Aside from being a prolific traveler, my Chicagoan friend John is a rather splendid gift giver. He’s made an annual habit of sending me a parcel bursting with delicious treats from the States, and I was lucky enough to have my doorbell ring with the delivery of this year’s instalment just a few weeks ago. Along with my yearly dose of Lucky Charms cereal and Ghirardelli’s chocolate Squares, this parcel offered sweets and chocolate from John’s recent travels through Hungary and a few select chocolate bars from a Chicago-based company I’d not heard of before: Vosges Haut-Chocolat.
The three Vosges chocolate ‘tablets’ John had picked immediately caught my attention, even amongst the landslide of Ghirardelli Squares pouring from the cardboard postage carton (John essentially uses Ghirardelli Squares instead of foam packing peanuts. Not that I’m complaining). Not only was the packaging sleek and beautiful, but the flavours sounded incredible: dark chocolates with exotic ingredients like black Hawaiian sea salt and hickory smoked bacon – and even one of the bars inspired by The Hunger Games!
I love trying sweets and desserts that centre around experimental and playful flavours, so I was super excited to try these Vosges chocolates. On the back of each bar told a little story on the various flavour inspirations, and of Vosges founder Katrina Markoff’s own inspiration in beginning the company with the notion of bringing to life her extensive world travels through chocolate. Now that’s one giant, incredible collision of two of my favourite things in the world! And, now I come to think about it, definitely a suitable name for any future autobiography: ‘Travel and Chocolate: The Terri Coad Story”.
Mo’s Dark Bar – 62% dark chocolate with hickory smoked uncured bacon and Alderwood smoked salt
Inspired by childhood breakfast plates laden with chocolate-chip pancakes, bacon and syrup – this chocolate bar really is something else. The bacon pieces were wonderfully crispy, and flavoursome in a way that wasn’t overpowering in its inherent, you know, bacon-ness. In fact, it seemed that it was actually the Alderwood smoked salt that really set this chocolate bar off. The ‘savoury’ sensation of the chocolate was incredible as that smoky flavour sat on the tongue for seconds after the dark chocolate dissolved. This bar also comes in 45% milk chocolate, so I’d be interested to taste the change with a much sweeter base!
Black Salt Caramel Bar – 70% dark chocolate with black Hawaiian sea salt and burnt sugar caramel
Mat and I polished this one off in record speed; it was definitely our favourite. I’m not sure I’ve tasted a caramel quite like it. A ‘burnt sugar caramel’, it was dark and deep and for me evoked the smells and tastes of home baking. The black Hawaiian sea salt (a blend of sea salt and volcanic charcoal) seemed to play more into intensifying that sensation, rather than standing out as a particularly distinguishable flavour on its own. Delightful!
Effie – 62% dark chocolate with dried strawberries and candied violet flowers
‘Effie’ is one of three of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire inspired chocolate bars released by Vosges. Along with Katniss (44% milk chocolate with apples, uncured hickory smoked bacon and Alderwood smoked sea salt) and President Snow (72% dark chocolate with blood orange and tellicherry peppercorns caramel), this range conjures each character in most delicious form. I’ll admit that in tasting this I expected it to be similar to Lindt’s Excellence Strawberry Intense block, but I was quite surprised! Whilst Strawberry Intense is really very sweet, the candied violet flowers of Effie balance with the dried strawberries to create something much lighter. It’s fruity and floral and lovely.
I was quite obviously very impressed with my sampling of the Vosges chocolate bar range. The flavour combinations are sensational and the chocolate itself is high quality. There are plenty more flavours that sound amazing, like the Red Fire Bar (55% dark chocolate with Mexican ancho & chipotle chillies and Ceylon cinnamon) and even a Crispy Carrot Bar (45% milk chocolate with crunchy carrot confit and Valencia oranges)! If by your own travels, a friend or family member’s – or even if you have an in-country supplier like me, track down a Vosges boutique or stockist and get your hands on some of this stuff quick smart.