I know it seems like I cannot sing the praises of DeBrand’s Chocolate enough in my blog. The truth is that I cannot. I have fallen madly, hopelessly in love with it. It is some of the best chocolate I have ever had and I am beyond thrilled that they have opened up a store less than 15 minutes from my house. My wallet and my waistline may not be so happy down the line, but for now, I am giddy with excitement.
Although I’ve only been to the store once so far, while I was there not only did I pick up some of their amazing pecan caramels and a chocolate shortbread cookie, which I reviewed a few weeks ago, but I also put together my very own box of their classic collection. Although I have favorites among both their truffle and connoisseur collections, my heart truly belongs to their classic collection. The best part about having a store so near me is that I can go in and hand pick all of my favorites to ensure that there is never a chocolate I like but do not love–I’m looking at you mocha cream.
Looking at my box of goodies, it’s pretty clear that most of my picks are milk chocolate. That should not surprise anyone who reads my blog with any sort of regularity. I’m a milk chocolate girl. Still, I do have some absolute favorites in their dark chocolate collection as well, so I had to throw those in.
The first piece in my collection of 8 is their gourmet PB&J. This is a bit of an odd choice for me. As much as I love any combination of peanut butter and chocolate, the idea of throwing the jelly into the mix generally grosses me out. When I was younger, I had a few oddities I thought were quirky enough that they earned me bragging rights. One was that I did not eat pizza. The second was that I never threw up after drinking too much. The third, was that I’d never had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
The pizza thing died as soon as I went off to college. It’s not that I’d never had pizza or anything. My father just loved it so much that we ate it constantly and only sausage and green pepper pizza…two toppings I despise to this day. I got sick of pizza, so whenever they’d order pizza, I’d just eat breadsticks. However, my freshmen year of college several of my friends would buy cheap pizza from this place that delivered until 3 am and we’d sit in the study lounge, eat pizza and talk until the sun started to rise again.
I caved to the puking after drinking only once in my entire life and that was a bad, bad, bad night that I have almost no memory of. I won’t go into detail, but suffice it to say that when I mentioned getting a tad sick (and it was just a tiny, tiny bit), all of my friends realized I’d crossed some sort of line. It’s never happened since, which I still consider a sort of badge of honor.
As for the PB& J thing, I don’t really have a good reason for it. My mom never made them for me and I never asked for one. I’d never tasted one until I was 19. I had missed dinner in the dining hall due to a late class one night and the guy I was dating made me a sandwich. Since we were in the dorms, there wasn’t much on hand. He thought it was nuts I’d never had a PB&J so he made me one. I ate half of it out of politeness, but did not see the appeal and have never eaten one since.
However, somehow when it you take away the bread and cover it in chocolate instead, I find it appealing. It doesn’t hurt that this PB&J uses a very tart raspberry jam. Raspberry and chocolate is my weakness and this piece is an amazing blend of salty and sweet.
My second chocolatey delight was the caramel coconut. Despite being a dark chocolate piece, I find this one exciting because it is three tastes I love all rolled in to one. The caramel is speckled with little chunks of coconut which give it a perfect texture. The caramel is the ooey-gooey liquidy kind I love. While I do think it would be even better in milk chocolate–I’ve always been an Almond Joy gal, it’s still a solid offering. I like the little bits of coconut that stick in my teeth at the end, leaving me a bit longer to enjoy the piece.
Next up was a version of one of my absolute favorites in life: vanilla buttercream. This one is pretty good. Not quite as thick as I usually like my vanilla creams, but still full of delicious vanilla flavor. I liked it, but it’s not my favorite in the collection.
Since I love caramels so much it’s really no shock that half of my custom box was full of caramels. Nor is it a surprise that I decided to try the Debrand caramel. Unlike their other caramels, this is not a liquid version. This is a straight up, super chewy block of caramel covered in creamy milk chocolate. The caramel is soft, creamy and perfectly sticky. I loved letting it slowly melt in my mouth. It’s not as good as their pecan caramels, but still really darn good. I love that it is more caramel than chocolate.
I immediately tried another caramel because really, is there such a thing as too much caramel? No, no there isn’t. This one is the rose carmella. I love the rose design on the top of this piece. The description says it is a liquid caramel with a hint of rose water. I’ll admit that I’ve never really had much rose water (or any flower flavored water), so I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pick up those hints. After all, I’m terrible when it comes to picking up fruity hints in beers and wines–I’m better with wines since they are already a bit fruity, but when a beer says it has hints of apricot or strawberry, all I ever taste is, well, bitter beeriness. Blech. This piece is definitely a liquidy caramel, which makes it an A+ in my book. Since it is also covered in sweet milk chocolate, I think the flowery hints do get a bit lost in the big picture. However, when I tried a taste of just the caramel, there was definitely a slightly perfumy taste to it, which I found interesting and kind of cool.
Peanut butter and chocolate is another personal favorite combination of mine. The only reason not to simply adore peanut butter and chocolate is if you are allergic to it. Otherwise, I am suspicious of anyone who doesn’t love the marriage of two of the most delicious flavors on earth. This piece is a salted peanut butter, which I think sounds even more intriguing. The peanut butter inside is super creamy and definitely just a little bit salty, which is fabulous. It’s so interesting because from a texture standpoint it reminds me of creamy peanut butter, but the extra saltiness to it makes me think of the far superior crunchy peanut butter. It also makes this piece a bit more savory than sweet, which I really like.
My second to last piece was a dark piece, but since it was a strawberry rhubarb caramel, I saved it for last. I was about 10 years old when I had my first piece of strawberry rhubarb pie. I was at the county fair with my aunt and we stopped in the Grange building to visit another aunt and uncle who happened to be volunteering. The Grange building was basically a big restaurant, so we decided to eat with my aunt and uncle. I couldn’t tell you what my main course was, but I grabbed a piece of strawberry pie and was super excited. It didn’t taste like the strawberry pie I was used to and when I mentioned it to my aunt, she told me about the addition of rhubarb. Even though I like the straight sweet of strawberry, the tart that goes with rhubarb became a new love for me. This caramel piece has that same, hit you in the back of the mouth, puckering effect of that first piece of fair pie. Once the initial wallop of the tart rhubarb subsides, there is a lovely undertone of sweet, sun-ripened strawberries. The caramel really just lends it a slight creamy texture. Honestly it is more rhubarb than anything else and that is 100% ok with me.
My final piece is my “best for last” piece: a milk covered raspberry. This piece is also available in dark, and in the last classic assortment I got from DeBrand, I got the dark chocolate version, which I really liked. So I was super excited to try their milk version. Even though tart raspberry is the way I enjoy dark chocolate best, I will always be a milk chocolate girl, so I had to try it. Oh my goodness! This is sheer, unadulterated goodness. It’s a raspberry cream, so while it has a bit of the velvetiness of a standard cream filling, it is also drenched in totally tart liquidy raspberry filling. It is a raspberry cordial filling to make Anne of Green Gables proud. I cannot heap enough praise on this piece and will go back again and again and again for it. I could easily buy a box with nothing other than this piece in it and be thrilled. Of course I would miss my other favorites too much, so I guess I’ll just have to keep saving this chocolate for last!
Value: 10/10 (at $18 a box, each piece is $2)