Chocolate Roundup #7: France, USA, New Zealand
Time for a chocolate roundup ! Before 2011 sees a whole new series of sweet adventures, a quick look back to recent tastes from the infamous chocolate stash…
Let’s begin with my very favorite bar tasted, one I kept hidden since returning home from the Salon du Chocolat in Paris. Jean-Charles Rochoux‘s packaging is as chic as it gets, a shiny cardboard exterior with an embossed alligator pattern – and a bar just as attractive inside. Below is his 70% dark chocolate bar with caramelized pistachios; the nuts add an extra touch of sweetness and just the right amount of crunch. Remarkably, every one of the 30 small squares had a perfect, whole green pistachio. And one by one, each square (not so slowly) disappeared. His iconic 70% dark chocolate bar filled with semi-liquid caramel is still safely hidden, but we’ll see how long that lasts…
Speaking of small squares, I’m reminded of a statement my French brother-in-law used to always say: “Everything is bigger in the United States.” Well lately, I’d beg to differ. Seems like the chocolate bars are getting smaller and smaller…
And since we all know how irresistible things are in mini (mini kiwis, anyone?!), I couldn’t resist grabbing a few of these tiny bars when I was at Whole Foods in New York. But be warned, they sure do disappear fast. Chocolove now has 1.2 oz (34 gram) bars and Vosges‘ minis are even smaller at 0.5 oz (14 grams). But don’t worry, both brands still have their original size bars (3.4 oz / 90 g for Chocolove and 3 oz / 85 g for Vosges), and Chocolove recently added two new flavors to their line: Coffee Crunch and Peppermint, both in 55% dark chocolate. The former was a big hit in my house, chock-full of crushed roasted coffee beans. The chocolate was just sweet enough to balance the coffee beans’ desirable bitterness. Only, here’s another warning to heed: every 30 grams of this bar equals a cup of coffee… 3 cups for the whole bar. For someone who doesn’t drink coffee or tea (me), that’s a whole lot of caffeine!
Having tasted the coffee bar first, I imagined the peppermint bar would be similar, with a crunchy texture from bits and pieces of mint candy. Not so. As soon as you open the wrapper (with its signature love poem on the inside), you get a hit of strong peppermint, but the bar’s flavor is not nearly as bold. The chocolate is smooth, with a deep, yet not overpowering, mint flavor, and no sign of red and white stripes anywhere. Peppermint oil is mixed into the dark chocolate, making for a cool, refreshing taste.
Theo is another American chocolate brand I’ve been enjoying for years. I used to say their Bread and Chocolate Bar was my favorite item, but that was clearly before I had tasted their Big Daddy marshmallows, thanks to a good friend in Seattle. Handmade graham cracker, vanilla caramel and marshmallow, all enrobed in dark and milk chocolate. Need I say more?! I recently tried their 70% bar made with tangy, sweet dried cherries and small pieces of roasted almonds. Another winner, but not quite as dreamy as those marshmallows…
Before the grande finale of this roundup, a few honorable mentions (gathered below, bottom right): French Patrice Chapon‘s beautiful silver wrapper with an original – and rather spectacular – bar inside: “tablette fourrée praliné chocolat noir au sel fumé et pistache,” 75% dark chocolate, filled with an almond and hazelnut praliné, smoked salt and pistachio purée. Let’s just say, it didn’t make it back from Paris to Zürich to be photographed! My introduction to British Seeds of Change was with their organic dark chocolate bar, made with figs and orange oil. And to Spanish Valor with their 70% dark chocolate bar con plátano – yes, banana! Last but not least, no chocolate roundup would be complete without at least a mention of a Swiss chocolate (loyal I am). Lindt’s newest addition to their Excellence line is Cassis Intense, with black currant juice and small pieces of almond – another winner in my book.
And now, time to take a big leap to New Zealand. I didn’t make that trip myself, but when my friend Romy went to visit family there, among the outrageous landscapes, exotic vegetation and endless wineries, was also a chocolate shop or two to visit. And that’s how a bar ended up in my hands. Thanks Romy! I love the packaging of Schoc Chocolates from Greytown, New Zealand, in a plastic coated wrapper that opens like an envelope, reminiscent of a tobacco pouch… or Big League Chew (anyone remember that gum?!). And it’s calling out to you to open: “crafted to be eaten not stored.” Schoc has an impressive variety of chocolate bars, from apricot and rosemary, kiwi, cardamom and walnut coffee, to Romy’s favorite, toasted sesame and the signature flavor made with dried lime. Olivier and I enjoyed the bittersweet sea salt bar she brought us, its excellent snap, touch of sweetness and strong flavor of salt. Hey Romy, when’s your next visit?
Not only did Romy introduce me to chocolate from New Zealand, but it’s thanks to her that my collection had a bar from Slovenia too. It was another bar of dark chocolate with sea salt (Solnce fleur de sel), a combination she knows I love, from Piranske Soline in Ljubljana. Just wait until later this year when she goes to Poland… Anyone ever taste Polish chocolate?
Anyone else like to discover chocolate on your travels? From near or far, let us know what *you* have tasted and enjoyed lately!
Chocolate Roundup #1: Croatia, USA, Austria, Switzerland
Chocolate Roundup #2: Switzerland, Spain, Italy
Chocolate Roundup #3: France, Italy, Austria, Switzerland
Chocolate Roundup #4: Caramel & Salt
Chocolate Roundup #5: France, Belgium, Switzerland, USA
Chocolate Roundup #6: Please Pass the Salt