Splurging at Vosage on International Chocolate Day

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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:

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Funk and Disco
Buttermilk banana pudding + vanilla powder + milk chocolate truffle (41% cacao)

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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.)
 
Ambrosia
Australian macadamia nuts + Cointreau + white chocolate

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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.
 
Tlan Nacu
Mexican vanilla bean + Venezuelan 65% dark chocolate

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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.)
 
Balsamico
12-year aged balsamic vinegar from Modena + dark chocolate + Sicilian hazelnuts

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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.
 
Rooster
Taleggio cheese + organic walnuts + Tahitian vanilla bean + bittersweet dark chocolate

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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.

I had planned to show photos from the Pinball Hall of Fame, but…

…the Denny’s near our timeshare has Flickr.com blocked off.  I’ll have to wait until I find a Starbucks where I can upload the photos before I can post them here.  We did get one of those Clear wi-fi dongles, but it will only work with one computer and Steve installed it on his first.  I’m now stuck with Denny’s limited service or Starbucks later on when Steve’s up and around.  Las Vegas may have everything else, but it’s wi-fi services suck.  Even the ones you pay a hell of a lot of money for are slow and iffy.

We’ve played three rounds of the Maggi Video Poker Challenge (MVPC) and the score is 3-0 so far.  I promised to kick Steve’s ass and so far that’s exactly what I’m doing. For those unfamiliar with the MVPC, each round consists of $20 on side-by-side machines with Jacks or Better. Each player takes an alternating turn to facilitate cheering and/or gloating during the opponents play. The first one who runs out of money loses.  If anyone manages to double the original $20, they can stop and hope that their opponent is unable to match that amount (if they can beat that amount, they win).  Steve did that to me last year at the Orleans in the first few hands of play, but I still won the most rounds and won for 2010.  There is no limit to how many rounds there are, so it really depends on how much money we put away for gambling and how much is spent when we separate (I generally stick with video poker and roulette, while Steve prefers craps).

The resort is as awesome as ever, and we’re back to enjoying our morning hot tub before hitting the town.  We have a concert planned and tickets to a Vegas show.  We’ll probably hit the Pinball Hall of Fame one more time before we go as well.  Other than that, our trip will consist of wandering through casinos, eating out, taking naps, hanging out around the pool, and spending our gambling money in various fun ways. I love our Vegas vacations.

Day 1: Vegas 2010

Seven years ago, Steve and I got hitched in Las Vegas (we didn’t elope, and we were joined by our family and friends). This year, we’re spending our anniversary in Vegas as well.

Aladdin Casino - 2003

Our honeymoon resort was the Aladdin, where Elvis got married. We had a view of the strip, even from our large bathtub (the bathroom was the same size as the rest of our suite too). The Aladdin was replaced by Planet Hollywood a while back. Don’t know what the rooms look like, but they really improved the inside of the casino.

Our wedding cake was a gift from my brother and sister-in-law. She had seen something about Freed’s Bakery on the Food Network and wanted to order our cake from them. It was a white cake with strawberry and baverian cream filling. Since we didn’t think the cake topper was going to come in on time – we had flowers put on top instead.

Our Wedding Cake from Freed's Bakery - 2003

For our anniversary, we’re going to stop by the bakery later this week for some pastries.

Since today’s our actual anniversary, we hit Bellagio’s buffet for dinner.  We’re not big buffet people, but Bellagio’s is one of the two we hit every trip out here.  Tonight I only had a little dinner and then went nuts with their desserts.

Bellagio Buffet Desserts

These were my three favorites. A raspberry chocolate mousse-filled cone, creme brulee (not too sweet), and a dark chocolate raspberry mousse cake. This was also my second plate.

One the way back to our resort, we stopped by the famous Las Vegas sign for a few quick photos.

Las Vegas Sign

Denny’s had free wi-fi, so that’s where we are right now, and we’ll be here a lot throughout the rest of the week. I’m fading fast and keep falling asleep while typing this, so that’s about it. So sleepy. Gotta pry Steve away from his computer…