Chef Julian Rose has a white beard, a wide smile, and eyes the color of the chocolate he creates. He's the master chocolatier at Moonstruck Chocolate Co. in Portland, Ore., a company that's been pursuing the best handcrafted superior chocolates for the last 22 years. Each piece is an artisan's delight, with intricate designs and uniquely mixed flavors, but Rose's new line of chocolates is a labor of love he's been working on for a while -- an singular idea one would be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.
His new pursuits are the Savory Truffle Collection and a separate Oregon Craft Brewers Collection, and they've just launched this month. "They took off way faster than I expected," Rose says of the Savory Truffle Collection, which all look like individually designed spotted mushrooms and includes flavors like roasted fig with hot curry, tomato and basil, and porcini mushroom and bacon. He tried a similar idea seven years ago with little success and thinks people weren't ready for that combination of flavors. "Now people are more adventurous," Rose says of the truffles, which are meant to be paired with specific cocktails and cured meats -- a much more savory experience than the traditional sweet. For a taste test, Rose served eight of his friends the porcini mushroom and bacon truffle paired with seared filet mignon in his kitchen. "It triggers an exploration," he says. To Rose's surprise, every one of them loved the daring combination, which incorporates bacon smoke and chili powder in the ingredients.
As far as the craft beer-inspired collection, Rose was inspired when he opened a case of 12 beers and looked at the bottle caps, suddenly thinking how perfect they would look inside a box of chocolates. He called local craft breweries to explain the concept and came up with four distinct types of beer that inspired four different truffles in four different styles. Rogue Ales & Spirits, Full Sail Brewing Company, Widmer Brothers Brewing Company, and Deschutes Brewery were all in on the new creations, which resulted in chocolate truffles sporting names that inclued IPA and Black Butte Porter. Each truffle creation has a painstakingly accurate chocolate bottle cap to top it off, and Rose boiled the beer down to a 50 percent concentration to start the recipe, with the brewers giving him tasting notes along the way. Since there are 12 pieces in each box, the collection looks just like the case of beer Rose was originally inspired by.