A-C came into the office the other day with a face of deep disappointment. My spirits rose. Trust me, I know this sounds insane, but this particular expression is oftentimes accompanied by words along the lines of “I’m really sorry darling but…” and then what follows is something I’m going to really like!
This was no exception because her words were “it’s that time of year when Hotel Chocolat are enquiring whether you’d like to review one of their subscription boxes – well, someone has to…”
Simultaneously, A-C produced The Contenders Classic Box from behind her back!
We have now all got used to Hotel Chocolat’s genius marketing stroke of including a contents sheet with a space for tasting notes on it, and this box is no exception. What is different here is that the name alone of the box tells me that it contains a selection of HC patrons’ favourites, and yet the company is still wanting to know which are the best of the best from their customers.
The Contenders Classic Box contains no less than 15 different flavoured chocolates (2/3 of each) although (initially) rather confusingly, they are only numbered 1-14. This is because 8, at the centre of the box, comprises a square of 3 fingers of milk chocolates sitting on top of 3 fingers of dark chocolate. The milk chocolate fingers are butterscotch, that gorgeous marriage of brown sugar and butter which we are reliably informed was first recorded in print in Doncaster in 1917. I was a great fan of butterscotch as a kid (it was my paternal grandmother’s and my guilty secret), so this brought a welcome flood of nostalgia. The dark chocolates fingers are always a heart-warming hit of gloriously rich 70% cocoa, but this time with the delightful crunch of wafer running through them. This is where MY tasting notes wax lyrical because I can’t think of any small box of delights that I would love more than a box containing the dual delights of Number 8!
And what of the other chocolates around this scrumptious centrepiece? 1 is the Create A Chocolate Competition winner, Banoffee Pie. If you are a banana aficionado, this chocolate is a fabulous marriage of banana mousse, flakes and Cumbrian toffee sauce with a delightful crunch from the shortbread nuggets sprinkled over the top.
2 is a delicious blend of pressed raspberry, vanilla, cream and white chocolate, topped with dried raspberry, that makes the raspberry panna cotta. 3 is the moreish sandwich of praline and caramel that is known as Caramel Chocolate Pot and 4, simply called Mango, is a wonderful taste of a favourite fruit from my homeland, Jamaica, but these little pieces of Paradise use fruit grown in Saint Lucia.
5, the Supermilk Caesar, sporting a Piedmont hazelnut topknot, needs no introduction since it scored top marks in taste tests. I am a sucker for a good truffle (I made some rum ones as Christmas presents one year), and 6 is HC’s Academy of Chocolate Award winner. 7 is a tasty mix of macadamia praline, caramel, coconut and chocolate, an intriguing mix that works.
Finally, the last six chocolates are a splendid collection of fruity, boozy and comforting. Comfort comes in the shape of our National drink, tea, and 9, Chai Latte, incorporating subtle yet spicy chai from Mumbai and 12, Pecan Praline, a truly winning combo of caramel and roasted pecan. Ask which is the most classic of pairings and it would be the delicious mix of the dark chocolate and citrus of Bitter Orange (14). The other fruity offeriing is that other classic pairing of peaches and cream, this time with the addition of gentle spice to make (11, Peaches And Jasmine. Lastly, (10) Adnams Vodka which is a heady mix of dark, dark chocolate and very clean, pure vodka by a brewery more famous for its beer gives a kick better than a donkey and (13) is a take on my cocktail of choice, the daiquiri, except this scrumptious chocolate throws a cherry and hazelnut into the mix.
Hotel Chocolat addicts have dine the company a great service by rating these chocolates the best of the best and HC returned the favour of putting 2/3 of each of them In a box for our delectation. Bravo!
To find out more about Hotel Chocolat subscription boxes click HERE