Dear Boathouse By The Lake,
Do you remember me? What’s that you say – you’re not quite sure? Allow me to jog your memory.
Picture this: A young lady in a new dress brought all the way back from The City of Lights, sitting at one of your big round tables, celebrating the 90th birthday of the dapper white-haired gentleman seated across from her. (Get your mind out of the gutter, Boathouse. He’s her grandfather, not Hugh Hefner.) She’s the one who correctly identified a giraffe’s ankle as being what most people think of as its knee (her Tasmanian uncle and cousin had just visited Canberra’s zoo*, and were testing her knowledge).
The man on her left ordered this:
Are you starting to remember? You are? And you have a sinking feeling in the pit of your restaurant stomach? That feeling could have something to do with this Valrhona chocolate soufflé, which you served the unsuspecting lass at the end of the night. Did you really think you’d get away with taking Valrhona’s name in vain when plating a dessert for someone who consistently spends hundreds of dollars on fancy-pants chocolate when she travels?
Not the smartest move, Boathouse. Throwing all third-person narration out the window, I may not be able to tell Balenciaga from Prada or Jimmy Choo from Manolo Blahnik, but I do know my Valrhona. Your soufflé failed to live up to its glorious richness.
Valrhona Caraïbe Noisette
As well as producing straight-up bars of its various Grand Cru chocolates (such as the Abinao bar), Valrhona also sells these high quality blends mixed with various additions.
Camille, you might be pleased to know that I finally tracked down your favourite Caraïbe during my last days in New York, albeit with hazelnuts added.
As soon as I broke off a corner of this chocolate and placed it in my mouth, a heady, deep, slightly-tangy yet ever-luxurious richness took over my senses. If there’s one thing that always strikes me about Valrhona, it’s the utter chocolatiness of its chocolate. This makes Valrhona a somewhat tricky beast to describe, for in many ways it simply encapsulates everything you imagine chocolate to be.
Once the initial rush of flavour ended, I was able to distinguish the unique qualities of the 66% Caraïbe blend. It has a little bit of cedar and smoke, but the main flavour notes distinguishing the Caraïbe from the Abinao and Guanaja are red plum, natural yogurt, citrusy honey and even, perhaps, a little bit of orange. The hazelnuts were of less interest to me than the chocolate itself, but I will say that they were fresh and well-roasted, and contributed a pleasant savoury edge to the otherwise sweet (albeit not cloyingly so) chocolate.
So, Boathouse? This is what your chocolate soufflé ought to have tasted like, seeing as you tagged it with the Valrhona label and all.
And, erm, if you do remember me the next time I cross your threshold, please know that I write this only in the hopes of helping you achieve dessert greatness in the future.
(In other words, please don’t spit in my food.)
* Her favourite animal to visit at the zoo is the red panda. She’d like to smuggle one home under her jacket, but sadly Smurf Kitchen isn’t pet-friendly. Yep, that’s the only reason she’s resisting Grand Theft Mammal at the moment.