[A re-post from October 2010]
The other day I was thinking about how difficult it is these days for chocolate retailers to break through the competition given by the chocolatiers that market directly to the consumer - in particular how Richard from Chocolate And Love was going to make an impact in such a crowded market place. One of the ways I was thinking that he could do it was to offer people in this country great chocolate that they just can't get here. And that's exactly what he's doing with his contacts in Denmark by offering UK consumers a range of fine chocolate bars by Danish chocolatiers Friis-Holm.
I'm not egotistical enough not to admit that I've never heard of heard of them but when Richard let me try some, and then select from a choice of three bars at the Academy of Chocolate Conference my interest was piqued. Even though I ate my weight in chocolate that day, I could still tell that these were marvellous bars of chocolate and would appeal greatly to the UK market.
I loved the packaging. It's a very simple, yet effective design. I couldn't tell you if it’s typically Danish, but the wrapping is made out of thick paper with a wonderful texture and none of that cheap shiny stuff that many new bars are made out of.
My preference is for weighty bars and this bar is a hefty 100g. If truth be told I actually prefer them to the 'lightweight' Artisan du Chocolat bars that are just a mere 45g. They may taste great, but don't give the sort of solidity as these bars do. In fact they're pretty difficult to break, the snap is crisp and clear, but you do need a bit of leverage to get a square isolated.
Visually I loved the mould as it had rows of smaller 'squares' and a much larger one in the centre - much like the Pralus bars which have a huge square at the bottom right corner with their brand embossed and the smaller ones around it. There might not have been as much of a shine as those Pralus bars but it’s still a pretty damn fine looking bar of chocolate. The colour of the chocolate is spot on too. I love a deep, dark brown colour - one that reminds me of Autumn and this hits this tone dead on.
If there's ever a dark chocolate bar that replicates an open fire the morning after a good burn, this is it. If you've ever stood around a camp fire after it’s cooled down then you'll know the aroma I get from this bar. It's almost 'figgy' with a slight tangerine note - similar to the Duffy Honduras bar but more in the background. If the aroma doesn't put you in a cosy Winter's night in, I don't know what will.
But it's the flavours I love most. I just love chocolate that takes you on a journey as it melts and this bar certainly does that. It's strange, there's a sort of mushroom initial flavour which then exhibits a walnut character and then a slight acidity and a truly delightful creaminess to follow. It really is incredible. When I first tried it at the event I didn't get to try enough of it, but now I have a bar to myself I can try different 'chunk' sizes to get a true feel for the flavour and texture - and it’s great.
I don't know if it’s because I'm inclined to bite off more with this thicker bar, but it does exhibit a creaminess in the texture as well as the flavour. It holds together well and has a very long melt - and that's when it takes on another dimension. It has a lasting acidity and bitterness that will be with you for a good while. What's more, it leaves a tanginess in the mouth that reminds me of being punched in the nose - which happened a lot when I used to play rugby.
It is a great bar of chocolate. But the question remains. Does Friis Holm deserve to sit on the top table with Valrhona, Pralus, Amano, Michel Cluizel and Beschle et al? I'd say that they'd have to consistently produce great chocolate over a few years first, but I can't see why not if they produce more chocolate like this!