One of my favorite discoveries at the Chocolate Show this year is the California-based chocolatier Charles Chocolates. They’re located in Berkley, California where they produce all their extremely tasty confections. I met the founder and head chocolatier at the Chocolate Show, Chuck Siegel, who is an extremely enthusiastic and committed fellow. He loves to create chocolate and sweets and you can taste it in his work.
While at the show I was able to taste only some of what Charles Chocolates has to offer. I was very interested to try the Pate De Fruit and some of the nut confections that they produce, since I’ve only heard fantastic things about them. When I expressed my interest in trying these sometime, Chuck was eager to satisfy my desire.
The Holiday Box Assortment is made of entirely of chocolate. Yes, that’s right. Even the box is edible. How cool is that? The top is white chocolate with a beautiful pattern of colorful presents on it. It’s very festive and almost too pretty to eat. Inside the box is two layers of bonbons with nine on each layer. Here’s the assortment of flavors I received:
Raspberry Heart: a fresh raspberry ganache encased in a 65% bittersweet heart gilded with gold. The gold on the outside makes the bonbon really stunning. The raspberry flavor is very fresh and intense. It has the wonderful sweet/tart of the fruit and the creaminess of the ganache just makes it an incredible combination.
Passion Fruit Heart: a fresh passion fruit ganache encased in a silver gilded 65% bittersweet heart. Similar to the raspberry, but with the more sour/zesty punch that is so indicative of passion fruit. The flavor contrasts more with the chocolate than blends with it, which really heightens the two flavors.
Milk and Bittersweet Peanut Butter Butterfly: rich homemade peanut praline mixed with 41% milk chocolate in a milk/bittersweet butterfly. The praline is lovely, it has a nice grain to it and a nice dense texture. It has a subtle salty hit to it too. Out of the two, I think it worked best with the milk chocolate because of the added sweetness from the dairy. The chocolate shell is rich and sweet and balances out the bitterness of the marmalade ganache.
Blood Orange Yankee: blood orange marmalade ganache with 65% bittersweet shell. The ganache was so smooth, and the orange flavor is delicate but noticeable. It has a nice citrus zestiness with an intensity from the marmalade. I also tasted a slight pleasant bitterness that suggest some of the fruit’s rind.
The Meyer Lemon Yankee: the Meyer lemon marmalade ganache in a blended bittersweet and milk chocolate shell. The lemon flavor is more intense than the blood orange. It’s very zesty and I even get notes of pine in the lemon. The flavor blends well with the combination of the milk/bittersweet shell. It really works with the bitterness of the lemon and makes the sweetness level just perfect.
Espresso Caramel: rich caramel with real espresso and Kahlua in a 65% bittersweet oval Milk Chocolate Caramel. I was surprised to find this with Kahula because I really tasted rum in this one. I didn’t really pick up on any coffee flavors at all, so either they’re pretty delicate or my palette was too polluted at this point. The chocolate was nice and creamy and balanced the flavor of the alcohol, so there was no bitterness or burn.
Poire William Milk Chocolate Caramel: a rich milk chocolate caramel ganache in a 65% bittersweet circle with a splash of Poire William Liquor. This is a beautifully rich caramel and the liqueur adds some floral and fruity notes to it as opposed to the strange alcoholic burn I usually experience with these. It was wonderfully smooth and had a nice texture, neither flowing or firm.
Triple Chocolate Nuts:
I was really looking forward to tasting the Triple Chocolate Almonds and Hazelnuts, especially since I have heard excellent things about them. The nuts themselves are extremely fresh (sourced from California and Oregon). These nuts are different from those made by other companies because Chuck roasts these longer. This results in a fuller, more robust nutty flavor. Flavors aside, these come beautifully packaged in these smart looking squat little tins. How can you say no to such nice design?
The Almonds: There’s ample coating of milk and dark chocolate covering the almonds. These babies are large. The almond inside is so fresh and wonderfully flavorful, no doubt because of the extra roasting that Chuck does to all his nuts. The almonds also have a really nice clean crunch with makes a lovely contrast with the smooth chocolate coating. My favorite part of these is the dusting of cocoa powder because it adds an extra rich chocolate flavor that has a nice bittersweet note and acidity to it.
The Hazelnuts: These are heavenly. Wow. The flavors meld so well and the richness of the chocolate combined with the texture of the nuts added so much to the experience of this treat. Again, the chocolate coating is ample and these were very large and satisfying. These tasted much sweeter than the almonds to me. The nutty texture of the hazelnut just marries so well with the coating and it’s just divine.
Almond Toffee Sticks:
These are really attractive little logs of Fleur De Sel caramel covered in rich chocolate and chopped almonds. The caramel is really the star here. It has a lovely burnt sugar flavor with strong buttery notes. It’s very creamy and has a nice chew to it. The chocolate really sits back and lets the caramel shine, since I don’t really taste it at all. The chocolate also serves as a binding agent for the chopped almond bits which provide a nice texture. Addictive.
Pate De Fruit:
I was specially excited to try the Pate De Fruit. It’s a confection that I wish was more commonly found, since it’s a favorite of mine. Each piece of the pate is a nicely shaped rounded little dome with a good covering of finely granulated sugar. The texture is firm but not hard and has a nice give to the teeth when bitten into. In the mouth it’s a little sticky when chewing it, but not enough to stick to your teeth, thankfully.
Classic Pate De Fruit:
Raspberry: A deep red wine color. So fresh and full of flavor, better than having a real raspberry. The flavor is very concentrated and complex and it reminded me of the best raspberry jam I’ve ever tasted, but better. It has nice burst of sweetness that turns into a little sourness with pine accents toward the finish. Delicious.
White Peach: Nice dark orange rose color. It tastes strongly of peach with a very strong, incredibly fresh fruity apricot finish. I love apricots so this one just blew me away. I love experiencing how the flavors developed and it’s just so fresh and succulent and so good.
Blood Orange: A beautiful dark orange red color. The flavor is slightly sweet and hard to pick out at first. As the pate softens in the mouth the flavor comes forth. It’s so terribly true to life, it’s just mind boggling (and tongue twisting)! I get the subtle zestiness and juiciness of the blood orange and as the flavor changes I even get a slight bitterness that usually comes from the pith. Simply amazing.
Passion Fruit: Nice deep berry color. Flavor is faint at first, but then it bursts through with the flavors of apple, pineapple and strawberry. So intensely fresh passion fruit, it’s so lovely. Next best thing to eating it real. Wow.
Papaya: The lightest in color of them all with a golden yellow color. Very delicate and sweet. It has nice floral accents to it and the juiciness of real papaya. The flavor, like papaya, is subtle with hints of apple and pears. This does real papayas justice and it really makes me wonder why more confections aren’t using this flavor.
Wine Pate de Fruit:
Gewurztraminer: (rosy peach color) No aroma at all. The flavor is very delicate, I get hints of apricot and peach and a little taste of fermentation. Very sweet and not as alcoholic tasting as I was fearing/expecting. The color is a nice orange-tinged rose.
Merlot: (dark cherry red) Strong hints of cherry and peach, you can really taste the fermentation and merlot in this one, but again, all the sugar mellows it out and it’s pleasant and sweet. Nice dark maroon plum color.
Sauvignon Blanc: (light yellow) I get more notes of raspberry and strawberry. I get no hint of alcohol or tang, but just a nice fruity sweetness with berry notes. Very clean finish on the palette, where I do taste a teeny taste of alcohol, but it’s very faint and fresh and cleansing to the palette. The color is a white peachy.
Cabernet Sauvignon: (dark red) Much more purple than the merlot. Much more robust flavor with cherry, currant and raspberry. I do taste the alcohol in this, but it’s a nice fermented flavor and no buzz or bun in the mouth. The fruit leave a little tang, but it mellows out and has a refreshing finish. The aftertaste is of purple grapes and is quite fruity and a little tannic.
Champagne : (light yellow/peach color) Beautiful light yellow golden color. The sweetest of the bunch, I get notes of green grape, apricot and raspberry. No hint of the alcohol, but just a burst of sweetness that mellows out into a nice, slightly tart fruitiness. The aftertaste is apricot and grape hints and is very pleasant.
So as you can see, even though I haven’t tried all that Charles Chocolates has to offer, they have an extremely well rounded selection of confections. There’s something for everyone at Charles Chocolates. All their work tastes wonderful and you know it’s because everything has been made with specific attention to quality and flavor. I don’t know about you, but I’m certainly looking forward to the next time I get to taste some more of Chuck’s creations.
As an exclusive offer to our readers, Charles Chocolates has created a special coupon code just for us. Use the code CANDYADDICT and you’ll get 15% off your order – offer good through December 17, so HURRY!