To say that the Artisan Foods movement is in full swing is an epic understatement; you’d be hard pressed nowadays to find any food, from cured meats to dried fruits, to a simple staple (or so we thought) like salt, that doesn’t have a bevy of artisanal versions on the shelves of your local fancy food store. From the weird to the wonderful, it can be a ballet of pleasures and perils as you experiment with artisan foods.
One artisan path most definitely worth venturing down is chocolate. Chocolate, it has been said, is like sex: even at its worst, it’s not that bad. So if you just close your eyes and grab blindly at a towering rack of chocolate bars on your next grocery trip, odds are you aren’t going to be horribly disappointed. But if you’re interested in some direction in your search, and you have an adventurous palate, allow me to recommend Vosges artisan chocolate bars.
First off, Vosges is responsible for, hands-down, the most creative, original, and thoughtful flavor combinations I have encountered in the chocolate bar world. While I can’t say that the actual, pure chocolate itself is my absolute favorite (for that, I’m a big fan of Tcho), the bars, as a whole, are far greater than the sum of their parts.
When you bite into the thin, delicate chocolate, you do taste the chocolate first: soft, round, and creamy milk chocolate, and mildly tannic dark chocolate, these set the canvas in your mouth for the additional flavors to begin to appear. Then, you begin to recognize notes of bitter, of heat, of umami… each bar is its own taste experience, with an impressive spectrum to choose from. The ingredients used to create said experiences range from the exotic and opulent Pink Himalayan Sea Salt, to dark and stormy stout beer, to a bit of “is this really in a chocolate bar?” wasabi. Despite doubts you may have, the bars are carefully crafted to achieve balance and harmony, very much in tune with the theme and feel of the text on the back of the bar, which includes the (admittedly unnecessary, but whimsical and sort of cute) instructions on how to properly eat the chocolate bar to best savor and enjoy it. You can also read about the creator, who did a stint with the Adria brothers in Spain, one of many experiences that no doubt inspired and shaped her palate and her artisanal hand.
Here are some of my tried and true favorites from Vosges; bear in mind this is just a small fraction of the collection of chocolate bar flavors and other assorted products they produce, but it’s a good start if you’re looking to try them out before heading into the more outlandish (yet consistently tasty) combinations, many of which I can guarantee you have not tried elsewhere. You may also notice some recurring themes and flavors in my choices; just rest assured Vosges makes products with far greater range than I have represented here.
|is there anything it doesn't go with?|
Mo's Dark Chocolate Bacon Bar: One of the many Vosges’ bacon-laced bars, I like the simplicity of this one, and the delicate smokiness from smoked sea salt and applewood smoked bacon. The 62% cacao is on the lighter side for a dark chocolate, but it provides pleasant, earthy undertones to bring out the smoke from the other ingredients. This was the first Vosges bar I ever tried, brought to me as a birthday present when Julia visited me in San Sebastian, so it holds a special place in my heart.
|the original fake bacon|
|hemp seeds: not just for hippies|
|volcanic salt: won't burn your tongue|
These are just a slice of what Vosges has to offer, and they take things to all corners of the Earth and the palate; case in point, they make a milk chocolate bar with curry powder. Assuming your curiosity is piqued, you can feel comfortable narrowing down your selection amongst the dizzying array of chocolate bars you may soon see before you. In a potential sea of chocolate, you can trust that Vosges will be a beacon worth swimming to.