I am, admittedly, not a big fan of sharing. At the risk of making myself appear greedy, selfish, and all-around less likable, I will openly acknowledge here that my own personal philosophy is that every effort should be made to minimize the amount of sharing one ever has to do. Sure, there are exceptions when sharing is okay – sometimes even nice (think first-date milkshake with two straws, cable bills, and household chores) – but as a general rule, I think it’s best avoided.
When I received my generous shipment of Ugly Truffles and Damn Good Cookies from Chocolate Gourmet, however, I immediately recognized that the only way I’d be able to review such a quantity of treats in a timely manner, without making myself deliciously ill, would be to invite my friend, a sweet-toothed vixen herself, over for a night of eating chocolate. And oh, what a night it was.
Chocolate Gourmet is a Chicago-based operation that produces handmade cookies and truffles to order. Consequently, they are not available in stores, but custom orders can be placed online or over the phone, and shipped almost immediately. The truffles are all very cutely named, and with the included brochure boasting favorable quotes from The Washington Post, The New York Times, Daily Candy, and the mother of all taste-makers, The O List in Oprah Magazine, I had little doubt that I would soon find myself amongst the throngs of Ugly Truffles fans. And though specific details of that night may or may not have been lost in a chocolate haze, I’m here to report that my handwritten notes indicate an overwhelmingly fond, if not pretty, experience with these sugary beasts.
So here’s how the Sweet-Toothed Vixen (STV) and my tasting went down, in the exact order in which we chose to indulge:
Oozy Boozy Caramel
“Creamy caramel center, surrounded by brandy milk chocolate ganache encased in milk chocolate and rolled in pecans”
Pecans are my least favorite nut, so the generous toasted pecan coating and aroma didn’t much appeal to me. However, I was a big fan of the texture combo. The strong pecan flavor led to an awesomely soft truffle chocolate with a subtle lingering flavor of caramel. The caramel texture was almost exactly the same as the ganache, making its presence known only in taste. Neither STV nor myself tasted brandy in there, which suited us just fine. Despite my dislike for pecans, I enjoyed this a great deal.
“Gooey homemade marshmallow center surrounded by milk chocolate ganache and rolled in smoke-infused graham cracker crumbs”
The description of this one intrigued me more than any other. I thought it smelled a little odd (like bacon, maybe?), which I attributed to the “smoke-infused” graham cracker crumb coating, but any pork-filled reservations were immediately forgotten as I bit into this gourmet s’more. The graham crackers create an awesome crunch (I’m big on textural complexity), and the smooth marshmallow (not at all gummy – how do they do that?) melts away with the ganache, leaving just a flavor of high-class campfire treats that STV reported was “kind of freaking awesome.”
You Suck Lemon
“Fresh lemon white chocolate ganache covered in bittersweet chocolate and dusted with powdered sugar”
This is VERY lemony. It tastes like a lemon bar (like, exactly like a lemon bar), covered in chocolate, which is kind of an odd combo, but the bittersweet chocolate balances the very sweet lemon nicely. We didn’t notice the white chocolate at all. If you like lemon bars, and you like chocolate, it’s time to pick up the phone, my friend, and place your order. Lemon, you DO NOT suck.
Messed Up Mocha
“Milk chocolate espresso ganache surrounded by milk chocolate and dusted in cocoa”
The bitter cocoa powder covering this one made it feel most like a traditional truffle. We didn’t detect any notes of espresso, and this one doesn’t have an especially interesting texture, but it’s a really good milk chocolate truffle.
Morning After Merlot
“Merlot ganache surrounded by bittersweet chocolate and rolled in red velvet cake crumbs”
With its shocking red coat, this might be the prettiest of the Ugly Truffles, and the cake crumbs make for a different texture than one would expect. Different is interesting. Different is good. With the Merlot the likely culprit, this has a fruity flavor that makes it one of the sweeter truffles, without any alcohol burn.
“Smooth cinnamony Mexican chocolate warmed with chili spices and surrounded by milk chocolate in toasted corn tortillas”
First impression: “Oooh, I can taste the tortilla chips – they’re delicious. Perfect little crunch, maybe a little salty (or is that in my head?), and I can tell exactly what they are. Love it. LOVE it.”
Second impression: “Wow, that cinnamon is kind of nice. A little spicy, but good. Warm. I like, I like.”
Third impression: “Whoa, those spices really kick in after a second. Ha. Ho. Like little kicks to the back of my throat. Yikes.”
This was a little too spicy for my tastes, and STV’s (“I don’t like the spice,” she managed to get out between shudders), but if that’s your thing, they make a good go of it here.
Not In Mint Condition
“Fresh mint white chocolate ganache surrounded by white chocolate and dusted with powdered sugar”
This one smells minty, but the flavor is more subtle than I expected after my initial whiff. The mint and white chocolate combo isn’t one you come across often, but it worked nicely here, making the mint sweeter and “softer.” And the powdered sugar provided great mouthfeel. I would place this at the very opposite end of the mint/chocolate spectrum from, say, Junior Mints.
“Creamy coconut ganache encased in white chocolate and rolled in toasted coconut”
Not a fan of coconut, STV forfeited her half of this truffle, which disappointed me as I had hoped to pull just that maneuver myself. There are only two instances in my life which I recall actually enjoying coconut; both were fresh samples and neither occurred in North America. So, as expected, this truffle did not prove to be coconut miracle number three for me. The toasted coconut texture mimicked a little too closely its hairy moniker, creating an entirely unpalatable experience. If you like toasted coconut, though, that probably won’t bother you, and I found the white chocolate ganache to be only mildly coconuty and not at all bad.
Put Your Clothes On Chocolate
“Rich bittersweet chocolate ganache surrounded by bittersweet chocolate”
From the moment I tore into my box of Ugly Truffles and laid eyes on the chocolaty goodness before me, I knew this one was the Holy Grail. As such, before STV arrived at my apartment for chocolate night, I slyly put it aside to sample on my own the next day, with a fresh palate. (Sorry STV!) Really, I could only be expected to take this sharing thing so far. Plus, if I was going to be rendered naked by foodstuff, I figured it best if that happened in solitude.
Oh. My. Gah. This truffle is perfectly bittersweet – not at all cloying, and completely absent of any dry aftertaste. The crunch of its delicate chocolate shell provided just enough reassurance that I was, in fact, enjoying the flavorful treat, as the dreamy chocolate center melted away to nothing all too quickly.
So I’m gonna go ahead and give Ugly Truffles my whole-hearted approval. (Like I’d ever disagree with Oprah – bad things happen to you when you do crazy things like that. Seriously.) Delicious (mmmmm), delightful (those names!), and diverse (something for everyone), these are rich enough that I didn’t even regret my decision to share them with the Sweet-Toothed Vixen. (Nor the decision to keep the last one for myself, I might add.) And you know what? I really didn’t think they were all that ugly, either. What can I say? Ugly chocolate makes me pretty happy.