Sept. 13 is International Chocolate Day, so it's a great time to reflect on chocolate trends. While the cacao-based confections are typically associated with the sweeter side of things, chocolatiers have been forever experimenting with the sweet and savory combo. (Remember the bacon-chocolate craze in the early 2000s.) Now, thanks to a world of spice-route flavors and a confections-without-borders mindset among chocolate makers, the lines between dessert and dinner are blurring all the more. With sweets made with potato chips to caramelized onion truffle, here are a few of our favorite chocolatiers making delicious, yet slightly bizarre combinations that are worth a chew:
1. Lagusta Luscious Chocolates
Remember that gum from the 1971 film adaptation of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" that offered the flavors of a three-course dinner with every chew? This vegan, farm-to-confectioner, based in New Paltz, New York has the kind of flavors that Violet Beauregard would surely love. Think chocolates filled with unheard of centers, such as chipotle-caramelized onion truffle, sea salt shiitake truffle, sweet pea green tea bonbons, smoked miso-eggplant, cilantro, carrot-acorn, coriander-beet truffle, and a smoky corn on the cob bar.
2. Moonstruck Chocolates
Booze and chocolate have made a natural match since the dawn of chocolate making, but Oregon’s Moonstruck Chocolate doesn’t stop at just brandy or bourbon in their recent Distiller’s Collection. The confectioner partnered with all Oregon-centric distilleries for such treats as a gin-kissed Aviation gin truffle.
3. Hotel Chocolat
This 20-year-old British company takes its chocolate so seriously, it actually grows its own cacao beans (not in London, of course). Yet, their chocolate makers are not so serious that they can’t think outside the box of chocolates. With a nod to the English love of condiments, Hotel Chocolat makes both a horseradish white chocolate spread and a chocolate mayo dotted with bits of cocoa nibs. While quite snackable on their own, they are recommended for use in savory dishes, like in this recipe for coleslaw. Or simply spread it on a sandwich. Don’t knock ‘til you try it.
4. Lucas Candies
Operating for four generations, Lucas Candies in Haverstraw, N.Y., offers up your typical deliciously decadent bars and bonbons filled with tried and true centers like marshmallows and caramel. But one concoction inspired by, one may presume, a particularly trying monthly hormonal surge, stands out from the rest. The PMS bar, which combines soft, creamy milk chocolate with peanut butter and smashed up potato chips, may seem like an accident, but it makes for an addictive treat that anyone will crave, anytime.
Salted caramel anything is all the rage in sweets these days. But what about a salted caramel from the sea? Chocolate maker Håkan Mårtensson, FIKA´s executive pastry chef, uses actual sea water as the source of this salty, sticky concoction. The sea-sourced chocolate will be featured in an equally unusual Chocobaret, a chocolate show set to music in Manhattan coming up in October created by singing chef, Jackie Gordon. So how does it taste? “It's salty like salted caramel but with a more intense salty flavor,” offers Gordon.