When I received this tube of Mendiants from Galler, my first question (and probably one you’ve already asked) was “What are Mendiants then?”
Luckily the answers are online (as ever) and so I quote from Wikipedia:
“A mendiant is a traditional French confection composed of a chocolate disk studded with nuts and dried fruits representing the four mendicant or monastic orders of the Dominicans, Augustinians, Franciscans and Carmelites. Each of the nuts and dried fruits used refer to the color of monastic robes with tradition dictating raisins for the Dominicans, hazelnut for the Augustins, dried fig for Franciscans and almond for Carmelite. Usually found during Christmas, recipes for this confection have veered away from the traditional combination of nuts and fruits to other combinations incorporating seeds, fruit peels and other items.”
Got that? Good.
Well on the face of that information, I have concluded that these particular Mendiants are not traditional. There are no figs here, just dried white grapes, hazelnuts, almonds and walnuts, and they sit atop a disc of dark chocolate (presumably 70% cocoa, but I have only my tastebuds to rely on here – no cocoa content is given (again).
The discs have a ‘hand made’ feel to them – slight size variation, odd numbers of raisins etc. – but in essence they all have one of each of the nuts and a couple of (or three, or sometimes four) raisins sat on them. The nuts are crisp and fresh-tasting, and the choice of white grapes means that they deliver a surprising amount of citrus flavour (should you take the time to chew them properly, that is). The chocolate is Galler’s classic Belgian dark chocolate – bittersweet with dark cocoa undertones and a sharpness at the finish. They’re rather like an upmarket version of Fruit and Nut chocolate, but with the ingredients on the outside, and this is where find myself asking “But where do they belong?”
Obviously mendiants are a continental tradition, and one that has been around for a long time, but here in the UK we don’t have them – or at least I haven’t come across them before. I suppose they might go well with a mid-morning coffee, or as an afternoon treat to be served alongside pastries and cakes, but as an ‘everyday’ chocolate I don’t see them working. Of course, I have no idea who buys Mendiants (or how often) in Europe, so I could be missing something vital here (like millions of French people eat them every day at 11:30am for instance) but as a British chocolate consumer and reviewer I’m a little confused by them – both in terms of form and market. Nothing wrong with anything about them – the chocolate is just fine, and each of the added ingredients delivers well – but for some reason they’re a little ‘odd’. I’d say they were a good addition to an afternoon tea platter, but not something I see myself ever buying just to nibble on.