Even though it is part of Canada, Newfoundland has always seemed somehow more exotic to me. Part of that is due to the relative inaccessibility from where I live – getting there involves either overpriced airplane tickets or a sizeable drive followed by lengthy ferry trip. But the thing that really does it for me is the fact that they have their own time zone which is 30 minutes ahead of Atlantic Time. Yup, when it is 8pm here, it is 8:30pm in Newfoundland. Craziness.
The Newfoundland Chocolate Company have been making chocolates in St. John’s for five years now. Headed by husband and wife team Brent Smith and Christina Dove, they try to bring the nest of Newfoundland into everything they make.
The packaging for their boxes look like they was designed to really appeal to tourists, with its picturesque photographs of Newfoundland – it would make a lovely souvenir of a holiday. And to be perfectly honest, that brings with it certain expectations which don’t necessarily include good quality chocolate or imaginative flavours. Yet opening up the golden box reveals a very attractive collection of chocolates which is definitely better than your average box of souvenir chocolates, suggesting that preconceptions based on the box itself are wrong. It goes further than that too – these are handmade chocolates, with no preservatives and lots of local ingredients too. So once that book judging by the cover thing is gone, there are chocolates to be eaten.
The first collection I tried was the Smiling Land Series. It is apparently the company’s most popular, and has Newfoundland wildberries featured in each and every chocolate, such as blueberries, partridgeberries, cranberries and some more conventional ones too. That translates into a box which leans on the sweeter side, especially because they use a mix of all white, mild and dark chocolate. And the box is adorned with a photo of a glorious sunset or sunrise; not sure which. It is very pretty either way.
Inside the box, the celebration of Newfoundland continues. The foldout card which identifies each chocolate is actually a map of Newfoundland, and each chocolate is named after a part of the province, such as Sandbanks Provincial Park (milk chocolate and blackcurrants) and Bay D’Espoir (strawberries with coconut in milk chocolate). A little unusual, but a cute idea. Although there appears to be a decent selection in the box, the majority of them fall into the “berries in chocolate” category and that pretty much dictates how you’ll feel about the box – if you like berries and chocolate, this will be the perfect collection for you.
The most straight-forward chocolates with just a mix of berries and chocolate are a mixed bunch because some of the berries, such as blueberries, are easily overwhelmed by the chocolate. There’s no doubt that they are still in there because of the texture, but they tend to take an inevitable backseat. What they do add is sweetness to overall experience and quite a few in the box were definitely a little too sweet for me although not everyone who tried these agreed.
The other box I sampled – the Rum Runners & Rogues Series – follows a similar template, at least on the outside. This time, the golden box is decorated with a pirate ship and the contents within highlights Newfoundland spirits and liqueurs. Each chocolate is named after some kind of criminal or reprobate such as Al Capone, Captain Kidd and a surprising number of Newfoundland politicians – a nice touch.
These are much more to my taste – the alcohol is handled with kid gloves, especially compared to some of the chocolates I’ve been writing about lately, but it makes for some interesting combinations of flavours. For example, the D’lberville which has a lovely warm mix of vodka and cherries in dark chocolate. There are a few that could happily fit in the Smiling Land box, such as the Alfred Valdmanis which brings together white chocolate, wildberries and plum brandy although it works better in a box where berries are used for sparingly. But the pick of the litter is the Danny (named after former Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams) which has a centre of dark, spiced rum and caramel, with some sea salt thrown in for good measure. I happily worked my way through the box in less time than anticipated.
The Newfoundland Chocolate Company have no shortage of ambition, and that is reflected in their vast range. But within each collection, the chocolates do have a tendency to blend together although that is probably why they are all in the same box. But it means if things aren’t clicking for you by the third chocolate then it isn’t going to happen, so pick carefully. When it does match your tastes, however, there’s very little to complain about – these are fine boxes of very-easy-to-eat chocolates.