Julie Anne Herrin
4 years Ago
The Constellation Chocolate Collection is back for a second year and the 2014 offering is absolutely jaw dropping. Last year, we invited 10 chefs to participate. This year, so as not to rest on our laurels, we have included artisan chocolates from 25 incredible culinary talents spanning the country. The flavors are amazing. From an Agastache Caramel Chocolate Truffle from Chef Teague Moriarty of Sons & Daughters, to a Raspberry Conserve & Jasmine Flower from Chef Paul Lemieux of Auberge du Soleil, each chocolate truly provides a sweet bit of insight into the culinary style of each chef.
We had a fabulous time opening every sample delivery from the chefs, all gathering around each time the UPS man rung our bell, oohing and ahhing over the gorgeous chocolates, each more beautiful than the last. What has been even more intriguing though is to hear the inspiration for each of the flavors. Chef Tyler Florence's was inspired by the smells and flavors of Northern California and has notes of smoked redwood, Marin fennel pollen, El Paseo honey, Bay laurel and Marin sea salt.
Some of the flavors had such incredible stories behind them that we couldn't not share. Chef Candace Rowan of A16 told us why they selected Torrone as the flavor for their chocolate; "With its pure and grounded simplicity, Torrone holds the essence of what draws us to our beloved Southern Italy. One of its key ingredients, honey, is steeped in the region's history, as Campania's bees and their inherent quality were regaled among Virgil's epic poems as far back as 30 B.C. And so it is that we've chosen Avellino's tradition of apiculculture to provide that perfect sweet infusion for our IfOnly Valentine's Day Chocolate Assortment. Traveling throughout the small towns at the base of Montevergine in Irpinia, the heart of the country's Torrone production, we have been graced by visits to producers that honor the inheritance of family recipes offering a testament to sustained quality. And without fail, their every wall is donned with a myriad of framed photographs of dignitaries -- be they popes or kings or world leaders -- blissfully indulging in a hazelnut or chocolate-dipped Torrone from the area. A16's Candace Rowan is presenting her own "variation on a theme" with a version of Torrone that is softer and chewier, a style that provides a lovely complement to the delicate and crisp honeycomb."
Chef Matthew Accarino shared another of our favorite stories behind what sparked his flavor, Black Walnut and Green Walnut Liqueur Nocino. "Inspired by the two walnut trees on a farm i work closely with which offer the amazing green walnuts as a harbinger of early spring each year." But finally, the sweetest inspiration came from Chefs Mark Sullivan and Robert Vallejos of Spruce who said "The inspiration for my flavor is my fiancé. She is exotic, delicate, and beautiful, just like the flavor of a Kaffir lime."
Chefs Melissa Chou and Mourad Lahlou of Aziza, now legacy participants in the Constellation Collections having participated in both the original chocolate collection as well as our holiday caramel collection never cease to inspire us with both their flavors and their beautiful presentations. This year, they have contributed a Verbena, Cassis and Sesame Chocolate. Each individual confection has the thinnest most delicate individual pieces of chocolate affixed with chocolate glue all over the surface creating an almost faceted look.
Finally, we asked the chefs who they would gift the box to for Valentine's and these were some of the best answers! Chef Michael Tabatabai of The Village Pub whose flavor is Earl Grey Ganache, Candied Bergamot and Milk Chocolate said he would give a box to "Chef Rikki Garcia of A.Q." because "She would share each one with me and I'd love to try them all." Chef Michael Tusk said he would give a box to Blake Lively! And finally, Alice Waters told us, "I would share this beautiful box of chocolates with my daughter, Fanny."