Even the most creative people sometimes find it difficult to find the right gifts for the holidays. But very few people would decline artisan chocolates.
A variety of locally-produced truffles were taste-tested by Lynne Rossetto Kasper of The Splendid Table and Tom Crann of All Things Considered.
An edited transcript of that discussion is below.
Tom Crann: What should you look for in a fancy chocolate here? What sets it apart from the box you can get at the drugstore?
Lynne Rossetto Kasper: First of all, you want to have superb chocolate. And it should have a silky melt. It should taste wonderful, aside from the filling. If it's been done properly, it's got a thin shell. And when it melts on the tongue it's not gritty, it just melts to this silky, creamy quality.
The other thing is that the flavors should be distinctive and not just overwhelmed by sugar. A truffle is generally filled with something called a ganache. A ganache is essentially a combination of cream and butter, often, and chocolate or another flavor.
I brought you a bunch of local truffles because we're seeing a renaissance of chocolate making all over the country. This is just a sampling of what's available in town from a group of artisanal chocolate makers.
Crann: This first one, very pretty, it's got a silver leaf on it.
Rossetto Kasper: This is actually real silver. And this is from Madam Miel, and the story behind it is interesting. A beekeeper and honey maker, Susan Brown, keeps bees on the roof of the W Hotel, downtown Minneapolis. And she makes these chocolates filled with her own honey.
And this is really unusual, it's a smoked honey truffle. Let's take a taste. You wait a few seconds and that smoky quality comes through.
Crann: And you get the honey right away too, and real honey flavor.
Rossetto Kasper: And I like that it's dainty, it's little. That's great.
Crann: Melts in your mouth, that's lovely.
Crann: This next one has glitter on it.
Rossetto Kasper: This is from Chocolat Celeste, it's in St. Paul. And this is going to be the pear-cognac truffle. [It's got a ] really nice thin shell.
Crann:And pear, I taste fresh pear right away, very nice combination.
Rossetto Kasper: Could be a little less sweet for me, but it's really nice.
Crann: And it's creamy, it's not a liquor-filled chocolate like I thought it might be. It's just very nice and creamy.
Rossetto Kasper: Can you imagine that with a cup of really dark coffee? It would be wonderful.
Rossetto Kasper: This is St. Croix Chocolates. They do layers of taste in their chocolates. And this one is an apricot-almond, and it's a white chocolate, sprinkled with pink glitter.
Crann: It's also very pretty, marble almost. That's creamy and fruity at the same time.
Rossetto Kasper: Apricot and butter? That's really a stunning chocolate. That's pretty swell.
Crann: And very rich.
Crann: This is the largest of the group. It's got a little bottom that almost looks like a peanut butter cup, the way it has the edges on it. But it has the letter 'P,' it's monogrammed, and there's a story behind this. Who's behind the P?
Rossetto Kasper: This is called the Tenor's Temptation. They created this chocolate for Luciano Pavarotti when he performed in St. Paul. And he actually remarked about it on stage, he loved it so much.
Crann: It's light and frothy.
Rossetto Kasper: It's whipped ganache on the inside. And it's really lovely because it has a rather thick shell of milk chocolate, which is a good contrast.
Rossetto Kasper: This one is a balsamic zinfandel, so let's see what we think of this.
Crann: The shell is perfect. It's crunchy, it bites right in.
Rossetto Kasper: Then it melts beautifully. I don't know if I get a distinctive taste of zinfandel, but what I do get is the tartness of the vinegar. It's a dark chocolate and it's not overly sweet.
Crann: And this one sort of keeps going. You don't get the flavor right away, you have to study this one.
Rossetto Kasper: There is a thing about chocolates. You really should let them ease onto your palette. You do not rush through eating chocolates at the end of the meal. Perfect gifts, any one of these would be a delight.
Interview transcribed and edited by MPR reporter Jon Collins.