I started yesterday off right. The previous afternoon (Wednesday) I had visited Seattle, and my location was temptingly close to Pikes Place Market (which is legendary), so I went. I passed a shop called The Chocolate Box on the way, so what could I do? I went in. They had a lot of interesting flavors, so I bought some:
So yesterday morning I started the day off with the breakfast of champions – an entire box of chocolates, chased down by some bacon and eggs. (Hey, at least I’ll die happy.) And, since some friends asked for it, here are my detailed tasting notes. For those who don’t want to wade through them, there was exactly one flavor that really hit the spot: the lavender caramels dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with a few grains of coarse salt. Most of the rest suffered from the “normal” problem when working with chocolate: it’s a strong flavor, so if you try flavoring it, you either need something that doesn’t live in the same “flavor zone” as chocolate or is very intense in flavor, so it can drown out the chocolate. The caramels had the same problem, with the buttery flavor overcoming the more subtle flavor combinations like coconut and passionfruit.
To be fair, some of these problems may not have had anything to do with the chocolatier. Chocolates lose complexity and intensity of flavor the longer they sit. And I have no idea how long they had been sitting in the shop. After one week at room temperature the flavor is distinctly compromised, after two weeks the flavors are hard to pick out at all. (Three weeks and they’re moldy.) That’s why I ship my chocolates out within 36 hours of making the last chocolate (it takes a day to pack 90 lbs of chocolate!) – so they’re as fresh as possible when they arrive.
Anyway, here are my tasting notes! (Bear in mind that I am extremely fussy when it comes to chocolates – most of these were excellent chocolates, but I was looking at flavor combos with my own boxes in mind.)
- Maple bacon – the maple flavor did not come through distinctly and the bacon bits were far too chewy to be pleasant
- Lavender salt caramel – lavender caramel was awesome, salt sprinkled on top added just a little crunch to make the texture more interesting, salt cut the sweetness a bit.
- Coconut salt caramel – not as successful IMO, coconut flavor did not come through and it was a bit too soft for my tastes
- Passionfruit habanero caramel – eh, passionfruit mostly came out in aftertaste, and the chili only as a bit of “kick”, again mostly at the end. First “hit” was just plain chocolate.
- Sri Lanka curry salt caramel – curry really only came through as an undertone, main flavor caramel with a hint of salt.
- Hibiscus caramel – should work, at least in theory. But very little hibiscus flavor coming through the caramel; needs more concentrated hibiscus flavor?
- Habanero mango – surprisingly good, the mango is not identifiable but gives a wonderful floral, fruity overtone. The habanero adds “kick” and keeps it from being too sweet.
- Pistacio – eh. Pistachio flavor not really identifiable, except a little bit at the very end.
- Balsamic caramel – the balsamic vinegar mostly appeared as tartness – I think the buttery flavor of the caramels really dented the sharpness of the balsamic. I don’t think these two flavors combine well.
- Balsamic strawberry – neither flavor comes out. Bleh. Dark chocolate ganache base.
- Honey Bee – milk chocolate/honey – not bad, but honey flavor not prominent enough IMHO.
- Mimosa – white chocolate with blood orange and champagne – not particularly distinctive.