Box Chocolate Review

Atelier Ortega

Info Details
Country USA   (Jackson Hole, WY)
Style Neo-Modern      
Lest anyone think when it comes to chocolate that Jackson Hole fills for a sump hole, this atelier proves how operating under the long shadows cast by the Grand Tetons has its virtues. The ultimate rock stars on Earth (sorry Idol contestants), the Tetons are simultaneously inspiring & intimidating. Now they’ve a chocolateer befitting their world-class vistas & ski lifts.

Ortega’s no 900-pound gorilla or overweight diva. He’s an up & coming climber; a Julio Bocca, the Baryshnikov of Latin America… not perfect (yet); just wondrous (already).
Presentation   4.8 / 5
zero fashion infractions except for near-perfection: clean, hi-end glove-box in matte creamsickle-orange w/ attractive cacáo pod logo (the kind to keep on the dresser - even though it’s paper); opens to an oh-so-cool white inner-box, precisely-cut cushion & gossamer parchment + well-written foldout road map / flavor guide; fit & well-crafted / finished bombones within... of glossy tempering tamed by a pro’s hand; nicely airbrushed / spray-painted colors for ID purposes; only a few mold choices; double bite-size carriage
Aromas   2.9 / 5
meek... got to get down on the knees to smell these pretty pics... one of the few drawbacks to these beauties, no tantalizing choco-pherimones to start the sex up: plastic polymers & resin, carnauba wax, condensed milk
Textures/Melt   8.5 / 10
Shells: initial impact bullet-proof (ergo the tight Aromas) / generally armored thick (even-pour for the shell wall) but strong snap & good eventual yield / collapse under teeth
Centers: firm although the melt-thru comes true as a wet dream that turns out to be the real thing – softly undulating-out for textbook smooth cover-spread to the voluptuous tongue kiss on this sensuous ganache
Flavor   43.9 / 50
after a hobbled start on some benchmark totems (Intense Dark [basically a Palet d’Or] as well as a plain solid dark, both due to retarding but serviceable couverture - commercial quality conche & temper [RE: no real high notes nor super lows, i.e., chemical feels or flavors, wax, chalk or oil; clear palate after) the box rights itself: mostly curious, laid-back flavorings thanks to butter-forward & sweet that slightly overpowers chocolate to tip the balance of the scales in favor of cream leading to a pro ganache base; inconsistent fillings of flavors: light on summer fruits & flowers, very subtle to come forward thru that sublime center (fun, soft lapdance of about 30 seconds) while others (Souchong Pepper, for instance) charge in like a rhino thru the mist - aggressive but always on that soft cloud of über-cream ganache
Quality   27 / 30
Stands-out without screaming. Technique, knowledge, passion, patience, daring & skill all come together. Respect for the bean, the sugar, assembly, packaging &, most critically, respect for the client’s culinary intelligence. More than a mere chocolatier, a classically-trained hallmark of Pastry Chef’s art. Neither stuffy nor rigid but embracing the new (no fads here) with the Tried ‘n True. Prideful. Can’t wait to taste how Ateleir Ortega evolves.
Couverture: Callebaut
Intense Dark – timid for an 83%; bland even by ‘chalkolot’ standards
Organic 60% - solid but unstructured (flavor-wise) block on the brink of alkalized; blank couveture re-tempered then re-molded into simpering innocence; from Venezuela no less
Almond Praline – atypical; soft thru & thru, only minor almond presence & then mostly at the end... beforehand a heavily coffee-inflected 60% chocolate which, when combined w/ cream ganache, awakens a Café au Lait; excellent, such as it is
Wasabi – what might bear the hallmarks of a tongue-clutching horror instead shows White Choc enrobed by Dark & both well-partnered w/ light wasabi root; skillful
Honey-Balsamic – contrastive tastes & textures... über-sweet goop encased in thick, hard-shelled Dark of medium force; all nicely align in neutral patterns at the melting point
Goat Milk Caramel – oft-attempted / rarely successful; shockingly soft; egg yolk fragility & a delicacy to belie components; tremendous patience / very reflective; ultimately imprints rosewater & marshmallow ala Santander’s 53%; best of the set & among best of its kind by anyone... anywhere
Raspberry 55% - very smooth w/ just the right kiss of raspberry; please ship a 10-pound box of these to Wyoming resident Mr. D. Cheney to soften up the ex-Vice Prez
Milk Caramel - superb balancing act twixt sweet, cream, choc & texturals
Rose - embraceable rose petals rising right into the upper sinus cavity w/o the chemical back, just chocolate as the attendant; bravo
Orange Caramel/Sea Salt – very light (orange takes the 10 second count), clean (no chem peel or zest abrasion), practically oozes onto the palate
Coconut Lime - fast track & tart; coconut in texture only / not flavor
Souchong Pink Peppercorn - risk taker, assertive, balanced & very pepper; great w/ that aged goat cheese or cheddar

Reviewed Autumn 2009

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