As I write this, I am slowly savoring a bite of Mo's Bacon Chocolate Bar by the amazingly innovative Vosges Haute Chocolate. The initial hit of rich dark milk chocolate is followed by hints of smoky salt from the alder wood smoked sea salt then quickly reinforced by chewy bits of applewood smoked bacon.
Depending on your preferences, by now you have either clicked away in search of something less icky or you're swallowing hard and reaching for your car keys, trying to recall if anyone in a ten mile radius stocks Vosges. Like me, you appreciate the surprise of juxtaposed flavors, the playfulness of the unexpected, your salty, sweet and heat all mixed together.
In T.C. Boyle's short story "Sorry Fugu", the fate of a restaurant hangs on the opinion of the local reviewer's boyfriend, referred to as The Palate. Turns out, what pleases him the most are dishes reminiscent of his mother's less than stellar cooking (well-done leathery steaks, soggy vegetables.) In this case, familiarity is the most satisfying flavor.
Despite my love of Vosges chocolate, I understand that. I cook sometimes to soothe or to connect or in homage to someone who is important to me. My father died several years ago, but I still occasionally pull out his hand-written recipe for straight-up fudge (no cayenne, goji berries or balsamic vinegar here.) I do this not so much for the fudge, although it is a damn good recipe, but because it seems like I'm saying hello to him and that feels good. Salty-sweet is the flavor of missing someone you love.
For those of you who wonder how someone can come up with a bacon and chocolate bar, take 20 minutes and watch this clip of Vosges founder Katrina Markoff at the 2007 Taste3 conference in Napa. Hint: Chocolate chip pancakes and Muddy Waters.