Chocolate Monday: The Chocolate Garden

choco garden boxWhile I know it’s been awhile since I’ve regularly posted, fear not dear readers, I have not forsaken chocolate. In fact, over the past year or so, I have definitely indulged in my fair share of it. Who am I kidding? I’ve indulged in way more than my share. Probably more like my share, my husband’s share and maybe half of my daughter’s share. Luckily, after eight years of marriage, my husband has finally figured out that anything in the fridge or pantry is pretty much fair game to eat, as long as he stays far away from my chocolate shelf.

Yup, that’s right, there is a chocolate shelf in my fridge. To be fair, it’s really only like half a shelf and it’s usually not full. Well, not exactly. However, since I decided that I need to get back into the writing habit, I figured that was the perfect excuse to go on a chocolate shopping spree.

Actually, my latest chocolate spree started when a dear friend of mine went to a wedding in Michigan. Knowing my love for nearly all things chocolate, she texted me that they were making a stop at The Chocolate Garden in Coloma. She advised me to check out the website and place my order. I vaguely remembered her bringing me a truffle from their once, so I jumped on the web.

With nearly two dozen flavors to choose from, I didn’t know quite where to start. At first I was only going to ask for a 4 oz box (4 truffles), but I realized there were far too many tastes I just had to savor. I tried to make do with an 8 oz box, but when she mentioned she was getting a 1 lb. assortment, I knew she was just tempting me to order the same. So I did.

Since I’d visited the website, I knew the truffles weren’t much to look at. Not that they didn’t look tasty, but I’ve had treats from a variety of artisan chocolatierschocolate garden box that are decorated with elaborate edible paints, designs, additional candies and even dried flowers. These truffles appeared to have been rolled into a powdered milk, dark and white chocolate, which although tasty, isn’t really visually stunning. What they make up for in looks though, they offer up in taste.

These truffles were much bigger than I expected to them to be. I tend to measure every truffle on a par with Godiva’s truffles, probably because they were my introduction to “grown up” chocolate. I don’t actually remember having a truffle until I wandered into a Godiva shop on vacation one day. As a result, their truffles are my proverbial yard stick. The Chocolate Garden’s truffles are about 1.5 times larger than Godiva’s. Unlike other truffles I’ve had, they don’t have a hard, outer chocolate shell. The layer of powdered chocolate rather than being dipped or molded, they are far more delicate than other truffles I’ve tasted. Instead of having to break through a sort of chocolate shell, my teeth sank right in to a soft fudgy chocolate. There wasn’t a filling and I definitely couldn’t describe the “inside” as well, an inside. It was one truffle ball rolled in additional chocolate. The texture of the truffle reminded me a bit of freshly made fudge. It melted right on my tongue, besieging my tongue with a rich, velvety chocolate. I immediately got hints of the additional flavors added to the various truffles.

I was a bit unsure of what my first truffle actually was. While there is a handy guide on the top of the box, since the truffles only had the powdered chocolate covering, I couldn’t distinguish which was which. I thought I was starting with the Darkest Dark Chocolate truffle, as part of my save the best for last philosophy. However, when I thought I was grabbing Dark Chocolate and got Cayenne Kick (which does, in fact, have quite a kick. It didn’t hit me at first, but when it did, my mouth had tiny flames in it. I actually had to go in and take a swig of milk to sooth my tongue. I’m not saying I didn’t like it, it was definitely an interesting combination, I just wish I’d been ready for it), I realized I definitely had my box top turned sideways. Since I couldn’t rely on any visual clues, I had to let the taste buds lead me. As it turns out, what I thought was Darkest Dark was really only Dark. This was slightly disappointing to me. I was so happy with the smooth and only slightly bitter taste of the Darkest Dark, that I thought maybe, just maybe, I was really learning to love straight dark chocolate. Turns out that while I definitely enjoy it much more than I used to, I’m not sure I can call myself a true lover of it yet…well, at least not the really dark stuff.

After I got over my initial confusion, I found some flavors I absolutely loved. Dark Chocolate Raspberry was one of those flavors. I have always been a sucker chocolate garden trufflesfor the combination of tart raspberry and dark chocolate. In fact, the tarter, the better. This particular truffle was not as tart as I would have liked. The raspberry hints were more subtle than I’m used to. I like raspberry to jump out and sort of sucker punch my tongue, but the slight hint of tart mixed with the velvety chocolate, was enough to make it a winner for me. Texturally, my absolute favorite was the Milk Chocolate Caramel. I have no idea how the chocolatiers managed to pull this off, but despite looking identical to all the other milk pieces, this truffle actually had the texture of caramel. It was just “sticky” enough that I felt I had to chew it a bit. I got all the creaminess of caramel without the extra sticky bits in my teeth. Without a doubt, this was my favorite piece in the box. I also really liked the White Chocolate Strawberry. The use of freeze dried strawberry powder gave this truffle authenticity. Other favorites included Vanilla Rose (not much rose flavor, but a nice, subtle vanilla) and Solera Double Gold (which is not included in the Full Bloom Assortment–my friend picked it up extra for me because I wanted to try it. It had an absolutely fantastic butterscotch taste).

However, there were also a few major misses for me. I am not a coffee drinker. In fact, I really dislike all things coffee flavored, so the Dark Chocolate Coffee Bean and the White Chocolate Latte did not appeal to me. I tried them both and if you are a coffee fan, I think you’d probably really like them. The White Chocolate Latte was better, but that is due to the extra creaminess of the white chocolate helping to counter the extra bitterness of the coffee. Bitter upon bitter is just a bad combo for me. I was also a bit nonplussed by the Sticky Bun piece. I can’t really say I didn’t like it. I just had such high hopes for it. I think in my head I had more of a cinnamon roll idea, whereas this particular piece had a nuttier taste to it. Far more pecan than anything else. While I like pecans, I think I was just excited about cinnamon and was disappointed. My biggest let down though, was the Lemon Drop. I was so excited about this truffle. I’m glad I chocolate garden truffledecided not to save it for last (although it was my initial idea of the best one). As a rule, I LOVE lemon and chocolate. This truffle, however, tasted so artificial that I wanted to spit it out. It tasted far more lemon pledge than that wonderful little yellow citrus fruit I pick up at the store. It was cloying and made my tongue tingle in a very strange way. I was unhappy and couldn’t finish this truffle, which really made me sad. I actually liked both the Dark Chocolate Coffee Bean and the Darkest Dark Chocolate better than this one, and that’s really saying something.

Overall, I thought the Chocolate Garden had some pretty tasty truffles. I definitely wouldn’t buy this assortment again because it has far too many dark pieces I didn’t love, and I never want to eat that Lemon Drop one again. If I make it up to Michigan, I would definitely stop in and put together my own assortment of my favorites. However, I think I’d go with an 8 piece box. Not that I didn’t love a few enough to eat several of them, but after awhile, the texture of each pieces was too similar. I wanted some variety.

Taste: 7/10
Value: 5/10 (a box of 16 is $44, which is about $2.75 per truffle)
Appearance: 3/10

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Filed under addictions, chocolate, cool links, cool places, food, products, ramblings, what makes me me

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