There is no doubt that we at The Inlander are gluttons for punishment. But more to the point, we are gluttons. Each time we do one of these food throw-downs, we proclaim that it will be the last one. Or that we’re filing a grievance with Labor & Industries.
There is one thing, though, that we will risk our lives on: dessert.
And February is the time of year to put the old sweet tooth to work. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, we decided, why not put Spokane’s chocolates to the test?
Forty-eight hours, 45 chocolates, some antacid and a lot of complaining later, we give you our official results: the best chocolates in the Inland Northwest.
To start, we assembled our testers: Jordy Byrd, The Inlander’s relief pitcher, is a self-proclaimed chocoholic. She was in. Luke Baumgarten — he’s the guy that came up with these throw-downs in the first place — was in by default. And then Leah: She’s more of a candy fan, but she loves a guy who is a chocoholic and really just wanted to know what to get him for Valentine’s Day.
Next, we figured out our scoring:
Overall Flavor: Was it tasty? Could we envision eating one again? If someone gave it to us as a gift, would we be happy? Did it make us feel nauseous? (10 points possible)
Filling: Does the huckleberry taste like the real thing? Is the peanut butter more like Jif or Adam’s? Is the texture nasty? (5 points)
Chocolate: Does the chocolate, on its own, taste like a grocery store Easter bunny or European drinking chocolate? (5 points)
Appearance: Does it look like a chunk popped from an ice cube tray, or was there care and attention paid to the way it looks? (5 points)
Judges scored each chocolate on this 25-point system, and then we added them up for a potential total of 75 points. (LS)
We all consider ourselves to be spiceavores. We can handle heat. We even look for it. This category, though, made us re-think our Sriracha-goes-with-anything ways.
A mere 11 points separated best from worst, but we had sharp differences on Hallett’s habañero caramel ($.80), which took the bottom. Jordy thought the dark chocolate went well with the habañero oil, while Leah and Luke thought it was spicy for the sake of spiciness.
Chocolate Apothecary’s Spicy Maya ($1.25) was a nice mix of woodsiness and spice. Nothing spectacular, but a good all-around chocolate.
The runner-up, Coeur d’Alene Chocolates’ Ghost Chilie Fire Cracker ($1), was also divisive. While Jordy and Luke thought it had good, smoky flavor (but had to be eaten in safe, small quantities) the thing actually made Leah angry. She sent a text last Saturday that included much profanity and ended: “I ate it a half hour ago and my mouth still burns.”
The winner, by a slim margin, was the French Quarter’s chipotle chocolate ($1.50), which had a well-balanced flavor with a nice, creamy texture. Luke would have eaten it with bacon (a note to all chocolatiers). Best of all, though, it didn’t send a single one of us screaming to the water cooler. (LB)
PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATES
It’s a classic combination: Chocolate plus peanut butter equals tasty and delicious. But a few local chocolatiers screwed with the equation. Hallett’s Melty ($.40) came in last with their chalky peanut butter filling. Nonetheless, Leah says she could see herself eating a whole box of these in front of the television.
Though Chocolate Apothecary’s Peanut Butter Dome ($1.25) scored high in presentation points, it placed third: The hybrid peanut butter filling tasted synthetic. Spokandy took second place with their sweet, salty Peanut Butter Smoothie ($.80), which was good but trod a fine line between gourmet candy and Reese’s.
This made Coeur d’Alene’s truffle ($1.20) the clear winner. The ornate, gold-painted candy is lavish in design but simply perfect in flavor — the peanut butter is earthy, nutty and delicious. Leah says the milk-chocolate-covered dollop of peanut butter was smooth and tasted unlike your standard jar of Jif. And Luke pretty much says it all, when he described the truffle as simply “BOMB” (note the capital letters). (JB)
We thought we’d include Huckleberry since it’s kind of a regional specialty. We discovered that, despite that fact, local candy-makers have not quite wrapped their minds around how to tame the Inland Northwest’s signature wild bush berry.
Observe: Hallett’s did not fare well here — their medicine-y, Tangy, ultraviolet Huckleberry Bliss ($.70) earned a solid F.
To Idaho we went. Coeur d’Alene Chocolates certainly upped the ante with its huckleberry butter cream ($.80). What bumped this one to second place was that it tasted like fruit. Novel idea, right? But it was the butter cream’s overcompensation that was its demise. Sweetening up the fruit here caused the filling to be saccharine — making it taste more sweet, ultimately, than berry.
The Spokandy huckleberry cream ($.60) is a chocolate for a candy person. The purple-sprinkled beauty had a light aroma of lavender that made the flavor more complex than the others. And unlike any of the chocolates we ate for this entire chocolate death match, this one was light, fresh and girly. (LS)
SALTED CARAMEL CHOCOLATES
When you look at four salted caramels on a plate, they pretty much look the same, except for the density of their salt crumbs. But what we learned quickly is that there is a world of difference inside each of them.
Chocolate Apothecary’s Caramel by the Sea ($1.25) was quickly tossed into the garbage and last place after it almost ripped one judge’s front teeth from their cozy homes.
And though Coeur d’Alene Chocolates’ sea salt caramel ($1.50) was delicious, it earned the bronze here due to its lack of saltiness — something we all noted. Plus the caramel wasn’t gooey — more sticky.
Spokandy and French Quarter duked it out for supremacy here. Spokandy ($.80) earned extra points for the hefty salt — like a salt-rimmed margarita, you were tasting the salt before you even got to bite through the candy. But was it too much salt?
What ultimately put French Quarter ($1.50) over the top was a perfect mastery of the details. Just the right amount of salt. Robust chocolate around perfectly gooey-yet-sturdy caramel. Luke put it perfectly: “superior-tasting in every way.” (LS)
Chocolate Apothecary • Flour Mill • 621 W. Mallon • chocolateapothecary.com • 324-2424
Coeur d’Alene Chocolates • 412 E. Sherman Ave., Coeur d’alene • cdachocolates.com • (208) 664-4294
The French Quarter • 1311 W. Sprague • myfrenchquarter.com • 624-5350
Hallett’s • 1419 E. Holyoke • hallettschocolates.com • 487-3238
Spokandy • 1412 W. Third Ave. • spokandy.com • 624-1969