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Sinful Delight: Chomping On Chocolates

Whether you wish to gift boxes of chocolates to loved ones or just indulge on your own, there are plenty of options

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"Money can't buy happiness but it can buy chocolate, which is kind of the same thing," said US-based romantic writer Tara Sivec in one of her books. She couldn't be more right. Rich, indulgent, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate invariably lifts our mood and makes us happy. Don't believe me - just try being angry while eating a piece of decadent chocolate. The other day, I screamed at my toddler for happily wiping his sticky, chocolaty fingers on the curtains and snatched the offending piece of chocolate from him.

For lack of a better place I popped it in my own mouth (fine, I was just being greedy). As I bit into the melting sweetness and the gooey chocolate twirled around my tongue, I found the anger ebbing away and a feeling of happiness engulfing me. The only one angry post that was my toddler for having lost his chocolate.

While there is heaps of anecdotal evidence, the real reason why chocolate makes us happy is chemical in nature. There are over 300 naturally-occurring chemicals in chocolate, and some of them can affect the brain. For instance, an amino acid called tryptophan is found in small quantities in chocolate and this helps the brain to make serotonin, a neurotransmitter that can produce feelings of happiness.

Another one is phenylethlyamine, which causes a degree of excitement, quickens the pulse rate, and makes you happy. It is sometimes called "the love drug", because it arouses feelings similar to those that occur when one is in love.

If you ever needed an excuse to fall in love with chocolate, the festive season provides it. Whether you wish to gift boxes of chocolates to loved ones or just indulge on your own, there are plenty of options.

If you live in Bangalore, Kolkata, Chennai or Delhi, head over to the Fabelle chocolate boutique at the ITC Gardenia, ITC Sonar Bangla, ITC Grand Chola or the ITC Maurya, respectively, for your chocolate fix. Fabelle chocolate boutiques are the result of 10 years of research by ITC. Cocoa is sourced from some of the finest cocoa growing countries such as Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Madagascar, Venezuela and St Dominique. It is then conched for hours - a process of slow churning of chocolate to bring out the flavours and aromas. The chocolate is then tempered and combined with exotic ingredients such as acacia nectar, ancho chilli, sea salt, cinnamon, etc. to create indulgent decadence.

Fabelle sells three different styles of chocolate. There is a box of five praline chocolates called Elements, inspired by the elements of nature - Earth, air, water, fire and wood. Each chocolate is inspired by the element it is named after. So while 'Air' is a light aerated mousse embraced by dark chocolate, 'Fire' is a dark chocolate shell filled with white mousse infused with ancho chilli and tangy candied mango. A box of five costs Rs 450 while a box of 10 chocolates is for Rs 850.

They also have a box of 20 ganache cubes priced Rs 745. You can opt for milk chocolate ganache or the rich dark chocolate ganache. A dark chocolate ganache with apple and cinnamon infusions will soon be available. These melt-in-your-mouth chocolate pieces are extremely temperature sensitive and are sold in special packaging that includes a cooling gel pack to help maintain the temperature of the chocolate. Keep it refrigerated or better still, just eat it.

Fabelle's 'As You Like It' chocolate cups allow you to be the chocolatier and customise cups of tempered chocolate with your own choice of filling. Choose from seven different fillings such as dark choco crème, dark mint choco crème, berry preserve, caramel, etc. and 10 different toppings such as cocoa powder, almond slices, butterscotch nibs, etc. and create your very own customised chocolate. Each cup costs Rs 100. A dozen are available for Rs 1,000.

Koko, a brand selling handcrafted luxury chocolates is the latest kid on the block in Mumbai. Its owner and creater, Vividha Sheth has turned her love for chocolates into something for you to fall in love with. Koko deals with only couverture chocolates which are real cocoa bean chocolates containing a higher percentage of cocoa butter as compared to baking or eating chocolate. What's more, Koko chocolates are pure vegetarian with no egg, gelatin or yeast in them. Besides, no essence or artificial flavour is added in any recipe.

"All our recipes are made keeping Indian tastes in mind. They are Indian flavours with an international twist such as our orange cheese cake chocolate which has chocolate, orange pieces, cream ganache and biscuit, all in one," says Sheth who has set up a factory, aptly named, The Happiness Factory at Andheri West where all her chocolates are made. While coffee flavoured chocolates are the fastest moving, Sheth says Indians have developed a taste for dark chocolate.

"Earlier they went for regular compound chocolate but now they are happily biting into 70 per cent dark chocolate," says Sheth.

Koko has introduced a whole new range for the festive season including an almond crunch chocolate covered in 24k gold foil and other interesting flavours such as lemon basil, raspberry, ginger squares, lemon grass etc. If you are looking for something totally different, try the chocolate with wasabi, garlic and sundried tomato flavours.

Sheth describes it as a pizza in a chocolate. She has also experimented with colours in an attempt to do away with the regular brown. So on offer are blue, pink, and yellow chocolates. Each chocolate is priced between Rs 120 and 180 a piece. The 24k gold chocolate is priced at Rs 250 per piece.

Koko chocolates are available at their factory and also at their retail store at Good Earth at Lower Parel. They can also be ordered through Scootsy.

Gurgaon-based All Things is about making chocolate fun and whimsical. Each 100g hand-crafted bar of chocolate is made with an interesting mix of fresh indigenous and exotic ingredients such as habanero chilli from Mexico and saffron from Kashmir. For Diwali, the brand has launched All Things Diwali, a Belgian milk chocolate infused with marigold green tea by Tea Trunk. Tea Trunk artisanal teas are sourced directly from farmers and crafted into unique tea blends by a tea sommelier.

Another interesting feature of All Things is their quirky packaging. The cover for All Things Diwali has been designed by Calcutta-based painter and designer Ayushman Mitra.

The brand launches limited handcrafted chocolate bars every month. November launches will include an Italian breakfast bar, a winter bar made with mini marshmallows and a Monday bar which is dark chocolate with granola chunks. All chocolates are priced at Rs 350.

All Things chocolates are available at Foodhall superstores at Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Gurgaon. You can also order from their website.

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chocolates food and beverage diwali gifts