In a post recently I commented on the difference between a chocolate maker and a chocolatier. Some took the post the wrong way. Some thought I devalued the role of a chocolatier purely because they don’t turn beans into chocolate. But that is to misunderstand the point completely. My point may have been better framed as “you can’t spend awesomeness when most people want other stuff.” In other words, there is horrendous amounts of money to be made out of chocolate that won’t win any taste awards. With all fairness, there can be no greater case in point with my good friend Richard O’Conner as he as changed the focus of his chocolate business.
Its’s a truism to state that you can have all the finest chocolate in the world. Stuff that makes chocolate aficionados week at the knees. But if not enough people want to part with their money they’ll you’ll be in the crap. Richard started producing his own chocolate, with some rave reviews and I’ll be taking a look at that range of Chocolate and Love bars soon, but the ones I’m reviewing today caught my eye. They’re unashamedly gimmicky. They’re treats and they’re presents. They’re not meant to be taken seriously. They’re a bit of fun. They won’t be entered into the International Chocolate Awards (with a straight face at least).
Richard was kind enough to send me ten bars of these canine and feline-themed bars with each stylised as famous characters of mainly from the big screen. I do believe that these will work most excellently in a retail environment where people can stand there and ask their friends if they can name the characters. I just love the concept.
But these chocolate bars also prove another point I made in THAT article. The packaging includes the line “finest milk chocolate” – what the finest milk chocolate is I couldn’t possibly guess, I’ve not tried it all. But I am sure Richard would proffer the view that it quite possibly isn’t this. And to be honest, I’d willingly accept that.
So, I had a piece and was left with a clear opinion, but thought I would ask the resident milk chocolate lover what she thought, just for clarification. After thinking about it she exclaimed: “it doesn’t taste very chocolaty, just sweet”. In all my years of reviewing chocolate I could never have come up with a description as accurate or as succinct as that. It is profoundly precise.
I’m no real milk chocolate fan, and certainly no fan of chocolate with hazelnut paste or butterfat. What’s more, it appears to contain less than 10% cocoa mass despite having at least 32% cocoa in it. But that won’t stop a huge number of people buying and enjoying this chocolate. That’s one thing I’ve learned, and is often forgotten, I know what I don’t like, but I fully understand I’m in a small minority. The Christmas and birthday present buyers will buy this in their droves. Tourists at gift shops will lap it up. Put simply it is a mistake to purely see chocolate for as a medium of culinary pleasure. Ten minutes in a bumper car can be just as entertaining as a ride in a Ferrari – if that’s your thing.
Now, would I have any of the other nine bars? It’s unlikely. But I have a friend whose family will love them. And at the end of the day, that’s all that counts.
There are few types of confectionery that get me excited as much as fine chocolate. For my sins I absolutely adore marzipan. The sweetness holds some sort of child-like memory and evokes a deeply enduring and perpetual appreciation. It’s perplexing to the say the least as overly sweet foods generally don’t elicit as much joy as very good marzipan. I’m sure many other “normal” people have an abnormal desire to overindulge on this almond-based treat.
Similarly strange was the route that this gorgeous, green, Christmas tree-shaped Niederegger advent calendar came into my possession. It was via the Fine Confectionary Company and Through the Door Promotions. I get a hundred or so solicitations from PR and internet marketing companies every year. Having worked in SEO for 15-odd years I can sniff out the real reasons why people ask for reviews. But there was none of that here. I was sent a product I would have bought myself if I knew it existed, it had a nice message, and the companies look pleasant enough. So why shouldn’t I gorge myself on them and let you know what I thought? What’s more, consumers can’t even buy this product from them, or their retail outlet: Chocolates Direct.
On to the advent calendar itself. It’s a very hefty 400g – almost five times as heavy as the Thorntons chocolate advent calendar, and most definitely more up-my-street. After scouring the internet I see they retail for £22.99 which is a similarly hefty price, and cutting straight to the chase, it’s worth every penny. You see, I’m so used to flimsy chocolate advent calendars. These are chocolates you can’t send through the post without some serious protection. But here the advent calendar itself is made of very sturdy plastic and decorated with beautiful green card. It’s strong enough for the post and any form of natural disaster.
Another thing this advent calendar also bucks the trend on is the size of the chocolates behind each door. They’re just down-right huge. Well most of them are. I was lucky enough to first try door 16 where I was met by what seemed to be a huge slab of French cheese. Of course it was actually a very sizeable piece of top quality marzipan coated in 50% bittersweet chocolate. Other doors had marzipan moons and Father Christmases. I thought I best stop at three. But I do think this has to be the best chocolate advent calendar I’ve tried in a long while.
The flavour of the marzipan is just so intense. It’s powerful and lingers. Next year I’ll be demanding one of these! And if you don’t have one of these to look forward to, I’m sorry.
P.S. I nabbed the top image from Lakeland as my photo was rubbish. But do have a look at Chocolates Direct for some Niederegger Marzipan. You can also get the Niederegger marzipan advent calendar from JD Williams.