The Good: A couple good pieces
The Bad: A few underwhelming ones, Expensive.
The Basics: Good, but not exceptional or largely even memorable, the Whitman's Soho Assortment of artist inspired chocolates is a bit of a letdown.
On the way back from Las Vegas last year, my wife and I stopped at a Russell Stover factory outlet store and we got some great deals. Already, I loved the Private Reserve 70% Cacao Assortment (reviewed here!) and I had gotten great deals on other chocolate assortments that I did not regularly buy, like the Urban Collection (reviewed here!). One of the other obscure chocolate boxes I picked up was the Whitman's Soho Chocolate Assortment. Unfortunately, this usually overpriced assortment - which we got on clearance for a reasonable $2.74 - was not the most impressive of the private reserve type gift boxes of chocolates and after going through it with my wife, we both figured our money is better spent on other assortments. This is not to say it was bad, but it was not at all the best of the bunch.
The Soho Assortment is a 3.3 oz. box featuring six Artist Inspired chocolates. These candies are meant to look good as well as taste amazing. Even the six inch square box has an upscale look to it with its vibrant red color and snakeskin texture. Unfortunately, Whitman's underwhelms with this assortment as they look distinctive, but are more mediocre on the taste. This seems to be a triumph of style over substance for Whitman's and I suppose this ought not to be such a surprise to me as the Whitman's sampler boxes tend to have a more mass-produced chocolate taste. Our hope coming into this box was that this would truly be a premium product. Unfortunately, it was more bland than exciting, though everything looked good.
Ease Of Preparation
Because there is nothing to prepare with the Soho Artist Inspired chocolates, this seems an excellent place to detail the differences between the six candies in this series. The Soho Assortment includes one each of the Pear Praline, Sea Salt Caramel, Madagascar Vanilla Brulee, Pistachio Nougat, Cacao Truffle and Raspberry Ganache.
The Pear Praline is a 1 1/4" white chocolate dome 3/4" high. The dome is appropriately curved and has a slight drizzle of yellow garnish swirled into the white chocolate.
The Madagascar Vanilla Brulee is a 1 5/8" long milk chocolate rectangle. The Madagascar Vanilla Brulee is 3/4" wide and 5/8" tall. This is distinguished easily from the others by the flat top and the red, yellow and green streaks on the top of the candy. This looks like a little chocolate flag.
The Raspberry Ganache is a dark chocolate cylinder with fine yellow curves detailed onto it. It is 3/4" tall with a flat top and it is 1 1/8" in diameter. This looks almost like a traditional bon bon but with a flat top.
The Pistachio Nougat is another log-shaped truffle which is 1 1/2" long, 3/4" wide and 3/4" tall. It is distinct because it is made of a darker chocolate and has fine ridges on the top of it, like it was a hand frosted pastry.
The Cacao Truffle is like the Raspberry Ganache, save that it is made of white chocolate. This treat has the same dimensions, as it is a 1 1/8" cylinder 3/4" tall. The top is adorned with brown, yellows and red swirls, so it has an autumn theme to it.
Finally, the Sea Salt Caramel is most analogous to a petite four, save in milk chocolate. This is rather blockish, an inch square, but barely over half an inch tall. All that makes this candy distinctive on sight is that the top looks like it has been ironed flat and when the chocolate solidified, it was painted red.
One of the most distinctive aspects of the Soho has to be the aroma. Opening the box of this candy and removing the wrap leaves the consumer bowled over by the scent of chocolate and coffee. The power of the scent is cut somewhat
The Pear Praline is a study in blandness. The white chocolate is creamy and generic and while it smells vaguely fruity, it is only in the aftertaste that the pear flavor actually makes itself known. There are tiny bits of nuts which feel more like imperfections in the candy than actual flavorful additions to the chocolate. The pear is subtle and the mixture of pear and white chocolate is like the bland leading the bland down the esophagus.
The Madagascar Vanilla Brulee is a solid confection which blends chocolate and vanilla surprisingly well. The chocolate flakes off under the teeth to reveal a firm, vanilla center that is delightful. If the chocolate is allowed to melt in one's mouth, this becomes a delicious mixture of vanilla and chocolate flavors.
The Raspberry Ganache is absolutely delightful. The soft chocolate hints at a vaguely fruity scent before one bites into it. The chocolate coating flakes away to reveal a distinctly raspberry center. The tongue pushes through the sweet and slightly tart ganache and the consumer is rewarded with a most delightful mixing of chocolate and raspberry. This might well be the reason to buy this box of chocolate!
The Pistachio Nougat has a bold, rich scent of dark chocolate, which makes sense as the outside is a blending of milk and darker chocolate. The dark chocolate cracks open to reveal a soft, buttery middle that is delicious. The center oozes out at room temperature and is easily recognizable as pistachio for those of us who love the noble pistachio. The dry, nutty flavor competes adequately with the taste of the dark chocolate to make a delightful candy.
The Cacao Truffle is a strangely unintense dark chocolate experience. The white chocolate coating sweetens up the firm cacao center. The tongue presses through the center easily enough, but the white chocolate - sweet and bland as it is - softens up the palate for a much more dry and potent cacao chocolate experience. Unfortunately, it has the net effect of sweetening the otherwise dark chocolate ganache. This makes the impact of the dark chocolate less realized than it ought to be.
The Sea Salt Caramel is a solid little block and the caramel is oddly less dry than most. Combining with the milk chocolate coating, the Sea Salt Caramel is neither salty nor especially sweet. It is, however, very hard and the tongue must push through the caramel to get the full effect of the flavor. This is not the most impressive blending of chocolate and caramel.
The Soho assortment is an assortment of chocolates, so they were never going to be a wealth of nutritional value. Even so, this is not the worst confection to ever grace my lips (or, presumably, hips). The ingredients all start with milk, dark or white chocolate before moving into corn syrup and condensed milk. Only the last few ingredients are unpronouncable preservatives.
Still, this is a box of candy, so it is not ideal to try to live off of. The Soho box has two servings of three pieces of candy each. In each serving, there are 230 calories, 110 of which are from fat (not a big surprise). The single serving has 28% of one's recommended daily allowance of saturated fat and there are 10 mg of cholesterol. There are negligible amounts of vitamin A, calcium, iron and protein. In other words, one does not want to try to live off this box of chocolates for too long!
Just as there is no real preparation for eating the Whitman's Soho Assortment, outside opening the box, there is no real clean-up issues either. Simply eat the chocolates and dispose of the leftover garbage when one is done! These chocolates do tend to be softer and as such are liable to melt. As a result, they may stain fabrics. Consult a fabric care guide if it melts into any of your clothes or table linens.
As for storage, this package of chocolate comes doubly sealed and there was no expiration date on my box. However, chocolate is hardly immortal and I suspect the reason it was marked down was that it was near its expiration date. Even so, sealed and kept cool (preferably in the 50 degree Fahrenheit range) the Soho collection ought to remain viable and delicious for quite some time.
Unfortunately, though, if a Whitman's Sampler is an average box of chocolates brought down by a mass-produced chocolate taste and feel, the Whitman's Soho Artist Inspired Series of chocolates is a box of chocolate brought down by its expense. While there were two or three good pieces in the box, the others were bland and unmemorable and for the expense, we expect better.
For other reviews of good chocolates, check out my takes on:
Lindt Dark Peppermint Truffles
Peppermint Crunch Junior Mints
M&M's Premium Mocha
For other food and drink reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!
© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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