Katrina Markoff is forever bubbling clever ideas. Following the success of her wildly popular Vosges line of chocolate, the likes of which we've covered many times before, she has now introduced a line independent of the clever confections. Wild Ophelia is an Americana-inspired set of chocolate bars riffing off classic Southern flavor profiles.
Admittedly, while I'd have relished seeing Connecticut Hot Dog Stand in 66% dark chocolate and Bacon Clam Chowder suspended in white chocolate, these offer an approximation of Southern indulgences without having to leave the comfort of your home. Donna Tartt wishes she could have penned as convincing a Southern Gothic background story as these bars have. Miss Ophelia herself sent over a selection of five of the eight bar collection- Southern Hibiscus Peach, New Orleans Chili, Hickory Smoked Almond, Sweet Cherry Pecan, and Peanut Butter Banana, for our perusal.
Of the five bars, we were smitten with Peanut Butter and Banana and Hickory Smoked Almond, both offering fresh, defined flavor sets with an excellent balance between savory and sweet. Peanut Butter and Banana lacked the fruity, creamy punch that I typically associate with peanut butter and banana sandwiches, which might be why (amongst other reasons) I never added chocolate. I would have preferred to see this executed as a filled bar to better push the texture of gooey, silky banana. The salinity, however, offered a come-hither sensation that Vosges flavors are so known for. The smokiness of the Hickory Smoked Almond bar gave bacon a run for its money.
Southern Hibiscus Peach, Sweet Cherry Pecan, and New Orleans Chili sounded conceptually clever, but fell short of our expectations. The flavors of the former two were flat and subdued, overwhelmed by the sweet chocolate. Neither cherry nor pecan were discernible in the bar, and though a light, mild peachiness came through in Southern Hibiscus Peach, the hibiscus was lost. I was more impressed with the heaviness of the chickory and cinnamon notes in New Orleans Chili, but could not honestly say that I would have immediately associated that particular set of flavors with NOLA.
The marketing, packaging and color concepts are adorably twee, crisp and well-designed, and seem very appealing for the younger audience they target. These would likely fly off the shelves at places like Anthropologie or
Urban Outfitters- they capture a certain upper-middle class, liberal arts-related
zeitgeist. But unfortunately, what's inside the package is not as clever and inviting as what's on the outside. I feel like this is a good bridge between Vosges and the rest of the world- Vosges Lite for those who can't handle Mo's Bacon Bar (who, in that case, should likely stay away from Smokehouse BBQ Potato Chip and Beef Jerky) but who want a little more oomph. In terms of savory flavors, I've found brands like Komforte Chocolate and Askinosie to have more success. Wild Ophelia the Samantha's groovy cousin Serena of the chocolate world, rather than the spirited, independent younger sister as the line suggests.
Don't get confused by the difference in price points and weight- in actuality, they cost the same. Vosges' regular line clocks in at 3 ounces for around $7.50 a bar, and Wild Ophelia runs you approximately $5.00 for two ounces. You're no better off buying one over the other, economically- it's all a matter of taste. In either scenario, you're going to get a unique experience, but will perhaps find more consistency in the regular line.