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Posts Tagged ‘The Curious Chocolatier’

It’s been quite some time since I’ve reviewed a chocolate from my favourite one-woman local chocolate company, The Curious Chocolatier. The bar below is actually rather special, for two reasons. The first reason is that it’s not one of the standard, ever-present chocolates of The Curious Chocolatier line-up, but a seasonal (and hard-to-find) offering produced late last year.

The second reason relates not to the chocolate itself, but to how I came to have it in my hot little hands.

The Curious Chocolatier Dark Chocolate with Blueberries

The Curious Chocolatier Dark Chocolate with Blueberries

Do you remember when my family and I went out to lunch for my Grandma’s 81st birthday? Well, the entryway to Flint in the Vines is a bit of a shop, selling gorgeous crockery and a few local food products. Including, yes, chocolates by The Curious Chocolatier. I bet you can imagine my delight when I spotted this limited edition bar on the shelf, but I bet you can’t imagine how I came to own it.

(No, I didn’t steal it.)

What I did was (over the course of the lunch’s several hours) sporadically slip into any conversation involving my brother the fact that he should probably buy the chocolate for me, because he’d promised to bring me chocolate days earlier and hadn’t followed through. For example:

E.TeacherLord: I’m trying to decide between the barramundi and the beef. I think I’ll try the barramundi.

Hannah: Do you know what I think? I think you should buy me that chocolate. That would be fun for you.

Or:

E.TeacherLord: And then one of my students [did something amusing] and it made being at work for 10 hours bearable.

Hannah: Wait, what did you say? I didn’t quite catch it. Something about buying me that chocolate?

The Curious Chocolatier Dark Chocolate with Blueberries

The strange thing is I was really only doing this to amuse myself. (Boy, was I amusing myself.) So when I got up to visit the ladies and said to my brother that “now would be the perfect time to buy me that chocolate”, and he reached into his bag and pulled out the bar that he’d already snuck off to get for me, well…

I was ecstatic, grateful, and mindboggled that my ploy had worked. Apparently, I’m more persuasive than I thought, or else my brother loves me loads. Which I hope is true, because I think he’s awesome, and if he weren’t in another state, I would have shared this chocolate with him. Perhaps. Maybe.

The Curious Chocolatier Dark Chocolate with Blueberries

Now that we’ve got the back story out of the way, how did this chocolate rate in the Wayfaring Chocolate universe? Well, it certainly didn’t threaten my adoration of The Curious Chocolatier’s Dark Chocolate with Apricot and Rosemary bar, but it was pleasantly sweet and vanished all too quickly.

The bar is beautifully glossy and the freeze-dried blueberries clearly evident in their rounded glory, as seen in the photo above. The aroma was sweet and slightly fruity, and the snap quite crisp.

The Curious Chocolatier Dark Chocolate with Blueberries

Flavourwise, the chocolate base tasted like what I’ve come to expect from The Curious Chocolatier’s 54% blend, which means it was honey-sweet with strong vanilla and marshmallow tones, tempered with a nice jolt of chocolate richness.

The berries themselves provided a subtle fruity tang, although weren’t as strong in flavour as the apricots of the aforementioned Rosemary bar. I enjoyed the interplay of the honey and cream chocolate with the natural berry flavour of the blueberries, and have since realised that I seem to be conquering my anti-fruit-and-chocolate demons. Hurrah for widening chocolate tastes!

As a result, I feel comfortable recommending this bar as a pleasant, unaggressive, and refreshingly sweet-without-being-cloying chocolate treat.

Question Time: What fruit do you wish you could find embedded in a chocolate bar?

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When you were a child, were you ever taken to a store that sold expensive items yet didn’t bother to protect them behind, say, glass? Perhaps it was a music shop where guitars and flutes and bongos stood out like playmates in the schoolyard, beckoning you to touch them with your Chupa Chups-holding hands?

Or maybe it was lighting store where glittering chandeliers dangled just above your pig-tail-adorned head, time but begging to be swung from like the Tarzan you think you could be, if only you tried talking to monkeys.

When you were a child in a store like that, were you ever told to “Look But Don’t Touch”? Because I certainly was.

And now I find myself, several years down the track, writing a chocolate review with a similar phrase in mind: “Look But Don’t Judge”.

The Curious Chocolatier Holiday Spice Milk Chocolate with Pecans and Cranberries

The Curious Chocolatier Holiday Spice Milk Chocolate with Pecans and Cranberries

One of The Curious Chocolatier's seasonal creations.

You might be wondering why I can’t judge and discuss the pros and cons of this chocolate with you, the way I have with almost every chocolate to have passed my lips lately. The long answer is that as a sociologist, I know I have to be upfront about any personal biases that could impede my perception of phenomena/events/people/beliefs/experiences/and now chocolate. I know that, sometimes, these biases may entangle me in their webs and affect my Sense Of The World.

That’s the long answer. The short answer is: orange oil.

The Curious Chocolatier Holiday Spice Milk Chocolate with Pecans and Cranberries

From appearances alone, I'd be more than happy to find this in my Christmas stocking.

In the post about my disastrous peppermint rice pudding attempt, I mentioned that I can’t stomach orange flavours. That’s why you’ve never, nor will you ever, see me reviewing orange chocolate on this blog. I normally check the ingredients of flavoured chocolates before purchase and yet, because this bar was given me by the lovely L-Izzle, I did not.

The Curious Chocolatier Holiday Spice Milk Chocolate with Pecans and Cranberries

Showcasing cranberries!

I must be absolutely clear about one thing: this is really nice creation, both aesthetically and, insofar as I can tell, flavour-wise. The chocolate itself is a lovely caramel colour and looks gorgeous offset with plump, ruby cranberries and light-brown roasted pecans.

The aroma is lovely and Christmassy, reminding me of pine needles and spiced cookies. The pecans are fresh-tasting and not at all stale, providing the soft buttery crunch that pecans are known for. The cranberries are soft, not desiccated, and pleasantly sweet with just a slight tinge of tart*.

The Curious Chocolatier Holiday Spice Milk Chocolate with Pecans and Cranberries

And now pecans.

But, friends, I couldn’t eat more than three squares of this. I tried, really I did, but I’m simply hyper-ridiculously-terribly-hyper-hyper-aware of even the slightest hint of orange in chocolate. Think of how Hugh Hefner is hyper-aware of all big-bosomed blondes in his vicinity, or how the hosts of The View are hyper-aware of possible silence in their conversation and endeavour to fill it with high-pitched shrieks.

That’s me with orange. I’ve given tastes of this chocolate to other people and not only have they found it lovely, they can barely tell the orange from the ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla also found in the bar. Sadly, for me, the orange is omnipresent. All I can say is that this bar is aesthetically gorgeous, that I’m almost certain it’s delicious if you don’t mind orange flavour, and that I hope you don’t think less of me for bringing Hugh Hefner and his droopy skin into your mind.

* I wonder if that’s an apt description for my socks-n-stocks combination?

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A big thanks to everyone for the lovely comments and congratulations regarding my PhD announcement! It’s really nice to have your support 🙂

When I was house-sitting a few months ago, I went out for dinner with three lovely ladies. One of these lovely ladies (in the strictly non-Les Miserables sense) was L-Izzle, who you may recognize from her frequently-excited blog comments regarding butter, cloying-sweet things, and food in general. L-Izzle is a generous soul, and so brought me chocolate presents to this dinner. Sadly, I was on my chocolate embargo at the time, so I hid both bars away for a rainy (read: desperate-for-something-new) day.

Imagine my delight when, a week ago, I remembered that not only did these gift-chocolates exist, but that they were from none other than my favourite Canberra chocolatier, The Curious Chocolatier! Although I’ve already chatted about my favourite TCC bar, the Dark Chocolate with Apricot and Rosemary, this doesn’t mean I have no interest in the other flavours. Far from it. Particularly when there’s a bar in the line-up that showcases my current favourite nut as well as that boon to all sweet things, salt…

The Curious Chocolatier Pistachio and Sea Salt in Dark Chocolate

The Curious Chocolatier Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt and Pistachio

A different design aesthetic is used for the seasonal bars.

Pistachio can be a bit hit and miss when applied to sweet treats. In some cases its rich, almost-savoury, nutty flavour is allowed to come to the fore (as with Vestri’s chocolate), while in others it tastes more like almond than itself (see Cote d’Or’s chocolate). Unsure as to which side of the spectrum The Curious Chocolatier’s version would fall, I unwrapped the bar with bated breath. Imagine my relief when I uncovered a glossy chocolate liberally studded with roasted whole pistachios, and sprinkled with sparkling crystals of sea salt.

Of course, the true test would be the taste, but I felt good about the chocolate’s prospects. You can’t hide when you’re using whole nuts and, from experience, Heidi is not one to employ sub-standard ingredients.

The Curious Chocolatier Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt and Pistachios

Pretty pretty crystals.

The aroma was at first simply pleasantly sweet, yet when I turned the bar over to its nut-studded underside, a strong scent of vanilla emerged alongside that of roasted nuts.

I started off with a bite of chocolate that had no nuts on top. This bar uses the same chocolate base as does the Apricot and Rosemary yet, without the herbal notes of the latter, I was able to pick out demerara sugar and vanilla as the highlights of the 54% blend. Moreover, Heidi’s deft hand with the salt enables its subtle tang to accentuate these soft, sweet flavour notes.

The Curious Chocolatier Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Pistachio

No scrimping on the pistachios, either. Hurrah!

Now, the moment of truth. What were the pistachios like, and how well did they play with their fellow salt-and-chocolate classmates? Did they hog the Monkey Bars and then block the others from the slide, or was everyone able to take equal turns before the Recess bell rang?

Readers, they played well. Interestingly, the first thought I had upon sampling a pistachio was that its dominant flavour was “roasted” rather than “pistachio”, but after the initial burst of deep toastiness ebbed away, the delicate, almost umami-flavour of pistachio came through.

As I carefully, and happily, made my way through this chocolate, I was surprised to realise that the salt tasted a bit “briney”. And then I wasn’t surprised because, after all, Heidi uses sea salt here, not, um, land salt. The assertive nature of sea salt married well with the roasted strength of the nuts, which in turn contrasted nicely with the deep vanilla notes of the sweet chocolate.

For anyone feeling tentative about trying The Curious Chocolatier’s more unusual flavour pairings, I’d certainly recommend this bar as a superb entry into her innovative world.

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I’ve never thought of myself as particularly patriotic. This is not to say that I don’t like being Australian, because I do. It’s just that I’m not comfortable with gallivanting around proclaiming that Australian-ness is superior to all other kinds of Nationality-ness simply because, well, I’m Australian and therefore “Australia Is The World”.

However, there have been a few moments recently when I’ve felt an upsurging of I-like-Australia-for-its-uniqueness pride:

  1. Watching The Dish shortly after returning from overseas. (The same applies to watching SeaChange.)
  2. Driving through the countryside and seeing all the gradations of brown and green, and all the myriad Eucalyptus and scraggly trees, that define our landscape.
  3. Teaching The Pilot enough Australianisms for him to be able to tell his mother that he stayed up until 2am because he “was calling my sheila, who isn’t a bogan, and if you don’t understand that, you’re a drongo”.
  4. Delighting in The Curious Chocolatier’s creations.

Number Four makes me not only proud to be Australian, but proud to be Canberran. Yep, The Curious Chocolatier is not only a friendly, creative, dedicated, and generous lady, she’s a Canberran lady, and I intend to make everyone (okay, maybe just you readers, for the minute) aware of and keen to support her delicious chocolate endeavours.

Where better to start than with my (current) favourite of the line-up which Heidi, The Curious Chocolatier herself, kindly gave me after I spent an hour chatting with her at the Old Bus Depot Markets?

The Curious Chocolatier Dark Chocolate with Apricot and Rosemary

The Curious Chocolatier Dark Chocolate Apricot and Rosemary

Love her packaging designs. Love love.

I know I’ve given the game away by already stating that this is my favourite Curious Chocolatier flavour, but sometimes Openness and Honesty are Key. Plus, this is Heidi’s favourite too, so clearly the bar is doing something right.

Or, you know, many things right. The chocolate is well moulded and glossy with no scratches or blooming, and its aroma is predominantly chocolatey with a slight hint of dusky fruit. Interestingly, the rosemary doesn’t come through in the aroma – at least, not until you break into the bar.

The Curious Chocolatier Dark Chocolate Apricot and Rosemary

Oh my heavens! It’s a Narcissus Chocolate Packaging Lady! She’s staring at her own reflection! (Wouldn’t you, if you had a glossy block of mirror-chocolate all your own?)

The chocolate is well-tempered, as it has a firm snap and a rich, but slow, melt. My first bite offered up honey notes and a faint, pine-like, herbal taste, which didn’t immediately scream rosemary. Rosemary is, in my opinion, one of the strongest herbs out there, so it’s a testament to Heidi’s skill that the rosemary doesn’t take over the tasting experience.

As a result, I can comfortably tell you that the dark chocolate itself has honey, marshmallow, and occasionally cedar notes, with no red fruit or tannic elements jarring with the apricot and rosemary. I also love that the apricots aren’t your bog-standard trail-mix chewy-dried overly-tangy variety, but are aerated, fluffy, freeze-dried pillows of flavour more akin to the taste of fresh apricots drizzled with lime juice.

The Curious Chocolatier Dark Chocolate Apricot and Rosemary

Bet you ain't never seen apricots like that before in chocolate, have you? Canberra represent.

The first time I came across an apricot in the chocolate, I also hit upon a stronger rosemary flavour. Sure enough, when I looked down, I saw a green fleck of dried rosemary embedded in the chocolate.

I loved, loved, loved such moments. Alone, the chocolate might be a bit sweet for my tastes. But, somehow, the strong herbal wapow of the rosemary, the way its almost-savoury edge danced with the zing of apricot and the honey element of the chocolate… pure wonderment. It’s definitely a unique taste, and might be a bit confronting to people unaccustomed to interesting and quality chocolate, but I implore you to persevere. It’s so worth it.

I just wish I hadn’t eaten the entire block in one night*.

*No I don’t. That was worth it, too.

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