Leave it to Theo, purveyors of the 3400 Phinney line, one of my favorite varieties, to create a box of chocolates that seemed to scream my name. Featuring unusual flavors, most of which centered around an autumnal theme, a limited time offer, and aesthetically pleasing compositions, how could I pass up the opportunity?
I was pacing my nine by nine cell, er, dorm, when this arrived, and I raced down to pick it up. The box had some surprising heft, and when opened, exposed the little jewels of chocolates inside. When Keepitcoming arrived, we quickly set about trying them.
Seven flavors from seven different chefs was the basic premise, but some of them looked pretty exciting. I’ve found that good chocolates, like good wines, have distinctive evolution in each bite, and develop their flavor during the period of consumption.
My most serious gripe is in the composition of this box. For whatever reason, there was no flavor guide on the box, and the juxtaposition of the text on top and the candies caused for some confusion while we ate. While it was fun to play a bit of a guessing game with the chocolates, I like to arrange my tastings by levels of intensity, and this caused for a somewhat mixed set of flavors. I wish the arrangement was either clearer or simply included a small map of flavors.We’ll start with the average. The caramels, for whatever reason, seemed to have less of a mastery of the flavors they were supposed to represent. The carrot caramel, by Gabriel Rucker, had a bit of acenscence to its flavor, sort of an earthy bitterness that was refreshingly rootlike versus the shredded bastardization carrot typically takes on in most desserts. There was presumably curried sea salt on top, but I didn’t taste it. Maria Hines’ tamarind lime chili caramel was true to its heated nature, but I think that was more from the chili garnish on top rather than the actual candy, and the only note of lime we tasted was at the end, and for a brief, fleeting moment. There was no tamarind to be found.
On a steady incline, we had the candied beet and almond praline truffle, by Holly Smith. The whole truffle had a nicely toothsome texture, but the beet’s flavor was highly diluted. The overall flavor was reminiscent of a tasty PB&J. If it had been represented as such, I might have been happier. However, the upscale ingredients seemed to imply a more exotic flavor, when the classic combination of a fruit jelly and a nut butter, to me, really only means one thing. Still tasty, but not nearly as strange as its components. The armagnac prune ganache and green peppercorn caramel was also tasty, with all the flavors taking center stage, but like an episode of Glee, were not as harmonious as I would have assumed.One of our top three flavors was the huckleberry and cinnamon basil ganache truffle. I was originally a little skeptical because I thought the only hint of basil was the garnish on top, but there was another layer of ganache on the bottom, in white chocolate, and the flavors exploded on our tongues. The infusion of herbs in this was truly decadent, and brought back fond memories of summertime adventures and summertime drinks. The overall experience was very well executed.
My personal favorite out of this entire collection was the pine resin ganache. Harboring a strong affinity for all things wood-smoked, smoke scented, or reminiscent of petrichor, I knew this was going to be right up my alley. And it was! The pine resin was in little, brittled chunks studded throughout the ganache, giving it the texture of a feuilletine, and had a wonderful smoky, meaty flavor enrobed in the nice rounded dark chocolate. Really exquisite.
The last confection we tried was Chris Cosentino’s agro dolce brittle, with capers, pine nuts, and currants. The salt in this was the strongest particular element. I’d have never guessed that there were pine nuts or currants in this otherwise. The capers worked surprisingly well with the chocolate and the brittle, and gave an intense, briny flavor overall. I found that the layering of flavors was the best executed out of the entire box- there was an immediate melt of the dark chocolate, followed by the buttery, crunchy brittle, and a sudden salinity in the middle, from the capers. I liked that part the best, and it lasted for quite a while, mingling with the brittle before dying down into a mixed finish.
I wanted to like this box a lot more, but the chocolates were hit or miss, so I’d worry about giving this as a gift, especially with the small quantity. They were more of a high quality, adventurous novelty than anything else, and the lack of a booklet and mixed quality of these makes me hesitant to recommend these to anyone less intrepid.