Chocolak Brings Handmade Tuscan Chocolates to Our Backyard (GIVEAWAY ALERT!)
If there’s anything I remember from our honeymoon trip to Italy, apart from the lush green landscape blanketed with olive trees and grapevines, it’s the delicious chocolate. When one thinks of Italian chocolate, the spreadable hazelnut variety Nutella immediately comes to mind, as does sister brand Ferrero Rocher.
However, Italy has also staked out a claim among the world’s finest chocolatiers due to the hard work of artisan family entrepreneurs. While artisans can hardly hope to compete with big producers like Ferrero, they are carving out a niche for themselves, meticulously crafting ganaches, giandujas and hand-rolled truffles. Prices are high, but these chocolates are not for the everyday consumer.
One such artisan shop is Vestri, named for the family who started making chocolate in Arezzo, Tuscany, 30 years ago. Vestri, who sell from their modest shop in Florence, acquires organic cocoa beans from Santo Domingo, which makes for exceptionally decadent chocolates.
|Get a load of that cross-section! Wafer, rich hazelnut paste, and dark chocolate|
Attention to detail and commitment to quality have singled Vestri out for both their classic chocolate and more unusual savors, like white chocolate with lavender and raspberry.
The problem for us non-Italians—besides the fact that we're not Italian (sob!)—is that it’s fairly challenging to come by artisanal chocolate like Vestri’s outside of Italy.
Which was true until a couple of months ago, when Dubai-based Chocolak.com launched an online shopping space. The directory solely features Vestri’s delicate handmade products, 20 to be exact, and there are over a dozen combinations thereof at discounted prices.
I was keen on trying a selection of Vestri specialties, so I ordered “Tea Time,” which bundles four of their chocolates:
Cartoccio (150g): dark chocolate with almonds and oranges
Amore (50g): rose-flavored dark chocolate 65%
Cassata Fiorentina (150g): dark chocolate with hazelnut paste and wafer
Nocciolato Fondente (100g): dark chocolate with whole hazelnuts
I’ve already wolfed down the Cassata, which is shaped like a disk and delivers a luxurious, creamy, hazelnut taste. The ingredients? Only the finest cocoa paste, sugar, cane sugar, hazelnut paste, wafer and natural vanilla. Whenever you’re dealing with just a few elements, you know it’s got to be premium.
|Some of the chocolate comes sealed in Vestri's signature baby blue packaging|
|Cassata Fiorentina (150g) is roughly the size of a CD and 1-cm thick |
with wafer, hazelnut paste, and dark chocolate
Amore would suit the adventurous palate, because its rose petals in a dark chocolate context are unusual.
|Amore (50g) is rose-flavored 65% dark chocolate|
Classicists would appreciate the Nocciolato Fondente, whose composition is one-third roasted hazelnuts.
|Nocciolato Fondente is dark chocolate with whole hazelnuts|
This chocolate doesn’t come cheap, however. My bundle costs $89.19 on Chocolak.com, but it’s important to note that these products are truly intended for connoisseurs who can look past price in return for extraordinary craftsmanship. If you've got foodies for friends, this would be their cup of tea.
Since Chocolak operates out of Dubai, Lebanese customers have to foot DHL’s shipping costs, which command less than $30. My products arrived perfectly preserved and chilled inside a padded aluminum-foil ice box stuffed with frozen icepacks. Shipping only takes 1-2 days.
|Your chocolate arrives in a cushioned insular cube filled with icepacks|
If you're a UAE resident, shipping is arranged through Aramex, and prices are naturally much more reasonable.
The good news is that I’ve teamed up with Chocolak to provide 10 of you $20 off any order above $80. Just shoot me an email, and I’ll gladly hook you up with the promo code.
But wait, there's more: one lucky winner will get a $60 voucher for use on any order! For details on how you can participate in this giveaway, head to my Instagram page.
I’ll concede that at first, even I was a little skeptical about the value of these Tuscan-made chocolates for the price paid. But what you’re getting here are seriously some of the most delectable byproducts of cocoa, hand selected from the Vestri plantation in the Dominican Republic. There’s a reason they’ve garnered so much acclaim on the New York Times, Newsweek and Fodor’s.