It’s been a little less than 2 years since I first became enthralled with the absolutely delectable chocolate from Chicago’s Vosges Haut Chocolat.
During that time I’ve come to love many of their varieties, but none more than the Barcelona, Goji and Mo’s Bacon bars. Suffering from withdrawal last year, I even managed to find a Toronto source for Vosges that would order in the ones I liked after my mini library stash ran out. But even the benefit of having a local vendor like The Mercantile to get my fix doesn’t come without its costs. Firstly, the bars are quite pricy at $10 per, which is pretty much on par with what they sell for in the states. Combine that with the current state of construction and disrepair on Roncesvalles (where The Mercantile resides) and you’ll understand why I stock up every time I go. But, even though I savour the bars slowly, only allowing 1 or 2 squares (from a 9 square bar) at a time, there’s still something a little obscene about walking out of a store with $100 worth of chocolate.
So, over the last little while I’ve been contemplating potential alternatives to Vosges, focusing on the characteristics that I enjoy so much in them. The one common denominator I’ve noticed between my 3 favourite bars is the fact that they all contain a savoury element. The Barelona and Goji bars both contain salt (grey sea and pink Himalayan, respectively) blended with Vosges signature (but oxymoron-ish) dark milk chocolate, while the Mo’s bar combines it with Alderwood smoked salt and (also salty) bacon. That being said, sea salt chocolate bars sounded like as good a place as any to start, so I started asking around for options.
First was Lindt Excellence’s A Touch Of Sea Salt bar ($3.99), one that I’d previously heard about but never seen at a retailer before. It was sheer coincidence when I happened upon it during a pre-movie candy run to Shoppers, so I couldn’t help but buy one. Snapping off a piece in the dark theatre, I found myself supremely disappointed. For mass market chocolate, Lindt is usually decent, but A Touch Of Sea Salt was anything but. The chocolate had a waxy quality that I didn’t enjoy as I scraped it against my teeth, and combined with the chemical-like bouquet of the “sea salt”, it made for an exceptionally unpleasant bite. I spent the rest of the movie with nothing to nibble on, which made the whole experience that much more annoying, and at the end I went home with a full bar left over.
A few weeks later, while I was shopping at The Healthy Butcher, I noticed their display of artisanal chocolate next to the cash register included a sea salt bar ($4.99) by Montreal’s Gallerie Au Chocolat. Clearly I’m not immune to the crafty wiles of impulse purchasing, because a bar of it came home with me, too. After cracking open its rustic cardboard box, I was met with the lovely aroma of finely tempered dark chocolate and a bar that had a surprising amount of heft to it. Breaking off a small chunk, I placed it on my tongue and waited. Though the chocolate was rich, creamy and smooth, the salt was much too overpowering, situating the bar firmly in unpalatable territory. After a few days I began to wonder if it might be a bar to chop into my next batch of chocolate brulee or chocolate chip cookies, allowing the extra salinity to be camouflaged by all of the other ingredients, but I have yet to test out this theory. At any rate, unlike the Lindt, I have not yet completely written this one off.