Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Chocolate plus stuff that has no business being in chocolate

A new Whole Foods location opened up near my work recently and, while it didn't have much that will make me switch from the grocery-shopping ruts I've already dug, it did stock a couple of chocolate bars I've been looking for for a while now.

In case you can't read the small print there, that's white chocolate with kalamata olives and milk chocolate with bacon, both from Vosges. It's interesting to see these sorts of exotic combinations moving out of experimental chefs' kitchens and into supermarkets. Vosges and Whole Foods are both sufficiently upscale and exorbitantly priced that I don't think the existence of these bars spells the death of the trend. But I can buy Frey white chocolate with cinnamon and blood orange at Target so the long term outlook is not good. (That the chef who did a bacon ice cream on Next Iron Chef got dressed down by the judges for lack of originality is a pretty bad sign too. Although he was doing a riff on french toast and even I could have come up with that.)

The real problem here is actually how banal both bars taste. The kalamata olives are identifiably that, but in all that white chocolate they taste no more unusual than, say, almonds. The bacon bar was even worse off because it tastes so familiar. Katrina Markoff, Vosges' founder, spells it out on the back of the box: chocolate chip pancake breakfast. I missed the pancake.

It really shouldn't be surprising that these bars weren't very surprising. They both were strong hits of sugar, salt and fat. Everything else was grace notes. (I had to take a shot after trying them to include the fourth food group, alcohol, and complete the experience.) There's still something interesting here, but it's going to have to be more complex. It's got me thinking, anyway.

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