I discovered Eclat chocolate through chocolatier Chuck Siegel of Charles Chocolates. He knew they’d be something I’d enjoy and suggested I try them. He knows me too well, because as soon as I took a bite out of the box of caramels I bought for this review, I went weak in the knees.
The chocolatier behind Eclat chocolate, Christopher Curtin, has an impressive culinary background. He practiced his craft for many years in Germany and France, and is now located in Pennsylvania to provide us with stimulating and delicious chocolate confections of his own creation. I have been all to happy to taste my way though his offerings.
I decided on a box of the assorted caramels to try, as I’ve heard they’re the best representation of what Eclat is capable of. Looking at the back of the box the ingredients list is quite long. Lots of things are listed that could indicate anything in terms of flavors of the caramels (vanilla, nuts, spices, etc).
The caramels are gorgeous to look at and it’s an experience in itself to open the box to see them all sitting there before you. They’re little round spheres, obviously molded and then then fused together. There’s milk and dark versions, each coded by either a sprinkling of salt, a square flatted top or a small lines on top.
The sprinkled salt top were the “regular” caramel. It’s easy to get the full flavor effect of these, since the caramel is so very liquid and flowing, you can’t help but take a bite, realize the impending mess, and then immediately pop the whole thing in your mouth. The flavor of the caramel is extremely buttery, and in my mind, this is the epitome of what caramel should taste like. It’s sweet, but not enough to burn your throat, and extremely buttery and rich. The chocolate compliments it nicely, but doesn’t overstep itself and lets the caramel shine. The salt adds that wonderful needed kick that enhances the nuances of the caramel. Just stellar flavor-wise, but I tend to prefer to have caramel in a way that doesn’t threaten a mess and allows me to slowly savor it.
The second caramel has a light pear flavor to it. The fruitiness compliments the sweetness of the caramel, and masks the butter flavor so that it remains light and uncomplicated. It tastes very pure and it really shines because of the balanced flavors occurring here.
The third, and my favorite, was cardamom. It has the strong base of the regular caramel, but the added cardamom with its sweet, complex and spicy flavors really just blasts this one to space. It adds a wonderful dimension to it that I didn’t consider, and it really makes the experience that much more delicious and enticing. You first taste the buttery sweet caramel, then the cardamom comes through with a slow steady flavor that begins to surpass the caramel and evolves into the ultimate spicy and sweet treat.
These are fabulous and I am really thankful to have had the opportunity to try them. I hope they’ll start finding their way into more stores soon. Worth a try if you happen to find them.
Rating: Will Buy Again
Upon discovering Droste pastilles for the first time and really liking them, I obviously began to seek out the other varieties they had to offer. I think after trying as many as I could get my hands on, the bittersweet pastilles have stood out as my favorite. The white chocolate ones would come in second.
If I had to decide on what type of chocolate is my favorite, I’d have to say bittersweet. It’s a nice middle ground that isn’t clearly defined by the chocolate community, so it’s really up to the manufacturer to decode what makes their specific chocolate bittersweet (or semisweet as some like to call it). It is usually a chocolate that may or may not contain milk solids and the cocoa percentage ranges from 50% to 70%. This specific Droste variety has milk solids and doesn’t exactly list the percentage on the wrapper, which has become sort of a standard thing nowadays.
I really love the packaging on these. The cardboard tube contains a heavy duty plastic packet that holds the roll of the rounded chocolate discs. It’s easy to open it up, take a few, and twist it back up to save the rest for later. I like having that ability to store part of the chocolate away safely, which I think is a design flaw for the big bars of chocolate.
The pastilles are a beautiful deep brown with a bright sheen to them. They were a delight to photograph.
They chocolate tastes very coconutty to me right away. I could smell it in the aroma, and in the mouth it’s an overwhelming characteristic of the chocolate. One the coconut eases off, you notices the very deep roasted notes of cocoa, coffee and caramel; delivering an intense chocolately hit. It reminds me of a first sip of a really good hot chocolate. It also really reminds me of eating a handful of bittersweet chocolate chips, minus the volume in the mouth (but who wants to admit to actually doing that?).
The mouth feel is very smooth and rich, and it feels wonderful on the palate. It’s thick and buttery, without overdoing it.
Out of all the Droste flavors and varieties. I return to this one the most. I think that speaks for itself.
Rating: Will Buy Again
Droste was my gateway chocolate, as so to speak. It was the first chocolate I had that really started to open my eyes to the tasting adventures that lay awaiting me in the realm of candy. Prior to finding and buying my first roll of the pastilles, I’ve always knew the company for their boxes of cocoa and the Droste Effect illustrated on them. My parents also were familiar with Droste as they lived in Holland for a time, so they were amused by the idea of their daughter finally discovering a chocolate they’d known about for years.
These pastilles are 75% dark chocolate and this actually lists cocoa liqueur as the first ingredient. Impressive, at least for a semi-upscale chocolate. Immediately you can see these are much darker than American dark chocolate, and have an almost spooky gloss to them. It feels more mysterious and exotic.
The smell is rather sweet with notes of coffee, cinnamon and coconut. The snap is very hard, break is clean. The texture is nice and creamy without being too thick and it moves nicely in the mouth,
The melt in your tongue is slow causing the flavors to be released gradually. First it’s very dry with notes of cocoa and almonds, then it grows a little more powerful and sweet where subtle notes of caramel and coffee come through. There’s a slight fruity note at the end and the aftertaste is not as clean as most, because I still detect lingering notes of fruit and cocoa. This chocolate feels very “brown” and rich. The bitterness with well tempered here, it’s not too sweet or too astringent and I feel it’s a perfect middle ground and a great place for beginners. I say that because the flavor notes are strong and there is a “middle ground” of complexity so the tasted wouldn’t get overwhelmed with to many sensations to try and identify.
Even though now I’ve learned more refined taste in chocolate, I still find myself picking up a roll of these pretty often. They just hold a special place on my taste buds and chocolate heart, so I encourage you to give them a try yourself.
Rating: Will Buy Again
About a year ago was when I had my first taste of Charles Chocolates, a San Francisco based chocolatier founded by the endearing Chuck Siegel. This is another chocolatier that I was immediately smitten with and have, like Chuao, been trying to work my way through all of their chocolate offerings.
Charles Chocolates stresses the use of extremely fresh ingredients and making the chocolates in small batches to ensure quality. And believe me, you can really taste the difference as the flavors, for me, are much more intense than other chocolate bars I’ve had. Out of the regular Charles Chocolates offerings, I have a weak spot for the Milk Chocolate Caramelized Rice Krispie Bar and have been eyeing the Tea Collection for some time now.
The Emeryville Collection is a new line of bars that are made to sale exclusively in Whole Foods. They’re immediately eye-catching with their bright, art-deco styled boxes.
Hazelnut bar (65% bittersweet): The chocolate is dark, rich, and fruity. It has a beautiful color, shiny gloss and a strong snap. The hazelnuts are whole and roasted, so the flavors are much more complex. Extremely fresh, nutty, sweet, salty and crispy. It’s really lovey and the whole bar has a great buttery feel on the tongue.
Cashew (41% milk): The chocolate is a beautiful, creamy color. The flavor is milky and sweet and exceptionally smooth. It falls into the “epitome of what good milk chocolate is” category in my book. The cashews are buttery and fresh. They have a great crunch to them and they have a nice saltiness to them that balances out the chocolate well.
Pecan Cherry (65% bittersweet: It’s the same nice dark chocolate as the Hazelnut bar, so it has that delicate sweetness and light fruitiness. The cherries are big and juicy and they really deliver a nice chewy texture. The pecans are fresh with that similar salty roasted flavors and crispy texture that the hazelnuts ad cashews have. This bar is the sweetest of the three and I blame that on the cherries, but it’s satisfying and very tempting. This bar is a sophisticated twist on the usual “raisin and peanut bar” you see everywhere.
This trio of bars are an excellent example of how simple ingredients and combinations can really elevate an already great chocolate. I can’t wait for these to show in my local Whole Foods.
Rating: Will Buy Again
Charles Chocolates Website
Tis the season for limited edition holiday flavors, and that’s all too clear from a stroll down any holiday aisle in your local grocery or drug store. While I fail to get excited about re-packaged Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups or Hershey’s Kisses, my interest was piqued when I found out that Chocolove released a special flavored bar for the holidays. I was lucky and picked one up when I was at the New York City Chocolate Show. I have been very eager to give it a try, but have been waiting until Thanksgiving was over so my festive review was more appropriately timed.
The bar, in typical Chocolove fashion, is decorated to look like a love letter. This one is unique, with an addition of a red ribbon and a picture of a present, so it feels like a present as well. The bar is described as “Fruits & Nuts in 55% Dark Chocolate”. Looking at the ingredients list, I see that “pecans, currants, cherries, walnuts, hazelnuts, orange peel, and ginger” are listed on the back. Already it sounds enticing.
The flavor is of their nice dark chocolate. More importantly it’s bittersweet, which is one of my favorites. You taste a strong presence of orange from the peel. There’s an ever-changing flavor with each bite, as the bits of dried fruits and nuts really effect how the chocolate tastes. I got bites that were slightly more tart with one of the cherries or currants, or nuttier with some of the pecans, walnut or hazelnuts. There’s a constant underlying spiciness that makes the bar feel very cozy and warm. It does evoke the holiday season very well, and it feels very fitting to be munching it as the events draw near.
I’m happy to got two of these bars. It’s a shame that it’ll be gone once the holidays are over, but it gives me something to look forward to next year.
Rating: Will Buy Again