Friday, January 22, 2010



Derry Church Artisan Chocolates
January 11, 2010

John Keats was right when he said, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” Chocolate, with its ephemeral nature, won’t be around forever; but, once tasted, fabulous wares will inform all future chocolate experiences.
As a reviewer I naturally gravitate towards the best quality product; but, aesthetics also play a part. Beauty is not just limited to the visual, it’s visceral, even karmic. Perhaps, the packaging is artistic, or the farmers are treated with generosity and kindness. Maybe it’s the lack of pesticides, original flavor combinations, chocolate artistry and design, or an unusual mission; all grab my attention. Sometimes, it’s a minimalist concept, like the two plain black boxes from chef Eric Cayton at Derry Church Artisan Chocolates.

My absolute favorite bonbon in this collection, of the eleven I sampled (there are 26 in the range) was the Palermo. The experience made me think I was a synesthete (someone whose senses are intertwined in unusual ways, so they can taste a sound, or see a smell), since the lemon flavor was so primal I almost thought I could taste “yellow.” An homage to lemon, countered with bittersweet chocolate and the crunch of roasted sliced almonds.
Cairo, a triangle of Medjool date paste, aged balsamic reduction, in a bittersweet ganache was also unusually good and unique. The mini disc of jaggery, an Indian sweetener of less-processed sugar that tastes like brown sugar and molasses, added textural interest.
New Orleans was a darkly enrobed Bananas Foster milk chocolate ganache with cinnamon, rum, and bananas. This was sublimely well-balanced, no mean feat, since banana can easily overpower anything it’s paired with.
Rome, a cappuccino milk chocolate ganache in a dark shell, topped with white chocolate mousse and dusted with cocoa was uncontrollably delicious. The mix of flavors and textures made each bite compelling, like a visit to a new country.
Savannah, an elegant rendition of peach crisp piped into a dark chocolate cup, is topped with a bit of cinnamon streusel and drizzled with white chocolate. Unusual, fun, and quite pretty.
San Francisco is a dark square with a puree of organic Black Mission figs, molasses, and roasted walnuts in bittersweet ganache, dusted with demerara sugar crystals. This combination was dense and incredible satisfying.
There are also toffees and caramels of excellent quality, as well as a white chocolate ganache with chipotle peppers that packed some heat.
If it were me, I would stick with anything Chef Eric enrobes in dark chocolate. The shells are all thin, but not so thin you need a micrometer to measure them. Their lovely temper and crisp texture complement every creative interior just beautifully.
Derry Church uses organic cream, butter, and fruit purees. You can taste the way each chocolate is lovingly handmade.
Luckily, we humans have the ability to re-savor things through memory. I will definitely return to that uber lemon ganache with bittersweet chocolate and sliced roasted almonds as the apotheosis of tanginess, depth, and texture. As the Eurythmics used to sing: “Sweet Dreams Are Made of This.”

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