Bernard Callebaut is one of the best known chocolatiers in Canada. Based in Calgary, he’s been working out in Alberta since the early ‘80s and has built up an impressive reputation for himself over the years. The name might look a little familiar because he is related to the legendary Callebaut chocolate dynasty from Belgium, or it just might be due to the fact that people love his chocolates – his reputation does precede him.
A combination of geography and finances has stopped me from personally trying his wares, but thankfully the Festive Season is the perfect time the gift of chocolate. So I was presented with one of their copper foil Ballotin Boxes filled with supposedly the best of what Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut have to offer. Or at least what the person working in the shop thought was their best chocolates.
And here’s what I think, layer by layer.
Java Milk Chocolate – even without anything else added, the creamy milk chocolate has vanilla undertones that slowly emerge.
Bernard – two dark chocolate coins with a very rich buttercream sandwiched between them. The crispness of the chocolate is the perfect accompaniment to that vanilla cream inside, and just a hint of egg liqueur lingering at the end. Great stuff.
Leopold – rum and milk chocolate ganache sounds like a winning combination, but it really doesn’t manage to escape the dark chocolate shell. It isn’t until everything is long gone that the alcohol finally emerges and by then it is too late in my book.
Coconut – exactly what it says on the box; lots of coconut and not much else.
Amaretto – another of their flavoured crème frâiche creations. Not quite as good as the strawberry one, but the flavour is amply indicated by the chocolate almond on top.
Strawberry – an incredible amount of strawberry flavour jammed into a tiny little milk chocolate heart. The strawberryness of the crème frâiche just bursts out in a genuinely surprising way. Very, very good.
Crème Praline – more crème frâiche, but this one does disappoint. Not enough hazelnut; not even close.
Carré Cognac – Bernard really appears to hold back on the alcohol and the cognac here isn’t too obvious until all the chocolate and ganache have gone. I’m really not sure if I like his subtle approach or not.
Gilberte – this one really has it all. Lovely crunchy almond nougat combined with a bitter buttercream filling and a splash of rum makes this a real winner.
Rice Crisp – the milk chocolate and hazelnut paste works well enough flavour-wise, but the addition of the crisped rice really pushes this one over the top thanks to that additional texture.
Cinnamon Ginger – this is all cinnamon at the beginning and when that fades, the tingly ginger sensation jumps into action. Better still, there are little bits of ginger to chew on at the end, like a gift that keeps on giving. Definitely one of their best.
Square – the white chocolate ganache comes as a bit of a surprise and counterbalances the dark shell. Again, the egg liqueur comes as an afterthought but not unpleasantly so.
Honey – just too cloyingly sweet with both the honey and milk chocolate ganache.
Pecamel – more caramel, but a thicker, chewier variety with a teeny bit of pecan sitting on top like a more sophisticated versions of Turtles. The amount of caramel is a bit on the skimpy side though.
Leaf – the layer of blackcurrent and the layer of milk chocolate ganache seem to be at cross-purposes here and don’t work that well together. Considering my love for fruity chocolate, I should like this a lot more than I actually do.
Mochaccino – I’m thinking that all the coffee flavour here came from the coffee bean on top of the chocolate because my second bite was more hazelnut paste than anything else. Meh.
Hazelnut – more of the hazelnut paste, this time in a chocolate trough with a hazelnut on top. The Rice Crisp version was better thanks to the added crunch.
Karamel – a nice runny caramel flavoured with Maraschino making it a little too sweet for my tastes; I’m more of a salty person.
Marsior – I’m one of those people who like marzipan anyway, but the candied orange peel in here might even win over the sceptics because they take turns being dominant instead of the usual single dimension. Marzipan fans will love this.
So was it the best that Canada has to offer? Well, the highs, such as the Strawberry, Gilberte and Cinnamon Ginger, were very, very good and while there were no real lows, there were also quite a few that were just pleasant and nothing more. It was still a very good collection, a lovely gift and an entertaining way to spend a couple of afternoons. And there are still plenty more Bernard Callebaut creations to try before passing final judgement – maybe next Christmas.