The Good: Five of the pieces, Stylish
The Bad: One of the chocolates, Expensive
The Basics: A delicious assortment of chocolates, Russell Stover Urban chocolate assortment is one of the high points of their premium line.
On my way home from Las Vegas, Nevada, last summer, I stopped - as I usually do - in Kansas at the only places worth stopping: the Russell Stover Factory Outlet center! Near Kansas City, there is a shop where the discontinued, defective and out-of-season Russell Stover chocolate products are housed and sold. The Factory Outlet store is a treasure trove of candies I cannot find locally, including the Russell Stover Private Reserve 70% Cacoa box (reviewed here!), the Whitman Soho Assortment and the Russell Stover Urban collection. The Urban Collection is a premium assortment of Russell Stover's chocolates and is a little pricier than their usual fare.
The Urban Collection is one of the best chocolate assortments that Russell Stover has created, in no small part because there are no serious duds in the collection (though the Pistachio Nougatine is a bit of a letdown). Despite the expense of the box, this is a good assortment and one that makes a good gift or a good social chocolate.
The Russell Stover Private Reserve line is a collection of more expensive, finer chocolates than the regular line. Quality is put at the forefront and the Urban Modern World Chocolates is intended for those who love creative flavors of chocolate. The 3 oz. box comes with six pieces of chocolate, one each of the Pistachio Nougatine, Espresso Truffle, Key Lime, Seas Salt Soft Caramel, Grapefruit Ganache, and 60% Cacao Dark (From Ghana). The Urban assortment comes in a fancy red box with artwork of a city. The artfully decorated box is a six inch square and 1 1/2" tall. It opens easily by pulling the top up.
Ease Of Preparation
Usually, I focus on how to prepare a food product, but eating chocolates is as easy as opening a box and pulling chocolates out of the box and sticking them in your mouth. The Urban Assortment of Modern World Chocolates includes six chocolates that look very different from one another. Recognizing them is easier than in the other Russell Stover premium assortments because the box actually clearly labels each chocolate with full color pictures of each. The box, when opened, has a plastic seal which must be unwrapped from the chocolates in order to gain access. In the tray are the six chocolates.
The Pistachio Nougatine is a little chocolate log one and a half inches long by 7/8" wide. It is half and inch tall, slightly rounded at the top and the milk chocolate coating has red crystal sprinkles embedded in the top of it. The Espresso Truffle is a 1 1/8" chocolate cylinder which is 5/8" tall. This is one of the most artistic chocolates in the Urban assortment. The top is painted (in chocolate) with the image of a red flower and green vines and leaves. This is actually a very nice-looking chocolate, like a little work of art on a dark chocolate canvas!
The Key Lime chocolate is a white chocolate dome with green swirls in its surface. It is the only white chocolate truffle in the assortment with green on it and it is more dome-shaped than the cylinrical Grapefruit Ganache. The Sea Salt Soft Caramel is a small hexagon-shaped (at the flat base). It is a milk chocolate dome which has several flat sides like a dome-roofed house. This is the smallest piece in the assortment.
The other white chocolate piece in the Urban Assortment is the Grapefruit Ganache. Larger and smoother than the Key Lime, the Grapefruit Ganache is 1 ¼" in diameter and ¾" tall. The white chocolate coating of the Grapefruit Ganache is topped with a yellow and blue painting. The speckled top is artistic and cute. The final piece, a 60% Cacao Dark Chocolate from Ghana is a very simple block of dark chocolate. It is 1 ½" square and 3/8" thick.
The Pistachio Nougatine smells only of milk chocolate coming out of its container. It is filled with a harder nougate, almost like a hard caramel in consistency. Placing the Pistachio Nougatine on the tongue, the sweetness of the crystal (like broken up rock candy) washes over the tongue and when the consumer presses the tongue through the chocolate, the crystal dissolves and the milk chocolate melts away as well. The white nougat in the center remains firm and while it has tiny pieces of pistachio nuts broken up in it, the overall flavor is more of vanilla than it is pistachio. In fact, as one who loves pistachios, this was an immediate disappointment in the box as it had no real flavor of the buttery richness of pistachio nuts. Instead, this was a more bland than flavorful truffle.
The Espresso Truffle smells deep and rich, like dark chocolate and coffee. The candy smells divine, like a mix of coffee and chocolate and it invites the consumer to bite right into it. This, too, is a fairly hard chocolate with a grainier truffle center. Upon placing the Espresso Truffle on my tongue, I was rewarded with the revelation that the vaguely fruity scent I could not place when smelling the truffle was from the fact that the Espresso Truffle is made from an orange-flavored dark chocolate. The center of this truffle is too hard to press the tongue through, but when the orange chocolate melts away, the tongue encounters a center that is hard and delicious, embodying a flavor like freshly ground coffee beans. The Espresso Truffle is absolutely as good as it smells and this is one of the pieces that justifies the expense of the box.
The 1 1/8" in diameter white chocolate dome that is the Key Lime chocolate smells only vaguely fruity. This chocolate is spongy when one bites through the soft white chocolate shell and into the smooth center. The white chocolate melts away and is replaced by a tangy lime-flavored center that tastes exactly like what it claims; lime. The lime flavor is not overly sour and one suspects it is the buttery white chocolate flavor that breaks that up.
The Sea Salt Soft Caramel is a milk chocolate dome which is exactly as it sounds. The chocolate melts away, sweet and light around a center which is made of soft caramel. The soft caramel is somewhat salty; this candy gets its sweetness solely from the chocolate around the caramel. Anyone who likes caramel will like this candy and the softness of it makes it unintimidating for any consumers.
The Grapefruit Ganache smells delightfully citrusy, smelling just like orange or, as the name suggests, grapefruit. Biting into the chocolate, the consumer finds a soft ganache that flakes away fairly easily. Blending with the white chocolate outside, the center is faintly grapefruit in flavor. The taste of grapefruit is muted, but this confection is still delicious and the fruit flavor of the Grapefruit Ganache is subtle, but flavorful.
The final chocolate is the 60% Cacao Dark from Ghana. This is a simple block of dark chocolate that is hard and dark. Anyone who likes dark chocolate will find this to be both simple and delicious. Because there is no center, no gimmick, with this piece, it is a very pure chocolate block and therefore is what it is. Those who like dark chocolate will enjoy it, those who like milk chocolate are likely to find it a bit too bitter and not sweet enough and those who like super dark chocolate will find this to be not quite bitter or potent enough.
All of these chocolates taste better than any mass-produced (i.e. Hershey's, Nestles, etc.) chocolate.
Well, this is a box of chocolates, so it is not like it is super-healthy for you. Any three pieces (half a box is the recommended serving size) contain 200 calories, one hundred of them are from fat. Honestly, I don't worry about such things (which irritates my wife), but a serving also contains about 34% of the RDA of saturated fat and insignificant amounts of cholesterol, sodium and protein. There are also miniscule amounts of calcium and iron. There is nothing truly nutritious about this candy.
On the plus side, the ingredients are largely good ones that may be easily pronounced! Russell Stover uses such quality ingredients as milk chocolate, dark chocolate, and corn syrup. This explains the rich taste of the various candies. There are surprisingly few preservatives in the chocolates in the Urban assortment. These chocolates were made on machines that handled peanuts, tree nuts, eggs and wheat, so those with dietary concerns have been duly warned.
The gift box that the Urban Assortment comes in is adequate protection for the chocolates against crushing and limited amounts of heat (as I discovered from having these in my hot car in summer). In the box, there is a plastic wrapper that encases the plastic tray the candies rest in and so sealed I imagine the box remains fresh for some time. Honestly, though, given how few preservatives there are in these boxes, I suspect that they do not have the best shelf life of all time (my box, I noticed, did not have an expiration date).
Cleanup of the chocolates should be relatively simple as they do not melt easily and do not have pieces that crumble off. I clean up the box by eating the chocolates out of it! Should the chocolates melt, they will likely stain most fabrics and one would need to consult a fabric guide to see how best to clean fabrics stained by these.
This is a wonderful assortment and a great way to shake up the palate of anyone who has been condemned to dreary, factory mass produced chocolates. The flavor combinations are creative and delicious. If they were not so expensive (and all six had been equally wonderful and flavorful) then this might have been a perfect assortment.
For other candy reviews, please check out my takes on:
M&M Premiums Mocha
Hershey’s Kisses Irish Crème
Lemon Lime Jelly Belly jelly beans
For other candy reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!
© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.