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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Gourmet chocolate that is all about presentation, taste, and of course, Z!

Last week I received a package from France that I had been anxiously anticipating. It was wrapped all in silver, but in my opinion, it was a package that contained solid gold, which for me means chocolate. Unbelievably good chocolate. "Z" chocolate, in fact.


Inside the package was a canvas bag with zChocolat.com’s logo and a card that said "Votre Message" (Your Message), as well as a booklet that described filled chocolates made by zChocolat. The message told me that I would find 30 handmade chocolates inside the package (including their signature `Z` chocolate – a must try!) that were made by following 400 year old traditions and a `zealous adherence to purity`. It mentioned my name and the town where I lived and what`s more, there were no tell-tale signs of ‘mail-merge’ in this letter. It was personal; a simple letter typed by a real person and written to me. And yes, it did make me feel special.

Even though I had read the letter, the contents of the canvas bag surprised me. There was a beautiful wooden box inside that bag. A wooden box made of




Sappeli, a wood in the mahogany family, which was made in France using `traditional finger joint assembly`. It had gold trim. But the most amazing part, and the one detail that instantly won me over, was the golden plate on the front of the box. It had my name engraved on it!

So I now have my very own beautiful wooden box for hiding my most precious treasures. It felt as though I received a gift just for me. And since I gave birth to my first child four years ago, gifts that are just for me are a rare occurrence these days.


The best part was inside the box: two lovely packs of 30 filled chocolates, each numbered to correspond with zChocolat’s flavour range, plus four "Z" chocolates, the company’s signature filled chocolate flavour.

This is a fantastic gift for any true chocolate lover. You can create a box just like this for someone you know online at www.zChocolat.com. It is customizable and the chocolates are handmade and designed by French chocolatier Pascal Caffet ("world champion" chocolatier). Pascal Caffet has created 26 recipes, numbered 0 to 24, exclusively for zChocolat. What’s more, you can create gifts for anyone, personal or corporate and some of the gift boxes can be purchased with wine or Champagne for an extra special treat.

What is most important to me, is that the chocolates are
all natural, have no preservatives, minimal sugar with high cocoa content and "NO ALCOHOL" (I’m not a fan of alcohol-filled chocolates). These chocolates are made fresh and must be eaten within 2 weeks. In addition, the booklet describes the origins of the chocolate used to enrobe the fillings (i.e. Ivory Coast or Venezuela), which is a rarity with most other filled chocolate makers.

Since I am not paid to write reviews of chocolate, I had planned to be very critical about zChocolat’s products. But I have to admit that their presentation and attention to detail won me over before I even began to taste the chocolate. I hadn’t purchased chocolate that was wrapped as nicely since I was last
in France. And in fact, I don’t think I had ever purchased or received chocolate that was wrapped as nicely as the zChocolat box of chocolates.

Like most other French chocolate makers, zChocolat puts as much effort into wrapping their chocolate as they do in making it and I believe that is the right thing to do. Since chocolate is a personal luxury item and a wonderful treat, it should be wrapped in a way that makes us feel as though we are treating ourselves. And zChocolat certainly had this down to an art. It made me
want to savour the chocolate, not consume it all once.

Like any varied box of filled chocolates, I did not like all of the chocolate flavours. But I did like MOST of them. Below is a list of all of the filled chocolates, by number, and my critical review of each one. Keep in mind that I have certain likes and dislikes when it comes to chocolate. So although I am not a "floral-flavoured" chocolate person, you might be, so please read my review with some critical awareness. As an overview, my favourites were: #17, #19, #20, #18, #2, #3, #5, #6 and definitely #0, #8 , #9 and #12.

And if you try nothing else from zChocolate, you must certainly try their "Z" signature chocolate. It was my overall FAVOURITE. So I begin my review with the "Z" first:

Z – One of the best filled chocolates that I have EVER tasted! It came in two flavours: white and dark. Truly, this is an unbelievable treat; unlike any other filled chocolate that I have tasted. It has a creamy layer of "runny" caramel, heavily roasted almonds, a wonderful crunch with tiny crunchy pieces in a smooth praline. So awesome. The combination in your mouth is unbelievable and the after-taste is one that you don’t want to mess with. Really it should be the finishing chocolate to linger long on your palate. I preferred the dark version, but my husband really liked the white "Z" chocolate.

0 – A praline enrobed in a 40% Ivory Coast Milk Chocolate. Slow roasted hazelnuts is the way to go. This chocolate was divine and the California almonds really add a wonderful flavour.

1 – A Madagascar Bourbon vanilla ganache (with lavender essence) enrobed in Venezuelan dark chocolate. I don’t like lavender in chocolate. Unfortunately, when I was growing up, many soaps contained lavender, so the smell makes me think of my grandmother’s bathroom. Maybe for some people it is a wonderful flavour combination, but for me, it just doesn’t work. The ganache was smooth and creamy and rich and dark though....just the way that I like ganache.

2 - An Italian Gianduja praline made with Venezuelan dark chocolate and enrobed in 40% Ivory Coast milk chocolate. My husband tried this one. He loved the creamy layer in the bottom and crunchy layer on top.

3 - Caramel centre with passion fruit, coconut and mango puree in a Venezuelan 70% chocolate. The centre was like a creamy caramel, but flavoured like real mango and coconut. This one surprised me. I loved it!

4 - A Valencia almond and peanut praline surrounded in 40% Ivory Coast milk chocolate. This was the closest to a peanut butter-flavoured chocolate that the French may come. It was wonderfully peanuty, with a hint of roasted almonds and all perfectly paired with milk chocolate. A rich, peanut-chocolate experience that any North American would love.

5 - A dark chocolate ganache made from the Carenero Superior bean from Caracas and enrobed in a Venezuelan 70% dark chocolate. This was dark and rich tasting – just the way I like ganache.





6 - A praline made from slow-roasted Valencia almonds and covered in a 40% milk chocolate. Yum! A slow-roasted nut flavour full of smokiness. This company excels at pralines.

7 - Pistachios and almonds surrounded in milk chocolate. My husband said "Yuk!" and for me, I was not a fan of the heavy almond extract flavour that seemed to be in this chocolate.

8 - Finely ground caramelized hazelnuts and coffee ganache. ONE OF THE BEST! That deep smoky roasted almond flavour went very well with the strong coffee flavour, leaving me satisfied and yet wanting more. It suddenly made me want to slow roast some almonds, grind them up and mix them in with my coffee grounds.

9 - A slow-roasted Valencia almond praline with a milk chocolate base. SOOOO GOOD! There was a smoky, almost burnt flavour in the roast of the beans, which made the entire chocolate. My husband said it would be good with a cigar.

10 - Solid Venezuelan 70% dark chocolate with minced pieces of almonds from the Valencia region of Spain. Good. Not my favourite, but might be to someone who liked pieces of almonds in their chocolate.

11 - A bite-sized version of molten chocolate base with raspberry coulis. Exactly like the description. No seeds! Very, very yummy.

12 - Toasted sesame seeds in a Valencia almond praline and enrobed in 40% Ivory Coast milk chocolate.  I really liked it. Almost came off as peanut butter flavour with the sesame seeds and almonds mixed. Now, I might just have to take some tahini and mix it with almond butter and see the result.

13 - Raspberry ganache with a hint of violet enrobed in Venezuelan 70% dark chocolate. Raspberry ganache: yummy. Violet flavour: not so yummy. Again, I am just not a floral-chocolate-flavour fan.

14 - Finely ground caramelized pistachios mixed with hazelnut, milk chocolate and pure cocoa butter, enrobed in milk chocolate. I liked it. Not as much as other pralines but liked it. Nice little crunchy bits.

15 - Peppers in chocolate is my thing, but floral flavour and pepper combined in one chocolate was not my thing.

16 - Solid 40% Ivory Coast milk chocolate with minced pieces of Valencia almonds. Very good! The almonds paired well with the milk chocolate.

17 - A praline of hazelnuts and milk chocolate combined with Sri Lankan coconut and enrobed in 70% Venezuelan dark chocolate. LOVED IT! Hazelnuts, coconut and milk chocolate....what a great combination.

18 - Kenyan and Mexican coffee grounds blended with dark chocolate, cream and cocoa butter in a ganache that is enrobed in 70% dark chocolate. Really tasty. A good cup of coffee and good chocolate, well paired.

19 - A walnut praline wrapped in phyllo dough in milk chocolate. I loved it! A fine crunch and taste of heavily toasted nuts. The walnut flavour was so subtle that is did not affect the flavour. Its tastiness surprised me.

20 - A milk chocolate-orange ganache enrobed in more milk chocolate. The orange surprised me. It was light, like orange tangerine with the same effect that a light peppermint oil can have in your mouth. Tasted like spring.

21 - A gingerbread-spiced ganache with gingerbread spices, star anise, cinnamon and licorice. They said it would taste like a (European) holiday gingerbread cookie dipped in chocolate. It brought me back to the Christmas market in Rennes, France, where I spent a year. I fell in love with German Gingerbread dipped in chocolate at that market. Along with
vin chaud and a few other tasty treats....

22 - Supposed to be a blend of coriander seeds with citrus overtones and hazelnut praline. So I am not sure why it came off with floral overtones - like soap - again.

23 - A violet-flavoured dark ganache. Again...the floral flavour is not my thing. But the ganache was well-made.

24 - A milk chocolate ganache with the flavors of pastries and honey, enrobed in a 40% Ivory Coast milk chocolate. It was heavy on the honey, but had an airy and light taste and texture. Very smooth and creamy ganache with no air bubbles. Very good! Also tasted like Spring time.

Overall, I loved zChocolat’s flavour range and very lovely wrapping. Their attention to detail is superb. I highly recommend customizing a box of zChocolat for the discerning chocolate lover in your life. Go to www.zchocolat.com more information.

2 comments:

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  2. Based on my personal experience, zchocolat.com is a horrible service/website to use. First of all, they do not deliver on time and as promised. They changed my order shipping/delivery date several time and it was delivered several days later than initial plan. Surprisingly, a few days after the late delivery, I received another bill from them for some additional local custom delivery and monitoring fees. The original gift chocolate price was roughly $50 and they had initially charged me $37 for its delivery. The second bill asked for another $40 for monitoring of the same purchase. In other words, I was charged $77 for delivery of a $50 box of chocolate. They have poor customer service and refuse to acknowledge my purchase invoice. Definitely, the chocolates are not that good to worth all these extorted additional delivery/shipping/handling charges. I will never do business with them again and recommend all of you to stay away from them.

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