Todos Santos: Chocolates & Confections is a funny little shop. Around the Plaza area in Santa Fe, it's tucked away in the back of one section: you have to walk past the shops in front and a small garden area to get to it. Now, it is a chocolate shop--but it almost doesn't look like one. It's a tiny space, about the size of a small bedroom. And it's stuffed not just with chocolate but also with all sorts of brightly colored trinkets: squares of cut-out paper hanging in a row, a tree limb with orange and white flowers, and everything else to go with the "All Saints" theme.
Take their chocolate case, for instance. While other chocolate shops have sleek cases designed to showcase the chocolate like jewelry, this case is unique in its abundance of colors, textures, and materials. Just look at the different stands and the colorful ribbons on the boxes. Which is not to say that the chocolates fade into the background or are unattractive: they are most certainly still good-looking. Simple designs stand alongside silly items like the little chocolate mice on the top right corner.
Before I get to the truffles, though, I'll give one note about the rest of the products for sale. I must have talked about this store years ago but it's time for an update. They have several different brands of chocolate bars (I picked up just one), as well as some other chocolate creations. A bag of chocolate sweets from Valerie Confections in Silverlake (that is, L.A.) greeted me (their rose petal petits fours are the best, by the way). Candies are there, too: pretty berry and fruit candies carefully made. It's mainly all the handmade or otherwise superior quality type of products. You won't find Skittles or Reese's Cups here--because what's the fun in finding those, anyway? For such a small shop, they do have a fairly wide selection. Chances are there will be something you've never seen before, so definitely stop by if you're in the area.
Now back to the truffles. I really don't know why I had never tried anything from their case before. Either I used to be more intimidated by cases or I was too focused on trying out new chocolate bars (because, after all, purchases in chocolate shops can really add up if you want to try everything). I made it a point to choose some this time.
The one thing that I found odd was the lack of labels in the case. The shopkeeper was happy to name them for me, starting at one end of the shelf and ending at the other. But still, I would think it would be easier for everyone if they simply had labels like they do everywhere else.
Enough of that, though, because these chocolates just look gorgeous and I wouldn't want to drown out that simple fact. They're absolutely stellar and sleek with just enough of a touch of fun to their designs. You remove them from all the sensor-overload visuals of the Todos Santos shop and you can really appreciate their look. Mine came in a simple white paper bag instead of a box since I only got two, but at least their little wrapper papers were colorful.
Let's start with the Hazelnut one, which is shaped like a rounded, multi-surfaced dome. You might be able to see on the close-up that the shell is milk chocolate with some darker stripes criss-crossing like on a peanut butter cookie. It also happens to form one of the best visuals for a sliced-open truffle: there's a whole hazelnut thrown exactly into the top middle, surrounded by a milk chocolate ganache. Just beautifully formed.
In addition to the whole hazelnut, there is also hazelnut flavor infused into the smooth ganache. Not overly sweet for being all milk chocolate, the truffle also has some depth to its flavor. Unless I'm mistaken, the cause for this appears to be in the bottom chocolate layer. It appears that the truffle is sealed off with dark chocolate instead of more milk chocolate. That's an interesting way to combine milk and dark chocolate and get the best of both together without simply melting them together. Now, that whole hazelnut is quite crisp and flavorful; both texture and flavor add to the experience. This truffle is how I want hazelnut and chocolate to work together. This is what I want them to be. Everything is well done here.
The other flavor I chose was Espresso. With a beautiful triangle shape stretched out into a sleek and dark truffle with just a sprinkle of gold, this one is quite large. It's easily the size of two other truffles. A gorgeous, silky ganache shows after slicing. Oh, and the aroma, the aroma is divine. Deep chocolate. Straightforward and good. Because of all that soft ganache and because the chocolate shell isn't hard and thick, the bite is very soft. First you taste the chocolate, deep, and then the coffee comes in, dark and fresh. And there's something awesome about biting into this truffle, with all of that soft, soft ganache--I've never come across one so soft, I think. And yet it still tastes rich and deep. I'd love to see an ingredients list for this one: is there some sneaky ingredient in there that shouldn't be in there, or is this achieved all through fresh and pure ingredients? The espresso, I should add, also comes across well. It's exactly the way you would want to taste it.
The sheer size of this chocolate once you begin eating it really transforms it into an elegant piece. I'm picturing it sitting on the top tier of an afternoon tea set, above the sandwiches and scones. The flavor and texture together remind me of something elusive, something that I can't quite put my finger on. A dessert, perhaps. After all, if you finish this truffle in one go (which, of course, most everyone will do), it does get a bit sweet. Sweeter than the Hazelnut, I think, unless this is simply because it is bigger. So I'd say the sweetness is balancing out the darkness of the espresso: if you want darkness with the espresso, well, you probably won't be getting that out of this particular truffle. I don't mind, though. When sweetness is carried out in this way, I like it; I just don't like the wrong types of sweetness.
Given how much I enjoyed this pair of truffles, I'm left wondering why I didn't get more. The tone really goes back to the tone of the shop: lots of fun stuff to look around at but also some quality to ground the experience.
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