine between bites or pieces of chocolate you really are not cleansing your palate merely replacing once set of flavors with another.  Water and time are still the best cleansers if you want the fullness of the individual flavors; that is how we review all chocolates here, giving you the chocolate and nothing else in our descriptions.

Let's start with the square chocolate with the purple stripes across the top: "Key Lime and Jamaican Curry."  My first thought was "yuck" when I saw the spice combinations here.  This is beyond just spice, curry is a complex dish and key lime is a product not a spice.  Neither of these are anywhere near my favorites but your Chocolate Priestess tries a lot of things just for you, Sisters and Brothers, so I kept an open mind.  The curry is the strongest scent here, easily overwhelming the cocoa though it is still there underneath the other essence when I take a whiff.  The first burst of flavor when I take a bite is a mixture of curry and dark chocolate, then the key lime cools my mouth down.  As I keep chewing the curry strikes back but ultimately the dark chocolate is what lingers in my mouth.  This really surprised me because I liked it and I really loved the way the flavors changed as I chewed.

Another square piece has white dots or splats on the top; the booklet inside says it is green but these looked very white to me, don't they look more white to you?  You can see that the chocolate itself has a different pattern as well here in this photo.  This is the "Crushed Mint Leaves and Rosemary."  This was the first flavor combination that Spice Rack Chocolates made.  Now I've had mint and I've had rosemary flavored chocolates before but never the two together.  There is a light rosemary scent but the smell is primarily dark cocoa.  This has a rougher texture than the other chocolates I notices.  The mint is really more of a cooling sensation than a flavor and the rosemary is equally balanced with that.  Both of these flavors allow the nice bitterness of the dark chocolate to come through with each bite and each chew.  An excellent piece of chocolate!

Sea salt has become a rage throughout cooking because of fears about sodium.  We've tried several sea salt chocolates in the past but this flower shaped piece with a white center goes beyond the salt as the "Celtic Smoked Sea Salt and White Ground Pepper" variety from Spice Rack Chocolates.  The main scent is the darker chocolate but my nose could also pick out the salt and pepper essence before I took a bite.  This had a smoother texture than the previous chocolate and the sea salt hit my taste buds hard at first.  Then the chocolate and light pepper started to compete with each bite until it was the dark cocoa flavor that finished off the bite.  Another excellent combination of spices in this piece of chocolate.

"Fresh Lemon and Sweet Basil" sounds like it should be a very soothing flavor combination, doesn't it?  You can identify this flavor by the six-petal flower and the yellow color on the top.  The cocoa scent is good but the lemon and basil really are the dominant fragrances for these pieces. Surprisingly the flavor is very different than the scent.  The lemon and basil are more subtle, toning down the bitterness of the chocolate which is much smoother in texture than the other four combinations in this collection.  It almost tones the chocolate down a bit too much but I still think this was a good balance that might appeal the best to the milk chocolate lover who wants to venture into the lighter dark chocolates.

Finally we end with the "Cayenne and Chili Powder" which I'm sure you are thinking "this must be a hot chocolate" -- you have no idea so let me take you on this journey and give you a bit of a warning.  Don't let the beauty of these flowers with red centers fool you; these are HOT.  The scent will fool you too, I had to keep breathing in and breathing in the fragrance to even get a hint of anything other than dark chocolate.  I only took a small bite, about 1/3 the flower because this is part of our ritual here for all of the volunteers who do the reviews for The Chocolate Cult.  The first think I noticed was a nice strong chocolate flavor with a slightly grainy texture.  With chew though the heat built up higher, higher, and higher.  I couldn't even finish one piece it was just too hot so much so that I can't say I recall much of the chocolate but the time I was done with the 1/3 bite I took.  Luckily I take notes as I go along.  The burning continued well after water and swallowing.  This was my least favorite combination of flavors or any chocolate from any company I have ever had because the heat burnt out all of the chocolatey goodness.

Here's the story.  I tried these at a convention.  As you may know from reading me here or reading my other work, I'm a published author and book reviewer.  I got to 6+ conventions a year, most of these from May through August. I often take offerings with me and what I don't need I share at my table where I sell and sign books.  When I had the 10 extra pieces from this box set out, people stopped, looked and then asked "what is this flavor" and they'd point to a piece.  All except for one guy who just picked up the flower with the red center and popped the entire thing into his mouth.  My eyes went wide and I asked what he just ate.  He told me as he chewed.  I informed him that it was a very hot flavor but he laughed for a moment then stopped.  He assured me that he liked hot food.  Within a minute he was sprinting for the water fountain.

Also ask what a chocolate is before you pop it into your mouth, Sisters and Brothers!

All of these chocolates are dark (54%) and well made, the cocoa content itself means that even milk chocolate lovers might be open to trying these.  Every one of them made a sharp snap when I took a bite, a sign of purity, but they also all had a bit of grainy texture to them probably from the added spices and flavors.  These are not chocolates to gobble down as the one man who put an entire piece in to his mouth above demonstrated.  The result is that these are not chocolates for everyone and you need to be aware of that before you buy or give these as gifts. But if you like spice, if you have an adventuresome palate and you want to try something very original, these can make a good Sacrament for you.

There is Spice Rack Chocolates for you all to consider.  Remember if you are eating spicy chocolate do not pig out on them.  Give your mouth time to adjust to each combination of spices and determine what you like best.  You might enjoy flavors you couldn't have imagined even went together if you take the time to slowly try them.  If you are thinking of adding spice to your chocolate please remember that the cocoa, the chocolate, still needs to be the last and lasting flavor.

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