Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Chocolate Truffle Tasting - Part 1

I was thrilled to be invited by Discover Paris! to a chocolate truffle tasting this past weekend. The people behind Discover Paris are Tom Reeves & Monique Wells, recent publishers of the book, Paris Insights - An Anthology.

They wanted to research different truffle makers for their upcoming February newsletter, just in time for Valentine's Day. I was more than happy to participate in such a difficult assignment!

Here's how it worked:

1) Discover Paris! collected "truffe nature" samples from five different chocolate shops in Paris. These are natural truffles, without any added flavorings such as alcohol, nuts, etc.

2) They assembled a few people around their table, including Pastry Chef Alison Johnson (of 1 Michelin star restaurant Jean), Michel Cloes (President of Chef Culinary Network), and myself.

3) The truffles arrived at the table, one at a time, identified only as Truffle A or Truffle B, C, etc. We privately commented on each truffle and rated it on appearance, touch, smell, taste, and mouth feel. We then compared notes & talked about our impressions. Finally, the scores were tallied up and a winner was announced.

Here are the truffles we tasted:

Truffle A

Truffle B

Truffle C

Truffle D

Truffle E

Unfortunately, I can't disclose the conclusions yet, because in all fairness, it is Discover Paris! who deserves those honors! However, I can share a few thoughts:
  1. Side-be-side comparisons have a way of highlighting a flaw that might otherwise be less noticeable. It is perhaps for this reason that a well known chocolatier disappointed me so much. Either that, or they've changed their recipe (admittedly it's been 2 years ago since I last bought from them...).
  2. No matter how many different people you have tasting something, everyone is going to have their own opinion!! That's the nature of something like cooking or pastry or chocolate making....these are highly subjective professions!
  3. Despite these differences, a trend could be found.
  4. There was a surprise entry in this tasting....it turned out to be quite the highlight of the event for me!
Well, that's all I can say for the moment. Look for Part 2 of this posting in early February. Until then, I wonder if you have any preliminary conclusions based on the photos alone? If so, please do share.

Thanks again, Discover Paris!, for hosting such an insightful & delicious event!

/ dma


BonjourRomance said...

What a delicious assignment. How nice to have been asked. I've been browsing though your old posts and have found some wonderful recipes that I'll definitely be trying.

Catanea said...

It's a pity they didn't all LOOK alike. Then a truly blind tasting could have been arranged, with the truffles well labeled with their letters, but the tasters required to taste them each in a different order. Also, I find it troubling that the presentation was so different. Even the dish can affect ones response. Just think of all those wine experts fooled by white wines dyed red...
And one might give artificially low ratings to the later chocolates tasted, owing to taste-bud fatigue - what palate cleansers did you have in between?
Maybe I just want too scientific a response, considering that the immovable variable of different palates is already there.

girlcookinparis said...

Hi BonjourRomance! Welcome & thanks for your message. Hope the recipes work for you!

Hi Catanea, Thanks for your comment. It's true that there was a visual impact, however, this is also part of the rating & what makes them different. Some are hand rolled, some are probably not (based on the shape of it?), one was cut....so it's not possible to have them all identical-looking. But I hear what your saying about the tasting itself. Yes, there's a bit of bias in it (order, dishes used, appearance, and probably other things...however, one potential bias was not introduced & that is price).

We were offered a granny smith apple as the cleanser & bottled water. Must say that I appreciate your scientific perspective!! And, I think you'll be surprised by the results!