Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Vosges Chocolate

While in Chicago I checked out Vosges Chocolate. I have previously had their Mo's Bacon Bar and Black Pearl Exotic Candy Bar. I found the bacon bar, well wanting for bacon, but thought the black sesame and wasabi worked well with the dark chocolate in the Black Pearl.

Armed with info about gluten-containing truffles from their website, I was excited to try most of their offerings. Honestly, I think I should have known better. Upon walking into the storefront on North Michigan Ave. it was clear that packaging was more important than product. Purple walls, check. Purple accents, check. Expensive lighting shining on chocolate that shouldn't be exposed to that much heat, check. Overpriced clothing oddly placed between the customer and the truffle counter, you got it.

Dazzled by the prospect of rich, intense flavors I purchased the following truffles:

Taleggio cheese + organic walnuts + Tahitian vanilla bean + bittersweet dark chocolate
Olio d'Oliva:
First press extra virgin olive oil + white chocolate + dried kalamata olives
12-year aged balsamic vinegar + dark chocolate + Sicilian hazelnuts
Japanese macha green tea + white chocolate + cherry blossom petals
Buddha's Leaf:
Malaysian pandan leaves + dark chocolate + cocoa powder
Black Pearl: ginger + wasabi + dark chocolate + black sesame seeds
sweet Indian curry + coconut + deep milk chocolate
Red Fire: ancho chillies + Ceylon cinnamon + Venezuelan dark chocolate

and bars:

Organic Enchanted Mushroom Candy Bar

As I signed away my bill with a purple pen, the staff person threw in a mini Red Fire Exotic Candy Bar for free.

Overall I was underwhelmed. For the price point I expected something much more interesting, intense and more solidly constructed.

One of the truffles was cracked, the two white chocolate flavors were not filled properly and almost every truffle had separation between the two uneven layers of the outer shell. They were packaged in 2s or 4s in little cellophane bags (why they don't use boxes is beyond me), but without a guide some of the tasting was guesswork.

My favorite was the Redfire truffle which had heat, chocolate and cinnamon flavors that all came through. The pandan leaf truffle was a bit nutty but could easily have been hazelnut. The black pearl was my second favorite truffle, echoing the bar I remembered and liked so much. The rooster did pair chocolate and cheese effectively. It had an interesting tang but I am not sure its something I would necessarily reach for again. The balsamic vinegar truffle was one of the most disappointing; it clearly had a sour note, but the chocolate overwhelmed it. Some of the flavors were a bit lost, others were nearly obliterated. The white chocolate was salty and overwhelmed both the green tea and olive oil centers.
(I opted out of tasting the Naga truffle. I asked if it contained fenugreek and the staff there was not sure, so I bought one on a whim. Boy did it! Fenugreek is one of those spices that I can taste from a mile away and then only taste it for the next few hours.)

The bars faced a similar problem of missing or overpowered flavors. The dark chocolate in the Enchanted Mushroom bar masked most of the mushrooms earthiness as did the pink salt, taking over the goji in the Goji bar. The Calindia bar had a strong cardamom and chocolate flavor but I couldn't taste the prunes. (Dried plums on the label do not fool me.)
The mini Red Fire Bar hit hard with intense cinnamon and then a warm heat that tickled the back of the throat, like the truffle with the same name, it was the stand out favorite.

While I doubt I am going to be dropping that much cash on chocolate again, I think Vosges is using good products, I just question the pairings and truffle construction... a lot.


  1. Does Steve G. owe you a belated birthday present, perhaps?

  2. Naw, its ok. We can like different things and I think I got a bad batch of stuff because we normally aren't this dissimilar in taste.