Earlier in the month, I was contacted by a website I’d never heard of before, the Handpicked Foodstore, to ask if I would like to try any of their products for a review.
When the first words I saw on the site were ‘smoked salmon’ my heart sank a little – a shop full of fish is kind of my worst nightmare – but I was relieved to see that there were also pages for artisan cheeses, condiments and spices, and best of all luxury chocolates.
I left it in the hands of their marketing team to decide which products to send me, as I was really spoiled for choice with chocolate from Rococo, Montezuma’s and L’Artiscan du Chocolat, all handpicked as the website name suggests by a panel of foodie experts looking for the finest British produce.
I was delighted when a box arrived containing a little round tub of L’Artisan du Chocolat No.1 Sea Salted Caramels and a selection of their ‘fusion’ range of chocolate bars, and immediately set about formally taste testing with the pony and our next door neighbour Jo.
Whether or not the caramels really are the original salted caramel I don’t know, but I do know that they are pretty special – the chocolate is dark and crisp and the dusting of cocoa slightly bitter; the caramel a complete texture and taste contrast with both the caramel and salt coming through strongly.
All three of us enjoyed them, but I’d say they’re probably not for your average Dairy Milk chocolate eater – the pony thought the salt was bordering on too strong and Jo thought the caramel tasted almost burnt – but as an after dinner treat with a cup of coffee I thought they were perfect.
The four chocolate bars I received were sugar free milk, caffe latte, gianduja and gingerbread cookie. By far my favourite was the gingerbread cookie ,a creamy white chocolate with gingerbread cookie crumbs that not only combines two of my favourite flavours but is also a combination I haven’t come across before.
The caffe latte at first was a bit of a shock, I think as I’ve only ever tried coffee flavoured dark chocolate so in a milk chocolate it wasn’t what I was expecting, but I certainly don’t mean that in a bad way. The gianduja was like taking everything that’s good about Nutella but somehow transforming into something classy and refined, and the sugar free milk was really good too (I ate some after eating regular milk chocolate and much preferred the sugar free).
The bars all have tasting notes on the wrappers which is a nice touch, and I was especially pleased to have been sent them in addition to the caramels as it meant I could do some baking as well as just scoffing chocolate. I made a cake last night involving the caffe latte bar, and it is seriously good – stay tuned for the recipe!
Big thanks to the Handpicked Foodstore for sending me the chocolate to try – obviously they were sent to me for free, but my opinions aren’t swayed by that in the slightest!