By Mike Pigott
All photographs by, and copyright of the Author.
On a recent trip to Antwerp in Belgium, we visited an upmarket, specialist chocolate store located in a former palace just off the central square. The shop, called The Chocolate Line, featured a large range of gourmet chocolates and several large chocolate sculptures on display. One product that caught my eye was a window box containing five model Land Rovers in assorted colours. My first impression was that it contained diecast models, possibly a set of 1:76 scale models by Oxford Diecast or Cararama, both of which use a similar packaging style. Closer inspection revealed them to be one-piece mouldings without separate wheels or interiors. Admittedly I should have realised that as I was in chocolate shop, they must be made of chocolate; but instead of being in the customary brown and cream colours of chocolate novelties, they were in five very unusual shades with a glittery sheen. Anyway, I went ahead and treated myself to a set.
Although The Chocolate Line’s logo is an ocean liner, the company uses a long-wheelbase Land Rover Defender for publicity purposes; supposedly because they travel around the globe to source the finest cocoa beans. The chocolate Defenders were officially licensed by Land Rover and were heavily promoted on the Belgian distributor’s website.
As described on the packaging, the Land Rovers were not your average chocolate treats. They were actually made from chocolate-coated praline, with the unique fondant fillings designed by famous Belgian chefs and chocolatiers. The flavours were concocted especially for this set by the chefs who, incidentally, were all Land Rover drivers. They were very unusual flavours for chocolate pralines, inspired very much by modern fusion cuisine. Although the chefs were Belgian, there was a noticeable Japanese influence in three of the Defenders.
The gold Defender was created by the founder of The Chocolate Line, Dominique Persoone. It was made with hazelnut praline and key lime, and was probably the best tasting of the five. The black car was by Sergio Herman, and had the unusual fusion of salted caramel and sakura (Japanese cherry blossom). The red vehicle by Jonnie Boer was gin flavoured. David Martin’s green Land Rover was made with Miso (Japanese soya bean paste) plus fine Okinawa salt. Finally, the white one was also Japanese-inspired; Gert De Mangeleer produced a very odd concoction of koji (fermented rice) and green Matcha tea.
It has to be said that the taste of some of the Defenders was somewhat… interesting. They no longer appear on The Chocolate Line website, and it appears the set was intended as a limited-edition release. As praline can go off after a while, it is not really possible to keep the Land Rovers in mint condition. Throughout my many years of model car collecting, these remain the only ones I have actually eaten!
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