Why is it that darkness always comes with negative connotations? The Dark Side of the Force (cue heavy breathing, a shiny black mask and “Luke…. I AM your father!!”). The Dark Continent. A bit of a dark horse. The Heart of Darkness. A dark mood. Personally, if I were Darkness, I would fire my current PR company and get a new one!
And yet despite all of this bad PR, I actually like a little darkness in my life (after all… I was a teenage Goth. Or at least I tried to be, but I struggled to give up the healthy tan and blonde highlights!!). Not for me the unbearable lightness of being – give me dark humour any day of the week. And, of course, dark chocolate. Anything else is just cheating.
When the lovely folk at Hotel Chocolat offered to send me a sample from their collection of chocolate Christmas gifts, and asked if I had any preferences, there was no hesitation from my side – dark dark dark all the way please!
Hotel Chocolat is a British-owned luxury chocolate manufacturer founded in 1993 and now has 43 stores throughout the UK. WHen they acquired the Rabot Estate in St Lucia in 2006, they also became the first UK chocolate manufacturer to own their own cocoa estate from which to manufacture their products, giving them total control over the quality of the final product. The company is also proud of their ethical track record, striving to improve the quality of life of their cocoa farmers in St Lucia and Ghana.
Now it is one of the quirks of my tastebuds that I can leave chocolate untouched in my cupboard till the sell-by date has come and gone (but leave me in charge of a packet of crisps and you had better prepare yourself for buying a replacement packet!) Not for me the mid-afternoon “chocolate” fix that my colleagues seem to crave (Messrs. Snickers, Mars and KitKat) – chocolate has to be indulgent and pretty damn special to tempt me. And I have to say that the hotel Chocolat Christmas collection ticks both those boxes. The chocolates look appropriately sensual, with their dark palette (just a smidgeon of chille here; some Christmas glitter there). Unlike some chocolate selections, the chocolate itself is outstanding - not only does it have a mirror-shiny appearance, but also the deeply satisfying snap of properly tempered chocolate and a deep, complex, almost fruity flavour.
Fillings are varied and intriguing. From the baubles in plain 70% cocoa dark chocolate, we move on to dark chocolate with chilli or orange; through traditional fillings like gianduja, dark caramels or crunchy praline; and then on to my more unusual favourites: pear frangipane, single malt smoothie, sticky toffee clementine, and their alternative Christmas pudding (boozy and addictive!). I can’t think of a single flavour that I have tried that did not appeal to and indulge all my senses.
Of course, Christmas chocolate is not all about dark & mysterious truffles – there is room for more frivolous creations too, like this rather delightful cookie & caramel crunch mini Christmas wreath; or to give yor Christmas guests a special treat, you could hand out Christmas crackers filled with chocolate. To give is better than to receive, after all
And on that topic, now it’s my turn to give something to YOU! Hotel Chocolat have kindly agreed to send a box of their Signature Dark Collection chocolates to one of my lucky readers in Europe, the USA or South Africa! All you have to do is leave a comment on this post (please leave either your e-mail address or twitter handle so I can contact you) by midnight on Monday 20 December (GMT). You can also tweet about this giveaway (be sure to use the hashtags #hotelchocolat AND @cooksisterblog in your tweet so I can find you!) by midnight on Monday 20 December (GMT) – if you comment and tweet you will have two chances of winning! I will randomly select the winner after entries close and will announce their name shortly thereafter. Good luck!