Every year my bff and I make bi-annual pilgrimages to Chicago. We make the round trip in one day, and it’s just far enough away that going more than that is not only exhausting, but also a bit extravagant. But we love the shops on Armitage so much that we just can’t go more than about 6 months without hitting them, credit cards in hand. If the draw of Lush, Art Effect, Aroma Workshop and the best damn Italian place around (I am totally spacing the name right now) weren’t enough, there is also a chocolate bonus for us: Vosges Haut-Chocolat. Actually, when we first started frequenting Armitage (and I’ll admit, it was the Lush that reeled us in), we actually came home twice as laden with cocoa treats as there also used to be an Ethel M’s at the end of the block. Sadly they are now gone, so we make up for it by spending more at Vosges.
Over the past few years, I’ve tried several pieces from their collection. While I don’t mind shopping their online catalog, the summer shipping (a whopping $19.95) is a bit too much for me to swallow. Plus, while I like several of the truffles in each of their collections, Vosges is a bit dark chocolate heavy for me, so I often find at least 1/3 of the pieces I’m not as fond of. The great thing about visiting the store is that I can put together my own custom box of chocolates with only milk pieces (and every now and then a dark one).
And that’s just what I did when my bff and I got our geek on at Comic Con last month. Yes, you did read that right. I am a geek on so very many levels.
In addition to my favorite caramels and the peanut butter bon bons my husband adores, I decided to make my own box of nine truffles. There were only seven I was super gung-ho about this visit (they do change their truffles out every now and then, which is fun when they have featured pieces from new collections), so I doubled up on two I knew I liked.
My personal collection started of with a Balsamico. This is the one dark chocolate piece I threw in. I was a bit wary since Vosges dark chocolate tends to be very dark, and often just a tad bitter. Since they are a rather upscale chocolatier, they are a bit snobby about their dark chocolate (as a great many chocolate purists are). Over half of their pieces are done in dark chocolate and they are often paired with exotic spices that don’t hold much appeal for me (for example, one dark pieces incorporates wasabi, another a black tea). The Balsamico was definitely a bitter dark, but the center, which has more than a splash of balsamic vinegar (hence the name), really tempered the bitter for a sweet effect. There was no acidy bite like the actual vinegar, just the tangy sweetness you get when you reduce vinegar with a bit of sugar. I am a big fan of the center, just not the shell.
Next I opted for the Dulce de Leche. This one was a decidedly smoother chocolate, which was refreshing. It had a sweet liquidy caramel filling that oozed into my mouth with the first bite. It was a welcome addition to the milk chocolate shell.
Field Songs, which used to be in their “musical” collection was inspired by African tribal music. I’m not entirely sure what about it is tribally inspired, but the truffle itself has a sort of mousse-like filling. It felt spongy, which I wasn’t expecting, especially since the first two had fairly liquid centers. There was a millisecond of crunch from what I think are some sort of field grains on the top. That tiny crunch gave it a slightly peppery taste. I enjoyed it, although not quite as much as the last one.
I knew I was going to like the next one, because I’d tried the candy bar form of this one before. The Olivio is white chocolate, so I knew there was no chance it would be bitter (a real plus in my book). In every bite I got a hint of the bits of dried olives on the top of the truffle. Yeah, I know, it sounds odd. What they actually add is a rich, salty flavor, similar to any sort of salted chocolate (which do seem to be all the rage these days), but with the novelty of olives instead of pure salt. The white chocolate shell is creamy and delicate, just like I expected. Vosges prides themselves on their unique and sometimes extreme flavor combinations, which I think is why this one uses olives rather than just salt. It may sound odd, but it is surprisingly tasty. There is a slightly briny after taste, but I think it’s worth it.
Next I had a Woolloomooloo. I simply adore the coconut covered top! I know this one claims to be part of their milk chocolate collection, but in keeping with their love of dark chocolate, even their milk chocolate is about 6% darker than what most people consider milk chocolate. The slightly darker chocolate is very apparent in this one. However, the sweetness of the coconut helps make it creamy. This one was quite good.
While I technically had four truffles left, I only had two different kinds. I had a Wink of the Rabbit, which is a very tasty caramel. The walnut on top is not my favorite. I think they are boring, flavorless nuts and hate when they are used in candy making. Usually they go all soft and mushy. this one wasn’t too mushy, but it did nothing for the truffle. Luckily the caramel is rich and creamy, which actually made it one of my favorites.
My last truffle was the Naga. Now, I’ll admit, I was saving this one for last because I know I love it. Naga is a blend of chocolate and curry powder. Yep, another exotic and odd combination. I love the curry dust on top of the truffle. It makes it bright and lively. It also helps this truffle taste a bit like a spicier pumpkin pie. There is a definite curry smell, but it is surprising hint of sweet. They actually make an ice cream version of this truffle and I also really love it. I know, I know, curry chocolate sounds way out there, but it works, it really does.
Will I go there again? Without a doubt. I’ve been doing it for about three years now, and they keep introducing new tasties to peek my interest. In fact, I just got a catalog in the mail yesterday and if it weren’t for that outrageous shipping, I’d have placed an order after only one look. But, as it will cost me about that much in gas to get there and spend the day shopping with my bff, I think I’ll wait a month or two until we can both take time off.
Value: 6/10 (at $26 for 9, they are about $2.80 a truffle, which is steep, especially since they are much smaller than Godiva)