This was my final stop in the chocolate tour of Montreal because my host was saving her favourite shop until last. She loves Chocolats Geneviève Grandbois and it is easy to understand why. The shop might be tiny, but it is wonderfully elegant with chocolate goodies crammed into every square inch. The other thing that I really like about it is that they package their chocolates into tins. I’m really not sure why that matters, but there’s something about their tins that I really like. I picked up a few bits and pieces – well, more than just a few – including a tin of their 9 signature chocolates; Les Classiques.
Everything about this tin and its contents screams precision and quality – the identical shape, the mysterious symbols atop all the chocolates and carefully selected fillings which pretty much hit all the requisite flavour buttons for me at least. All of the chocolates are housed in a dark shell, which tastes like at least 60%, and are made without any preservatives so there’s only a window of 7 to 10 days to enjoy them. Not a problem. Here’s the rundown:
Safran – A layer of white chocolate ganache flavoured delicately with a hint of saffron on top of a dark vanilla ganache layer. And the flavours arrive in that order too, with the vanilla lingering around for a satisfying amount of time.
Érable – This one didn’t survive the trip back from Montreal intact. Or maybe it was the two times the tin got dropped after I got home. Either way, the maple syrup had pooled in the paper case where it had admittedly crystallized in a rather delightful way so I didn’t let it go to waste. The chocolate, though, as a result was a little on the dry side. Still very maple-y, but the pecan pieces are almost too small to be noticed.
Gianduja – Whereas the little bits of pecan didn’t make an impression in the Érable, the little pieces of caramelized hazelnuts here are just wonderful. The rich, firm hazelnut butter they are mixed throughout is lovely too, but the texture and sweetness that the nut pieces provide is what makes this one special.
Framboise – Not your typical raspberry chocolate at all, with a dark, dark ganache mixed with some raspberry coulis giving it an unexpected amount of depth of flavour. The balance between tart raspberry and the bitterness of the chocolate works really well together. There is supposedly some pepper in here too, but I really couldn’t taste it at all.
Caramel à la fleur de sel – At this point, caramel with sea salt might be a little clichéd because everyone is doing it, but they aren’t doing it like this. The caramel is luscious, yet light and begins to exit the chocolate shell after the first bite. And then there are little crystals of sea salt distributed throughout, tempering the sweetness and generally adding to the awesomeness of it all. This is an absolutely spectacular chocolate.
Chai – Dark tea which is thankfully overshadowed by the other flavours, namely and cardamom, with black pepper and anise lurking in the background. Subtle and effective at the same time.
Extra-vierge – Last time I frequented Geneviève’s shop was the first time I had ever had an olive oil chocolate and it was a bit of a revelation for me. And even now, it is still a little bit jarring to begin with, but as the chocolate and olive melt together, it is still as unique as I remember. Definitely a bit of an acquired taste though.
Le 9 – Described rather mysteriously as being based on the chocolate maker’s new discoveries, but personally I get lots of citrus notes and maybe a dusting of pepper too. Perhaps my least favourite in the tin, simply because there has to be one rather than because it was unpleasant.
Piment – The official description made me more than a little suspicious; a mild ganache spiced with a blend of Espelette, cayenne and serrano peppers; but I needn’t have worried. There’s a light touch with the peppers that means it is more of a background tongue tingle behind the buttery soft centre than just plain heat. Remarkably restrained.
This is a simply wonderful collection and I was genuinely sad when it was all over. I want more.