Chocolatier Paul a. Young is a dapper chap – from the top of his well-groomed ginger head down to the custom-decorated white Oliver Sweeney brogues he had hand-graffitied with cacao pods.
And in order to evidence the fact his chocolates are as well-dressed as their creator, one merely has to glance at the brand-new selection Paul’s developed in order to capture Sky Box Sets’ most popular series in cocoa form.
One wonders what Mr. Young wore whilst engaging in extensive sofa-based research in order to get a feel for series including Mad Men, 24 and Broadchurch. I can certainly see him rocking a Mad Men-esque get-up; although after the 100 hours he reportedly spent watching box sets, I suspect he most closely resembled The Walking Dead.
But forget all this talk of style; what of the substance? As ever, ingredients are top-drawer; drawn together in quirky, compelling combinations which reference themes and nuances from each featured show. And what’s more, good taste is combined with good-doing – all proceeds from the Ultimate Chocolate Box Set will be donated to the Royal National Institute of Blind People.
Some like to binge on a box set, but I prefer the piecemeal approach. Such is the case with this nice little nonet; each sweet savoured, not scoffed.
I must admit to finding The Walking Dead a little insubstantial; but then again, that’s precisely the point. This hollow white chocolate sphere is devoid of heart and soul, just like the eponymous show’s zombies. Easy on the eye? Well, kind of – if you have a soft spot for a sort of bloodshot iris depicted on the shell.
Pure white like freshly-fallen snow, Fortitude is cool, calm and collected; its chilly combination of mint, pine and clove evoking swirling, subzero arctic air. Its exterior is as rough as that gorgeous ganache is smooth – calling to mind the harsh landscape that provides the programme’s backdrop.
From mountain high I plunge down to the Deep South and get my gnashers around Nashville – a chocolate with as much charm as a Southern belle. More is more with this gold lustre-dusted, foil-wrapped, bejewelled beauty, and not just in the aesthetics. An alchemical combination of pumpkin pie, doughnuts and maple syrup, it’s undeniably a treat for the sweet of tooth.
As is Sky Box Sets, which takes that essential sofa snack, popcorn, out of the tub and combines it with white chocolate and caramel that’s spiked with sufficient salt to keep you going back for more long after you know you should have stopped.
Once you bite through the countdown clock-decorated 24 and the flavours start, they just keep coming. They might not last for a full 24 hours, but they do linger for that number of minutes; and, what’s more, they’re as big and bold as the explosive on-screen entertainment – Cayenne pepper, gin, thyme, and coffee. Like the show, it’s a compelling collision of elements you never thought could come together and ultimately make sense. And, like the show, it’s a lot of fun.
Love can get your heart racing almost as fast as a high-speed car chase, and The Affair’s softly-set, sweet strawberry centre will make many fall head-over-heels. But, as with an illicit tryst, all is not as lovely as it appears – the heart-shaped shell is riddled with imperfections; the filling leaves a lingering bitterness.
Similarly, Broadchurch is a tale of two halves – quite literally. The centre contains layers of salt water ganache and clotted cream truffle – the flavours and deckchair-style stripes on the shell both referencing the show’s coastal location. Given the sinister storyline, this is one seaside you wouldn’t want to be beside. The edible ode, however, is something you’ll want in close proximity.
The penultimate choc in my box is (Penny) Dreadful by name and dreadfully nice by nature. It’s no secret that I’m a firm fan of Ecuadorean chocolate, and it’s an 83% example that enrobes a Chambord-sozzled rich raspberry ganache which, in turn, hides a suitably dark heart – a whole griottine cherry. It’s gothic, it’s glamorous, it’s downright gorgeous.
Mad Men, meanwhile, is the suave to Penny’s sexy: a powerful yet smooth 72% Venezuelan ganache boozed up with bourbon and infused with a soupcon of pimenton for a smoky warmth without any of the health risks closely associated with a 40-a-day habit.
The UItimate Chocolate Box Set is a clever concept well-executed, but there’s one fatal flaw: if you’re a fine chocolate fan, You’ll find this nine won’t last you through an opening sequence, let alone an entire series.
- The limited-edition Ultimate Chocolate Box Set costs £15.50 from Paul a. Young boutiques or by calling 0207 437 0011.
- To read about more Paul a. Young chocolate, click here
- To read about songs imagined as chocolates, click here and here
- To read about Ecuadorean chocolate, click here
Photo credit: Paul a. Young portrait by Tom Moggach