On our Las Vegas vacation this summer, my husband sat in his first real Texas Hold 'Em tournament. The stakes were pretty low (none of that televised business), but he's always wanted to try a Vegas tournament. This meant he would be at that casino for several hours, so after watching the first hand and wishing him luck, I embarked on a shopping trip.
Of course, I found myself at the Vosges store inside the Forum Shops at Caesar's Palace, and after sampling three different chocolates and exploring the store, I couldn't shake my curiosity about their Exotic Caramels. Since I couldn't limit myself to just one or two flavors, I bought the whole set.
The box was a colorful smorgasbord of caramels, nine varieties in total. Vosges is always a splurge, and at $29 US, this set was no exception. Maybe it was just the Las Vegas spirit that compelled me to buy it. I'm not a big gambler - at least when I go shopping, everyone wins. Reading the flavor descriptions alone was worth at least a dollar.
I forgot to photograph each one individually, but let's start in the lower left corner of the picture above. Canadian maple sugar + maple syrup + walnuts + dark chocolate didn't seem that exotic to me. The maple wasn't very strong, but the rich caramel still reminded me of pancakes. It was smooth and a little salty with a nice crunch from the walnuts. Dark chocolate was a good match, and the coating was smooth and mild. The salty-sweet balance was nice, and this one would please even a timid palate.
The next caramel to the right was Blood orange + Campari + dark chocolate + hibiscus powder. That's more like it! Campari is an Italian bitters made from fruit and herbs, and I've never tried it, but Wikipedia says it is bitter, spicy, and sweet. The red coating was lovely and had a sour, floral flavor. The caramel was very soft and fruity with a citrus finish that reminded me of lemonade or jelly fruit slices. It was quite complex, and complemented by the dark chocolate coating.
Rounding out the bottom row was Aboriginal anise myrtle + dark chocolate, and I did manage to photograph this one. After a bad experience tasting Absinthe, I lost my liking for anise, so I was wary, but the flavor in this caramel was very pleasant. The bitter chocolate stood out, but the mild licoricey anise was noticeable especially in the mid to end notes. It was surprisingly tasty, despite my distaste for anise and it being the last caramel I sampled (two months after buying the box). The chocolate sagged a bit over time, but the flavor still wowed me, so I doubt any real damage occurred.
The leftmost caramel in the middle row was Hawaiian red sea salt + milk chocolate + li hing powder. Again, Wikipedia was required: li hing powder is a red powder that covers dried salty li hing mui (plums). Despite not knowing what it would taste like, the li hing was easy to detect. The sea salt combined with the li hing gave this caramel a complex salty-sour-sweet flavor. The milk chocolate was on the sweeter side, but it helped to balance the extremely salty finish.
In the center, Mexican guajillo chilies + licorice root + dark chocolate + organic pumpkin seeds had the longest name. It smelled woodsy, and the dark chocolate felt deep and smooth. The pumpkin seeds were dispersed throughout the melty caramel, giving it a tender crunch. The chilies gave it a nice heat on the finish. I didn't get a sense of the licorice root, but it was still a standout piece.
To the right was the strangest caramel in the collection: Tupelo honey + milk chocolate + bee pollen. It was the first one I tried because it seemed the "most" exotic. The pollen beads were floral, slightly bitter, and maybe a little waxy. The honey felt warm and was not overly sweet. It seemed very filling compared to the other caramels!
Rose water + pink peppercorns + dark chocolate + red rose petal was in the upper left corner, and I loved the rose petal garnish. It was aromatic and floral, but the peppercorn gave it an intense kick! It was unexpected and delicious. The rose was delicate but easy to detect, and well matched to the subtly sweet caramel.
In the upper middle, Brazil nuts + South American cocoa nibs + dark chocolate had the most crunch of any of the truffles. Brazil nuts have an earthy flavor that I have never enjoyed on its own, but when mixed with sweet and creamy caramel, I had no objections. The cocoa nibs added a hint of bitter fruitiness to the nutty flavor, and all together it was comforting and easy to eat. This caramel seemed firmer than the others.
Finally, Argentine dulce de leche + Costa Rican cashews + milk chocolate was one of my favorites. Although the sources of the ingredients are exotic, this one didn't push and flavor boundaries; it was just extremely well executed. The milky caramel was refreshingly simple, with the slightly bitter nuts at the front of the flavor. It was rich and creamy, and neither too salty not too sweet.
Any food lover would enjoy this set. It was such a pleasure to taste, and there is not a single bad caramel in the bunch. Words like delectable, delightful, savory, and complex easily spring to mind. Am I gushing? Yeah. Is this set worth $29? Without a doubt.