Spicy Chocolate

Someone told me recently that if you want a vegetarian to like something, make it spicy. That is of course a gross generalization and undermines the fine palates and subtle nuances of many meat-free foods, but it so happens that I do like spicy foods and, as much as I love pure, unadulterated dark chocolate, I also like the idea of spiced chocolate. The reality is usually a disappointment. Most bars that I have tried are bland, or don't start with good chocolate, or have spice but no depth. My own spicy truffle experiment last year, made with Valrhona Manjari dark chocolate and a blend of top quality Hungarian paprika, chipotle, and some ridiculously good tequila had spice and flavor but just weren't compelling. The best I had found were the dark chocolate chili truffles from Gilli Café in Florence, but with a burn that long outlasts the chocolate flavors, these are not for the faint of heart. As they aren't exactly easy to pick up when the craving strikes, I've had to continue my search and in doing so, I've found a new love, so much better than the rest.Enter the Vosges Haut Chocolate Red Fire Bar. This is from the exotic candy bar line and is made from Mexican ancho and chipotle chili peppers, Ceylon cinnamon, and dark chocolate (55% cocoa). Though not as dark as I usually prefer, this bar is magic. I wouldn't change a thing. The smell alone is intoxicating. The bar has a beautiful sheen, a loud snap when broken, and takes a few seconds to begin to melt on your tongue. The flavor is compelling, exciting, and dangerous. The heat grows and fills your mouth, but never overpowers the sweet and bitter flavors of the chocolate or the rich middle note of the cinnamon. It has a long finish and the spice will linger lightly in your throat for a few minutes, if you can wait that long before reaching for more. Be forewarned: this bar is outright addictive. Dean & Deluca in Oakville had this line on display at the checkout counter when I popped in for a few bottles of San Pellegrino this weekend. (The impulse buy traps at the register rarely work on me, but I would have picked this up anywhere in the store, had I been looking.) They're charging $7.25 for the 3.3oz bar, though you can order it for $6. (Credit where credit is due: as Oren has the good camera with him in Japan this week, this photo is from Vosges' website.)