31 August 2010

The Chocolate Cafe [Ramsbottom, Greater Manchester] (chocolate-cafe.co.uk)

Look what wonders were sent to me by the very nice folk at The Chocolate Cafe for me to try. It was a lovely looking parcel, and I was very keen to tuck in. Inside were two chocolate bars, and a selection of chocolate discs known as mendiants. It was hard to know where to start, everything looking so pretty, and tempting, but I felt that the plain dark chocolate would be the idea place.

70% Premium Dark Chocolate Bar
Inside the wrapper was a lovely dark looking chocolate, with just a tiny hint of shine on its coating. The chocolate was quite firm to snap, and seemed to be fairly hard. I found this chocolate surprisingly sweet, in fact I would say that it is one of the sweetest 70% chocolates that I have tried. This is not a bad thing, I am not a fan of very bitter flavours, it was just a bit of surprise. The cocoa was rich and still very much present, with some nice woody tones. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but it is nice to see a sweeter dark chocolate available.

Strawberry Chocolate (With A Hint Of Black Pepper) Bar
This was a very pretty looking pink bar of chocolate that smelt wonderfully appealing. The strawberry flavour was natural and strong, and again the white chocolate base was very sweet. There is a gentle hint of black pepper which is a clever addition to the recipe as it breaks up the sweetness a little. This was a nice chocolate, but one for people with a sweet tooth.

Salted Cocoa Nibs Mendiant
Sadly I couldn’t pick up on much of the ‘salted’ nature of the cocoa nib on top of this dark chocolate disc, and I would have preferred a more distinct flavour from the topping. The chocolate discs are also quite thick, which would be nice if the chocolate was softer, but made the disc a little difficult to break and bite into. The flavour of the chocolate was nice though, but I think a thinner disc with more topping would have been better.

Chilli Mendiant
This was made with the same dark chocolate as the previous disc, so again was a quite thick and tough. The chilli added a decent kick though and the overall flavours worked together well. The chilli flavour was nice and strong without be an impossible burn. I liked the mix of tastes on this one, and the Aztec feel of the chocolate. Sadly some of the chilli seeds were rather hard and didn’t do much for the texture.

Ginger Mendiant
Again this was made with the tough dark chocolate. The sweet ginger flavour was good though, with lots of taste and a gentle spice. There is a plentiful amount of crystallized ginger on this chocolate and the flavour with the strong cocoa worked rather well. Despite the firm base, this was one of my favourites of the mendiants.

Hazelnut Mendiant
The milk chocolate base is a much betting setting for the mendiants as they are much softer and easier to break and eat. The milk chocolate is sweet and creamy and makes for a really decent platform but sadly the amount of hazelnut wasn’t enough for the flavour to come significantly through. I know these were sent to me in the post, so some of the topping was lost, but having the base chocolate infused with a nutty taste would have perfected this.

Coconut Mendiant
Rather like the hazelnut mendiant, the base chocolate is rich but softer and smooth in flavour. Sadly the coconut doesn’t add enough taste, it is pretty enough in decoration, but there needs to be more of it for a decent hit. The very last bite of this one came with an unexpected chilli surge due to a rogue chilli seed that had fallen of a different chocolate. This is calling out for a richer coconut taste.

Pomegranate Mendiant
I liked the white chocolate base of this, it was very sweet and creamy, and is a good setting with a lot of potential. I also like the concept of a pomegranate flavour mixed with white chocolate, but this particular disc just did not work for me. If you want to eat pomegranate, you want the juicy sweet flavour, the crunchy seed part is not the highlight it is just something that comes along for the ride. The seeds on top of this were without their fruity taste, they had dried out and all they left was that uncomfortable crunch, and none of the pomegranate magic. This was the most disappointing of the discs, and I’m not even sure how it can be fixed, but it does need a stronger fresh fruit flavour to make it work.

Strawberry and Cream Mendiant
I left this pink chocolate to last as it was the prettiest. It was also one of the nicest, it was sweet creamy, and packed with a rich sweet taste of strawberries. It was a lovely looking chocolate packed with natural flavour. The base chocolate was also the right texture, as it was thick but not to brittle. This was an excellent chocolate and I’m glad I left the best to last.

In general the Mendiants were pleasant enough, but the dark chocolate variety suffered from a thick brittle chocolate. Some of the toppings didn’t have enough flavour, and it would have been nice to have the base chocolate infused with the taste, in the way that the strawberry one was. Sadly the packaging (and frankly they had been sent in the post) meant that some of the toppings had jumped shipped onto other flavours, which mixed them up a little too. I did try and clean this up before taking the photos and testing but still managed to find chilli on the coconut one, so my suggestion would be a simple cardboard divider in the lovely posh box.
The bars were of a good quality, and I liked the sweetness but strong cocoa hit from the plain dark chocolate. The strawberry chocolate bar was really tasty, and one of my sweet toothed tasters declared it fantastic and that it should never be changed.


Jeanna said...

I've never heard of mendiants, but then again I'm almost cocoa illiterate. When I first saw the photos I thought they were decorative wall hangings.

cinabar said...

To be honest - I had to google it too! ;-) Your last comment reminds me, what ever happened to chocolate baubles? Chocolate as a decorative wall hanging wouldn't last very long in this house, but we might leave a bauble for a suitable Christmas moment!