Chocolate Roundup #2: Switzerland, Spain, Italy
Since the last Chocolate Roundup turned out to be such a big success, you can rest assured – it will definitely be a regular feature on MyKugelhopf. Considering that my chocolate drawer is always full of a new variety of bars, this shouldn’t be a problem. It changes every few days, as bars get eaten and new ones make a temporary little home in their place. Now that I have admitted to having not only a drawer devoted to chocolate bars, but also a chocolate bar wrapper collection, you’ll understand the frequency of the theme!
Last time there were bars from Switzerland, Austria, the United States and even Croatia. If you missed that first roundup, you can check it out here. This time Spain and Italy are featured, and I am thinking that there will always be a bar from Switzerland in the mix. As a reminder, I am simply a (very) big fan of dark chocolate, and am always on the lookout for new brands and bars. I loved all the comments from readers last time – chocolates you have tasted recently, all-time favorites, recommendations and other assorted ideas. I’m looking forward to that again. So without further ado, below is the next selection of bars I have tasted lately. Enjoy!
First up is a long-time favorite chocolate of mine: Cailler (which merged with Nestlé in 1929). This is one of my go-to plain dark chocolates, to satisfy a simple desire for high quality and a smooth texture. I love the 64% Crémant Intense, especially for its thin, cylindrical shape (top photos) that’s different from more standard bars. For a sweet treat, I love all dark chocolate with nougatine, crispy caramel fillings, toffee, sugar or salt crystals… I find that added crunch to a rich chocolate bar irresistible. Which might explain why Cailler’s Noir Eclats de Caramel bars are nowhere to be seen in Zürich’s supermarkets anymore – I must have bought them all out. Truth is, they haven’t been on the shelves here for a while now, and I even asked the people at Cailler if this bar was discontinued. No answer. But I was reassured when in a village north of Zürich, there they were. Needless to say, I grabbed more than one! Its black decorative foil inside, squares that cleanly break apart on the dotted lines, good thickness and weight, and a generous amount of nougatine pieces – it’s very addictive, you have been warned!
Having seen a fascinating program on France’s TV5 about Spanish chocolate maker Enric Rovira, I was real excited to find a few of his items here in Zürich (Globus, Chocomotion). Besides caramel and salt, the other key word that hits the green light for me is coffee. I tried Rovira’s 60% Café bar and loved the look of the 16 square Rajole (meaning tile in Spanish). The design is taken from the stones that were used to pave Barcelona’s sidewalks, apparently now a symbol of the city. Very thick and coarse, this chocolate is unique – far from sweet and light. The grainy texture is interesting, and if you like your coffee and chocolate a tad bitter, then this is a bar you should try. I’d still love to get to his shop in Barcelona and discover his wide range of creative chocolates. I also hope his website will be translated to English soon, which is only in Spanish for now.
As for keywords that put up a red flag when I’m looking for new chocolate to try, that would be pepper. So why did I buy the above bar, Stainer’s Peperoncino di Espelette con Ananas? Well, I had never tried chocolate from Italian Stainer, and I love pineapple. Plus, as the pepper in question was Espelette (of the eponymous village in France’s Basque country, which I adore!), I thought it would be more flavorful, rather than hot. Wrong. This bar packs quite a good amount of heat, and instead of my usual 2nd square that follows the 1st, what I had was a glass of water. There was a pleasant note of pineapple in the beginning, but it was overwhelmed by the pepper. The chocolate itself had a nice mouth-feel, and so I tried a different bar of theirs with aloe and blackcurrant. Smooth, mellow, faintly fruity, thus allowing me a 2nd (and 3rd) square. Would I buy Stainer chocolate again though… probably not.
Lastly, to bring the roundup back to where we started – Swiss chocolate. I am a big fan of Villars (from Fribourg in the French region), but just as pepper is a red flag for me, I also prefer my chocolate without alcohol. Yet here I was again, straying from my norm, finding myself with a bar of Kirsch-filled chocolate. Villars has a whole line of these bars with plump squares, each filled with a different liqueur. I finally decided to try, and it probably had something to do with the charm of the shop where I found it, in Appenzell. Once I tasted the bar, it was like having a pure shot of Kirsch in each piece. You can have your after-dinner digestif and chocolate in one bite.
As weird as this may sound, if you cut open the chocolate and let the alcohol ooze out, you’re left with a delicious little bonbon – a more subdued cherry alcohol flavor with crunchy sugar crystals and a creamy, semisweet chocolate background. Quite delicious in fact. I think I’ll stick with Villars’ other bars though. No more larmes for me (tears).
So there it is, just a small “taste” of what I’ve been savoring these past few weeks. Please share your sweet discoveries here too – a bar that’s new to you or one that you simply keep going back to since it’s just that good! As for the latter, I’ll always keep going back to Lindt’s Fleur de Sel bar, still my absolute favorite.
A handful of previously featured chocolate bar posts:
Chocolate Round-Up #1
Chocolate Bars in New York City
Bovetti’s Blue Chocolate
Christopher Elbow’s Pop Rocks
Lindt and Dolfin’s Summer lines