OK. So “world’s most luxurious” is not my description. It came from Emanuel Andrén’s PR team along with the email inviting me to go meet this chocolatier / confectioner / artisan from Sweden and sample from his selection of hand-crafted hand-painted pralines, which he was launching in the United States and that retail for $29 a piece.
I admit I was wooed by the idea of eating what I guessed must be the most expensive chocolates in the world. That is, until I googled “world’s most expensive chocolates” and came upon truffles with a price tag of $250 (each) made by a Danish chocolatier, Fritz Knipschildt, in Connecticut, using a base of Valrhona chocolate from France. (Andrén also uses Valrhona, as well as Felchlin chocolate from Switzerland.)
Rather than detract from Andrén’s chocolates, having this price comparison made them suddenly seem pretty seductively affordable, if one is into chocolate. Learning that André hand paints each chocolate and created the rather lovely boxes they come packaged in — and being told I should smell, taste and allow air into my mouth while tasting them, as when tasting a good wine — made them, indeed, pretty luxurious.
And knowing that Andrén tasted and tested 100 cheeses to create four pralines (he and his team use the terms “pralines” and “chocolates” interchangeably) with cheese — one of which also has tobacco from Zino Platinum cigars — also made them pretty exotic.
Andrén, a friendly, likable and enthusiastic ambassador for his brand, comes from a lineage of bakers going back more than 100 years. He was named Sweden’s Pastry Chef of the Year in 2005.
He might have continued the family tradition and simply taken over the bakery he lived above while growing up, in the town of Lilla Edet, had he not decided to honor his creative side, “follow my dreams,” create chocolates to take to the world, and “feel really good about what I am doing.”
I recently interviewed Irish born chocolate maker Willie Harcourt-Cooze, popular star of BBC TV’s Willies Wonky Chocolate Factory. Harcourt-Cooze specializes in making 100 percent chocolate and among other things, writes books on using chocolate when cooking both savory and sweet offerings. He was happy to have me call him a chocolatier but was quick to point out the difference between a chocolatier who makes chocolates (plural — as in creating chocolates from chocolate they buy) and one who makes chocolate. (Harcourt-Cooze seeks out the best beans he can find in the world and in his small artisan factory on his farm in Devon in England, makes chocolate.)
“I think any chocolatier would love to have his own factory,” says Andrén, who says he chooses to buy the best chocolate he can get his hands on — namely, chocolate from Valrhona and Felchlin — and use his creativity, his pastry chef pedigree and talents, and his superior taste buds to make chocolates.
As such, Andrén has made chocolates for Swedish royalty. His chocolates are big in Japan. And while the market in Sweden is small — the “5 percent not hurt by the recession in the United States are mainly who we are targeting” says PR Sophia Paliov, plus those who can afford a $100 bottle of wine or a $98 box of (four) pralines or a $329 box of 16 (with Bollinger champagne, Whisky Laphroaig and wild forest strawberries among the ingredients) — the market in the United States is potentially significant.
Andrén and his team coincided their official United States launch with the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, held each year on the third Sunday in August. They specifically mentioned launching where the Aston Martin was on display. This makes sense when you read the PR material, which tells you that “Emanuel Andrén Gastronomy AB Chocolates have made a place for themselves in the luxury market within the chocolate/food sector, much like an Aston Martin or Harry Winston have in the car and fine jewelry market.”
From Pebble Beach, they launched the chocolates in San Francisco (we met in the lobby of the Serrano Hotel near Union Square).
They were then heading off to introduce them to food writers in Los Angeles and New York. The do not plan to put the chocolates into stores. They are available by order on the Emanuel Andrén chocolates website or from their Chicago–based marketing representative Lucretia Ristin at [email protected] emanuelandren.com.