April 21, 2011

holy chuao

Coming home from Montréal without first making a stop at St-Viateur bagels (or two or three) & my favorite chocolate shops would be unthinkable. We have been following Chocolats Geneviéve Grandbois for several years now, a small artisanal chocolatier located in the Mile End neighborhood who specializes in filled chocolates with simple, elegant & well thought out flavored ganaches.

the artiste, immersed in her medium
photo by Stéphane Najman
Both the presentation & flavor are superb; Grandbois uses molds & design transfers to create bonbons that are as beautiful as they are delicious. The mold approach works well in other ways, too, in that each piece is a consistent size, the centers are enrobed in a perfect thickness of well-tempered chocolate that has a wonderful snap as you bite into it & the ratio of couverture to the fillings is a good balance so you can really taste the chocolates used in both the coatings & ganaches.

Grandbois packages her chocolates in chic, reusable tins, of which I have collected, ahem, a few over the years. I brought back 3 this time to refill, starting with some of our tried & true favorites from her Les Classiques collection, a group of 8 flavors she consistently offers along with a ninth choice that changes regularly according to the chocolatier's whims.

Grandbois has in recent years started exploring single-source chocolates from the most revered Criollo-growing regions in South & Central America, as well as single-source beans from African plantations. Last time we were in town we sampled four different offerings from Cuba, Madagascar, Venezuela & Peru, each morsel offering up an intense & varied taste experience with her expertly-made pure ganaches. This time, much to my joy, she offered a suite of four chocolates all made with the legendary Chuao beans from Venezuela, purportedly the finest in the world, a distinction I would not dispute. In a word, they were fantastic. My favorite was the pure ganache, where the deep coffee & almond notes swam around happily on my tongue, with a punch of ripe banana somewhere in the middle. The other flavors she chose to pair with the prized chocolate (white truffle oil, Monte Cristo cigar leaves, aged balsamic vinegar) all did a good job of bringing out different notes & deepening the experience.

We tasted these chocolates first, & then went on to enjoy some of our favorites from the Classiques collection (gianduja, maple syrup, saffron, olive oil), & while they are excellent, when put up against the Chuao Collection tasted less complex & very sweet.

I think Geneviéve Grandbois is a most thoughtful & skilled chocolatier, & definitely worth exploring. I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.

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