Chocolate from Around the World (including Croatia)
Coming back from Venice, I had a suitcase filled with nougat, biscotti and chocolate (unfortunately no gelato). Whenever I come back from France, it’s usually jams, Carambar, prunes from Agen and chocolate. From New York – bagels, soft brown sugar, Vermont maple syrup and chocolate. What does one bring back from Croatia? Well, if you want to get through customs without sweating, you probably won’t attempt to walk on by with dried hams or fresh truffles in your bag. Olive oil? I suppose you could risk the glass bottle breaking in your luggage (I did!) – not in your carry-on though, liquid’s a no no. Specialty shops in little villages throughout Istria had tons of products based on truffles and olive oil, pretty much everything imaginable made with one of the two.
So what did I bring back? Chocolate.
Now, I haven’t had the chance to try it yet. And I will admit that no matter the taste or texture, it can’t let me down. It was more the thrill of adding a Croatian chocolate bar wrapper to my collection than anything. And yes, I have a collection. I was in a tiny local shop in the medieval hilltop town of Motovun, the kind of shop you run into just to pick up milk. For me, it’s always fun checking out local products and supermarkets, and unfortunately this was my last shot at bringing back chocolate or some other fun, random Croatian food product. Only a few bars lay between rusty cans of preserved meats and oversized boxes of cookies. I grabbed one bar of each.
One bar is made with Zagreb’s version of the classic French butter cookie, Petit Beurre. And the other – made with pop rocks! Reminds me of Christopher Elbow’s Dark Rocks. Kras Croatian chocolate, very up on the trends. And they’ve been at it since 1911. Turns out it’s the largest manufacturer of confectionery products in South Eastern Europe. Who knew?! Next time in Croatia, I’ll have to visit a large supermarket and find out more. Anyone familiar with Kras products?
Until I actually do open those bars from Croatia, here’s a small selection of some bars that I did taste recently…
Top left is Theo‘s new Fig, Fennel and Almond Dark Chocolate Bar, a chocolate company in Seattle. I love their Bread and Chocolate Bar (a great play on texture, and sweet and salty), so I was excited to try a new flavor of theirs. I liked the chewy pieces of fig and the crunch of the almonds. But it didn’t wow me. I’ll stick to the bread bar. Next to that are two bars from Tiroler Edle of Austria, with its signature cow on the packaging. If you like your chocolate bars ganache-filled and creamy, these are for you. I was disappointed with the nougat bar, thinking there would be little pieces of nougat. Last is Villars Dark Chocolate Coffee bar, from Fribourg here in Switzerland. I love the edelweiss imprint on each square, Switzerland’s emblematic flower, and that the ingredients are written in 10 languages on the back of the package! Texture reminiscent of a Nestle Crunch bar, but thicker, darker and with a deep mocha flavor. More confection than high quality chocolate bar I’d say. A flake or two of fleur de sel rounds it out nicely though. Also available in milk chocolate – even more like a Crunch bar.
You can’t miss Austrian Bachhalm‘s hot pink packaging, that’s for sure. I like this bar for its extra thickness and fun sugary crunch on one side. The pink flavor is actually… blackberry. Lindt’s new Double Milk bars took center stage in the supermarkets here for some time, and I grabbed one of each to try. Loved the soft sweetness of the apricot, but underwhelmed by the Macchiato (even though that would normally be my first choice). And last but not least, a bar from Chicago’s Vosges Haut Chocolat. I had always been curious to try their organic peanut butter bonbons, but disappointed that they don’t sell individually. Voila, the bonbon in a bar! Don’t be deceived – while it is milk chocolate and peanut butter, this bar takes both to a whole new dimension. Deep, dark milk chocolate and dark rich peanut butter as well. My only complaint: the salt is not distributed evenly, so you get clumps in different places – just too salty. Similar texture to the Lindt bar above – and I do love the drawing on the chocolate!
What chocolate have YOU tried lately ?