One of my true joys in life is a shopping trip with my best friend. While I’m perfectly content to spend our time tooling around one of the local malls or on nicer days heading downtown to hit some of the trendier one of a kind shops, my absolute favorite place to go with her is Armitage Street in Chicago. This is due in part to the absolutely fun shops and often great finds there. It is due in part to an amazing little pasta place we stumbled on one year (Pasta Pallazo–we go every single trip). And it is due in part to the 10-12 hours of pure bonding time we have. It never ceases to amaze me that even after something like 16 years of friendship (wow, it really has been that long), we can still spend that much time with each other and never run out of things to say. In fact, on this recent trip my voice actually gave out from talking so much (might have also been the cold I was in the grip of).
One major draw of Armitage used to be the dueling chocolate shops on the opposite ends of our favorite street. I’ll be honest, I looked forward to Ethel M’s far more than Vosges, but I learned to appreciate each for its unique contribution to our visit. I loved coming home absolutely laden with chocolate goodies.
Sadly, Ethel M’s closed up shop about two years ago. Each time we visit, we glance at the fading brown and pink awning, hoping our shop has miraculously returned. Each time, we are devastated all over again. I’d be nice if they could rent the shop to anything else so we wouldn’t have that bitter reminder of what we could have had. I’d actually be happy if they just took the awning down so it wouldn’t mock me. But alas, Chicago is a cruel mistress and likes to taunt me with precious sugary memories.
Now, we tend to save Vosges as our last stop. We stuff ourselves until we are nearly sick on fantastic pasta and even though we really want to try one of their delicious sounding desserts, we abstain, knowing that chocolate bliss is not that far away.
Not only does Vosges have some tasty combinations I love, but their shop is filled with little sample bowls. I’ve never been in there when there are less than three items being sampled. Plus, they’ll let you try just about anything boxed (except the truffles). This last trip came just after the holidays, so they had some great sales and half a dozen samples, including two candy bars I was rather excited to try.
My goal wasn’t just the bars though (I did end up taking advantage of the buy 5, get one free deal). I was hoping to get my mitts on a small box of the holiday collection. I knew that since it was 3 days post-Christmas they might already be gone. And I was almost right. They were completely out of the “reasonably” priced 8 piece box I wanted to sample. They did have the 32 piece box left though. There was no way I was willing to dump that much change on a variety of four truffles I might not like.
Luckily they had something even better than my 8 piece box: a four piecer with one of each new truffle in it. I was stoked! This way I could try them all. If I found any new loves, I’d know what to stock up on next year. If not, I only had four chocolates to suffer through. I had the cashier add one to my bag and we were off.
We’d sampled so much in the store that I couldn’t bring myself to try one that same day. It was probably for the best as I was driving and had nothing to take notes on (yes, I do take copious notes over my chocolate consumption–I sometimes fear that if the wrong person finds them they will think I have a serious problem…wait, maybe I do).
Anyway, I started this collection with the Peppermint Candy Cane piece. Now, my best friend and I argue this all the time, but I have always been a save the best for last kind of gal (she gives in to her hedonistic pleasure and indulges in her favorite right away. I’m ok with delayed gratification). I like peppermint and chocolate just fine. Sometimes I love it (like in really squishy Junior Mints). However, this was a dark chocolate piece and if there is one thing I’ve learned about Vosges: their dark chocolate is very dark, and often rather bitter. I often do not enjoy it nearly as much as I want to.
This piece was no exception. The top was very pretty. I really loved the almost iridescent candy cane pieces on the top. Or at least I think that’s what they were. I’ve never seen a magenta candy cane before. The center was very creamy and the usual harshness of the dark chocolate was toned down a bit by the mint. However, the mint seemed less candy cane and more Schnapps to me (and I had a brief but icky flashback to a drunken party sophomore year of college). It also had an overly sweet after taste that to me seemed like the maker trying to balance the bite of the dark chocolate. It was ok, but not a mint I want to try again.
I tried the second dark piece next. Being a gourmet company (and a bit pretentious), Vosges really loves their dark pieces. I think over half of their pieces are dark. I know that many people claim you can’t really appreciate chocolate unless you like the dark stuff, but after all these years and hundreds of pieces of chocolate, I still struggle. To me the Holiday Plum Pudding had a very bitter dark chocolate taste. I thought the edible silver leaf on top was not only festive but also pretty. The truffle filling though had a taste that was almost alcoholic in nature. I think it might have been the marzipan paste. I’ve had marzipan before and I’m not a huge fan. What was most disappointing to me though, was the complete lack of plum sweetness. I think a bit more plum could have really softened the piece up. On the other hand, I’ve never had actual plum pudding, so I’m not sure how much plummy goodness one usually gets from it.
I knew things would look up when I lifted the white chocolate piece out of the box. The Eggnog and Jamaican Rum was appealing to me from the first sniff. As usual, the white chocolate was quite creamy. The eggnog filling added an even deeper level of creaminess to the candy. It reminded me of actually drinking eggnog, only without that overly sweet taste most store-bought gallons have. There was just the mildest hint of rum, which was fine by me as I am not a huge fan of the way many alcohols make truffles taste (far more like rubbing alcohol than the flavor they are going for). There was no alcohol aftertaste to this one at all. There was, however, a slightly odd textural effect. It reminded me just a tad of actual eggs. What I mean is that I got the slightest reminder of the scrambled eggs I’d had for breakfast as I was eating the candy. And not the taste either…just the texture. It was odd, but still pretty good.
My best for last pieces was the Marscapone and Ceylon Cinnamon Snap. I was right on the money; it was my favorite treat. The marscapone made the inside extra creamy. The cinnamon was not overpowering, although to be honest, I didn’t taste anything special about it and I have used Ceylon cinnamon at home many times. The taste of the truffle actually did remind me a bit of a cookie.
I’m glad I tried the new collection, although I wouldn’t say I found gems this year. I found tastes I liked, but nothing to rave about. I doubt I’d spend my money on it again, even if it was the small size. Afterall, those four truffles were a whopping $12 (although the box was very pretty).