Vosges Haut-Chocolat

Applewood bacon, alderwood smoked salt, hickory smoked almonds, plus guajillo and pasilla chilis – oh my! This exotic selection of ingredients are just a few of the flavor surprises in store for chocolate aficionados, such as myself, when they reach for a Vosges candy bar. Definitely not your garden variety chocolates here.

The concept behind Vosges’ exotic chocolates is best explained by their mission statement:

The Vosges Haut-Chocolat mission is to create a luxury chocolate experience rooted in a sensory journey of bringing about awareness to indigenous cultures through the exploration of spices, herbs, roots, flowers, fruits, nuts, chocolate and the obscure.

Cultural awareness in my chocolate?  Hm. Well-meaning, definitely, but let’s be honest, when you’ve got a chocolate craving, what’s paramount is how good the chocolate is. So I’ll focus on the “sensory journey” and see if Vosges delivers what it promises.

Three varieties of Vosges bars were provided for review: Mo’s Dark Bacon Bar, Barcelona Bar and the Oaxaca Exotic Candy Bar. The first thing of note is that the bars are downright tiny. Each is just 3 ounces and 90 calories or under, ideal for someone needing just a taste, such as a reviewer. But I can only imagine that a chocolate fanatic with an itch to scratch will probably weep at the size and consume all three at once without a second thought.

A mild disclaimer here: I don’t think of myself as a chocolate snob, but I know my likes (plain dark chocolate) and dislikes (plain milk or white chocolate). I’m fine with nuts and I’ve developed a definite taste for salted dark chocolate. So I approached these bars with an open mind and a desire to be wowed, or at the very least, pleased. I sampled the bars across two different days and in three different ways: room temperature, refrigerator chilled and freezer chilled.

The bars definitely fared best at room temperature, imparting the most flavor during that tasting. Unfortunately for all three bars, the flavor was somewhat disappointing. The Barcelona Bar was salty, but there was no real sense of almonds, no satisfying crunch. The milk chocolate was decent, creamy rather than waxy, but largely unremarkable. Mo’s Dark Chocolate Bacon Bar was even saltier, which worked decently with the darker chocolate, but the saltiness was just sensation and not very bacony. And as for the Oaxacan bar … it has a bit of a kick in the aftertaste, but the flavor of the bar itself isn’t memorable.

I found myself perplexed at my ho-hum reaction to these bars. On paper they sound marvelous, so where’s the disconnect?  After the second tasting, I hit on the idea of trying an unrelated chocolate, as something of a control to compare to. So before trying another round of Vosges, I sampled a square of plain dark chocolate (73%) from the freezer, and immediately had my answer: the chocolate itself was bold and rich, commandeering my taste buds in a welcome and pleasant way. Returning to the Vosges, I tried each again, focusing on the chocolate, rather than the additions. And there it was: the chocolate in all three just doesn’t stack up against the salt and spice. What should be a equal marriage of flavors and texture is lopsided, and not in a good way.

Vosges’ mission is certainly a lofty and ambitious one, and I applaud their desire to experiment (I’ve sampled and enjoyed their ginger/wasabi bar in the past), but the chocolate just isn’t up to snuff in these bars. Which is to say I won’t go out of my way to get more in the future. A pity.

More information about Vosges’ chocolate can be found online here.

Aptil Gutierrez

Since last we met our intrepid book reviewer, April Gutierrez, she's moved halfway around the world to the land of the rising sun. Home is now Fukuoka, the largest city on Japan's west-most main island, Kyushu. The Japanese boast of their homeland's four seasons, but April recognizes just two: Granrodeo tour season and ... the rest of the year. During the former, she's running around Japan from Hokkaido to Okinawa, mixing sightseeing with awesome rock concerts. The rest of the time, she's busy exploring shrines and temples closer to home and regretting she has but one stomach to offer up to Japanese cuisine.

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