Dessert Comes First

An obsession with dessert and other unabashed opinions of a food writer

Magnum White King
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A Favorite Chocolate From Childhood Grows Up With Me

posted by in Miscellaneous

I’m starting and ending the week with chocolate.

Chocolates ruled my childhood but among the scores of brown bars and silver wrappers scattered in my memory, one gold tin sticks out.

From an overhead view, the tin’s top was the shape of a cocoa bean, its body extending down and straightening into a slim line before distending into an oval shape once again to round out its base. Gilded in gold, I always had to ask for help to pop the top, effectively negating the possibility of private pig-out sessions.

It’s a tin of Van Houten chocolates, an assortment of chocolate-covered almonds, hazelnuts, and raisins. As a kid, I didn’t care for nuts so I always rooted around for the smallest chocolates, those were the ones with raisins. When those ran out, I’d nibble around the edges of the other chocolates and then thrown them back into the tin once I’d eaten through to the nutty center, something my parents weren’t at all amused by.

I forgot about Van Houten chocolates as I grew up and my food and chocolate universe expanded too. Then, not too long ago, I’m scouting around the supermarket – doing a reconnaissance, if you will, for new food to feed on. I see some unfamiliar brown packaging in the chocolate aisle and let out an involuntary whoop when I see the label: Van Houten.

This isn’t the tin but bars and packs of promised pleasures: Milk chocolate and semisweet chocolate in their unadorned essence or enrobing nuts, familiar friends from that tin of long ago: hazelnuts, roasted almonds, and raisins too. I’m goggle-eyed at what I see before me, and because I have no restraint when it comes to all things sweet, I buy two of every Van Houten variant available.

In the checkout line, I marvel at the packaging, sleek and smooth with the brand’s characteristic gold-gilded lining. Unconsciously, I bring a bar up to my nose and inhale deeply, willing a fragrance to reveal itself to me. I catch sight of a young girl across another counter shooting me a queer look. Conscious now, I put the bar down and turn away, chuckling.

At home, I lay my prizes down, willing myself to calm down, slow down. Impossible.

Almonds in chocolate: texturally rocky, totally dreamy.

I rip into each packaging. Visually, the almonds are a striking contrast to the chocolate, their tear-dropped shells are boats bobbing about in a bay of brown. The hazelnuts on the other hand, are enmeshed in an enthusiastic embrace with milk chocolate, their shelled, ivory exteriors illuminating a darkened interior. The bar’s sheen is so brilliant that it catches my every fingerprint.

Because Van Houten is of European heritage, its milk chocolate is creamier and I daresay, stickier than an American chocolate. Pleasingly but not overly sweet, the chocolate coats my mouth before I bite down: the crunch of nuts is a bewitching contrast.

The semi sweet chocolate is deeper in color and flavor. Its increased cocoa mass makes it firmer and thus, it melts more slowly in the mouth. But its inherent smokiness is substantial and expansive, the perfect foil in a naked (no nuts) bar or of that awash in almonds.

The chocolate covered nuts and raisins of my childhood are now called dragées (drah-ZHAYS). I have yet to find the tin but this package suffices. Oh, what memories unfurl as I gaze at this unopened pack! Soon, the dragées are glinting, winking up at me: Hey girl, remember me? Long time no see.

I eat one variety of each nut (and one fruit) one at a time – size determines contents, and raisins are the smallest. The meaty grit of a whole almond, the butteriness of an entire hazelnut, the sweet ping of a raisin, all echoing in a contrast that mesmerizes, and a flavor that fuels memories of long ago.

Van Houten Chocolate

Available at all leading supermarkets and some convenience stores.
Variants:
Van Houten Bar
Available in 38g, 72g, and 150g
Milk Chocolate
Milk Chocolate with Whole Roasted Almonds
Milk Chocolate with Whole Hazelnuts
Milk Chocolate with Whole Fruit and Nuts
Semi-sweet Chocolate
Semi-sweet Chocolate with Whole Roasted Almonds

Van Houten coated nuts (dragées)
Available in 40g, 80g, 180g, 300g and 380g
Milk Chocolate with Almonds
Semi-sweet with Almonds

Available in 80g and 300g
Assortment (almonds, hazelnuts, raisins – my favorite!)

More info at: www.facebook.com/pages/cocoaphilia-philippines

28 Responses to “A Favorite Chocolate From Childhood Grows Up With Me”

  • Sweet ping of a raisin, so apt :) I agree about European chocolates, they are milkier :) Yumm.

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  • love how you wrote this piece. The nostalgia is evident and the joy you felt upon seeing an old favorite jumped through my screen -sigh-

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    Lori Reply:

    MellowMarco-
    The way I see it, there’s only one thing to do: get to the nearest supermarket and grab the Van Houten of your choice!

    –lori

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  • God! I can’t imagine Life without chocolates. *deep sigh*

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    Lori Reply:

    Abi Lotho-
    Together: *sigh*.

    –lori

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  • Your photos made them more enticing! If only I could grab them out straight from my monitor…

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    Lori Reply:

    Lloyd-
    Even better, grab them from the grocery!
    –lori

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  • And I thank my lucky stars that I was not born with chocolate allergies… :)

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    Lori Reply:

    Me too!

    –lori

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  • who could say no to chocolates?? divine! :D

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  • Chocolate seems to bring out the best in raisins, or is it the other way around? I’m not sure, but the combination sure does make me swoon every time.

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    Lori Reply:

    Jean-
    Chocolate brings out the best in anything, except maybe ampalaya.

    –lori

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  • have you tried the van houten assorted minis? i think i’ve seen them in SM, it’s a big bag filled with tiny chocolates (orange, milk and mocha i think) they all taste the same with super subtle differences, but all so so yummy. :) i remember my family always had tins of the chocolate covered almonds, and when i was a kid i wouldn’t eat it because i thought they were “grown up” chocolates, since they came in a can. hehe

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    Lori Reply:

    Haven’t seen these minis but I’ll look for them.
    –lori

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    Juliana Reply:

    The family loves these mini chocolates. About 8 months ago, I found a whole pile of them at SM Supermarket in North Edsa. Now they are nowhere to be found.
    I have just been to Hong Kong and I searched far and wide for these little devils. Zilch.
    I am writing VAN HOUTEN to ask that they manufacture these wonderful pieces and put them out in the market.
    Tara – let’s rally behind this cause!!!

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  • I love Violet Crumble!!! Where can I buy those?

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    Lori Reply:

    Violet Crumble makes an occasional appearance at the larger supermarkets, especially around November. They might have them in Maitre and at Cocoa (not sure if that’s the name), the chocolate store in Serendra across Mary Grace Cafe.
    –lori

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    Jan Reply:

    Wow you replied! I’m a loyal reader of your blog, so you just made my day! I love the way you write Lori! Your description of food is like literature! :P Keep it up! :)

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  • I do miss violet crumble. Chocolates I’m loving now are Meiji. The Black Bar (dark chocolate) and the chocolate covered almonds too.

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  • Wow!

    Just bought a couple of Van Houten Chocolate bars last Saturday. I saw them in the middle of Robinson’s Place while I waited for my Sister. Still the same taste and very addictive!

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  • Has anyone tasted the “Galaxy” Chocolates which is popular here in the Middle East? I am not an expert in chocolates but I gauge the sweet tooth of my kids who loves the taste of this chocolate than most of the popular imported brands.

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  • Like my playmates used to say “penge naman nyan!!”

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  • Van Houten reminds me of the days when my husband is still trying to win my heart…suddenly i miss those days & those chocolates :(

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    Lori Reply:

    Relive those days, then. Buy some Van Houten chocolate.

    –lori

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  • The last time I saw VH in tins was at London’s Heathrow and Amsterdam’s Schipol airports. I bought as many of those as I could, natch!

    Your observation about American chocolate is correct. Particularly with Hershey’s because their philosophy is that they don’t really want the chocolate to melt as soon as it comes in contact with your skin. So there are other additives that degrade the quality, IMO.

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  • I’m on diet and I dare not think of chocolates!

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  • I was actually looking for a recipe and came across your site and ended up getting “lost” reading many of your different posts. This site is great! I have already bookmarked you. Thanks for the hard work! cooking with emotions

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  • I love this’s chocolate …I wnt this chocolate in India can u support me

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