I brought back tons of sweets 'n' treats from the USA, a little less than usual since I will be back in December, but let's start off with the very first treats I got: I picked up these Chuao Chocopods in the Dulles Airport. I'm sure I looked quite manic, all harried and shiny from the flight, laughing as I carefully chose from the small display of ChocoPods right next the register while my husband stared absent-mindedly at a shelf full of novelty bubblegum. What a scene. I'm sure airport gift shop staff are used to it.
Chuao does a lot of different chocolates, all of them in the style of Vosges, or other chocolatiers that go for strange combinations. Less esoteric than Zotter, for instance - or, maybe just more geared for American tastes. I appreciated that they had these small bars, or 'Chocopods', because there was no way I'd want to plump for an entire bar of weird chocolate from a brand that I had yet to ever try.
The three varieties I selected were Potato Chip, Firecracker, and Salted Chocolate Crunch.
The first one I tasted was Salted Chocolate Crunch: dark chocolate with sea salt and toasted breadcrumbs. I was looking forward to this one most, since I love salted sweets & never tried breadcrumbs in chocolate before - I mean, who has?
Turns out there is a pretty good reason we don't see a lot of breadcrumb chocolate - it's kinda gross. I like crunchy enough in chocolate, but the bits in this were more like jagged pieces of stale bread. It was pleasantly crispy, more like stale food that has that weird mix of damp chewiness and crunch. Did not enjoy. Also of note, the dark chocolate seemed kind of cheap - waxy, and it didn't melt nicely at all in my mouth. Just kind of sat there, cold feeling with bits of stale bread crumb. Worst of all, it wasn't even that salty. Not into this one, I'm afraid - I couldn't even recommend it for the novelty.
Next up was the one I was second most excited for: Potato Chip. Milk chocolate with kettle chips and a hint of sea salt. This was a lot more like what I thought Salted Chocolate Crunch would be like! The kettle chip bits were crispy & crunchy, no damp chewiness and no weird, waxy mouthfeel. The milk chocolate was creamy and reminded me of Dairy Milk, so that was quite nice - and the salt taste was much more pronounced in this, probably because the kettle chips themselves were salted, and a little bit extra was added in with the chocolate. I would've happily eaten a big bar of this one, I'd recommend it. One of the nicer potato chip chocolates I've tried...However, I still have the Tayto Cheese & Onion Crisp bar to try.
The last one I tried was Firecracker, dark chocolate with popping candy, sea salt, and chipotle. So, chili chocolate with popping candy, more or less. I forgot that I don't like chili chocolate - something I forget with some frequency. D'oh! Well, as far as chili chocolate goes it wasn't too spicy, just spicy enough...the popping candy was cool but didn't add much to the chocolate (as usual), and the sea salt was good! Always a fan of salt in chocolate, but it wasn't enough to stop this one from just being a bit too rich for me. Everytime I eat chili chocolate, I feel like I'm willing heartburn into my world.
Over all, my experience with Chuao was pretty good - I think I've been spoiled by super premium chocolate in Europe so American dark chocolate will almost always taste a bit crummy. For all I know maybe these bars had been in the airport gift shop for ages, so they're not the best example of Chuao chocolate.
All in all, I think Vosges is a bit higher quality for easy-ish to find American 'weird' chocolate bars, but if you see the Potato Chip bar, give it a try.