the delicious dozen from french broad chocolates, in asheville, nc

Do you remember how one year ago, I expeditioned off to the Great American South, where I visited an abandoned playground, chilled out with sad hippies in a tree-fort hostel,  ran out of water in the Everglades (Runs Out Of Water should be my middle name), chased a snake in a forest that was dynamited, and, oh yeah, bought a heck of a lot of chocolate from the French Broad Chocolate Lounge in Asheville, North Carolina?

Many of you probably don’t remember, because you weren’t reading this blog at that time. So to recap, here are three of my favorite photos from the trip, illustrating key take-home points.

Seneca Rocks, West Virginia. Place of fog, rain, and beauty, we had a campground overlooking the area entirely to ourselves.

Sanibel Island, Florida. Place of much seashell collecting, I paused here for some self-reflection and a bit of Florida skyscraper skyline-hating, and I also lost a pair of earrings.

French Broad Chocolate Lounge, Asheville, NC. Place of chocolate. Obviously.

Okay, so that last picture isn’t really one of my favorites, but it is a segue into the focus of this post. I have recently learned that there are benefits to the Facebook that I so long eschewed. Benefits like winning a 12-piece set of delicious truffles and caramels from the French Broad Chocolate Lounge, and having it shipped speedily to your door in a giant box filled with biodegradable (and reusable) chill packs and foam packing material made from corn.

I would expect no less from the hip folk of Asheville.

  

I’ve talked about a fair number of delicious bonbons on this blog, from Black Dinah Chocolatiers in Maine, to B.T. McElrath in Minneapolis, to Dancing Lion in New Hampshire. And while I maintain that Dancing Lion has the most artistic and appealing creations to date, French Broad Chocolates is clearly on the road to greatness.

Established in 2007, many of their truffles are variations on a familiar theme. Lavender, maple, and strawberry balsamic are all repeat creations that can be found behind the counter of any respected chocolatier. But unlike many of the aforementioned respected chocolatiers, French Broad makes truly exceptional products, and in addition to standard fare has some exciting offerings: think pomegranate ginger (which sparkled in my mouth with bright red fruit notes), or fig & port, or one of their six fantastic salted caramels.

As a testament to the tastiness of their chocolate, I will go so far as to say that I really liked their white jasmine truffle, made with jasmine green tea and local wildflower honey – it’s not everyday that I meet a white chocolate I like. In fact, it’s everyday that I spend my time dissing white chocolate.

And while I also enjoyed the fresh raspberry (dusted with pretty pink powdered raspberry), vanilla bourbon (made with vanilla beans and Knob Creek bourbon, it was one of the better liqueur-based ganaches I’ve tried), and indian kulfi (comprised of rose, pistachio and cardamon flavors), my heart belonged to the salted caramels.

The lavender honey caramel was made with local lavender and honey, and was sprinkled with lavender salt. The cashew honey caramel came with – spoiler alert – toasted organic cashews. And the bonbon that stole the show was the seductive sorghum caramel, a milk chocolate dome filled with sorghum molasses-based caramel: it was dark, rich, nutty, and incredibly enticing.

The bonbons from French Broad Chocolates were well-made. None of the truffles I tried had ganache that pulled away from the outer shell. None of the coatings were dry or crumbly, and none of the caramels had hardened or become difficult to eat. Thank you to the French Broad Chocolate Lounge, for teaching me the delicious lesson that your shop is about much more than the craft chocolate bars you stock out front.

French Broad Chocolate Lounge

10 S Lexington Ave
Asheville, NC

Hours
Sunday-Thursday 11h00-23h00
Friday-Saturday 11h00-24h00

And coming soon….

French Broad Chocolate Factory & Tasting Room

21 Buxton Ave
Asheville, NC

Grand opening on Friday June 29th from 11h00-17h00. I wish I could be there…

cupid has struck: black dinah chocolatiers and b.t. mcelrath

I have recently felt myself to be one lucky duck. As I watch the weather outside my window change from sunny and warm to snowy and uninviting, albeit beautiful, I find myself enjoying some really amazing chocolate.

Apparently it only takes fifteen months of writing in excruciating detail about the subtle nuances of craft chocolate (so excruciating that your loved ones grow tired of your blather and kindly suggest you take up a new hobby) before you are generously gifted said craft chocolate for the chocolatest of all chocolate occasions, February 14th.

Not once, but twice. Love me two times!, the Jim Morrison-influenced duo of chocolate has repeatedly cried out, as somewhere, a small tinny harpsichord plays in the background. After all, this chocolate is territorial. A wonderful selection of Minneapolis’ B.T. McElrath from my parents back in Minnesota mingles somewhat suspiciously with a lovely 18-piece collection from Black Dinah Chocolatiers on Isle au Haut, here in Maine.

And all of it is dwindling fast.

 

B.T. McElrath is great at what they do. The company excels at churning out artful truffles with delicate couverture, as evidenced by this year’s Passion Fruit Hearts. But it is the popping, wowing flavors that keep me interested in what their next flavor combination will be: this passion fruit, for instance, is so intense and refreshing. It is a very cleansing truffle – if there were such thing as a dessert mouthwash [hmm… must invent], this would be it.

While the most prominently featured truffle in their 5 piece Epicurean Truffle Assortment had morphed a bit from that depicted on the label, all treasures hidden within proved more gorgeous than anticipated. With only five small truffles (and I shared each one, so more like with only 2.5 small truffles…), the flavors came and went quickly. From the sublime Chile Limón, to the snazzy Kaffir Lime with Coconut and Ginger, to the complex Signature Dark, and the perhaps slightly underwhelming Zinfandel-Balsamic – which while tasty did not quite live up to its name – this box acts as a fine introduction to what B.T. McElrath is capable of. The fifth truffle was another Passion Fruit, but I preferred the thinner, crunchier chocolate shell of the seasonal heart shape to this mainstay in the assorted truffle lot.

 

Also included in this fantastic grab bag was one of B.T. McElrath’s most recent chocolate bars: the Super Red. This pairing of red fruit and chocolate proves an enticing combination that I have been looking forward to trying since last fall. As I’ve spent the past week indulging in truffles, I will review the bar here at a later date.

A super warm squeezy hug of a thank you to my parents for this unexpected and most welcome surprise. I was floored, and I am most appreciative. I would grin wide and say “thhhankshh,” but my teeth are probably filled with chocolate, which as you may know, would just about be my worst nightmare come true (next to snakes in the basement, of course). Thank you !

   

And just a day after making a very lame and snobby offhand statement that I was filled with ‘ennui’ because I knew my fella would never buy me amazing chocolate like my parents (and really, who would want to buy chocolate for such a jerk?)….. well, he did. Truffles from Black Dinah Chocolatiers. Martha Stewart likes BDC. So do those fancy people who vacation on Maine’s rocky coast in the summer time. I, on the other hand, very much disliked their lavender chocolate bark, but have since been eager to try their truffles. Why? I think truffles are the strong suit in a chocolatiery operation such as BDC. Chocolate bark, schmocolate schmark.

Since I wasn’t able to make it down to Isle au Haut before the season ended last year, this gift was the perfect way to sample Kate Shaffer’s creations.

Knowing that my dislike of white chocolate was almost as large as my dramatic ennui, my chocolate partner-in-crime made sure to have the  fully-white and potentially-despicable Lemon truffles removed from my 18-piece Valentine’s Day box of truffles. What remained were BDC’s Varietal, as well as several amazing Persian Love and Earl Grey truffles.

The Varietal truffle ganache is made of “rare” Peruvian cacao, and is very silky smooth and creamy. I found the truffle to be reminiscent of sour cream, in a good way. Not sour cream, but sour cream. The flavor is slightly overpowering, and is not my favorite, but it is well-made nonetheless.

The Persian Love dark chocolate truffles are heart-shaped, and contain whole pistachios that have been enrobed in rose and cardamom-infused caramel cream. This is a step (or perhaps, a jump) in the right direction for me, although the cream persisted in tasting a bit sour. Whole pistachios were quite a treat, and although the caramel didn’t taste much like rose or cardamom, it tasted fully-flavored and complete.

Finally, my favorite. The Earl Grey truffles, of which there were not nearly enough. This truffle’s dark chocolate ganache was infused with the perfect amount of Earl Grey tea, pairing the bergamot flavor excellently with a Venezuelan 45% milk chocolate exterior. This was truly outstanding.

The only issue with all truffles was that the couverture tended to flake, and at times separate fully from the ganache. While not much more than an aesthetic issue, it is the only point for improvement that I could see here.

Another thank you is merited at this time. This thank you is filled with x’s and o’s, much the same as the Varietal truffles are decorated. xoxoxo.

B.T. McElrath Chocolatier

2010 E. Hennepin Ave., #78
Minneapolis, MN 55413

Black Dinah Chocolatiers

PO Box 13
1 Moore’s Harbor Rd.
Isle Au Haut, ME 04645

207.335.5010

Read more from Chocolatier Kate on her blog, Black Dinah Chocolatiers.

b.t. mcelrath’s oldies but goodies

I have previously shown great love for B.T. McElrath Chocolatier, my hometown heroic purveyor of chocolatey goodness. Did you know their factory is located mere blocks from where I used to live? It’s fate, I have decided. Fate that I am destined to enjoy these amazing B.T. creations for years to come. I have no problem accepting this responsibility.

And while I’ve enjoyed the B.T. bars that I’ve mowed down on, I haven’t been privileged enough to sample from their truffle selection (until now). Having given my mom some tasty-looking B.T. truffles for Mother’s Day, I was very happy to present her with them…. but embarrassingly jealous that I didn’t get to try any. Is it okay to be jealous of a gift given selflessly to your mom? My moral compass says no.

Still, ever the wonderful woman that she is, took upon herself the great burden of visiting B.T. McElrath’s factory in Minneapolis for their 7th Annual Chocolate Sale, held near the end of May. I figured that someone should enjoy the seasonal close-outs, overruns, and items created especially for the sale, even if that someone wasn’t me. But wait!! It was.

For I recently received a package containing a somewhat strangely-colored Passion Fruit & Tangerine Bar, as well as two lovely boxes of truffles.

The first box, which had sadly bloomed and made for less-than-stellar photos, contained five stellar Caramelized Coconut Pavé. Each pavé contained creamy coconutty goodness, with a smattering of caramel, all enclosed in a lovely shell of 70% dark chocolate. A dash of coconut across the top of each truffle sets the tone for what is to be enjoyed once bitten into. The outer chocolate shell is rather thick, but the coconut filling shines through – and as the chocolate melts on the palate, I am left to admire the filling’s coconut texture.

I am by no means a truffle connoisseur (although perhaps I am now motivated to become one), but I found this to be delightful. I enjoyed it even more when it had been refrigerated for some time, as the thick chocolate shell became snappingly good, giving way to the still creamy interior.

The second, and woefully beautiful truffle [it has been known to cause ennui when no truffles remain], known as the B.T. Berry Poinsettia, did not come in its own box, leaving me with few clues to decipher its mélange of delightful layers. Phew, this paragraph is getting a bit heavy on the French words. C’est lourd, ce paragraphe.

Searching the interwebs, I was lucky enough to find what these cute gems are made of. From The Nibble, you and I now know that the inside features red raspberry and black current purées combined with white chocolate ganache, while the outer layers feature both white and dark chocolate. Newsflash: I just learned that the word is poinsettia, not pointsettia. I almost had to turn in my third-grade spelling champion mentality, there.

And wow, these truffles deliver. I wouldn’t have known what they were made of if I hadn’t looked them up, but they are so smooth and buttery, and full of flavor. Perhaps if I drank more Kir Royales (back to the French theme, eh?) I would better recognize the cassis-flavored ganache.

The dark chocolate layer on the bottom of the truffle persists a wee bit longer than the other components, but I would expect that, due to the higher proportion of cocoa butter in the white chocolate shell and ganache. Know what else I learned from The Nibble? White chocolate is normally “deodorized” t0 remove its undesirable, strong taste. Eew. No wonder white chocolate normally creeps me out.

I will admit that B.T. McElrath does a great job, in all of their products, of incorporating white and dark chocolate in tandem, and making the end products taste great.

While these oldies are probably not around for purchase any longer, B.T. McElrath is currently stocking some wonderful seasonal truffles (or so says my lovely mum). We’re talking Peanut Butter Pavé, Chai-Spiced Honey Truffles, Blood Orange Blossoms, and Strawberry Balsamic Caramels. They sound good, don’t they?

B.T. McElrath Chocolatier

2010 E. Hennepin Ave., #78
Minneapolis, MN 55413

I found a great taste tester in my boyfriend, who sampled two of the ten total truffles when we opened the boxes up last weekend. Unfortunately, the eight of the other ten truffles have now vanished mysteriously into my stomach. Sorry dear!