Berkeley chocolatier, Casa de Chocolates, makes delightful desserts, bonbons, bars, and other chocolate treats with Mexican and Central/South American flavors in their factory store in the Elmwood District. We previously tried their bars, so this time we bought a sampler box of bonbons.
Casa de Chocolates offers several types of bonbon assortments, such as best sellers, caramels, spicy, and beer or wine pairings. They even have a small vegan assortment. You can also get custom boxes, but when cacaopod saw they had a set called The Mexican Assortment, he knew that would be the perfect way to start sampling their bonbons.
With all assortments, you have a choice, usually whether you want 6, 12, or 24 pieces. Cacaopod selected a 12-piece box because it contained one of each flavor in The Mexican Assortment. The 12 pieces covered a good range of flavors: spices, fruits, and beverages in a mix of caramels and ganaches.
The visuals were very appealing: from the eye catching Casa de Chocolate logo on the magnetic flap chocolate brown box and white ribbon to the illustrated menu inside to the different molds used for the chocolates to their hand decorations.
The pieces were well made with thin shells and smooth fillings. Flavors were distinct, so even if I wasn’t sure what something tasted like before I tried it, I got it when I tasted it.
The first piece we tried, Mole, was a winner from the start. A dark chocolate faceted dome daubed with red and filled with dark chocolate ganache, it had a hot, complex, spicy flavor that mellowed to a warm after effect that lingered with the good tasting chocolate. The menu said it’s from a family recipe that uses 11 spices and chilies. With this first piece I could tell Casa de Chocolates doesn’t scrimp: They use high quality ingredients and a really tasty couverture.
We tried a fruit based piece next. The Guayaba had a guava infused chocolate cream in a dark chocolate heart shaped shell. The piece started chocolatey and sweeter than I expected. The guava flavor came through later, but it was still a mostly chocolate tasting piece.
Switching to beverage based bonbons, we tried the Tequila Butterfly. This cute green painted molded butterfly was more distinctly flavorful. There was enough tequila in it — and a very good one at that (I know nothing about tequilas, I’m just talking about its application here) — that I experienced an immediate alcohol tingle and strong tequila taste in the soft, creamy ganache. Then the piece became very chocolatey. So good.
I was itching to try the Cajeta Caramel, their goat’s milk caramel. I’ve had some milk chocolate made with goat milk before with no firm consensus yet on yea or nay. This time, it was the liquid caramel inside the dark chocolate dome that used goat milk. You can tell immediately that it is definitely not made with cows milk; it had a slight cheesiness to the flavor.
A good variation on caramel — especially if you like more savory chocolate. With this piece, I think I’m closer to the goat-milk-is-good-in-chocolate camp.
We went back to spicy for the next piece, and yikes! That Tapatio bonbon is hot! Inside a distinctive red dome that looked like it was engraved with Mayan hieroglyphics, the ganache was hot from the start and got hotter as it melted until it was too hot for me. I also experienced a burning after sensation for a long time afterwards. I like Tapatio and the piece was well made with good chocolate, but the ratio was too intense for me.
I cooled off with the Mango bonbon. Another pretty piece with a closeup of a section of a Mayan looking pattern embossed on a square painted orange and turquoise, it had a distinct mango flavor. Another piece with plenty of flavor; and the mango was so good with the dark chocolate ganache.
Keeping with the unique molds, the Brazilian Sea Salt Caramel was a thick disc with its flat top partially embossed with another distinctive Mayan inspired image. Compared to what I’d experienced so far, this was was an understated piece — soft, chewy caramel in dark chocolate that was a little buttery and ended with a little salt. A very good salted caramel.
The other basic caramel, the Mexican Vanilla Caramel, was a sweet liquid caramel. Like the rest of the pieces, it was well made of good chocolate and caramel, but it was too sweet for me.
I enjoyed the Tamarindo with tart and tangy tamarind paste mixed into the ganache. (Am I the only one to see the white dripped decoration on top and be reminded of the “What the Cinnamon Toast *#@! is this” meme?) It was a little on the sweet side, but I didn’t mind. The ganache melted away quickly leaving the dark chocolate shell and tamarind flavors making it a tangy chocolate.
The understatedly glam Canela had a couple of thin dark lines dribbled across the top of a dark gold lustered square. It had a delicious cinnamon aroma with a good but subtle cinnamon flavor that didn’t overpower the chocolate. A well balanced piece.
Casa de Chocolates makes 2 passion fruit infused bonbons, a ganache and a caramel. The Mexican Assortment included the Maracuyá Caramel, which was a passion fruit flavored liquid caramel in a dark shell. It had a tangy but subtle passion fruit flavor which I loved.
My favorite piece was the last one I tried. The Mayan Espresso was another uniquely embossed piece that used Guatemalan coffee beans for the espresso infusion. It was yummy, starting with a good coffee flavor, then chocolate. The flavored combined to make a deep chocolate flavor and they lingered.
This is a super giftable assortment. The assortment we got varied slightly from what is listed on the website, but it states that the flavors can vary seasonly. Depending on a person’s interests, this or one of the other collections could make for a special event.
If you can’t visit the shop, good news! You can buy any of their assortments online — even custom boxes.