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Posts Tagged ‘Valrhona’

In a perfect world, Valrhona’s Guanaja Grué would be one of my primary go-to chocolates. In that same world, I wouldn’t still be dealing with a non-healing toe which, despite two surgeries and going-on-a-year of being problematic, continues to plague me. I’d have a pet pug that didn’t shed, pistachios would grow everyday on a bonsai by my bed, and I wouldn’t sometimes feel lonely at night. On the plus side, in my perfect world I’d have the same wonderful family I have now, the same beloved blog-and-physical-world friends lighting up my life, and I’d be writing as much, if not more, than I currently do… except maybe I’d be getting paid to do so.

For the moment, though, these are pipe dreams. And therefore while I adore the rich, rich, rich chocolatey nature of Valrhona’s Guanaja chocolate, I can’t find it here in Australia.

Guess I’d best just reminisce and make do, then.

Valrhona Guanaja Grué

Valrhona Guanaja Grue

From the moment I unwrapped this glossy dark French creation, I knew I was looking at one heckuva chocolate bar. Or, to be more specific, I was inhaling one. I don’t have the best nose in the world for scents, so the fact that the Guanaja overwhelmed and excited me with its ultra chocolatey perfume boded well. I feel a bit ridiculous reiterating how “chocolatey” this chocolate was, but that’s truly the most apt description. It’s a complex chocolate, for sure, but it’s also simply the epitome, the manifestation, the reality of what you expect chocolate to taste like.

Because this is my chocolate party and I’ll rabbit on if I want to, I’m going to give a bit more detail about what makes Valrhona’s Guanaja so deeply satisfying and pleasurable. First, the aroma has notes of cedar, smoke, and raspberry, and these translate into the taste without ever overpowering the cocoa flavours.

Valrhona Guanaja Grue

The nibs (the grué) are crisp and crunchy,  contributing bitter coffee tones whilst accentuating the Guanaja’s soft wood flavours. The cacao content is 70%, yet the chocolate is not bitter, acidic, or tangy in the way that Lindt’s 70%, for example, can be. In fact, even with the assertive punch of the nibs, I find this chocolate rather sweet, with hints of molasses and brown sugar.

Valrhona Guanaja Grue

If you’ll forgive me writing what I know many people think of as silliness, I might jot down a few of the complex flavours that emerged during my various tastings of the Guanaja Grué. As well as the aforementioned wood, raspberry, molasses, and brown sugar notes, I tasted fudgy brownies, toast, blackberries, long blacks, earth, a slight tang akin to mascarpone, bourbon vanilla, and honey.

Yet for all these layers of flavour, the best description of the Guanaja Grué would involve words such as silky smooth, unctuous, lingering, rich, and ultimately, undoubtedly, chocolatey.

If only someone would start shipping me cartons of this on a regular basis, I could then concentrate on tracking down my self-replenishing pistachio bonsai. Is that really so much to ask?

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Dear Boathouse By The Lake, 

Do you remember me? What’s that you say – you’re not quite sure? Allow me to jog your memory. 

Picture this: A young lady in a new dress brought all the way back from The City of Lights, sitting at one of your big round tables, celebrating the 90th birthday of the dapper white-haired gentleman seated across from her. (Get your mind out of the gutter, Boathouse. He’s her grandfather, not Hugh Hefner.) She’s the one who correctly identified a giraffe’s ankle as being what most people think of as its knee (her Tasmanian uncle and cousin had just visited Canberra’s zoo*, and were testing her knowledge). 

The man on her left ordered this: 

Boathouse Gnocchi

Fiddlesticks. This dish came from the vegetarian menu, which is not listed on the Boathouse website. It was gnocchi with (I believe) blue cheese in some form. Mmm, blue cheese.

Are you starting to remember? You are? And you have a sinking feeling in the pit of your restaurant stomach? That feeling could have something to do with this Valrhona chocolate soufflé, which you served the unsuspecting lass at the end of the night. Did you really think you’d get away with taking Valrhona’s name in vain when plating a dessert for someone who consistently spends hundreds of dollars on fancy-pants chocolate when she travels? 

Not the smartest move, Boathouse. Throwing all third-person narration out the window, I may not be able to tell Balenciaga from Prada or Jimmy Choo from Manolo Blahnik, but I do know my Valrhona. Your soufflé failed to live up to its glorious richness. 

Here’s proof. 

Valrhona Caraïbe Noisette

Valrhona Caraibe Noisette

For some reason reading “Caraïbe Noisette” makes me think “Cosette”, which leads me to Les Miserables, which reminds me that I like Éponine far more than Cosette, if only because On My Own and A Little Fall of Rain aren’t as irritating as Castle On a Cloud. The End.

As well as producing straight-up bars of its various Grand Cru chocolates (such as the Abinao bar), Valrhona also sells these high quality blends mixed with various additions. 

Camille, you might be pleased to know that I finally tracked down your favourite Caraïbe during my last days in New York, albeit with hazelnuts added.  

Valrhona Caraibe NoisetteAs soon as I broke off a corner of this chocolate and placed it in my mouth, a heady, deep, slightly-tangy yet ever-luxurious richness took over my senses. If there’s one thing that always strikes me about Valrhona, it’s the utter chocolatiness of its chocolate. This makes Valrhona a somewhat tricky beast to describe, for in many ways it simply encapsulates everything you imagine chocolate to be. 

Once the initial rush of flavour ended, I was able to distinguish the unique qualities of the 66% Caraïbe blend. It has a little bit of cedar and smoke, but the main flavour notes distinguishing the Caraïbe from the Abinao and Guanaja are red plum, natural yogurt, citrusy honey and even, perhaps, a little bit of orange. The hazelnuts were of less interest to me than the chocolate itself, but I will say that they were fresh and well-roasted, and contributed a pleasant savoury edge to the otherwise sweet (albeit not cloyingly so) chocolate. 

Valrhona Caraibe Noisette

The colour of the chocolate in the above photo is truer to life. Darn my not-quite-there photography skills.

So, Boathouse? This is what your chocolate soufflé ought to have tasted like, seeing as you tagged it with the Valrhona label and all. 

And, erm, if you do remember me the next time I cross your threshold, please know that I write this only in the hopes of helping you achieve dessert greatness in the future.

(In other words, please don’t spit in my food.)

Yours sincerely, 

Hannah. 

* Her favourite animal to visit at the zoo is the red panda. She’d like to smuggle one home under her jacket, but sadly Smurf Kitchen isn’t pet-friendly. Yep, that’s the only reason she’s resisting Grand Theft Mammal at the moment.

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Valrhona Abinao 85%

Now this, my friends, is right up my chocolate alley. High cacao percentage? Check. Classy packaging that tells the cashier and any nosy fellow shoppers that I’m a serious and respectable chocolate eater? Check. Marketing speak that says nothing about fruitiness or tanginess, which are my least favourite chocolate flavours? Check.

Let’s see how it goes in the tasting, shall we?

Valrhona Abinao 85%

Valrhona Abinao 85%

Powerful and tannic, like a long-brewed cup of tea. Except worse for the arteries, I suppose. If we're being pedantic.

Valrhona’s line of Grand Crus chocolate has cacao percentage and flavour profile options to suit everyone (except people who don’t like chocolate, or only like white chocolate, or like to beat puppies with frozen pork tenderloins). There are several milk chocolates, a few darks in the 60% range (including the rightly-popular Guanaja) and this Abinao bar, which has a lovely aroma of walnut, almond, and peanut butter (and chocolate. Because it is chocolate).

As you can see, Valrhona has implemented a unique asymmetrical design for its Grand Crus range. As you can’t see, but as I can relay to you, this chocolate has a wonderfully crisp snap, despite being one of the thinner bars I’ve had this year.

Valrhona Abinao 85%

It looks a bit like Valrhona has watermarked its chocolate. Which, I suppose, it has.

As well as the aforemention nut and nut butter notes, this Abinao chocolate also tastes strongly of oak and tobacco. Surprisingly, though, it is quite subtle for a chocolate that purports to have a “powerful lingering intensity”.

Rather than being bitter, I find this just supremely richly chocolatey. It tastes of wood, earth, and red currant, has a distinct lack of sweetness that never tends towards the acrid, and ebbs and flows between the richness of clotted cream and, once more, oak and earth.

This is one of the more subtle high percentage bars I’ve had, and therefore one I’ll likely reach for when I’m craving something rich and non-sweet but not necessarily super intense. For the latter, I’d probably head towards Theo’s 91%, which is yet to be reviewed…

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Vintage chocolate is a fairly new concept, but derives from the same basic premise accepted by wine makers and drinkers: that not only do different harvests of raw materials (grapes for wine, or cacao beans for chocolate) create end products with contrasting taste profiles but, in some cases, these products get better with age. With its three types of Estate Grown chocolate bars, Valrhona is attempting to encourage people and retailers to purchase, store, taste, and compare chocolates of different origins and harvests at various levels of maturity.

To find out about the 2008 vintage Palmira, Gran Couva, and Apamakia chocolates, all you need to do is head over to my new domain, where this very post is now housed. Please do – it’s just one more little click! Hurrah!

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First things first, I feel I ought to make clear that my last post was a trickery of sorts. At this current point in my life (read: recent graduate caught halfway across the unemployed tightwire with a PhD beckoning from one end and the workforce from the other), I absolutely would not intentionally spend $660 on a ring. Even, and here’s the answer, a one of a kind sparkly behemoth made by a student from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).

Unfortunately for me, the lady at the cash register rang the sale up as $599.20 rather than $59.92, and while she “voided” the sale (and then charged me the $59.92) upon my pointing this out, both sales are still “pending” in my bank account. I’m rather hoping it will all just fix itself, but I’m also psyching myself up for a traipse back to the store at some point before I leave Savannah on Monday night.

Forsyth Fountain

Fountain at Forsyth Park

Still, I believe it’s a pretty ring. Sparkly sparkly.

For a change of pace, I thought I’d finally start posting reviews of the chocolates I’ve been delighting in. I’ve been making my way through two bars a day (there’s so much to try – a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do), and as a result have a rather large backlog of tasting notes. To ease y’all in, though, I’ll start with just the one review…

Valrhona Jivara Pécan

Valrhona Jivara Pecan

To find out about this Valrhona Jivara Pecan bar, all you need to do is head over to my new domain, where this very post is now housed. Please do – it’s just one more little click! Hurrah!

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