Between Día de la mujer, Día del padre, Día de la madre, Día del amigo, and Día del niño, we certainly don’t fall short of opportunities to spoil the ones we love. But this week’s ‘La Semana de la Dulzura’, provides the perfect week-long excuse for a little self indulgence.
If getting your sweet fix means reaching past the dulce de leche for something more unusual, Argentina has plenty to offer. From homemade marmalades and distinctive chocolate ramas to fruity artisan beers, the south has turned it’s hand to almost everything. But if all this makes you wish the wilds of Patagonia were a little more accessible, don’t worry. You only need to enter the world of Vasalissa chocolatier to see that being in the city this week might just be the best place to be.
Named after the female heroine of a Russian fairytale, Vasalissa is a high end, luxury chocolatier founded by mother and daughter Dadi and Federica Marinucci. For Dadi and Federica, the creation of chocolate is something of a family legacy.
Dadi’s father was the original founder of Argentina’s famous Cabsha chocolate, and through the combination of inherited expertise and a pair of discerning palates, they’ve established themselves as a chocolatier of distinction.
With a steady stream of late afternoon customers, Vasalissa’s charms are clearly no secret. Arguably the best in Argentina, what sets their chocolate apart is that it combines the world’s best raw ingredients with the world’s best processing techniques. Cocoa fruit is sourced from origin in countries like New Guinea, Peru and Venezuela, and processed in Belgium before being delivered to Vasalissa in the finest quality slabs. The slabs are then melted down and used as the key ingredient in individual chocolates and covertures here in Argentina.
Since opening their first store in Martínez in 2006, they’ve grown up steadily alongside their reputation and now have shops in the most fitting neighbourhoods of Belgrano, Recoleta, and San Isidro.
Dadi and Federica’s artistic eye and attention to detail translates not only into the creation of exquisite chocolates, but also into the design of spectacular boutiques in which to display them. With huge, mirrored panels set in walls painted marzipan green, centrepiece chandeliers, marble countertops and elegant french furnishings, feminine touches are everywhere.
Vasalissa’s impossibly pretty interior captures the attention of anyone who passes, as though the whole shop becomes part of a fantastical window display. But don’t let the immaculate interiors put a dampener on your first time curiosity. Inside the Recoleta boutique we found the manager Jorge welcoming and more than happy to talk about his chocolates with the same knowledge and passion you’d expect to find from the owners themselves.
True to its fairytale name, when you step inside Vasalissa you immediately find yourself far removed from the street outside – somewhere between Hansel and Gretel’s house and the Mad Hatter’s tea party. The centre table displays an impressive selection of truffles and bombones presented on pristine white plates rather than behind glass, inviting you get up close and personal with each individual chocolate before making your selection. Here you can take your time to read the exotic names and ingredients used in each chocolate, inhale the delicious aromas of Madagascan vanilla, dark rum or red fruits, and really admire the care and attention to detail that has gone into making each and every creation unique.
While dulce de leche remains a favourite ingredient among regular clientele, there’s plenty of more traditional and innovative options on offer for those who like their chocolate a little less sweet. The popular Pirámide de Papúa comes filled with a velvety ganache of 68% New Guinea chocolate, and the 71% cocoa Peruvian truffles come highly recommended.
If you prefer something sweet and fresh, a personal favourite is the Diamante de Menta, or you could try one of the new milk chocolate with lavender bombones, or the more daring raspberry and three peppers.
Aside from individual chocolates, you’ll find imitation cigars dusted with cocoa powder, champagne bottles turned antique bronze by a magical gold ingredient, and magnificent novelty shapes and figures introduced seasonally. Perfect for children and those of us who remain children at heart, the military bear and the lucky frog make fantastic additions to an already excessive 50 chocolate selection box.
While Vasalissa makes a wonderful special occasion chocolatier for weddings, new arrivals and anniversaries, there’s plenty of more modest purchases on offer to take home for every day occasions. An extensive range of presentation gift boxes make it easy to enjoy a sample of eight or twelve without really needing an excuse, and come in sizes small enough to place on someone’s pillow.
And if truffles and bombones aren’t your preference, you’ll find tubs of ice cream ranging from the usual suspects to the fresher flavours of mandarine and grapefruit, a selection of jarred confitures, turron, orange segments dipped in dark chocolate, Parisian macarons, and pots of drinking chocolates with alluring French names from the milky Chocolat chaud à l’ancienne to Chocolat chaud à la mexicaine, which comes subtly laced with peperoncini.
Rather than specialising in something, Vasalissa specialises in everything with uncompromised quality. Individual truffles and bombones are priced by weight, in accordance with the high levels of quality and craftmanship. $54 will buy you 100g, around six luxurious chocolates, wrapped in toile de jouy paper and set inside beautifully feminine red and white presentation boxes. If you prefer your packaging a little more masculine, you can ask for the new white version, but in taking the red you’d find yourself in good company – with Vasalissa’s signature packaging being something of a mark of luxury, there’s plenty of men proud to carry toile.