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Top Pick Of The Week

December 18, 2007

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Richart Chocolate

Each piece of Richart chocolate is beautifully designed: a treat for the eye as well as the taste buds.

WHAT IT IS: Bonbons from one of the world’s greatest chocolatiers.
WHY IT’S DIFFERENT: The bonbon fillings focus on seven flavor families: balsamic, citrus, floral, fruity, herbal, roasted and spiced. Each family offers a variety of special tastes (caramel coulis, anise and fennel ganache, chestnut creme...).
WHY WE LOVE IT: A breadth and depth of flavor exploration unequaled anywhere else—top quality, of course.
WHERE TO BUY IT: Richart-Chocolates.com
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Richart Design Et Chocolat:
Art & Chocolate Meet And Thrill

CAPSULE REPORT: Most of the great French and Belgian artisan chocolate never reaches America. The output of these chocolatiers is not large, and they can sell it all at home. But three great chocolatiers have crossed the pond, setting up shop in New York: La Maison du Chocolat, Pierre Marcolini and Richart (the latter also in San Francisco). Their chocolates are as different as morning, noon and night. Robert Linxe of La Maison du Chocolat is a pure French classicist, basing his oeuvre on a proprietary Valrhona blend. Pierre Marcolini makes his own couverture into brilliant bars, and blends modern concepts and elements of pastry into his exciting bonbons.

Richart pushes the boundaries of flavor beyond what anyone might have imagined, making bonbons in seven different flavor families, in large and petit sizes—more than 130 choices, plus a special collection each year that focuses on a specific flavor concept. Last year’s Mediterranean flavors were awesome, and this year’s Festive Garden Collection, which we haven’t tried yet, sounds like a cutting-edge chocolate dream. Each piece Richart makes has its own unique abstract design. It takes a perspective honed of tasting many of the world’s great chocolates to appreciate Richart’s dazzling achievement of design et chocolat. But one has to start somewhere—and as soon as possible! Read the full review below.

     
THE NIBBLE does not sell the foods we review
or receive fees from manufacturers for recommending them.

Our recommendations are based purely on our opinion, after tasting thousands of products each year, that they represent the best in their respective categories.

 

More Great Chocolate

Discover Chocolate - Clay Gordon The New Taste Of Chocolate - Maricel Presilla Chocolates & Confections - Peter Grewelling
Discover Chocolate: The Ultimate Guide to Buying, Tasting, and Enjoying Fine Chocolate,
by Clay Gordon. A chocophile shares his enthusiasm for learning about the world of fine chocolate. Click here for more information or to purchase.
The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes, by Maricel Presilla. A seminal book for learning about chocolate, from one of the most respected industry experts. Click here for more information or to purchase. Chocolates and Confections: Formula, Theory, and Technique for the Artisan Confectioner, by Peter P. Greweling. This is the book used at Culinary Institute of America. Maybe you’ll be the next Lillie Belle Farms. Click here for more information or to purchase.

Richart Design et Chocolat: Art & Chocolate Meet And Thrill

INDEX OF REVIEW

MORE TO DISCOVER

Overview

Walking through the doors of the Richart chocolate boutique in New York City, a jewelry store sense of elegance wafts through the air. It is a serene environment, where the only thing to focus on is the precious contents on display. Glass cases present colorful chocolate gems in a multitude of designs and colors.

But this is not jewelry: It is chocolate from Richart. Richart is a family business that was founded in Richart Chocolate Minis1925 in Lyon, France by master chocolatier Joseph Richart. The company entered a new era in 1987, when second-generation chocolatier Michel Richart moved beyond the classic approach to designing fine chocolates. Inspired by contemporary art and design, Michel has been a pioneer in creating chocolates with a dazzling array of patterns and colors. The distinctive designs he places on the surface of each bonbon—using a technique known as cocoa butter transfer—are as captivating as the flavors within. This concept of Design et Chocolat (Design and Chocolate) is what elevates Richart chocolates above mere flavor enchantment.
Photo: Richart Petits are small bites for people who only want a bit of chocolate...or for those who want bites of several different flavors.

In order to achieve exquisite flavor, only the finest ingredients are used. Black currants, apricots, pistachios, hazelnuts, spices, et al are obtained directly from their sources in order to achieve the most authentic flavors. Richart prefers Venezuela’s renowned Carenero Superior cacao as the base chocolate for his filled pieces. Predominantly of Criollo pedigree*, Carenero Superior lends an intense, yet delicate and complex, flavor to the chocolates. Richart uses as little sugar as possible to enable each piece of the 80-plus different standard-size filled chocolates, and his solid napolitains, to achieve its full flavor potential. There are also 49 miniature versions—Petits Richarts—in 112 flavors. Each year brings a new special collection of cutting-edge flavors. This year, it’s the Festive Garden Collection, an innovative collection of flavors such as Black Truffle In Criollo Ganache On A Bed Of Potato Coulis, Caramelized Celery Root Coulis, Kalamanzi In Soy Milk Ganache On A bed Of Carrot Coulis, Pear Coulis On A Bed Of Cassis De Dijon Ganache, Pumpkin Coulis In A Chamomile Flower Ganache, Roasted Corn Praline On A Bed Of Creamed Chestnut Coulis and Tomato On A Bed Of Basil Ganache.

*The Criollo is the finest of the three basic types of cacao bean; the others are Forastero and Trinitario, a Criollo-Forastero hybrid. Read more in our Chocolate Glossary.

All In The [Flavor] Family

When you purchase a box of chocolates from Richart, your first decision is not how many pieces, but what flavor family. Richart makes seven flavor-themed collections, called “families,” that are distinguished by the ingredients that flavor the chocolate (ganache) centers. These fillings include coulis (fruit purée), ganache, praline, creams and caramels. There are 80-plus flavors in the standard collection, and each year brings a special collection.

  • Balsamic (the word means restorative) showcases cacao in its purist glory through single Richart Chocolates - Balsamicorigin ganaches sourced from locations such as Venezuela and Haiti.
  • Roasted is home to almond and hazelnut pralines, coffee ganaches and caramel coulis.
  • Feel summer’s warmth with Fruity and its flavors of passion fruit, mango, chestnut and apricot creams.
  • Crisp citrus flavors can be enjoyed in Citrus’ presentation of grapefruit ganache, kumquat coulis and orange zest coulis.
  • Take a walk in the garden and taste Herbal’s warmth of thyme praline, jasmine tea ganache and anise and fennel ganache.
  • Immerse yourself in Floral’s ganache bouquets of ylang ylang, rose and lavender.
  • Travel the Spice Road through Spiced and its exotic yet comforting curry praline, cinnamon ganache and ginger ganache.

Many more flavors exist within each family, of course. By consuming chocolates along these lines, one can concentrate on the essence and purity of the ingredients in each family and the harmonious relationship of each chocolate in the box to the others.

Understanding The Flavor Families

You can purchase each “family” as a drawer of chocolates (Richart’s nifty ballotin packaging concept that allows different drawers to be stacked and inserted into a case) along a theme. For example, if you like citrus flavors—grapefruit, lemon, lime, orange and yuzu—the family concept assures you of a selection customized to your tastes instead of nuts and fruits.

Balsamics Roasted Fruity Citrus
Balsamic Roasted Fruity Citrus
Herbal Floral Spiced  
Herbal Floral Spiced  

Whichever family you choose, flavors are crisp, clear and easily distinguishable. They tend to jump out and demand attention, rather than forcing one to concentrate on (or outright guess) the flavor. The single origin ganaches in the Balsamic family are highly characterized by the cacao of their respective origins. Coulis pieces are lively and vibrant on the palate. The Mango-Passionfruit Coulis might make one pucker in ecstasy, while the Coconut Coulis conjures up comparisons of an ultra-gourmet Mounds bar. Caramels are buttery and divine and pralines convey the purest flavor of the nuts that comprise them.

Single Origin Cacaos

Of particular interest to the student of chocolate is the Ultra-Fine Ballotin, a selection of 72 assorted napolitains sourced from the world’s top cacao-growing regions. These thin tasting squares of solid, single origin chocolate come in a variety of cacao contents that let you taste both the bean origin and the intensity of the cacao. After a taste of a 46% milk, the selection jumps to 70% Haiti, 71% Grenada, 70% Sur del Lago (Venezuela), 73% Côte d’Ivoire, 75% Carenero Superior (Venezuela), 75% Madagascar, 82% Carenero Superior (Venezuela), 82% Dominican Republic, 82% Ecuador, 82% Madagascar and 82% Sur del Lago. With this collection, Richart allows chocolate lovers to explore the different profusion of flavors among the world’s great cacaos. For example, Madagascar is light on the palate, with mild and sweet citrus tones. Haiti is also light but with an intoxicating natural sweet rum charm befitting its Caribbean locale.

Richart Single Origin Cacao
Ultra-Fine Ballotin, a selection of single-origin cacao.

Special Chocolate Gifts

Even in the world of fine chocolate, Richart’s chocolates make special gifts.

  • Say Je t’aime (I love you) with a collection of heart-shaped bonbons bearing the phrase atop each piece.
  • The Ballotin Messager (Messenger Ballotin, shown at right) sends your greeting on a chocolate card (Thank You, Happy Anniversary, etc.), along with the ballotin of your choice (flavor family, Petits, etc.).

In addition to chocolate with a written message, Richart offers a unique item that needs no personalization:

  • The Burlwood Chocolat Petits Vault is a mammoth 112-piece collection that features all seven flavor families housed within a burlwood humidor, the perfect environment for storing chocolates.
Richart chocolat
A chocolate gift card atop a box of chocolates? What could be better!

It may be the best gift in all chocolatedom! (But an alternative storage place is your wine storage unit.)

Where To Begin

Richart’s flavor families come in two sizes: the traditional-sized bonbon and what Richart calls the Petit. The Petit appeals to those who wish to explore a wide array of flavors, and to chocolate-lovers who have the restraint to satisfy their cravings in smaller portions.

Unless you treat yourself to the Burlwood Chocolat Petits Vault, you need to decide where to start. We could suggest the Herbal collection, because as we have discovered, herbs and chocolate are a wonderful combination. The Thyme Praline is stupendous: Fresh thyme explodes on the palate with a lightly sweetened nutty tone underscoring the length. Jasmine Ganache joins the calmness of jasmine tea with the high level of flavor intensity that Richart prefers—an eye-opening yin-yang.

The chocolates are packaged immaculately in white drawer-like ballotins and tied with a satiny lavender ribbon. This sleek and elegantly minimalist presentation gives the impression of a painting of chocolates captured on a white canvas. Ballotins can be stacked to form a multi-tiered “box” that allows one to simply slide out the desired drawer, select a chocolate, and slide the drawer back. This clever design avoids the challenge of digging through layers of a traditional box to find what appeals to you.

Whatever you select first, like diamonds in the chocolate rough, Richart’s chocolates are gems awaiting your discovery.

The company also makes chocolate truffles, single malt whiskey truffles, mendiants, pâtes de fruits and other confections, but, thank goodness, there’s something to look forward to tomorrow!

—Peter Rot

FORWARD THIS NIBBLE to lovers of fine chocolate, and to those who need to give gifts to them.

RICHART DESIGN et CHOCOLAT
Artisan Chocolates

  • Luxe Collection (a.k.a. True
    Connoisseur Collection)

    All 7 Families, 112 Pieces
    $164.50
    With Burlwood Vault
    $825.00
  • Petits Richart Discovery
    Ballotin
    3 Drawers, 57 Pieces
    Including Regular, Petits And The
    Ultra-Fine Tasting
    $123.00
  • Special Occasions Ballotin With
    Chocolate greeting Card

    1 or 2 Drawers
    $59.50 to $133.50

Numerous other assortments are available, including children’s selections.

Purchase online at Richart-Chocolates.com

Prices and product availability are verified at publication but are subject to change. Shipping is additional. THE NIBBLE does not sell products; these items are offered by a third party with whom we have no financial or other relationship. This link to purchase is provided as a reader convenience.

Richart has chocolate boutiques worldwide: in Barcelona, Boston, Lyon, Milan, New York, Osaka, Paris, Rabat, San Francisco, San Juan, Seoul, Strasbourg and Tokyo.

 

Ballotin

A wrapped group of ballotins and their “jewels.”
connoisseur collection
The true Connoisseur Collection gives you all of the favor families.

 



Check Out These Other Top Pick Of The Week” Chocolates:

 

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