Over the last 15 years or so I have (mostly) enjoyed eating my way through the finest chocolate truffles available in Europe (to be honest, US producers don’t really count do they? I mean have you tried what they consider to be their finest Ghirardelli – truly second rate at best!). My personal benchmark is a sea salted caramel, but failing the availability of the ultimate sweet treat, then any flavoured ganache will do to contrast and compare between the producers.
When it comes to salt caramels themselves, well there are only two producers truly worth talking about: L’Artisan du Chocolat (from London despite the French sounding name) and local hero William Curley. L’Artisan’s range of liquid salt caramels (originally produced on commission for the big sweary one’s eatery at Claridges) are truly amazing! My favourite is No.1 – the original – with no additional flavours and they are just utterly, utterly immense either room temperature or frozen (let them melt very slowly in your mouth for the most luscious of experiences). Curley’s salt caramel bars are very good too – although I think that maybe the chocolate casing is a little thick on these? But he makes up for everything with his delectable salt caramel spread… spread on warm toast and you’ll never want anything else for breakfast!
Obviously L’Artisan and Curley make fabulous truffles too – try L’Artisan’s Tobacco (created for The Fat Duck) or Curley’s Cassis for a not-so-subtle wake up call – but the best all round provider of truffle heaven is in my opinion La Maison du Chocolat (and sadly they ARE French!). La Maison’s truffles are a perfect combination of luxury (packaging and service), ingredients (quality and quantity), flavour combinations and just as important – size (not too big and not too small). A trip to any of their outlets (but my personal favourite would be their Piccadilly boutique) one of life’s greatest luxuries – and one that everyone can afford and enjoy!
Other notable producers worthy of mention are the master Belgian Pierre Marcolini, especially for their tremendous emporium in Brussels and magical tonka bean truffles with crushed hazelnuts, and Stockholm’s NK for their classic caramel truffle and signature NK mint.