Ever since Vosges Haut-Chocolat broke through with Mo's Bacon Bar, chocolate flavor combinations have wandered away from the safe territory of fruits and nuts toward shocking infusions including vinegar and even pig's blood. Strange as they may sound, each of these 10 chocolates has its fans.
The chocolates make great gifts year-round for birthdays, holidays, and pranks. But with the biggest chocolate holiday of the year only a couple of weeks away, you'd better order these bizarre chocolate bars by mail ASAP. Whether your sweetie loves shiitake mushrooms or pepper vodka, kimchi or ketchup, there's a box or bar of chocolates here for every Valentine -- or at least those with an adventurous spirit.
Always looking to make something new, Vosges recently created a truffle collection inspired by The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. The full collection ($225) contains 18 flavors, plus all the accouterments to stage an elaborate tasting for two. Truffles include Tulsi (huckleberry gelée + holy basil milk chocolate ganache + dark chocolate), Flora (peach + orange flower + white chocolate + crushed candied violets) and Tamarindus (chilies + tamarind + dark chocolate + salted mango powder).
Don't want to shell out for the whole shebang? Pick up one of the complementary Catching Fire chocolate bars by sister label Wild Ophelia. Available in flavors like District 5: Power (Crispy Crunchy Caramel Corn) and District 10: Livestock (Beef Jerky & Smoked Mesquite Milk Chocolate), these bars are priced at $4.99 each, or $65 for the complete The Hunger Games Chocolate Bar Library of 12 in a book-shaped box.
Savory Ramen Noodle Komforte Chockolates
There are not one but two options for ramen chocolate from West Coast-based Komforte Chockolates, a brand that specializes in savory sweets. For fans of crunch, there's Ramen Noodle with plain noodles in 55 percent dark chocolate. Those who want a truly unique chocolate experience can try Savory Ramen with not only the crunchy noodles but also onion, garlic, and soy sauce. Komforte also makes Movie Night, 64 percent dark chocolate with HALFPOPS® partially air-popped kernels, and for milk chocolate lovers, French Toast or Tortilla Lime + Salt. All bars are available online from Seattle Chocolates for $3.49 plus shipping, and they can be found in the Valley at Scottsdale's Industrie Denim.
Pig Blood Xocolatl de David
Undoubtedly one of the best chocolatiers in the country, David Biggs of Xocolatl makes tamer chocolate bars like brown butter, sourdough, and olive oil and orangette, but his collection is better known for its weird chocolates such as Parmigiano-Reggiano and foie gras. And the craziest thing to ever come out of this Portland kitchen is a collection of pig truffles, including one infused with pig blood, which gives the ganache a "subtle iron flavor," according to The Mighty Gastropolis: Portland. Xocolatl makes more giftable pig varieties, too, including a bacon salted caramel bar ($9) and Bacon Raleigh Bar with pecan chocolate nougat ($3).
Sea Salt Shiitake Truffle Truffle! Lugusta's Luscious
The Wild Box ($18) has four unexpected flavors, including spicy, tart harissa, the sauce made from scratch, and Caramelized Onion and Chipotle. But what makes bacon chocolate such a winning combo? Umami. And you'll find it in the Sea Salt Shiitake Truffle Truffle, a unique chocolate confection that contains both organic shiitake mushrooms and truffle-infused sea salt for a double dose of earthy mushroom flavor. Another fun yet odd gift, the company also makes anatomically correct hearts of solid milk chocolate ($15 for 8) annually for Valentine's Day.
Goat Cheese & Pear Chuao Chocolatier
This California-based company makes fun bars like Pop Corn Pop, Honeycomb, and Salted Chocolate Crunch, but the creativity really runs wild in Chuao's collection of bonbons. There are even pairing boxes designed to match your favorite bottle, from red wine and dessert wine to craft beer and whisky. The wackiest chocolates, however, lurk in the dark chocolate collection. The most fun might be Firecracker filled with chipotle caramel fudge and popping candy (à la Pop Rocks). But we'd want to get our hands on Goat Cheese & Pear. Featuring tangy cheese, Pear Williams liqueur, and crushed black pepper buttercream, this odd truffle is only available in the 30- and 60-piece dark chocolate bonbon boxes ($49.95, $94.95). Ordering online? Sign up for the newsletter first to get a free bar.
Distillery Truffles Moonstruck Chocolates
Liquor lovers will get a kick (and a buzz) out of this collection of nine truffles, featuring five Oregon craft distillers. If there's a bartender you love in your life, this is a sweet way to show your affection. All truffles are filled with a blended ganache infused with spirits like Clear Creek Distillery Oregon Apple Brandy, Rogue Ale Dead Guy Whiskey, House Spirits' Aviation Gin, and Bendistillery's Crater Lake Pepper Vodka. Each flavor is available separately in a box of 20 truffles ($50), or can be purchased together as a complete nine-piece collection ($20).
Peanuts & Ketchup Zotter
Looking for a wacky chocolate? It doesn't get much stranger than Zotter's flavors. Both a sense of humor and a no-holds-barred approach are displayed in the extensive collection of hand-scooped chocolate bars like Sacramental Wine + Frankincense, Real Bacon Spectacle (with caramelized bacon, almond and caramel nougats, and brown bread schnapps), and Swiss Stone Pine Schnapps + Brazil Nut. The weirdest chocolate bar is the Austrian company's take on American tradition: Peanuts + Ketchup. It contains peanut nougat, peanut brittle, white chocolate, and spicy tomato ganache covered in 60 percent milk chocolate. All Zotter products can be purchased online direct from Austria.
Cheese & Onion Chips Tayto
There are a quite a few potato chip chocolate combos, mostly using plain chips to add texture without much flavor. But last spring UK company Tayto created a milk chocolate bar with crumbs of its cheese and onion crisps. Unfortunately this was a limited edition creation that may be impossible to hunt down, but luckily there are lots of other (less daring) potato chip desserts on the market, like Super Chunk Sweets & Treats' junk food caramel corn and Chuao's potato chip milk chocolate bar.
Zinfandel-Balsamic B.T. McElrath
This gem is hidden in the award-winning Epicurean Truffle assortment, which includes traditional chocolate like salted butter caramel, lemon supreme, signature milk chocolate, and orange-scented soft caramel. The flavors of red wine and aged balsamic vinegar are a perfect match in this dark chocolate truffle, an ideal accompaniment to a fruit and cheese course. This truffle fits into all price ranges and comes in four collections: five-, nine-, 15-, and 30-piece boxes ($12 to $64).
Kimchi Korean Royal Chocolate
This might be hard to get your hands on, but if you really need some, it is reported to exist in South Korea. And apparently it also tastes like what you'd think the combination of spicy fermented cabbage and chocolate would taste like: extremely weird, but not unlike the popular mix of chili and chocolate. According to this silly YouTube song by English teacher abroad Richard Nelson, "It tastes like snorting tabasco sauce straight up your nose . . . It stings your lips and burns your mouth, and your fresh breath will then go south."