Well dear reader, as you know I was recently sent to the Etruscan Chocohotel for a night as part of a business trip. It will come as no surprise to learn that I spent rather a long time (and a fistful of Euros) in their Chocostore – possibly the toughest shopping trip I have made in quite some time. Only a very wealthy individual could possibly hope to buy one of each of the vast range of bars on sale, so I found myself seeking out the rare and unusual, the weird and wonderful; special treats for Chocabloggers.
This was the first bar I sampled, and if you are aware of my tastes in chocolate, you’ll know that this marks a fairly significant departure from my ‘beaten track’ of dark, delicious cocoa-rich products. My personal opinion of white chocolate has been that it is the stuff that is given to small children (vis: The Milky Bar Kid) – bland, flavourless creamy sweetness which barely awakens the taste buds, and, although not leaving an unpleasant taste in one’s mouth, leaves the eater somewhat unfulfilled.
Well, I clocked this bar in one of the many display cabinets and thought to myself “Okay, white chocolate, here’s your chance. Prove me wrong. Go ahead. make my day.” I have already sampled chilli and chocolate (both with and without peppercorns), but the thought of a Madras Curry/White Chocolate combo had me somewhat nonplussed. What on earth would this be like? A must-try.
Stainer is an Italian Marque, a company run by Andrea Stainer in Tuscany. My eye was drawn to the Stainer selections because of their beautiful packaging. Pictures of faces, flowers, scenes that evoke the origins of the bars. Very posh, as Dom might say. The prices fall close to the ‘posh’ mark as well. Stainer makes quality products, using fine ingredients, and the price reflects this. (Having said that, the Stainer bars were by no means the most expensive on offer!)
When the time came to taste, I offered the bar around my co-workers, many of whom were either unwilling or downright repulsed by the flavour combination on offer! The bar contains 30% cocoa solids (still more than many so-called ‘milk’ chocolate bars available in the UK) and was infused with Coriander, Turmeric, Chilli, Cumin, Fenugreek, Caraway, Ginger and Black Pepper. A zingy little number then!
The box was opened, the bar slid out and examined. The bar came in a translucent orange sellophane, but it was still pretty obvious that the chocolate had a distinctly yellowish hue, due to the addition of Turmeric of course. The Michalak nose (a mighty appendage) was thrust towards the open packet and a good sniff taken. Definitely curry, but with a note of milky creaminess, and therefore rather odd. Still no real hint as to how it might taste though. Ah well, time to taste.
The chocolate didn’t have the fireyness I had expected. The ground spices warmed the tongue, individual notes appearing as the surrounding chocolate melted, producing a very pleasant combination which really does taste very ‘Madras’. The chocolate itself is definitely part of the overall taste but doesn’t really come into it’s own until one’s mouth is clear of spices. As a medium for carrying the spice tastes, it does work rather well, although as a confirmed 70% + head, I still found the end taste a little milder than I would have liked.
Overall verdict? Similar to the opinion I have of Hotel Chocolat’s Chilli and Pink Peppercorn bar; it’s great to have these sorts of tastes available, they’re unusual and different and a testament to both the skills and fanaticism of the chocolatier, but this is by no means an ‘everyday’ choccy bar. The tastes are all there, wonderfully blended so that each individual flavour is available, but where it fits in to a ‘menu’ is anyone’s guess, but I hit upon the idea of a ‘chocolate smorgasbord’ as a dessert idea the other day, and that seems to work beautifully. Definitely worth a try.