Wednesday, January 25, 2012

French Chocolate for Valentine's Day 2012

Many European nations boast of a particular style, taste, or formula for their chocolate.  Europeans can do that because they are the ones, one people at a time, often one chocolatier at a time, who took what the native Central American populations did with cacao and turned it into the chocolate that we know and love.  What do you do if you don't have that tradition because you're in the good old USA?  Don't fret, many European companies sell their chocolates here, too, and many of their techniques are being employed by chocolatiers around the country.  Thus is the case with Chocolats du CaliBressan whose chef Jean-Michel Carre has won international notice for his French chocolate.  Now they have a shop in California so you can sample what he has to offer much better than taking a trip to France, though that wouldn't be bad to do either, would it, Sisters and Brothers?

This is slightly longer feature but I hope you enjoy the twelve individual flavors we are going to reveal to you today.  As you can see inside the heart-shaped box the pieces are laid out to offer a visually pleasing display this will be what you can buy from CaliBressan with one except that we'll mention in the course of our review today.  Your Chocolate Priestess was assisted by two Acolytes as well for this article and I'll give you their words in italics.  We'll start at the upper left hand side and then work our way around the box and finally inward for the final two pieces.  This process took a lot of time, a lot of water, and a lot of patience because to fully appreciate our Sacred Substance we must allow each variety, each piece to be experienced fully.

We'll start with Canadien that looks like a walnut but it should be a maple caramel flavored milk chocolate with pecans under a milk chocolate shell. This is unique on a few levels but it really stands out in this heart as a milk chocolate. The milk chocolate is the strongest scent but there is a hint of maple, too.  How will the maple play with the caramel?  A too tart or too sweet flavor?  I take a bite, making a soft snap, to discover a semi-soft, creamy center with crunchy pecans incide of it, a burst of tart caramel which fades into the maple sweetness before returning to the pecan and a creamy cocoa aftertaste.  Very complex chocolate that turned into an entire journey for my mouth in just one bite.  Brilliant!  Easily two bites so be sure and share this with your loved one unless they can't eat tree nuts like mine.

The eye catching red lips are called Bisous (kisses) and I think nothing but these chocolates might be a wonderfully seductive gift to offer your lover from a visual viewpoint alone.  One set of lips has all three of our chocolates -- the white chocolate shell then inside a milk and dark ganache with a tangerine liquor.  Let's see if the rest of our senses are as thrilled as our eyes.  The tangerine comes through the creamy fragrance when I bring the lips to my own and breath in.  These lips are as large as mine but I only bite them in half so I can share the other half.  The tangerine is the first flavor I can taste followed by the thick white chocolate's creaminess on the bottom; so thick that it make a snap when I took that bite.  Then the milk chocolate creaminess and a slight bitter edge that must be the darker chocolate appears. Primarily the creamy white chocolate and the tangerine are the strongest flavors; our Acolyte agrees when he tried it.

Buddha Beauty is a caramel in dark chocolate that stands out as unique when I think back to our almost three years now with The Chocolate Cult.  The photo on the website is better but there isn't a direct link to it thought you can find it under the bonbons category.  This has a very dark scent with a hint of dye to it when I take a whiff before biting; the color is very dark red, bordering on purple so this suggests a good deal of dye was used.  The caramel oozes out a bit as I take off his head first, my general procedure for all headed candies to put them out of their pain quickly. The caramel is more tart than sweet and definitely salty.  It blends well with the dark chocolate but I save the rest for my assistant to try because biting again would only let the rest of the caramel loose.

The next may be the Tanzanien 75%, a sample the single origin chocolates CaliBressan offers.  Single origin chocolate is great when you want to experience the effects soil, moisture, farming conditions, and year to year changes creates in chocolate.  I assume most of you know by now that cacao is a plant, a seed from a bean grown on trees but I still find people who do not know this so they are surprised by single origin variety.  The fragrance is nicely dark and it makes a very soft snap when I take a bite.  Inside the center is firmer than the previous chocolates and it melts almost immediately attesting to the purity.  This is a lightly sweet chocolate with an almost fruity hint that that comes solely from the cacao itself and nothing added.  Makes me wonder which plantation it comes from since even Tanzanien single origins taste different from one another in my experience.  After two bites, I make this last three bites, there is a slight cocoa buzz and that is what I want from pure dark chocolate.  At 75% this is also healthy for you too in moderation, of course.

Wrapped in a vibrant magenta is the Champagne truffle.  While this looks like a regular cocoa dusted truffle, and the cocoa that comes off on my fingertips confirms that it is indeed cocoa I see and smell, there is also a strong champagne essence as well to the scent.  This is large, at 1.25 inches diameter and clearly hand rolled from textures you can see even in our photo to the right.  Taking a bite makes a soft snap and reveals three layers -- the cocoa outside, a dark shell, then a semi-soft very champagne intense dark yet creamy center.  These all begin to melt on my tongue and this blends the three layers together. At first, the champagne is strong then it starts to fade until the darker shell and the cocoa dusting become the last flavor in my mouth, lingering after I eat half of this before sharing it and confirming my experience.

The dark chocolate shell is a with a boysenberry ganache.  We've tried on other boysenberry chocolate in the past but right now I can't recall if it was milk or dark chocolate. This has a strong boysenberry fragrance that cuts trough the dark cocoa.  At 0.75 inches tall this is a mouth full for even one bite.  The shell is quite thick and makes a sharp snap from every side.    The soft center is strongly fruity in flavor but there is a hint of spiciness at the end and the dark chocolate surrounds both flavors.  The contrasts between the soft center and the hard shell is interesting, the center almost oozes out like the caramel in the Buddha Beauty above.  Of course, boysenberry is a tri-breed fruit -- raspberry, blackberry, and logan berry.  Very unique but the spiciness was a bit over bearing compared to the fruit itself.

I turned to one of our Mocha Acolytes, Tim, for his evaluation of the large Coffee truffle that is up next.  Hat (on top) is dark chocolate not a coffee bean, no crunchy bits in the teeth (which he liked a lot).  The coffee taste is powerful, but isn't very strong as in from a strong coffee (like espresso).  Texture is much like you would expect from a truffle  Chocolate and coffee mingle very nicely and evenly evenly.  He made a very contented and pleased face when the tried this chocolate.

Jean-Michel, the Chef and owner of CaliBressan, told me that this bright pink heart is going to white for the box you can order for Valentine's Day. Inside the white chocolate is a raspberry caramel, again something I don't think we've had before and that makes me very eager to try it.  There really isn't a scent beyond the cocoa butter itself but when I take a bite the shell makes a moderate snap. Inside is a very sweetly tart soft center that begins to ooze out a bit.  I hand it to another volunteer who loves raspberries for his opinion: This is like a raspberry jam in terms of flavor but not texture, the white chocolate really moderates the tartness a lot.

The round chocolate with the yellow specks must be the Tahitien which should be a vanilla flavored dark ganache in a dark shell.  This has a strong dark cocoa scent with a mild vanilla fragrance when I take whiff of it.  The shell makes on a soft soft when I take a bite to discover the inside is a deeply bitter soft center.  This bitterness suggests a very high cacao percentage and it tempered by a strong vanilla essence. Together these two ingredients create a very intense bonbon that was even a bit too much for this dark chocolate lover to truly enjoy beyond one bite.

Before we head to the interior of the box we are going to look at the dark chocolate heart dark chocolate with a spicy rose ganache; spice and rose in one chocolate is not something we've tried before so I'm very curious.  The scent is primarily dark cocoa but there a hint of spiciness there as well.  As you can see in the photo, unlike most hearts available right now, this one has texture on the top in the form of curving ridges.  My assistant said: What is this? This is odd. It tastes darkly spicy, bitter, like Earl Grey tea.  When I told him it was rose he was surprised because he primarily tasted the spices.  Rose can be under or overplayed with chocolate and normally darker chocolate would compete well but the spices here were a bit too much perhaps.

The brand logo piece is simply called Calibressan and is a dark chocolate and "Ventura" limoncello liqueur ganache in a dark chocolate shell.  There is a definite alcoholic scent to this chocolate that comes through the dark cocoa as well as a citrus essence.  The bottom makes a sharp snap when I take a bite and immediately I can taste the darker chocolate.  The semi-soft inside has a sharp citrus and somewhat spicy flavor though it also creates a cooling sensation in my mouth. The dark chocolate is this bitter edge around the other flavors, almost circling my mouth as I chew or let another bite melt in my mouth. Very different from anything else I've ever had and also very refreshing.  I liked it a lot.

Finally the long, bright blue wrapped piece is an unusual shape for a truffle but it is their Buchette Irlandaise clearly. This has a strong whiskey fragrance with an edge of powdered sugar, and given that the sugar comes off on my fingertips, I don't want to take a very big whiff.  The piece has a  flat side and then 3/4 round like a log that has been in the same position might acquire over time.  One of our other Acolytes helped me out by trying this one and this is his opinion: Light alcohol flavor but chocolate is first.  Thin chocolate layer, very soft center melts almost immediately.  Powdered sugar is very messy. Whisky flavor is very subtle and nice.

Chocolats du CaliBressan is a good example of how chocolatiers and lovers of chocolate are making the world a smaller place.  Le CaliBressan may have been created in France but Jean-Michel love for his wife brought his craft to our side of the world.  Their chocolate are fresh so you need to enjoy them without four weeks but Valentine's Day is fast approaching so you don't want to wait much longer.  Remember the key to keeping chocolate well is to control the moisture and the temperature.  The key to enjoying it, is to share it with your loved ones.  These beautifully crafted, often unique, chocolates were born of love and they are worthy Sacraments for your consideration this Valentine's Day and any day.


The Three Little Piglets said...

I would be quite a happy girl if this landed on my doorstep for Valentine's Day! That chocolate truffle gets my vote!

TheChocolatePriestess said...

Which truffle? There are several in the box.

TheChocolatePriestess said...

Shawn, thank you for commenting but please don't include links in your comments. If you want to follow us you can then enter the giveaways we host from time to time.

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