October 13, 2009
Damian Allsop's water ganaches have always been exciting (and, probably, a godsend to the lactose-intolerant!) but it is perhaps with this collection that the excitement really resides, and where he makes his most absolute statement. 6 ganaches, with matching shell (surprisingly, a rarity!) designed to reveal the maximum flavour of the underlying chocolate.
It's interesting to see how Damian has evolved with the times; this collection has had various different chocolates over the years but now features:
Original Beans Beni Wild Harvest
Michel Cluizel Los Ancones
Red Star Chocolate Ocumare
and Pacari Manabi
Quite a range. So how do they fare? What's interesting is, clearly the water-ganache treatment really works for some chocolates, and is perhaps less effective with others. I can put them in 3 basic categories:
Red Star Ocumare. The power and treacley flavour really comes through and the ganache is dense and satisfying. It's definitely bold, but this is what you expect
Pacari Piura. And, going to the other extreme, this is an exposition of delicacy at its most refined. Intensely fruity, such as you never will get with a dairy-based product, and ethereally light. I must admit, it seems to work better as a ganache than a plain bar.
Pacari Manabi. This is for the person who wants the classic flavour of a cream ganache. Literally, it has the creamy flavour that you'd expect. Hard to believe this is water-based, if you didn't know it. The interpretation is sublime. Again, though, that creaminess is almost *too* convincing: is the flavour maybe slightly subdued?
Pacari Raw. It's really quite surprising how different the raw chocolate is from the others, and it really shows here. The flavour is very enveloping, but perhaps because of the method that odd vegetal note stands out a little more than one would want, lending a very slightly jarring character to an otherwise exemplary chocolate.
Fine quality, very good
Original Beans Beni: If it weren't in the same box as some truly great chocolates, this one would seem very good indeed. But in such elite company, it manages just to seem somehow generic and uninspired. You can't argue with the execution, however.
Michel Cluizel Los Ancones: Here is an example of a chocolate which, I think, doesn't match the process. In a water ganache, the olive flavour becomes a bit too aggressive and overwhelming. I've had this chocolate interpreted in a cream ganache, and in that format was one of the finest truffles I've ever eaten. So I suspect it's a matter of match.
Overall, it must be said, this is one of the greatest efforts in filled chocolate currently available. Even the “losers” are actually winners, in any absolute sense, and the winners represent the state of the art in filled chocolates. One thing Damian might consider is adding a few different companies to the mix. I'd love to see, for example, what could be done with an Amano (Dos Rios comes to mind) or at the other end of the scale, with Friis-Holm. The series could be a constant rotation of different chocolates, exposing something new each season, so it would remain a fresh and interesting collection. Be that as it may, the current version is one to buy now.