Saturday, November 19, 2016

Traditions: Best Christmas Chocolates (Not Made by Mom)

And now, on a lighter note:

Since Remembrance Day is over, my son’s birthday is past, my husband’s birthday present has been selected and wrapped for presentation tomorrow on the official day and the USA Thanksgiving does not factor into my Canadian lifestyle, I can now turn my thoughts toward a Christmas theme. I hope to write a few blogs in the coming weeks regarding holiday traditions, in an Advent countdown, of sorts. As time allows, I will post and discuss my own favorites – because, after all, this is my blog – but you, of course, are welcome to disagree agreeably regarding your personal preferences and traditions.

Christmas Tradition #1: The Best Christmas Chocolate (not made by mom)

Hands down, Quality Street.

 Introduced to me by my mother-in-law for my first Christmas in Canada (1981), Quality Street imported chocolates and caramels have been a staple on my coffee table ever since. As soon as that 725g tin is available on sale, I grab one. Or two. Or a few for gifts. Or a case (a back up supply in case of the Apocalypse).
A magical brand, Quality Street has held a special place in the hearts of the public, in Britain and around the world, since it was launched in 1936. The name, Quality Street, was inspired by a delightful play by J.M. Barrie (who also wrote Peter Pan). The two figures on the original tin were originally inspired by the two principal characters, Phoebe Throssel and Valentine Brown, but later became known affectionately as Miss Sweetly and Major Quality. The play was first performed in 1902 and later, the film version starring Katherine Hepburn became the perfect launch to the brand. Imported from England, Quality Street is now enjoyed in over 50 countries around the world.(text from this fan site and the “guide” inside my first tin of the 2016 season) 

There are other wonderful chocolates out there like Lindt, Ghirardelli and Olivier’s handmade (Calgary only, sorry folks), but my sole reason for preferring Quality Street is this: You know what you’re getting. I don’t necessarily enjoy every single chocolate in the stash, which are different shapes colorfully wrapped in various colors so that each one is quite distinguishable long before you bite into it. However, QS kindly provides a handy legend in the tin to advise what flavor each of the 12 colored shapes contains. To see pictures, click here.

From a cached version of the Nestlés website, the most popular flavor was allegedly the Purple One (hazelnut in caramel). This is my least favorite, which I eat only when there is nothing else left. Though this site and another site both disagree with that and with each other about the order in popularity of each flavor. And I disagree with them all. So I will post my own, most favorite to least favorite:

1. Toffee Finger (gold cylinder): The center is the epitome of toffee, a softer mix of the original Macintosh’s toffee and covered in milk chocolate. Slightly thicker than a golf pencil, easy to bite with tasty melt-in-your-mouth goodness.

2. Toffee Deluxe (brown rectangular cuboid): This is a softer toffee wrapped in delicious milk chocolate. I choose this only after the toffee fingers are gone, but alternate it with my #3 choice.

3. Toffee Penny (gold round): An original Mackintosh’s Toffee the size of an old fashioned English penny (hence the name). This sends me back to when I was young and my family toured/sang in Canada. We’d buy the rectangular Mackintosh's solid toffee bars in the plaid wrapper and “Whack a Mack” against the car dash to break the solid bar up into chewable pieces (or when we were forced to share with our siblings). Nestlé has recently reintroduced this bar in Canada. But the Toffee Penny is a perfect, bite-size mouthful of goodness and sticky-pull-out-your-fillings buttery-caramel goodness.

4. Hazelnut Triangle (bright green triangular prism): This is a hazelnut chocolate, and a close tie with my #5 preference. Depends on whether I want plain or flavored chocolate on any given day.

5. Milk Chocolate Block (dark green “brick”): This is a brick of tasty chocolate. I went on a Google rabbit trail to try to describe the actual shape, which is similar to a bar of gold. For you geometric nerds, the closest description I could find is a trapezoidal prism or a frustum of a rectangular pyramid.

6. Chocolate Fudge (pink rectangular cuboid): Fudge-y center covered in milk chocolate. Some older guides (and Wikipedia) call this a Vanilla Fudge. It’s the over-looked, average, middle child of QS chocolates, even mom can’t remember their name.

7. Orange Crunch (orange octahedron): Little pieces of crystallized orange in solid milk chocolate. Almost crunches like toffee crumbs. It’ll do in a pinch.

8. Coconut Éclair (blue rectangular cuboid): A poor man’s Mounds/Bounty bar. Coconut flavored filling inside chocolate. A little dry. Sticks in the teeth.

The rest of these I could take or leave in any order, depending on the day and my mood. Except for the last one. I always leave The Purple One to the very last. 

9. Caramel Cup (gold foil): hard chocolate outside, liquid caramel inside. Messy and unattractive. Sticky sweet. Think melted Rolo with soft shoulders.

10. Chocolate Strawberry (red wrapper, circular): These are the cream centers you hated biting into from the cheap box of mixed chocolates Uncle Rufus got at the dollar store. Even the dog didn’t eat this one. But QS did tint it pink to simulate an exciting tinge of strawberry.

11. Orange Creme (orange foil, circular):  Same as the Chocolate Strawberry but no attempt at disguising the white cream. Just say no.

12. Hazelnut in Caramel (purple, brazil-nut shape): The Purple One. This is a hazelnut in runny caramel wrapped in chocolate (originally it was a brazil nut, hence the shape). See #9 re: the runny caramel. The chocolate is too hard to easily bite and so the runny caramel always squirts out in unbecoming ways. The hazelnut is the consolation prize. As previously stated, this is a last resort when chocolate desperation sets in.

I’m quite certain, if you’ve ever enjoyed Quality Street chocolates, that you have your own list of priorities and very justifiable reasons for your classification system. You may even disagree with my geometric labels on the shapes of the candies. Feel free to agreeably disagree in the comments.

But most of all, enjoy everything in moderation. Including moderation.

You're welcome. And Merry Christmas.

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