Christmas Tastes by Scottish Producers. Gold, Frankincense & Myrrh Dark Chocolate and Clootie Dumpling Ale
Many of Scotland's food and drink producers release special products at Christmas time. It is fun to try them out and see if they evoke the flavours of the season and make you feel all festive. I decided to give two a try. One is a chocolate bar by Edinburgh-based Coco Chocolatier and the other is a beer by The Orkney Brewery.
Gold, Frankincense and Myrr Dark Chocolate
Coco Chocolatier in Edinburgh produces luxury chocolate bars with unique flavours. You can read more about them on my previous blog. This particular bar intrigued me as I wondered if you could successfully create these flavours in a chocolate bar. Reading the ingredients there is a tiny amount of Frankincense and Myrr oil (less than 1%) in the bar. Gold food dust has been sprinkled onto the bar to create a glittery surface, which you can see in this photo:
When I broke a bit of the chocolate off and put it to my nose I liked the scent, but couldn't put my finger on it, it was earthy and perhaps faintly festive, but I thought it was difficult to detect. I found the taste to be too subtle to say with any certainty that I could taste myrr or frankincense. Nevertheless it is delicious chocolate and you can easily tell that it is high quality. Although I didn't think that the flavour worked, the gold glitter certainly made the bar look Christmassy and it has beautiful wrapping, so this would make a lovely gift.
Clootie Dumpling Seasonal Ale
The Orkney Brewery produces a very fine selection of beers that are worth trying. One of my favourite Scottish beers is their Dark Island and you can read a review of this on a previous blog. The Clootie Dumpling is a seasonal edition and if you are not familiar with this Scottish pudding have a look at the rear label for an explanation:
The smell of this drink successfully captures that winter fruit pudding scent. It conjures up a boozy cake with delightful flavours like rum, cloves, cinnamon and ginger.
On the first few sips I thought that there is a subtle hint of festive tastes, but not noticeable enough that this could be picked up in a blind taste test. The taste that really comes through is bitterness, but pleasant and not overwhelming, and caramel. I found that the more I drank of it the more I was left with an aftertaste of those winter spices and it made me feel warm and nice and that's what you want from a Christmas drink. I do think the smell works better than the taste in capturing the essence of a seasonal pudding, but it is still a really delicious beer.
Have you tried any Christmas inspired Scottish products? Let me know in the comments below:
Coco is an Edinburgh chocolatier producing high quality luxury bars. I was particularly interested to try this bar because of its use of sea salt from the Isle of Skye.
Opening this chocolate bar is like unwrapping a Christmas present. The outer layer is beautiful paper that has the illustration of choppy waves inlaid. It is almost too beautiful to rip open. The next layer is a crispy wrapper. The whole experience of getting inside this bar screams 'luxury'.
The squares of chocolate are very small and delicate, another sign of luxury and quality. The overwhelming taste is of dark chocolate with a gentle crunch from the hazelnuts. The nuts have been chopped very finely, rather than being chunks or whole nuts, so they are quite discreet.
The sea salt taste is also discreet, just a tinkle on my tongue at the end of each bite. I think I would have preferred the salt to be a little more prominent, particularly as the bar is championing a unique Scottish product. On the Coco website it states 'flakes of Sea Salt gathered around the pristine waters of the Isle of Skye.' What a wonderful image this conjures.
This is delicious chocolate and worth seeking out during your travels in Edinburgh and Scotland. It is a luxury product with a price point of almost £5 per bar, so don't eat it all at once!
Coco has shops in the Bruntsfield and Stockbridge areas of Edinburgh. Their chocolate can also be bought from several retail outlets across Scotland. These are listed on their website and you can also buy the product online.
Entering this shop and café is a wonderful sensory experience that is quite simply the fulfillment of every chocolate lover's dreams. Grab a window seat, order Belgium waffles and enjoy views of Oban Bay.
Oban Chocolate Company is located on Corran Esplanade, about 15 minutes walk from the Ferry Terminal. Inside there is a combined café and chocolate shop. It is impossible not to get excited by the enormous choice of chocolate treats on display. There is a counter where you can select individual chocolates with flavours that include whisky truffle, toffee and orange truffle and lemon meringue truffle.
There are shelves packed full of different chocolate concoctions, such as the chocolate fish n' chips.
I took one of these home and it was delicious. The chips were made of white chocolate and they look very realistic. There was even some newspaper in the bottom of the box!
The café is equally magnificent. The menu states that the management accepts no responsibility for over indulgence and that is certainly a risk here.
The counter has a display case crammed full of cakes and treats. On one visit I tried the salted caramel peanut butter slab. The chocolate topping was unbelievably thick. Whoever made this understands the needs of serious chocolate lovers. It was one of the top chocolate experiences of my life.
Coffee is roasted fresh every week and during my visit it was served with a little chocolate fish resting on the spoon. You can order a tasting plate of truffles to go along with your drink.
Belgian waffles are a star feature in the cafe and you can have them smothered in a variety of toppings. If hot chocolate is more your thing you will be spoiled for choice, including single origin chocolate.
I love that the menu is full of lots of interesting facts about chocolate, including persuasive arguments about the health benefits of chocolate. It states that 2 squares of chocolate have less calories than an apple, but it is doubtful you will be able to/want to stick to just 2 squares during your visit.
Try to get one of the sofas by the window so that you can enjoy the views over Oban Bay or you might prefer to be closer to the viewing window of the factory where you can watch the chocolatiers at work. You can even book your child into one of the chocolate making workshops.
Oban Chocolate Company is a shrine to chocolate. It is one of the best chocolate shops I have come across, not just in Scotland, but in the world.
Cocoa Mountain is probably the remotest chocolate shop in all of Europe. Located in the far north-west Highlands I became an instant fan when sampling their truffles and hot chocolates. I was a frequent customer whilst waiting for the ferry across to Cape Wrath, an area of Scotland known as "Europe's last great wilderness."
I had travelled to Durness with the dream of taking my bike across to Cape Wrath and cycling the road to the lighthouse. As there is no proper road with vehicle access on the Cape this was going to be cycling heaven and I would probably be completely on my own.
The dream didn't quite work out because of the notorious Scottish weather. It was too windy for the ferry to operate. I waited for three days, checking each morning if the ferry would run, but I was out of luck. I consoled myself with frequent visits to Cocoa Mountain.
Cocoa Mountain is in Balnakeil Craft Village, a collection of artists workshops. The chocolate shop also has a cafe with indoor and outdoor seating.
They serve superb coffee and you can select a little dish of truffles to go with it. The innovative flavours used in the truffles makes Cocoa Mountain stand out from other chocolate producers. Chilli lemongrass, peanut butter and cranberry, and whisky caramel are some of my favourites. If you are a true chocolate addict then the luxury hot chocolate is a must, especially on a cold and windy day.
If Durness is too far to travel for your chocolates they also have a shop and cafe in Aucheterarder, the town that is near to Gleneagles, the famous luxury hotel. I have written about a cycle route starting at Gleneagles train station that includes a visit to Cocoa Mountain in Auchterarder.
And if you can't make it to either shop then swing by their website and order online. I guarantee that you will not be disappointed. The chocolates are ideal as a gift as they are a bit different to the usual. I also love the packaging- simple, rustic cardboard boxes.