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The Box of Chocolates

January 31, 2012

Is the suspense killing you? I’m sorry. The Tour de Egg Sandwich was over three days ago now, there’s been no word on a winner, and today I’m writing about chocolate. That seems needlessly cruel.

I’m sorry. You’re right. It’s bad form.

But won’t it be exciting later today when the victor of the Tour de Egg Sandwich is announced on All Over Albany? The Eat This! feature generally is posted sometime between noon and 2 p.m. Just so you know, the results were incredibly close. It was almost a three-way tie for first place.

In the meantime, hopefully I can distract you with tales of my favorite chocolate maker. After all, tomorrow is the first day of February and that means two things.
1) The day to download the membership forms for the Roxbury Farm CSA is less than 24 hours away.
2) Valentines Day is two weeks away.

So apropos of the default VD present, here is the big question. Where can you get an amazing box of chocolates?

The first time I was ever exposed to L.A. Burdick chocolates was at their café in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It’s a very special place—a chocolate café. You go into a cozy room to sit and linger over a small plate of precious chocolates.

Descriptions of the individual bonbons were printed in a fanciful script that was hard to read, so the apron-clad woman behind the counter was my guide as I selected a few pieces for the plate. She removed each handmade chocolate with loving care with what appeared to be antique silver serving pieces. In some ways it felt as much like a jewelery store as it did a chocolatier’s shop.

I could do without the ceremony of it all. Which is good because they have an online store that is completely (well, mostly) pretense-free and ships around the country. So wherever you are, you can get these amazing chocolates delivered.

Far too often chocolates are grotesquely large, with thick shells surrounding some brightly colored or cloyingly sweet or greasy interior.

L.A. Burdick is all about the chocolate. Sure, they produce interesting flavors of bonbons that you can see here. But their raspberry isn’t raspberry, it’s chocolate. And their coconut isn’t coconut, it too is chocolate. Say what?

Well, the interior of the vast majority of their chocolates is a dark chocolate ganache that is delicately infused with flavors to enhance the taste of the chocolate. It’s amazing. Yes, sometimes the flavors are so subtle that you may be left wondering if what you just ate was cardamom or ginger. But there is no doubt that whatever it was was delicious.

Perhaps my favorite part is how delicate and small they are. Each one could easily be swallowed in one large bite. But given their diminutive size, I generally nibble them tenderly, and savor every morsel.

Very few other bonbons can match the delicate and thin couverature used at L.A. Burdick either. This is also known as the firm outer layer of chocolate on a bonbon. There is a pleasing textural aspect to how it snaps and splits against the rich and silky chocolate interior. In fact, this point alone is my major complaint about most other chocolates. How I wish our local Chocolate Gecko would use a thinner couverature.

These are all handmade to boot, using real butter and cream, and all kinds of other good stuff.

There are two downsides however. One, chocolates this good are not inexpensive (and that’s not even counting the shipping fees). Two, they don’t have a long shelf life, so when they arrive, you’ve got to eat them in short order.

That last bit is actually a blessing in disguise, at least for me. I’m a bit of a hoarder. And I would gladly keep my special box of delicious chocolates near my pillow for a month, only taking small nibbles periodically. Unfortunately when you do this, one day you come to your stash to find it’s dried out, expired, moldy or otherwise unfit to eat. And then the guilt sets in.

Chocolates with a relatively short “Eat by” window are a blessing in disguise. And hopefully it will prevent you from overordering. But if you’ve never had these, now is the time to give them a try. And if you really cannot abide the shipping charge, the global headquarters is only about two and a half hours from Albany in Walpole, New Hampshire of all places.

I know. It’s a little unexpected. One doesn’t imagine that a small town in New Hampshire could be competitive with some of the best chocolatiers of Paris and New York City. But if it makes you feel any better about the company, they recently opened a retail location in Manhattan and are going head to head with the chocolate giants. For what it’s worth, I totally put these guys head and shoulders over Jacque Torres.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. January 31, 2012 10:50 am

    Good to know…I <3 M Chocolat. Those passionfruit truffles he makes are pretty awesome. So, will have to try these folks. (AFTER dreaded V-Day.)

  2. January 31, 2012 12:05 pm

    I love L. A. Burdick. My wife and I gave their little chocolate mice as wedding favors: little boxes containing two mice with a ribbon with our names and the date imprinted on them.

    Have you ever tried Michael Recchiuti chocolates from your old stomping grounds? I used to sell Burdick and Recchiuti chocolates.

  3. January 31, 2012 12:19 pm

    VD present just sounds wrong. Bad abbreviation.

    We have a master chocolatier much closer to home, Frank Vollkommer of The Chocolate Mill in Glens Falls. He’s also a Certified Master Pastry Chef.

    Local or mail order? The choice is easy for me.

  4. January 31, 2012 12:58 pm

    Love Burdick’s! I used to get their hot chocolate as an occasional treat when we were living in Cambridge. I didn’t try very many of their other offerings; sounds like I was missing out!

  5. January 31, 2012 6:28 pm

    Have you tried Nora’s Candy Shop in Rome NY?

  6. February 1, 2012 12:49 pm

    Couverture refers to a type of chocolate that contains a minimim amount of cocoa butter. While using high quality couverture can give you the best snap it has little to do with how thin the shells are. Some might say that with a higher fat content, the tempered chocolate is more fluid causing dipped chocolates to have a thinner shell and…this may be true to a very small degree. In reality the thickness of shells in molded bonbons and even hand dipped chocolate comes down to technique – the temperature of the tempered chocolate, the temperature of your molds, the temperature of the room, how long you let the chocolate crystalize before inverting your molds, etc.. it is possible that places using non-tempering chocolate have thicker coats/shells because of the nature of that ‘chocolate’ but I know very little about it so I can’t say one way or the other. But anyway.. the shell is not called couverture, the chocolate itself is couverture chocolate.

    • February 1, 2012 1:13 pm

      Fair enough. You are right and I really should have written, “Thin layer of couverture.” I do not work with chocolate myself, I only eat it. So I know just enough to be dangerous. Thank you for the clarification.

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