Sunday, April 13, 2014

Vosges Chocolates

For Christmas, I received a large selection of chocolate from assorted relatives, who knew I was into trying and reviewing chocolate.  Unfortunately, they mostly got me Hershey, Lindt, and Russell Stover.  My mom however did get me a large variety of assorted Vosges bars.

A few months later, one of my officemates received a HUGE gift box full of Vosges caramels and truffles, and generously shared the loot.

Vosges produces bars, truffles, caramels, bon bons, toffee, even covered marshmallows and drinking chocolate.  They use a slew of different chocolates for the base of their confections, ranging from 41% milk up to 70% darks.  The most interesting aspect of their offerings are the unique flavors, which I admit, always do sound intriguing.  But at this point, I've tried a large variety of Vosges products, and although the flavors are very unique, I haven't been impressed by any.  The flavors are usually the highlight, but I haven't really liked the chocolate itself, so no amount of curry powder, bacon, or exotic spices can really mask the mediocre chocolate base.  I wouldn't seek out more, no matter how interesting they sound.

Bars

  • Black Salt Caramel: "70% cacao dark chocolate surrounds the molten, salt-spiked, soft caramel center".  Tasting notes: I am not sure why, but I just didn't like this.  Dark chocolate shell, very liquid salty caramel filling.  Should be something I love but I don’t.
  • Mo's Bacon Bar: "45% Deep Milk Chocolate with Hickory Smoked Uncured Bacon + Alderwood Salt".  Tasting notes: The milk chocolate is milky, but has a strange mouthfeel. The bacon flavor itself is really nice, and the saltyness of the bar is also really nice.  The bacon flavor is very prevalent.  But ... such a horrible aftertaste, my mouth was left with very strange bacon/chocolate thing going on.  Would not purchase again. [ Agreed on subsequent tasting ]
  • Mo’s Dark Chocolate Bacon Bar: "62% Dark Chocolate with Hickory Smoked Uncured Bacon + Alderwood Salt". Tasting notes: I liked this a lot more than the milk chocolate version.  The bacon flavor and saltiness combined better with the more bitter chocolate.  Like the milk version, the bacon itself tasted nice and I liked the texture added by the little nibbles of it.  But overall, not my thing.
  • Gingerbread Toffee Bar: "65% dark chocolate., spiced with allspice, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg".  Tasting notes: crunchy toffee bits give good texture and sweetness.  Nice quality dark chocolate.  Gingerbread is very subtle.  Slight salty highlights as well.  Better than the others.
  • Naga Bar: "Sweet Indian curry + coconut + deep milk chocolate, 41% cacao".  Tasting notes: Smells like curry!  Mediocre milk chocolate base, but good curry flavor, slight crunch from coconut.
  • Peppermint Candy Cane Bar: "62% dark chocolate with peppermint bits".  Tasting notes: Serious peppermint aroma!  This SMELLS like mint.  But the chocolate was a little chalky, bitter.  Candy cane bits are nice crunch.
  • Bapchi’s Caramel Toffee Bar: "45% cacoa + sweet butter toffee, walnuts + pecans".  Tasting notes: Little bits of crunchy stuff, sorta sweet, milk chocolate.  One of their better bars.

Truffles

Wink of the Rabbit®, Chef Pescal, Absinthe, Gianduia.
Visually, I liked the truffles.  I appreciated how the topping helped determine which variety of truffle it was.  However, I expect that element to be carried through the truffles, and in most cases, they were.  They seemed to mostly be plain truffles, with a little decoration on top.
  • Wink of the Rabbit®: “soft caramel + 41% deep milk chocolate + organic New Mexican pecan”. Tasting notes:  The pecan was only on top, I didn’t detect any inside.  Inside was smooth chocolate, and then a thin layer of caramel on the bottom.  The caramel was more gooey than the type used in the actual caramels.  I didn’t care for the flavor of the chocolate, either the shell or the truffle filling, it tasted stale or something.
  • Chef Pascal: “kirsch + 65% dark chocolate + dried Traverse City Michigan cherry“. Tasting notes: Snappy dark chocolate shell, but didn’t really taste the kirsch in the filling.  The filling wasn’t remarkable in any way.  The dried cherry on top was tart and a nice compliment to the dark chocolate.
  • Absinthe: “Chinese star anise + fennel + absinthe + 65% dark chocolate + cocoa powder”.  Tasting notes: I had to look this one up, as I had absolutely no idea what type it was.  I read all the descriptions, and nothing matched.  I had to resort to the visual guide.  At that point, it was clear, but I still was surprised.  This was my absolute favorite of the truffles.  I loved the flavor of both of the chocolates components, and it was the perfect experience biting it, the shell had a bit of snap, the filling was sooo smooth and creamy.  I didn’t taste star anise, fennel, or absinthe however, which is shocking, as those are all very strong flavors, and, ones I do enjoy.  I guess they tried to keep it subtle, but it was far too subtle for me!  Regardless, I really enjoyed this piece.
  • Gianduia: “crunchy hazelnut praline + 41% deep milk chocolate + praline bits”.  Tasting notes: The milk chocolate shell was smooth and creamy, and not bad.  But, just like the Wink of the Rabbit, I really didn’t like the flavor of the milk chocolate inside.  The praline bits were crunchy and slightly sweet, but, like many of the others, appeared only on top.  I would have loved some crunch inside as well

Caramels

Crema, Verde, Maple, Leaf.
  • Crema: “Argentinean dulce de leche + Costa Rican cashews + 45% cacao deep milk chocolate“.  Tasting notes: Very light milk chocolate coating, caramel inside.  I couldn’t quite pinpoint what I didn’t like about the caramel.  The consistency was good, just the right level of thickness that it didn’t run out, but not too chewy.  But the flavor wasn’t quite right, not buttery enough, slightly burnt tasting, but not really … just, something was off for me.  The little bits of cashew were dusted only on top, not throughout.
  • Verde: “Mexican guajillo chillies + licorice root + 65% cacao dark chocolate + organic pumpkin seeds“.  Tasting notes: Nice dark chocolate coating, and I liked the crunch of the pumpkin seeds inside the caramel.  But again, the caramel itself just really didn’t do it for me.
  • Maple: “Canadian maple sugar + maple syrup + walnuts + 62% cacao dark chocolate“.  Tasting notes: The coating on this was quite tasty - sugary with a dusting of walnut.  The dark chocolate was good.  But again, I didn’t care for the caramel.
  • Leaf: “Aboriginal anise myrtle + 65% cacao dark chocolate “.  Tasting notes: I’m pretty sure this was the leaf, which I figured out only based on process of elimination, as it didn’t seem to match any of the other descriptions of the “exotic” caramel line.   Dark chocolate coating, thick caramel inside, a bit too chewy, not really buttery, just there.  The outside was coated in flakes of green stuff, that honestly sorta tasted like sawdust.  I guess I don’t like anise myrtle?  It didn’t taste like anise until I ground it up in my teeth, then I got a hint of anise.  So, caramel that I didn’t like, covered in sawdust.  Clearly, not a favorite!

Toffee, Bonbons, Marshmallows

Bapchi's Caramel Toffee.
“Buttery toffee + deep milk chocolate + organic walnuts and pecans”.

I had the toffee previously inside the Caramel Toffee Bar, where I liked the crunch it added.  The crunch was again fine, but on its own, it was fairly mediocre toffee.  The toffee itself wasn’t that buttery or flavorful, and all the nuts on the outside made it all seem a bit chalky.  And a bit bitter.  Definitely not a favorite.
Organic Peanut Butter Bonbon.
“Rich organic peanut butter draped in milk chocolate and topped with a Maldon salt”

Wow, the salt on this was perfect.  Huge flakes, and they stayed with you on the finish.  When I first bit into this piece, I thought I had mis-identified it, as I didn’t see any peanut butter, and the inside filling looked more like milk chocolate.  Instead, it seemed to be a peanut butter infused chocolate?  Not as intense peanut butter as other similar styles of treat, but the chocolate was high quality, and the salt, so good!

Probably my favorite piece, but if you are expecting something peanutbuttery like a peanut butter cup, this is not it.
Caramel Marshmallow.
“Fluffy Madagascan vanilla bean marshmallows + French GuĂ©rande grey sea salt + bubbling sweet caramel + Bapchi's Caramel Toffee bits + dark chocolate”

Reading the description alone I was intrigued.  I could see the dark chocolate coating and the toffee bits on the outside, but where was the “bubbling sweet caramel” going to be?  When I bit in, would thin style caramel come pouring out?  Was it going to be stuffed inside the marshmallow?  Or just infused?
Inside the Caramel Marshmallow.
The answer: in a thick layer, above the marshmallow.  No it did not come pouring out, as it was thick and not runny, but it was also not chewy nor solid.  A nice consistency.  Studded throughout was more toffee bits for a bit of crunch.  I can’t say I tasted any sea salt, which was a shame, since salt really enhances chocolates, and they did such a nice job with the salt on the peanut butter bonbons.  The marshmallow itself was fluffy and fine, but just a marshmallow.  The dark chocolate coating was decent.

Overall, the components were all fine, but this didn’t come together for me as much as I wanted it to.
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