Food lies at the heart of our bodies and our culture; it is there for celebrations and sustenance. NOMaste features a local fierce foodie each month, in four weekly segments. First, an interview, then a top 10 list, followed by a recipe to share, and finally a food review. This food corner will not just feature local chefs but also restaurateurs, buyers, suppliers — any woman involved in any aspect of the food chain, from farm to food truck. Join us each week as we get to know another Foodie in the city. Part I of this month’s series can be found here, part II can be found here, and part III can be found here.
Being able to do this review was the highlight of an otherwise dreary, gray winter day. Nothing can turn a frown upside down quite like chocolate — let alone brightly colored, expertly handcrafted artisanal chocolate. Step into Michele’s shop and you are transported into a world where you can have chocolate for dinner, lounge on a fuzzy white couch for hours, and forget all about the world outside. It’s like being able to live in a chocolate commercial, if only for a little while. These chocolates were each so unique in both flavor and presentation, that had I the stomach capacity, I would have sampled even more and stayed there forever.
Each chocolate that Michele creates for the Dream Collection (the permanent collection) has been designed with a song in mind. Each chocolate is a reflection in some way of the song that inspired it; from the flavors to the colors, to the detailed design itself. This care and love you rarely see with chocolate — or any food for that matter. Usually, you would come up with a recipe or flavor, then think of a name just because it sounds good, and that is usually enough for something to be born into this world. Michele takes it a step further. For the Dream Collection, she starts with a song, and designs a chocolate around it. Other collections, which are no longer available (once they’re sold out, they are gone for good) have been based on characters from movies, record album art, and for this Valentine’s Day, the Goddess Collection was inspired by, you guessed it, Goddesses.
Cami – Salted Caramel
Soundtrack: “Bad” by Michael Jackson
The Cami was the chocolate that I remembered the most from all the times I had seen Whimsy’s unique designs. It is an adorable pale pink Owl, with big bright eyes, that is just begging you to eat it up! I tried to bite this in half — that was a mistake. The caramel inside was so melt-in-your-mouth that it was oozing out of the other half and I could barely keep it from dripping on my chin. I know chocolates of this quality are meant to be savored but this one I would recommend popping the entire piece in your mouth and then savoring it while you let it melt on your tongue, instead of trying to do so by taking 2-3 bites. I think that is why the song “Bad” is the inspiration for this chocolate — because it is a one-bite, I’m not sharing this with you, chocolate. The caramel is buttery and light, not the hard caramel you may have experienced, mass produced for drugstore shelves. The chocolate shell is thick enough to contain it, but not so thick that it steals the show — you are really tasting the salted caramel for what it is. The caramel is the star and it is given center stage.
Jasmine – Passion Fruit & Mango
Soundtrack: “This Love” by Maroon 5
This oval shaped chocolate was bright yellow and orange-red colored white chocolate, filled with a fruity, creamy, buttery, and still fruity center. The passion fruit flavor was clear and the mango simultaneously brought out the passion fruit and rounded out the flavor of both. The filling was so intensely fruity that I barely noticed the white chocolate holding it together. I don’t know how Michele makes the filling so creamy and buttery — they just melt right in your mouth. The fruit was also not overly sweet; it remained true to the original fruit flavors themselves. Anyone who has tasted a perfectly ripe passion fruit and mango knows that it doesn’t need more sweetness added — and this is what was reflected in this chocolate. The fruits’ flavors were central, and they did not seem to have any more sugar added, the flavors stood on their own. Bright, sweet, and complementing the chocolate. [not pictured]
Foxie – Raspberry Chambord
Soundtrack: “Raspberry Beret” by Prince
Prince will always bring to mind female pleasure and velvet (at least to me) and those are probably the two closest associations one could make when having this chocolate. On the outside, this dark chocolate heart-shaped beauty is covered with an edible print of bright red lips. The rich dark chocolate outside is bittersweet, but not too bitter. It is the perfect pair for the ultra fruity raspberry inside. The fruit in this chocolate, much like the Jasmine, is not sugary sweet and does not have too much added sugar. The raspberry keeps its tartness, and it felt like there was a real raspberry inside it (even though I checked; it was a delightful creamy and consistent filling throughout). To me, there is nothing worse than biting into a raspberry-flavored pale pink sugary cream filling in a chocolate (you know who you are!) so this was a breath of fresh air. Finally, a chocolate that knows how to do raspberry right! Prince would be honored. This chocolate is truly about a woman’s pleasure.
Jade – Matcha Green Tea
Soundtrack: “Rich Girl” by Gwen Stefani
Rich indeed. This bright lime green colored piece was simply shaped and elegant. It had a part on the top that popped up, and had a pretty little white swoosh of color on it. The inside was as bright as the outside, with a paler center. The white chocolate was filled with a matcha green tea ganache. The flavor was intense — super rich, again, demonstrating that creamy consistency that Michele has mastered with all of her fillings. This was also not a super sweet filling. Instead, it lets the flavor rely solely on the green tea, and you end up with a very earthy, deep green tea flavor, so much that you can almost taste the powder when you eat it. I would almost believe it if Michele told me that I could eat three of those chocolates, instead of having a cup of tea, to get the same caffeine kick. That is how honest and intense the flavors are. This is such a rich chocolate you would not be able to have several of these in a row — but this is the perfect chocolate to have in order to separate the other fruity and chocolatey delights. Basically, if you were going to Rich Girl it out, and ate a whole box of chocolates, I would take a bite of this between your other pieces to break up the intense chocolate flavor of the other treats. No one will judge if you eat a whole box (least of all me).
Daphne – Dulce de Leche
Soundtrack: “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane
This is one of Michele’s favorite chocolates and I can see why. This beautiful turquoise colored chocolate is speckled with white and allows some of the original chocolate brown color to peek in at the top. The chocolate itself looks like an acid trip, so it’s a great match with this Jefferson Airplane staple. The filling is just like the Cami — so liquidy and buttery that you cannot bite into this. This one you definitely must house in one whole bite. For someone with less restraint than I, it could be a challenge, because I assure you I could eat two of these at a time! (Honestly, I bet I could do three or four). The flavor was so light — it was the lightest filling of all of the chocolates I had. The dulce de leche filling is super creamy, very light, sugary, and caramel-y. Not to be confused with caramel (which is sugar based), dulce de leche is based on a foundation of sweetened milk. In the end, once it has been transformed into dulce de leche, it gets a caramel color, but it is very distinct from caramel. Taste the Cami and the Daphne side by side, and you will taste the subtle differences between these two flavors. Each distinct and delicious in their own right — in fact, I honestly don’t know which one is better. So you will just have to try them both!
Rati – Smoked Black Peppercorn Caramel
The Goddess Collection
The Rati is part of the Goddess collection, created for Valentine’s Day. Named after the Hindu goddess of love, lust, and sexual gratification, this black chocolate has white speckles on its shiny beautiful shell. If you’ve paid attention to my previous reviews, you would know that I despise black pepper. I selected this chocolate not knowing what it was or what flavor it had. I have to say — I was terrified to eat it! However, I am happy to report that this was not like eating a black pepper covered chocolate. Quite the contrary — I could not really taste the pepper, I was picking up more of the smoky notes rather than the peppercorns themselves. The chocolate was highlighted by this unexpected flavor, and I was very glad I selected it. I want to say it tasted manly and musky, as tacky and cliche as that sounds, but that was all I was thinking about as I was savoring this. It was a great chocolate to have in celebration of Valentine’s Day and the goddess of sex. Let this be a reminder to you out there — don’t forget to take risks, to try new things, to expand your taste buds. You may be surprised by what you find! Thank you, Rati, for opening my eyes.
Next time you are at the counter of your local massive chain drug store, reaching for those Hershey bars and the like, remember there are other things out there — better things — things of quality, craftsmanship, and creativity. Sure, you may end up with fewer truffles than chocolate bars, but it’s good to remember that quality over quantity is a very real thing.
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