Valetine’s Day is one of the chocolate industry’s biggest events of the year, but we don’t often see a great deal of creativity going into Valentine’s products. There are countless heart shaped chocolates in red packaging, but it’s rare to see much attention paid to the flavours themselves.
This collection from Paul A Young caught my attention partly because it looks fabulous (Paul’s chocolates always do), but mainly for the thought and attention to detail that has gone into creating it. The theme of the collection is romantic city destinations, so the first thing Paul and his team is to come up with a set of destinations that both had romantic connotations and distinctive flavours that would work in a chocolate. That probably ruled Cleethorpes and Slough (two of my favourite chocolate destinations) out from the start.
The wonderful thing is that they’ve managed to come up with a set of destinations and chocolates that fulfil both criteria, and they’re really rather good. They are:
Marrakesh – Mint leaves, tea and rose petals, Varhona 72% Venezuelan chocolate.
Paris – Fontaine Absinthe, lump sugar and water, Valrhona 64% Dominican Republic chocolate.
New York – Vanilla cheesecake, Valrhona White chocolate, Madagascan Vanilla bean, digestive biscuit, Valrhona 72% Venezulean chocolate.
Lisbon – Pastel de nata (Portuguese custard tart) truffle, Madagascan vanilla bean, Valrhona white chocolate, Caramelized milk chocolate, wafer pieces.
Istanbul – Pistachio, honey and fig caramel, 67% Michel Cluizel Saint Dominique.
Copenhagen – Romkugler, chocolate cake, Appleton estate rum, 70% Valrhona.
Dublin – Guinness truffle with soda bread, 65% Duffys Dominican Republic.
Edinburgh – Glen Moray Port cask whisky, oats and salt, 83% Duffys Ecuadorian.
London – Sacred distillery Gin, Bermondsey tonic water and lime, 64% Michel Cluizel Papua New Guinea.
Venice – Mascarpone, basil and limoncello, Valrhona, 66% Caribbean.
From the descriptions alone, you can tell how much work has gone into this collection, but as is often the case with Paul A Young’s chocolates, the flavours themselves are surprising, delightful and delicious.
I love all these chocolates, both for the flavour combinations and the meanings behind the chocolates. Stand outs for me are the ‘London’ Gin & Tonic chocolate, the ‘New York’, which really does taste like a cheesecake, and ‘Venice’ with it’s creamy texture and subtle Limoncello flavour.
As if creating a unique collection of chocolates wasn’t enough, you can also buy this Pink Praline Brownie. I’m fairly certain the inspiration for this came from chocolate maker Pralus’ famous “Praluline” – a brioche loaf stuffed with sweet, pink praline pieces. The Pralus brioche is one of my favourite foods in the world, and they’ve been replicated faithfully in this brownie.
If I have a problem with it, it’s simply that there aren’t enough praline pieces and it’s difficult to see them, so they don’t have quite the visual impact the brioche has. That’s a minor issue though, and like most Paul A Young brownies, this one is delicious and the praline adds both texture and flavour to the mix.
Also in the Valentines collection is this Dessert Dome. A cute Madagascan chocolate dome with a heart on top that’s packed full of an intense raspberry reduction. It’s a substantial piece that is easily enough to be dessert on it’s own, and something that’s sure to appeal to lovers of fruit flavour chocolates.
Finally, for those who like the traditional, there are solid milk and dark chocolate hearts decorated with gold and silver leaf. They’re very pretty, but if you’re thinking of buying me a Valentine’s gift, I’d much rather have the Destinations box of chocolates… please?