Thursday, November 29, 2007

Vosges Haut-Chocolat, The Pursuit of Chocolate Perfection

Last spring I wrote a term paper on the American consumer appeal of artisanal single estate and locally produced chocolates. As part of the research for the paper I took a trip to NYC to go on a couple chocolate tours. There are two tours offered by a young woman with her company Chocolate ZOOM. One tour is called the Luxury chocolate tour, which features all European chocolatiers, such as La Maison du Chocolat and Michel Ricart.

The second tour is called the New Cuisine Chocolate Tour. This tour takes you down to the Greenwich Village area where the American chocolate makers show off their wares. A few of them make their chocolates on the spot, while one of the shops, Vosges Haut-Chocolat, imports their chocolate from their Chicago shop. The chocolatier for this shop is truly unique in her approach to flavors.

Katrina Markoff is truly a unique chef. Before she started her business she worked at El Bulli in Barcelona for Ferran Adria. Seeing as his cuisine approach is very eclectic, emphasizing the molecular gastronomy approach to food, it should come to no surprise that Katrina would come up with some of the interesting flavor combinations for her chocolates.

However, her inspiration not only comes from just knowledge of food, but a use of different art forms to influence her creativity. She will often look to different music forms, such as blues or cultures. Listening to her talk about how she comes up with her chocolates can be sorta odd for those who think of food in a very traditional sense, but when one thinks about composing a piece of music, there is a synergy that must work to make all of the parts come together, she shares the same thought process with her flavor combinations.

Quite honestly, the only way to really understand her approach is to listen to her and watch her in action talking about her inspirations. So this video here is her talking about her inspirations and I think many of you will enjoy it.

I can't tell you how great her collections are. She creates a number of unique truffle lines. You might think, of well it is just chocolate, but think about this. Her Zion Collection is inspired by Rastafarian culture and Jamaica, if you watch the video above she talks about her early influence of Bob Marely. She also has a Groove Collection, which she takes inspiration from African American musical genres for. The Aztec Collection, takes inspiration from as you would guess Aztec culture. She also creates a number of traditional chocolate lines, such as a Dark Truffle and Milk Chocolate.

There are currently five shops to visit if you have the chance. There are two in Chicago, two in New York City and one in the Forum Shops at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. At her shops, you can buy all the items on her website, but they also feature individual truffles which you can buy so that you don't have to buy the full collection. These following places also sell Markoff's chocolates:

New York City - Bergdorf Goodman
Honolulu - Neiman Marcus
Los Angeles - Neiman Marcus
San Francisco - Neiman Marcus
Ann Arbor, MI - Zingermans

In addition her chocolate bars, which follow the same ideas of her truffles are sold at Whole Foods markets. I often purchase them there, but at a steep $6.99 a piece, they are not a regular purchase. They are well worth it though for pure enjoyment. I had a friend recently tell me "but a Hershey's bar is only $1.00", said friend does not deserve to eat this chocolate. You need to remember when eating this chocolate, that it is so much more than consumption of flavors, it is an experience.


Sjs said...

lol. did you know that chocolate was banned in switzerland for many years. read this

Christopher Allen Tanner said...

I had not seen that, very interesting thanks for sharing.

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