By Hannah Kaminsky, author of My Sweet Vegan ~ Flipping the pages of my calendar over and watching the days fly by, I can’t help but notice that the changing seasons have affected my appetite. These cold days certainly evoke cravings for warmer, heartier dishes than I desired only a few months ago. However, I find myself not only in need of additional warmth and comfort food, but more sweets. For some reason, fall and winter just scream “baking, desserts, sugar!” in my mind, so I’ve been thinking about the sweeter side of the season, and especially chocolate even more than usual lately. Good thing I found Verē Chocolate, a high-end brand with an impressive line of vegan offerings.
Talk about heaven; with a box full of quality chocolate in endless forms and flavors sitting before me, the hardest part of this review was deciding on what to try first! Trying to exercise some amount of restraint, I decided to start with the basics and sample their 75% cacao chocolate bars. Not only does each of these fantastic flavors come in standard 3-ounce bars, but also 10 gram sample sizes. Should portion control be a concern, then the mini batons are an excellent choice, giving you a satisfying taste without the potential to overindulge.
To get a good baseline on the flavor profile of this chocolate, the Ultimo Dark bar made of pure cacao, sugar, and little else was the obvious initial pick. Solid and snappy, this very smooth chocolate is incredibly rich and intense. More bitter than sweet, it’s definitely a “mature” chocolate. The slightly burnt, woodsy notes make it somewhat sharp in flavor, but it is still has a well-rounded and powerful taste. Though it is something that could only be eaten in small doses, I bet it would add some incredible contrast to sweet baked goods as well.
What really sets Verē apart from other chocolate makers is their willingness to try out more adventurous flavors. One of these highly unusual pairings is found in their Anise and Espresso bar; two completely different tastes that I would have never thought to put together. I was very curious about what the results might be. The smell of warm, roasted espresso beans hit me first, followed by the taste of an intense cup of mocha. However, as the piece finishes dissolving the aftertaste of spicy anise brings a finale with a kick. Somewhat gritty from whole ground beans, this may be more of an acquired taste… But even as a self-professed anise detractor, I found this flavor grew on me, and the bar was gone before I knew it.
Yet, anise isn’t their spiciest offering. For all you chili-lovers and hot-heads out there, the Cayenne and Cacao Nib bar is the one for you. Immediately after taking a bite, the heat hits your tongue with jarring impact, so be careful not to bite off more than you can chew! The explosive spice is nicely tempered by the intense dark chocolate, but nothing could take away from that fire. Crunchy cacao nibs keep the texture exciting enough to match the flavor, making for one unique chocolate experience. If you’re bored of the same old chocolate, this bar will shake things up and get you out of that rut for sure.
Bringing some whimsy back into the picture, this Banana and Macadamia Nut bar is unlike any I’ve tried before. Lighter and sweeter than the previous offerings, this tropical delight is sure to please those seeking a more candy-like treat. Although the banana flavor is very faint and somewhat difficult to detect, the essence still adds a certain something to the overall flavor profile. A scant handful of mac nuts give you an occasional morsel to crunch on, but I wouldn’t say that this one is particularly mind-blowing.
My favorite of this whole assortment was the Raspberry and Lemon bar. While it wasn’t lemony, per say, there was an additional acidic kick to it that heightened the bitterness of the chocolate. Tart pieces of raspberries dotted the whole piece, adding color and interest, and a slight chewiness too. This isn’t your standard sweet, easy to eat chocolate- it’s much more intense than what you might find in the candy aisle of your average grocery store. Anything with raspberry will get my vote, but the smoothly melting dark chocolate really made this an incredible combination.
If you’re looking for something a bit less bracing than pure, powerful, dark chocolate, I would highly recommend Verē’s clusters. I had the good luck of sampling both the almond and coconut clusters, and both of their featured ingredients were impeccably fresh and flavorful. The chocolate seems like more of an afterthought in these, allowing the nuts to shine through and steal the spotlight. Each thin disk is pleasingly crunchy, crisp, and refreshingly uncomplicated.
Speaking of simple, their line of wafers provides a number of flavor sensations while appeasing your inner chocoholic. Ranging from cacoa nibs to pink peppercorns, espresso beans to tamari almonds, there’s something here that everyone can enjoy. Snappy and smooth-melting, the chocolate supports whatever topping may adorn it, and those add-ons are naturally as fresh as can be. My only criticism is that I wish they were more plentiful and evenly distributed, but I’ll still happily eat every last one without complaint. Looking for a gourmet, vegan gift to give this holiday season? Verē has you covered, providing a number of specially arranged gift boxes that will accommodate your dietary needs, and give you a good sampling of a number of different chocolates. They even have a page listing all of their vegan items to make things easy. Since many chocolatiers don’t bother to limit the dairy, I was excited that this gourmet name would care enough to do so, and I think that this decision has definitely paid off.