NOTE: Wen Chocolates’s retail location on Platte closed on February 14, 2010. Check out the website for more information.
I was jonesing for Wen Chocolates until Sunday. I went by on January 11, and the store was closed for a long vacation that chef William Poole later explained was no vacation at all because he was rushing from one place to another attending tastings and such.
I think all the employees of Wen deserve a long vacation/trip/whatever. But then I went to the website, and it was down. I started to panic. I started to think I was a jinx. I told myself Wen couldn’t fail because the entire retail outlet is only as big as my kitchen (read: affordable rent) and people are always going in and buying sweets.
So I was relieved during my visit to Denver’s Savory Spice Shop in the South Platte River Valley neighborhood on Sunday to find Wen doing a brisk business. The website is still down as I write this post, for a redesign, and Poole has changed his approach a little bit.
Instead of offering a large selection of truffles, he’s downsized to 8 bestsellers plus 4 others per month plus 1 truffle of the month. (I can’t remember why the 4 additional truffles were selected.)
For example, when I asked about the Milan (on the left), which is a coffee-and-chicory truffle, he said it didn’t do well. I had thought coffee truffles always sold, but what do I know? That one, and others like it, will be coming back sporadically, if at all.
Poole and I also discussed his efforts to make the store eco-friendly. When I first visited Wen in the fall of 2008, employees put the truffles in a plastic bag and then in a cute pink bag with polka dots. (I still have 1 or 2 of those.) I believe there was also a bow involved.
Poole has found plastic bags made of cellulose, which are more expensive than the old ones, but he said he’s willing to eat the cost. He’s not putting shiny stickers on boxes anymore because they don’t decompose, and he’s doing his best to find boxes made of recycled materials. (There are plenty of boxes made from recycled or compostable materials in the world today, but they don’t always come in candy-friendly shapes and sizes.)
I walked out with 2 truffles I bought (Pagan Bunny and Rue Royale), plus another Pagan Bunny and a caramel he gave me for free. To make the Pagan Bunny, on the left, Poole poured chocolate into an antique mold imprinted with a bunny.
I bought the Rue Royale because it involved absinthe, rye whiskey, lemon, and bitters—all that sounded different and cool. I bought the “bunny” because of the name, and butter rum caramel needs no explanation.
The picture, unfortunately, doesn’t do them justice. I would have had better luck photographing them separately outside, but instead I took the picture inside Paris on the Platte, using a flash.
The Rue Royale tasted delicately of absinthe and lemon more than anything else. Absinthe is an anise-flavored spirit that at one time was banned for its supposedly addictive qualities, and I tasted more in the last bite. The Pagan Bunny, according to Poole, contains chocolate from 3 continents and 7 plantations, and he implied it would rock my chocolate world.
I’m not sure I agree, but it did taste dark and earthy, especially after the other candies and an Italian soda.
It would be interesting someday to do a tasting that involved eating 1 food (say, basil) and then tasting a chocolate. And then eating something else salty, or sweet, and tasting the same chocolate. The flavors would fight each other, or blend, or build. And perhaps one of the foods would bring out a flavor in the chocolate that I hadn’t noticed before.