Happy national chocolate week, everyone. A celebration that, for some reason, falls on the week after curry week this year. Not that I’m complaining, though, since I only had that one idea for chocolate madras and it means that I can dedicate the entirety of today’s review to cocoa without worry.
Both in it’s bar form and as a probiotic, living barbecue sauce:
What exactly that means, you’ll have to wait and see, however. I want to look at Montezuma’s recent limited edition first. Their “Peanut Butter Centre with Chilli & Lime”.
Covered in metallic wrapping for freshness and labelled in neon lime green, part of the product’s unique flavour is immediately visible. Yet the red chilli and peanut graphics are rather less obvious and its thai inspiration is nowhere to be seen.
I’m honestly quite surprised that Montezuma went for “Milk Chocolate & Peanut Butter Centre with Chilli & Lime” as the final title, when the “Satay Chocolate” name from their Fiery Food Fest stall was way less wordy and didn’t leave the reader wondering why they’d picked those particular ingredients.
As a satay, the three added flavours in their chocolate make sense and, to me, it would have been a no-brainer to keep that succinct description but, then again, I don’t know their audience. Maybe there are still people, in this day and age, who don’t know what a satay is?
Whatever the reasoning, this is one of the company’s most interesting bars and their tasters at the festival were fantastic. So, how’s it going to hold up back home?
Not great, if I’m honest.
It’s broken in transit and clearly suffered from the summer heat. Its edges have rounded off as it’s melted slightly, its british crown indentations are shallower than they should be and, in one place, the dark, peanutty centre has even bled up to the surface.
In this state, I can’t judge the snap. I can’t get a feel for the company’s tempering and I probably shouldn’t judge the chocolate’s texture too harshly.
But, you know what? It’s actually still good. Firm, yet not brittle, milk chocolate giving way to a smooth, salted, nutty core. A delightful contrast in texture with tastes that pair just as wonderfully.
A great start but that’s just their peanut butter flavour. What’s special about this one?
Well, from the moment that a square passes my lips, I’m inhaling the fragrant, zesty aroma of lime oil. I don’t even have to chew to know that this chocolate’s different. Yet, when I do, the creaminess of both the chocolate and the nut butter carry that aroma beautifully, bringing you the thai-style taste that its makers originally promised.
Backed up, of course, by a late kick of red chilli heat. And it’s a surprisingly high
Once the bar is gone, its legacy lingers on as a fire in my throat, smooth chocolate covering my tongue, salty peanuts in the back of my mouth and just a hint of lime across the top. Every bit of it stays with me in some form, long after I’m done eating, and it’s still almost as great as when I started.
I may be used to seeing Montezuma as a supermarket brand but this flavour is definitely something more. Something special. Though, between you and me, no artisan hundred percent has quite compared to their Absolute Black for my brownies and con carnes, either.
If you do find the company locally, this and that are the two that I would most wholeheartedly recommend.
But what about today’s other item? That purple and white, two-striped bottle of rich, brown, cacao-blended hot sauce?
That, dear readers, was not another festival find. Or even a Hop Burns & Black one. It was a completely accidental discovery from a random wholefood shop in london.
A shop which, I would assume, was stocking it for its raw nature. Because, contrary to everything that I know about professionally bottled hot sauce, Eaten Alive don’t pasteurise their products. They pride themselves on leaving the bacteria intact.
If that sounds scary to you, you’re not alone. I’ve worked with small companies who didn’t know what they were doing and I’ve seen bottles erupt like volcanoes from uncontrolled fermentation. That and worse can most definitely occur if you don’t kill off anything living in your sauce, so I’m not going to be trying it blind, like I usually do.
I’m writing this review after talking to Eaten Alive about their products, so that I can not only be certain of my own safety but that of the people that I might recommend them to, as well. And yes, I can be pretty darn certain.
As it turns out, there are a LOT of health and safety checks and lab tests that take place before a raw item like today’s can reach shop shelves. All of which show that, while the company’s “It’s Alive!” hot sauce really does live up to its name, only the good bacteria survives production and there is no chance of a dangerous CO₂ build up on the shelf.
There might be some cause for concern if you left their sauce unrefrigerated for an extended period but, so long as you follow the storage instructions on the bottle, there is absolutely nothing to worry about. This sauce is not just safe but pro-biotic. Good for your digestion.
I could try and explain how the process works but, honestly, I’m not the expert there. Eaten Alive understand their creation way better than I do and I’m just here to taste it.
So this thick, smooth, gloopy sauce is their Chocolate BBQ but don’t let that name fool you. It’s not a barbecue flavour.
The scent of this sauce, alone, is enough to make that clear but I’d rather talk about the matching taste. Because the initial taste is rich and dark, like the sauce’s appearance, with a smooth, silky texture to make it creamy, stemming from the cocoa’s natural fats. Yet, despite being very chocolatey in flavour and in texture, the Chocolate BBQ is neither sweet, like other barbecue sauces, nor bitter, like pure, dark chocolate. And, while it’s enriched further by its earthy ancho chillies, it still lacks the molasses normally found in its genre.
It’s a solid base but it needs something more to it and, indeed, the product hits you hard, just moments later, with a touch of acidity and a tonne of savoury. A flavour built from equal parts garlic and preserved lime, which comes in with a dry fire that grows all the way up to my scale’s
A not insignificant chilli kick but, to me at least, a good deal less impactful than that sudden savoury strike to the palate. This is a hard-hitting sauce but more so in its taste than with its spice.
And no, it definitely won’t provide an instant barbecue flavour, but it will go wonderfully over barbecued food – The resulting smoke amplifying the subtle hints present in today’s sauce.
Even without that smoke, though, its richness makes a perfect accompaniment to darker roast meats or way to add depth to meat substitutes. And I certainly wouldn’t overlook its use in a molé, a con carne, or a madras, like last years, either. All three would make great homes for this bold and silky sauce.
Its flavour is as delicious as it is intense and I can’t help but recommend it. Especially if you’re into mexican or american styles of cooking.
The sauce contains:
Smoked chilli, smoked red pepper, smoked onion, raw cider vinegar, rice koji (rice, koji cultures), brown sugar, garlic, dry chilli, lime, salt, raw cacao, soy sauce.
And is suitable for vegans. While the milk chocolate of the day is absolutely not.
It was made from:
Milk Chocolate 82% (Sugar, Whole Milk Powder, Cocoa Butter, Cocoa Paste, Emulsifier: Soya Lecithin & Vanilla Extract), Peanut Butter 17% (Peanuts), Chilli Powder 0.6%, Sea Salt 0.5% & Lime Oil
Both, however, have been utterly top notch.