We spent Christmas and New Year's Eve with Hotel Chocolat.
Hotel Chocolat isn't one of those "chocolate spas" I've heard about. I keep trying to get a grant so I can afford to visit a few of them, but it hasn't happened yet.
Hotel Chocolat isn't a place. It's a British chocolate company, and this year I received some of their wares for, and to help celebrate, the late-December holidays.
First, I was given a box of their Midnight Mints. There were three different types of chocolate mints inside: crèmes, crisps, and batons.
I've always had a soft spot for chocolates with fluffy stuff in their middles, so the crèmes were a hit with me. These were the darkest and strongest chocolate mint candies I've ever had. My son took a bite of one and couldn't finish it. I think that sums up the products of Hotel Chocolat nicely: these are chocolates for grownups.
The crisps were a bit of a disappointment because they weren't. They were very nice dark chocolates flavored with mint, but according to the label they're supposed to have "peppermint crispy pieces," and they don't; at least mine didn't. Quite good, but not what was promised.
The batons were just all right. Half were white chocolate, half were dark. Nothing inside; they're just touched with a taste of mint. I'm not a fan of white chocolate, but I must say that for those who enjoy that kind of thing, this is the kind of thing they will enjoy. Hotel Chocolat white chocolate is very rich, and the white batons were creamy with just a hint of mint. The dark ones were a little harsh.
I was also given the Hotel's Chocolate Dipping Adventure. This came with three different tubs of chocolate and assorted bits to dip: dried cherries, tiny breadsticks, crostini, marshmallows, and salty, sesame-flavored waffle crackers.
My family and I spent much of New Year's Eve experimenting with this kit. It was fun, but also rather fussy. The label says, "Just heat the chocolate, grab some friends and throw yourself into pure seduction of the senses."
Okay, I could do without the seduction part. Especially when you're talking about me grabbing my friends.
But also, "just heat the chocolate" makes it sound as if one could do that quickly and easily. In reality, following the heating instructions is far from a snap.
If your microwave is an 850-watt machine, for instance, here's what you're expected to do: put the pot in a microwave-safe dish filled with a centimeter of water. Heat it for three minutes. Let it stand for 30 seconds. Heat it for two more minutes. Stir it. Let it stand for two minutes more. Stir it again. Make sure it's melted all the way through before putting it out for your friends, assuming they haven't fallen asleep or wandered off in search of food by now.
I've undergone surgeries that were less fussy than that. And that's just one pot. Doing three almost gave me a breakdown.
The chocolate is good, though. Their milk chocolate could make even a confirmed dark chocolate lover reconsider. Their dark chocolate is very stern. I would definitely class it with bittersweet rather than semisweet. Keep that in mind when deciding what to order.
Also keep in mind that Hotel Chocolat's Liquid Chocolate is anything but. Or, to be more accurate, it can be liquid or chocolate, but not both at the same time.
I received a jar of the Classic Liquid Chocolat. I assume that its texture is typical of the other flavors available; my container, at any rate, is a lovely jar of chocolate shavings. I couldn't help eating a few before mixing the suggested teaspoonfuls into a cup of milk. They were wonderful -- just sweet enough, with a terrific melt.
The label warned that this drink was "not too sweet." Having mixed and sampled it, I had to agree. It wasn't too much of anything. I doubled the amount of chocolate in the milk, and didn't notice any difference in flavor. Where was the "pure and deep authentic taste" I'd been promised? What I was drinking tasted vaguely familiar, and I realized after a moment that it was exactly like the hot milk and honey I used to sip on sleepless nights.
So don't drink the chocolate. But do get it to sprinkle on ice cream, whipped cream, lattes, hot cereal, a toasted piece of French bread, and anything else that strikes your fancy.
I just keep nibbling mine straight out of the jar.