Tag Archives: chocolate truffles

Catskill Provisions 70% Truffles with Raw Honey

We all know how crucial bees are to pollinating foods and flowers, and how disturbing it is to read the numerous stories about colony collapse disorder and the sudden dying off of hives. Anyone who helps give bees a safe environment to live, pollinate, reproduce and make honey is a hero in my book.

In other parts of the world they take beekeeping very seriously. In Paris, urban apiaries are de rigueur, they even have bee hives in city parks, like these in the Luxembourg Gardens: http://www.talkinfrench.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Beehives-at-Jardin-du-Luxembourg.jpg.

In addition to being delicious in tea, baklava, and halvah, honey has well-documented medicinal uses. It never goes bad and its anti-bacterial properties work as well today as they did in ancient Greece, Rome, and India. Many people use it to treat seasonal allergies, burns, or for soothing a sore throat.

Honey also pairs well with a variety of foods like cheeses, fruits, nuts, and chocolate.

That’s where Claire Marin, the founder of Catskill Provisions, comes in. She creates two types of chocolate truffles. One with honey and one with honey whiskey.

Her Fall raw wildflower honey I sampled is from chestnut, maple, goldenrod, buckwheat, bamboo, and asters. It’s absolutely superb.

She also makes NY Honey Whiskey, distilled at Finger Lakes Distilling on Seneca Lake. It is 80% NY Rye and 20% Malted Barley aged for 2.5 years in new American Oak charred barrels and infused with Fall honey.

The relevance of all this honey talk becomes apparent when you sample her chocolate truffles. Packaged beautifully and carefully, so nothing happens to them during shipping, they are handmade and fairly large. The Honey Whiskey variety are not particularly alcoholic but have that added dimension alcohol imbues. The centers are supremely smooth and the Belgian chocolate couverture is applied with a liberal hand. The Honey truffles are a purer chocolate-honey taste, also dipped copiously in dark chocolate, and dusted with cocoa.

If you are looking for a gift for yourself or someone else, I would strongly suggest pairing a box with their raw Fall wildflower honey. And, if you are lucky enough to live within 50 miles of her apiaries you will get the added benefit of a honey “vaccination” for your seasonal allergies, should you have them.

Last but not least, if you want help setting up a hive in the city, suburb, or country Claire is happy to consult with you.

Dante Confections: 98% Organic Stevia sweetened bars, Turtles, and Truffles

It is unusual to find both traditional and organic high intensity chocolates under one roof, but Dante Confections straddles these two often disparate areas. Their handmade truffles are lovely little domes of shiny, well-tempered white, milk or dark chocolate encasing ultra rich, smooth ganache centers infused with 25 different flavors. From liquors, to fruits, to eggnog, to peanut butter, and mint, there is something for everyone. They come in petite and large sizes. I found the petite version offered up a few bites of snappily textured chocolate against velvety centers. The flavors are on the mild side, so if you are someone who loves a hint of Grand Marnier, for example, and doesn’t want an alcohol wallop, these would be perfect.

In addition, I sampled their milk and dark chocolate Turtles, also available in white chocolate. Every chocolatier seems to have their own rendition of these classic treats. Dante’s are huge 2″ rounds with thick layers of chocolate encasing a super chewy caramel. The very fresh and crunchy nuts, either pecans, cashews, or almonds, are embedded at the edges. The whole experience is quite decadent: über-chocolatey, with a very satisfyingly caramel presence, and enough whole, roasted nuts to keep you coming back for another bite.

On the other end of the spectrum are Dante’s 98% chocolate bars sweetened with stevia. There is the traditional bar, and a Fair Trade, organic variety. Both would surely sate anyone’s craving for the densest chocolate experience this side of a roasted cacao bean. While not for the faint of heart, their flavor profile is almost hard to discern because the intensity just blows your taste buds away. A friend of mine was crazy about them. He loved the thick texture, super slow melt, and lack of sugar. Stevia adds some sweetness, but it definitely doesn’t make these bars sweet. To my surprise, I actually found the original rendition a bit gentler on my palate. It is interesting to note that one bar, 45 grams, gives you 70% of your daily requirement for iron, 7 grams of fiber, and 7 grams of protein. Both of these 98% extreme chocolate bars provide one of the strongest, most concentrated chocolate experiences out there. If you are looking for a wild gustatory ride, this is it.

You can buy the bars from Dante’s website, on the right side of this page, or on Amazon.

Le Belge Chocolatier

There is something psychologically scintillating about approaching a beautiful box of chocolates. Just gazing at an artistic presentation can catalyze and tantalize taste, touch, and smell with its promise of delicious, aromatic delights to come. Such is the case with La Belge Chocolatier. Their dark chocolate colored oval boxes, trimmed in spring green, and adorned with grosgrain ribbon of the same cheerful hue, sets the stage for an assortment of classic Belgian chocolates.

I sampled a lovely red, dark chocolate heart filled with raspberry gelate on a bed of dark ganache, another dark couverture filled with sea salt ganache, Key lime infused white chocolate ganache in a pretty swirled dome of lime green colored white chocolate, a decadent milk chocolate hazelnut praline layered over cinnamon scented ganache, Chai tea infused milk chocolate ganache in a milk chocolate shell, and a passion fruit ganache in white chocolate. All were very desserty: sweet, creamy, fresh, and extremely satisfying.

I also tried their two ounce chocolate bars in four flavors: 72% dark with nibs, 72% fleur de sel, milk chocolate with hazelnut and almond pieces, and a plain milk bar. The two dark bars were tempered to a crisp, ebony shine and delicious. The milk bar with nuts was everything you would want: super creamy and scattered with crunchy nuts.

They also make other artistically wrapped three ounce bars with more daring combinations that I didn’t have the opportunity to try, like a 54% Himalayan sea salt with strawberry 54% and a 72% Mediterranean sea salt with lemon zest. A boxed assortment of five of these can be had for a modest $20, and would make a beautiful gift.

Le Belge Chocolatier will sate your cravings, whether you are are looking for a beautiful box of Belgian chocolates or a variety of bars.

Socola Chocolatier: Winter and Signature Collections

These chocolates should be X-rated. They are so delicious and so adult, you may want to eat them in private to fully languish in the experience. I found myself audibly reacting to the Guava Pâté de Fruit resting on its oh-so-perfect layer of dark ganache. Just superb. If you had told me I would adore that particular combination I would have been highly doubtful, so it’s always important to keep an open mind. This particular little delight is adorned with a white winged alpaca, their mascot and guardian angel.

Before I regale you with the other seven flavors I was lucky enough to try, let me tell you about the Lieu sisters who co-founded Socola Chocolatier. In 2001, when Wendy was 19 and Susan was 16, they began experimenting with chocolate. Within a month they had a farmer’s market stall right in front of their parent’s nail salon in Santa Rosa. They named the company Socota because it means “chocolate” in Vietnamese. After Susan finished her degree at Harvard, she went to Vietnam to work on sustainable cocoa development with USAID. Meanwhile, Wendy studied pastry arts. In 2008 they returned to the kitchen and began concocting their unique truffles.

On to the truffles:

Vietnamese Coffee is typical of the sisters’ deft work. The ganache is ultra-creamy while the thin shell cracks from perfect tempering. On a riff of the classic Vietnamese drink, espresso is mixed with condensed milk and dark E. Guittard chocolate to the benefit of all three.

Rogue Brewery Shakespeare Stout (5%) has the same great textural counterpoint of all their truffles with the lovely addition of stout.

Burnt Caramel may be an homage to Vietnamese Flan. It’s almost a misnomer to call it burnt, as whatever extra caramelizing went into this ends up adding another layer of flavor, rather than standing out in any way you might associate with the word “burnt.”

Pumpkin Burnt Caramel has strong pumpkin flavor and a touch of salt which seems to make the truffle’s finish linger.

Chai Baba Chai is delicately enhanced with chai spices, which balances the flavors, rather than overpowering the chocolate.

Champagne tastes of dark chocolate and is a good counterpart to the three other flavors in this Winter Collection.

Hazelnut Praline is also gently flavored. This restraint prevents the hazelnut flavor from predominating.

Unlike some high-end chocolatiers, the Lieu sisters do not produce a bitter truffle. Theirs are bittersweet. It’s an important distinction, as the lack of sugar is appropriate in an 85% bar, but sorely missed in a truffle.

My two jewelry sized boxes, each containing four small truffles, were an appealing combination of aqua and brown with a thin brown ribbon asymmetrically placed at one end. What a poetic presentation for someone who loves serious chocolate.

Cowgirl Chocolates

As much as I adore the experience of a single origin bar with all its nuances, there are times when it’s fun to taste other flavors and textures.

Cowgirl Chocolates makes a line of truffles and caramels, some with cayenne, to wake up your taste buds.

There are four spicy and four mild truffles. Thankfully, each is identifiable by its wrapper, and they enclose an explanatory card. I was immediately drawn to the extreme flavors: Dark, Dark Raspberry, Hazelnut Milk, and Cappuccino. Each retains its essential flavor, even though cayenne has been added. The intensity of the cayenne is less highlighted in the raspberry, which makes for a well-balanced experience. Cappucino and cayenne is surprisingly complex, as is the Hazelnut. The Dark variety works well, too. I happen to like chili with my chocolate, though not as a steady diet. I’m sure they offer a mixed assortment for that very reason. You can eat one mild truffle (there are four: Double Dar, Milk, Ivory Orange, and Raspberry Lemon) and one spicy one, just to keep things from becoming too fiery.

It takes a deft hand to add the right amount of cayenne. The right amount being one that enahances the sweetness and flavor of your chocolate, as well as the creaminess of the truffle interior. Here, cayenne is a supporting player not the star.

As for the caramel, I sampled the Habanero. Soft, sweet, and hot! Pretty funkacidal, as my sister used to say.

A word about the packaging. All nine pieces snuggled up in this red cardboard box tied with black ribbon and adorned with a silver-colored cowboy hat charm. There’s even a very attractive little gift tag.

Seattle Chocolates: Assorted Truffle Collection

Just as thousands of artists have used the same paints to achieve wildly varying results, chocolatiers can use the same ingredients to create completely different products. This occurred to me as I tucked into a bag of assorted truffles from Seattle Chocolates. I had recently written about their truffle bars and erroneously assumed these would be very similar, but smaller. I underestimated their vision. They may use the same fillings and couverture, but the results are very different.

The truffles have a much thinner chocolate coating and a lot more truffle filling. They are supremely creamy and lighter. I almost want to say they are more fun, but that’s more about the cheerful multi-colored foil wrappers and the opportunity to eat a variety of flavors in one sitting, than the actual chocolates themselves.

I am a bit more partial to the truffle bars, as they pack a serious chocolate presence, with their thick slabs of chocolate encasing a thinner center of truffle, but I thoroughly enjoyed these ultra-smooth, less dense, and very flavorful truffles. I was going to list my favorites, but after typing a few in I realized I liked them all. Whether you gravitate towards dense, dark chocolate, coffee, peanut butter, coconut, fruit, or mint, there’s something for everyone here. If after trying the assortment you find you have a few favorites, no worries, you can buy individual flavors in five ounce bags.

Seattle Chocolates: Truffle Bars

Imagine ten beautiful truffle bars, packaged prettily, offering up ten different gustatory joys. If you conjured up a veritable smorgasbord of chocolate delights, you may want to hightail it to Seattle Chocolates’ website and order a set. To whet your appetite even more, each luxurious bar (about two servings and 2.5 ounces) is $3. A gift pack of ten will set you back $30.95.

Of course, I liked some better than others, but all are fresh, creative concoctions, and very satisfying. Half a bar completely sated my chocolate cravings.

Their dark is a 53% couverture. The truffle centers are firm, but still very creamy. I like their use of non-hydrogenated coconut oil. As I have previously mentioned, coconut oil has garnered a slew of good press for being a very healthy fat.

Whidbey Wildberry gets an A+. It’s an intensely fruity experience. Chewy cherries are generously scattered in a dark truffle center with blackberry powder for a truly heightened essence of fruit experience.

Rainer Cherry has praline pecans amidst its truffle center, offering up some crunch with its deep fruity profile.

San Juan Sea Salt is another winner. The milk chocolate truffle center is studded with toffee bits and salt crystals that keep you on an intermittent reinforcement schedule. A dangerous thing when it comes to chocolate, as each bite, being slightly more or less salty, coaxes you to the next.

Meltaway Mint reminded me that my natural predilection for dark chocolate and peppermint is limiting. The 33% milk is a great change and adds extra creaminess to the intensity of the mint. I vastly prefer a stronger mint flavor, so I was in minty heaven.

Perfect Peanut Butter turns one’s habits on their head by pairing peanut butter and dark chocolate, and using 30% white chocolate in the truffle center. This was positively addictive.

Cappuccino Crunch is full of surprises, too. A gentle (decaffeinated) Turkish coffee flavor infuses a truffle chock full of almonds and toffee. A wonderful combination; and, I have to applaud their use of decaffeinated coffee.

Coconut Macaroon boasts coconut flakes and sea salt in a dark shell. I loved how the salt played against the coconut shards. The chewy-salty-creamy-sweet experience was unusual. I don’t think I have had coconut and salt paired with dark chocolate. Definitely another winner.

Panoramic Pecan is full of glazed pecans and raisins. If you have ever enjoyed a more traditional fruit and nut bar, this one takes it up a few notches. Again, they are playing with a variety of sensations to satisfy whatever craving you may have had—and, all at once.

Orange Appeal is candied orange peel in dark chocolate. i have always liked that combo. The addition of dark chocolate truffle adds a dimension of creaminess lacking in plain old dark chocolate covered orange peel.

Pike Place Espresso also uses decaffeinated turkish espresso for an intense dark mocha jolt–without the jitters.

Each bar is vastly different from the next, which makes buying all ten so tempting.

By the way, this is the same company that makes J Truffles. I liked those so much I bought a box for my mother for Mother’s Day.

Here’s the review: https://chocolateratings.wordpress.com/2010/01/28/j-truffles/