NUMBER THREE ON OUR LIST IS: NORMAN LOVE’S CHOCOLATES
Following completion of his training in the art of pastry in France, Norman Love joined numerous luxury resorts in the US, including the Beverly Hills Hotel and the Ritz-Carlton as executive pastry chef. Norman has been recognized by many of the industry leaders as a chef with impeccable skills and one of the most talented chefs of his generation. Chocolatier and Pastry Art and Design magazine named him one of the country’s top 10 pastry chefs in 1996 and 1997. His work has been celebrated by publications such as Art Culinaire, Pastry & Baking, USA Today, Robb Report, InStyle and Entrepreneur magazines. He is also a contributing author to four books including “Baking with Julia.”
He founded his confection-making venture in 2001 in Fort Myers, Florida with the aim to introduce his customers to the finest chocolate products created with the freshest and most innovative ingredients. I believe we all agree that he succeeded. in 2009, Norman received the honor as one of the “Top 10 Chocolatiers in North America” by Dessert Magazine. Norman believes that dark chocolate is the next red wine (and I second it) and he wants to be a front runner in the trend. So far, he is on his way.
Opening a box of Norman Love confections is like opening a box of edible jewels. Each shiny bonbon should be savored and appreciated. To tell you the truth, following opening the spectacular box I ordered, I did not want to touch the content. I just wanted to bath my eyes in these beauties and enjoy the view. However, that may not be the greatest idea, because chocolates need to be savored through one’s palate (although, the visual appeal is important, as well). However, I believe, that there is such a thing as over-stimulation of the eye appeal and if the mouth-feel does not match the sight sensation, the disappointment can be explosive. Now, let me assure you that nothing exploded following a taste testing; but in his case that is not the greatest thing either, because I was waiting for that wonderful explosion of the elements that makeup a great ganache. To be fair, it occurred following some of the chocolates and in those cases the explosion was dangerously passionate.
The Venezuelan dark is definitely up there. I did not expect anything less than that from a Criolo-based ganache, once it came in touch with the warmth of my mouth. There was a slight competition for a similar effect from the spicy hot chocolate ganache that is infused with jalapeno pepper and although the combination worked perfectly, the Criolo won handily. Passion fruit is my weakness because it is such a great fruit to be combined with a good quality chocolate. The tartness of the fruit and the sweetness (or bittersweetness) of the chocolate, is a marriage made in heaven. So, it definitely works well in the appropriately named heart-shaped confection, but I am still trying to understand the reason(s) Norman decided to paint the heart yellow. On the other hand, let me take it back; I understand that the color helps to identify the content, (in this case the passion fruit), but if you only have one heart-shaped chocolate in the dark group, do you really need to identify the “passion fruit?” The chocolate has a nice floral aroma, it is light and gentle on the palate, has a great silky-smooth finish and a citrus-honey-like aftertaste. The ratio of fruit puree to chocolate is just perfect in this beautiful heart.The most interesting and unique chocolate in the dark group is the Rum Cake. Since I like anything that soaked in rum, I found this chocolate to be a pleasant teaser on my palate but would prefer the use of either milk or dark chocolate ganache; the white chocolate overpowers the rum and not in a good way.
There are quite a few wonderful creations in the milk chocolate group, including the Tahitian Caramel, the Pistachio with tart Cherries and the Peanut Butter Banana. The bursting of the caramel center in my mouth from the Tahitian Caramel was a wonderful surprise; it is perfectly blended with the milk chocolate flavor-wise, as well as texture-wise, but in this case the oozing caramel center is the star. The Peanut Butter with the banana is a well harmonized flavorful creation. I love the appearance of the Pistachio with the tart Cherries – the bonbon has a great green luster, representing the pistachio, and a touch of a maroon-colored “ribbon” representing the cherries. There is also a kind of “sophistication” in the taste of this chocolate; and the tart cherries just add a little playfulness.
I saved the best for last. More recently, Norman launched a special group of dark chocolates that he named them “BLACK”. It contains 5-pieces of ultra-premium single-origin intensely dark chocolates made with cocoa beans from some of the finest growing regions in the world. (Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Madagascar). The visual appearance of these chocolates is just stunning. The color coordination, the shape, the design and the originality of these extraordinary chocolates is beyond words – it is the ultimate achievement of an artist that knows no limit to a work of art. These chocolates are the true testament to Norman’s extraordinary artistic creativity. Then, once you bite into one of these beauties, (irrespective of the region from where they originate) you arrived to chocolate heaven. Although, my favorite is still the Maracaibo Clasificado made from Criolo cocoa from Venezuela, I can honestly tell you that if you like intense dark chocolate you will not be disappointed following tasting any of these gems.
In conclusion, Norman Love and his team are uniquely talented artists that create magical products with their brush, hand and artistic talent. Just look at these photos! They use only the purest ingredients in their ganache (i.e. butter, nuts, fruit purees, spices and flavors) and enrobe it in the finest quality of chocolates (they mostly use Felchlin’s, coverture, a top quality swiss chocolate producer), without any preservatives or artificial ingredients.
Where to buy it:
It is worth a trip to Florida, from any location in the US: 11380 Lindbergh Blvd Fort Myers, FL 33913. but if that is not possible, you should definitely order some through the internet. http://www.normanloveconfections.com. You’ll be glad you did. And please send me your comments.