Posted by: thehungryrunner | January 11, 2008

Another Review of UNBELIEVABLE Chocolate: John and Kira’s Chocolates, Part 2

So I reviewed their chocolate-covered figs in part one.  Now comes my best attempt at reviewing John and Kira’s signature artisan chocolates:  tiny chocolate squares, filled with a smooth and creamy filling made of often surprising flavors (would you even dream that herbs such as bergamot could mingle so harmoniously with dark chocolate?  neither did I…until now).

First, I should underscore the fact that these are definitely not the kind of chocolates you pop into your mouth, one after another.  And as much I’d like to claim to not “know” popping….lets just say there’s a reason Fannie May’s Eggnog Cream candies have not graced our house since Christmas 1994.  For a chocolate to move me to the slow-down-and-savor mode of tasting — effortlessly, without having to try — is really saying something.

Secondly, I’m not necessarily the biggest fan of dark chocolate.  Not normally, anyway.  But I can honestly say I broke out of my usual box with this one, and I’m so glad I did.

Thirdly, I’m actually not one to enjoy reading chocolate reviews and even further grimace at TV interviews/visits to chocolatiers.  Namely, because they ALL SAY THE SAME THING.  “Why are your chocolates special?” “Well, Bob (all interviewers’ names are Bob), here at Super Sumptuous Chocolate, Inc., we only use fresh ingredients.”  Forgive my snarky tone, but…..well no SH*T Shirlock, what’s the alternative?  Rancid cacao beans?  Spoiled cream?  They make it sound like they’re the only ones who’ve cracked the code of avoiding stale ingredients.  Please tell me how your product is DIFFERENT from the others, otherwise why should I bother?  And as for reviews….well, there too is a cliche minefield.  I realize there are only so many adjectives that one can use (guilty as charged, I’ve already turned to two of them — “creamy” and “smooth”) without making the review sound more like either a medical analysis or a tooth-ringing Poetry 101 assignment (AFTER having discovered the thesaurus).  But if you’re going to use words like “yummy,” “sweet,” “rich,” “velvety,” or my personal favorite “chocolatey” (um…..thank you for the sleuthwork?), you’d better then include additional descriptors, lest I inadvertantly think you were talking about a “yummy” cheese, a “sweet” tomato, my “rich” uncle (actually I don’t have one….drat), or a “velvety” (that’s “velvety,” not “Velveeta”!) squash soup.  I guess I can excuse “chocolatey”….IF it’s to clarify the relative presence of chocolate flavor — i.e. subtle versus in-your-face.  But as a stand-alone description?  You couldn’t come up with something else???

ANYWAY, that whole tangent was to say, I hope to bring something else to the table, so that you can actually GET something out of this review, be it the enjoyment of the virtual experience or inspiration to go and seek this chocolate for yourself!

Since I described the packaging in Part 1, I’ll leave that go and just get to the good stuff.

The squares.  Admittedly, I had already scanned the lovely assortment of curlycues, circles and lines adorning the top of each square, picked up one that struck some appeal to me, and nibbled pensively (no chew-and-gulping here) before realizing that these designs are identifiers, each associated with a different flavor.  To be honest, had this been any other chocolate I probably wouldn’t have cared, as I often enjoy picking up two or three such pieces to have after my dinner, letting the randomness “surprise” me.  But upon pulling out the little booklet that was tucked into the box, I soon realized that this went WAY beyond simply a delicious chocolate that made me go “hmmm”.  Listed among the flavors were some that rang familiar — one that was mint-based, one that had raspberry, and one of my favorites (in chocolate and otherwise), pistachio.  But it was the rest of the list, flavors I never would have *conceived* of with chocolate, that got my attention.  Lavender Honey?  Ginger?  Star Anise?  Coffee Whiskey?  Earl Grey Tea with Orange Flower Water?  Are you serious?  Granted, I’ve recently become a fan of unusual uses for chocolate (COOKING!), such as using cocoa powder in, say, chili.  But LEMONGRASS?  Clearly this was uncharted territory, and I loved the curiosity it was piquing in me!  And it works harmoniously.  In fact I think this may just be the magic ticket to uncovering the full divinity of chocolate.  The coating was thin, bringing its own satisfying intensity while allowing the filling to remain the front-and-center focus, and it seemed to bitterness of the chocolate seemed to help bring out the full flavor of the herb or fruit therein — and vice versa.  My tongue embraced the mix readily, perceiving no competing or clashing tastes, instead just relishing in the delight that comes from tasting something completely different from anything you’ve experienced before, but that is so instantly enjoyable.

But what I especially enjoyed, besides the opportunity to experience these ingredients themselves (lemongrass tends to be one of those herbs I read about, select recipes for….yet seem to stop short at actually following through with taking it any futher than that), is the fact that chocolates such as these continue to return me to an enjoyment of simple, whole foods, while reiterating that even in the realm of simple, whole foods you have such an infinite abundance of flavor adventures awaiting you.  With all of the easy-to-grab, seductively decadent junk foods available these days (by “junk” I’m referring to anything processed extensively), I’m finding the path to increasingly improve my nutrition and minimizing the occurrence of these foods in my own diet, lies heavily not just in saying “no” to what I know is neither good for my body nor genuinely satisfying to my palette, but in finding replacements that are so wonderful, so enticing, that letting go of the junk becomes practically automatic (“Three Musketeers?  What Three Musketeers?”).  To experience chocolates made so equisitely, not just the expert choice of ingredients and the skilled amalgomation of them, but also the humanity and emotion entwined within, allows me to feel connected to the people behind the treats, which transcends so much more than “just” my culinary experience of the moment.  Similar to wine, it forces me to slow down, to contemplate all the factors that went into the priviledge of my being able to share in this sip (or bite).  It reinforces the notion that eating is a soulful as well as physical experience, and as such deserves both the producer/cook/creator and the recipient/eater/drinker to approach the experience as mindfully and deliberately as possible.

But enough of that.  Because on the other hand, of course there’s a time and a place to just throw together a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or heat up a bowl of soup and have that be it, nothing more (okay, maybe a “mmm-mmm” moment or two).  But I’m grateful for these opportunities to experience something special, something that helps me further enjoy and contemplate the whole eating process, and hey, is just darn GOOD!

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Responses

  1. Well, that was really fun reading. Amazing to see that we both believe in the same concepts re how good, natural food should be. Thanks for taking the time to jot down your experience. Makes all of the hard work and attention to detail worth it.

  2. I’m drooling! I’m also a John & Kira’s chocolate lover. I met John once in Philly when I lived there back in 2003 and I’ve loved them ever since. Now I’m in Cleveland, I have to order them online but tell everyone I know about them. The mint did it for me (it actually tastes like real mnt) but the rest are a close second.

    I’ve even started a group on Facebook called “John & Kira’s are the only chocolates for me”. Let’s get the revolution rolling!

    Laura


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