Thursday, February 14, 2008

Chocolate Inspiration

Knowing how much I enjoyed eating these chocolates when we lived in Russia, someone I know sent me Maria Antonova 's article from The Moscow Times for Valentine's Day:
Vdokhnovenie chocolates come from an era when the greatness of the Soviet Union was defined by "rockets and ballet," as one well-known song goes. What looks like a regular chocolate bar on the outside actually consists of individually foil-wrapped chocolate sticks that resemble silver bullets. The extravagance of the packaging and the image of the Bolshoi illuminated against a dark blue background -- all made Vdokhnovenie seem like a special occasion.

The brand was created in the 1970s. Alexei Kosygin, the legendary premier of the Soviet Union, brought similarly wrapped chocolate from France. Kosygin is famous for the Soviet economic reforms of 1965 and the ensuing "golden five-year plan." He wanted to move the Soviet economy from heavy industry to the production of consumer goods. Excited about new chocolate opportunities, he wanted the Babayev factory in Moscow to start producing Vdokhnovenie, which was eventually hailed by Russians as the tastiest. Eventually, Leonid Brezhnev sidelined what Time magazine called Kosygin's "flirtation with profits," and focused on rockets again.

Like many other gourmet foods, Vdokhnovenie could be found in Moscow's theater buffets, along with Soviet champagne and canapes of caviar and white fish. Today Vdokhnovenie's package looks more or less the same, but the inside foil was recently replaced with thicker paper wrapping. In addition, there are other flavors besides the original dark chocolate with hazelnut bits: chocolates with hazelnut, cream or caramel filling. Kosygin would have been proud.