One of my goals for this year’s trip to Las Vegas is to visit as many chocolatier shops as possible. Well, more like as many as I can afford. Today I stopped at Vosges Haut-Chocolat in the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, which was unintentionally appropriate as today is also International Chocolate Day.
Why unintentionally appropriate? Well, I had forgotten about International Chocolate Day, and the Vosges business card provided by the lovely and knowledgable Kara has the tagline “Travel the world through chocolate“. Like my name, it couldn’t have worked out better if I had tried (that’s actually a quote from my Mom about the translation of my name–which includes donkeys. And that’s probably more than you need to know).
Back to Kara and traveling the world through chocolate. I had heard so much about Vosges’ exotic chocolate bars, but once I was there, I couldn’t make up my mind about which ones I wanted to try. I certainly couldn’t afford all of them. Luckily, I found the Mini Exotic Chocolate Bar Library for $25. It contains nine 1/2 ounce candy bars, including: Black Pearl, Red Fire, Naga, Amalfi, Barcelona, Woolloomooloo, Oaxaca, Bapchi’s Caramel Toffee, and Mo’s Milk Chocolate Bacon Bar. I haven’t decided if I’m sharing any of these with anyone as they’re tiny little bars.
While ringing me up, Kara talked me into sampling one of the truffles. This was the first time that I’ve ever picked out a food item based on nothing else other than its name.
Funk and Disco.
How could you not eat a truffle called Funk and Disco?
It was wonderful and I had to have more.
So… I ended up purchasing a four-piece box of truffles. And because the Taleggio cheese truffles were too large to fit in that box, I had to get another set of two (I really wanted to try it).
I’d have also walked out with the Red Fire Toffee (sooooo tasty!!!), but they only sell it by the half pound. If I win another few games, I’ll grab some to take home.
NOTE: I would like to take a moment to point out that our room is not set up for taking photographs of candy. The lighting sucks, as does my photography skills, and I had to use my pillow case as the backdrop. Also, chunky, serrated knives are not very good at slicing tempered chocolate with delicate centers without mangling them a bit.
Now to introduce the truffles:
Funk and Disco
Buttermilk banana pudding + vanilla powder + milk chocolate truffle (41% cacao)
It was pretty damn good, which is how Kara suckered me into purchasing more than I originally planned. Dusted with vanilla powder, the banana pudding flavor was nicely strong and the slight tang of the buttermilk kept the milk chocolate from being too sweet. (Now I need to find out if adding a little buttercream will improve my banana pudding recipe.)
Australian macadamia nuts + Cointreau + white chocolate
I’m a sucker for good white chocolate and anything with orange, so the Ambrosia truffle was an obvious choice. I’d have preferred a few more of the chopped macadamia nuts, but other than that, it was very smooth and non-greasy with a light taste of triple sec (I hate it when all you can taste is the booze. If I wanted that, I’d be drinking instead of eating truffles). Definitely one that I’d purchase again.
Mexican vanilla bean + Venezuelan 65% dark chocolate
This one had a card with a full description. “Tlan Nacu, meaning “good heart,” is the name of a small vanilla bean plantation in thetown of Papantia on the Gulf Coast of Mexico. Plump vanilla beans are infused in warm cream imparting a very distinct Mexican vanilla flavor. Dark chocolate and hand-picked vanilla beans…simply enchanting!”
I’m in love. Dark, velvety chocolate love. I’m going back for a box of Tlan Nacu before leaving Vegas. (I only ate half of this one. I’m saving the other half for a perfect moment.)
12-year aged balsamic vinegar from Modena + dark chocolate + Sicilian hazelnuts
The one thing I’ve noticed about the truffles so far is that the additional flavors don’t overpower the chocolate. That’s important, especially when you’re adding vinegar to the equation–even if it’s balsamic vinegar. While I selected the Balsamico because I was curious about it, I’d definitely eat a few more of them.
Taleggio cheese + organic walnuts + Tahitian vanilla bean + bittersweet dark chocolate
The Rooster has a fairly long description that starts off reading like a description of wine and ends up asking you to open your mind and deconstruct what you know about chocolate. Warning: When someone starts asking you to open your mind before trying something… it may be time to rethink what you’re getting ready to do.
The truffle center didn’t immediately melt when hitting the tongue like the other selections, probably due to the inclusion of cheese. The cheese was slightly strong and salty, and it worked surprisingly well with the bittersweet chocolate. While I wouldn’t purchase the Rooster again, it was interesting and I was still more than willing to eat both of the ones I purchased.
Overall, this experience has taught me that Katrina Markoff, Vosges Haut-Chocolat’s owner and chocolatier, has a way of making exotic, and sometimes extremely odd, ingredients work with chocolate. At their best, they’ll have your eyes rolling up in the back of your head while and making obscene moaning noises (you–not your eyes); and at their worst, they’re still edible (utterly unlike a bleu cheese truffle I purchased in Austin).
I’d even give the Olio D’Oliva truffle a try, and that means a lot since I absolutely despise Kalamata olives.
FINAL NOTE: If anyone from Vosges reads this, please, please either give Kara a raise or at least let her know how amazing she is. Kara was willing to answer any questions I had without making me feel like a complete idiot, and she’s obviously great at up-selling chocolate–which should make any company happy.