Chocolate Roundup #10: France, Bolivia, Australia
Switzerland’s first Salon du Chocolat is in just two months, in Zürich on March 30th, 2012. You may think I can’t possibly have chocolate on my mind any more than I already do, but… everything is possible. Helping to organize this delicious event, meeting with chocolatiers and pastry chefs, and talking about chocolate around the clock brings on even more cravings than usual. Luckily my chocolate stash is always overflowing with new bars to taste. While most of these tastings are of Swiss chocolate, I thought I would highlight a few non-Swiss wrappers that are now part of my collection.
There is no better place to start than with a current favorite of mine. I have always been a fan of Henri Le Roux’s silky salted butter caramels (he’s the inventor of the famous CBS – caramel au beurre salé) and individual chocolates with buckwheat, but I have only more recently discovered his bars, thanks to the Salon du Chocolat in Paris. One word, people: Goviro. Fleur de sel, crêpes dentelle (super thin, crispy golden butter biscuits) and caramelized almonds in smooth dark chocolate – that is the recipe for a stellar bar – and an addiction.
Thanks to Le Roux’s new shop in Paris’ St German des Prés (in addition to those in Brittany on France’s west coast), I have a few more of those Goviro bars, as well as the Embruns bar with just fleur de sel, and the dark chocolate bar with coffee. I love the look of the square bar above right/below left. They are all kept safe in a cool, dry space – heeding the golden rule on the packaging, “do not refrigerate.” Really, do not refrigerate chocolate – ever.
Another bar that has jumped up to my top ten is El Ceibo’s dark milk chocolate with Bolivian specialty coffee. Organic cocoa beans and organic coffee are from local plantations, and worked from the trees to the chocolate by the El Ceibo cooperative in Bolivia. As the packaging proudly states, “We do not collaborate with the producers, we are the producers.” Non milk chocolate eaters (me), do not turn away from this bar. You may even think it is purely dark at first, but then you’ll be thankful for the light touch of milk that adds a rich creaminess and a sweet finish, with the undertone of robust coffee and an overall wonderful aroma. A perfect balance in the end. No surprise that chocolate mastermind Chloé Doutre-Roussel is behind the creation of these bars, working with El Ceibo since 2007. (You may recognize her name from Paris’ Salon du Chocolat in 2010 when she launched her own line of chocolate and tea too.)
El Ceibo’s two pure dark chocolate bars both have an incredible smoothness to them as well, without the addition of milk, and a unique flavor that sets them apart from other chocolate you may have tasted (75% fine dark chocolate and a limited edition with heritage cocoa beans). The final bar in the line, 77% dark chocolate with cocoa nibs and Uyuni salt from the world’s largest salt flat (also in Bolivia), masterfully combines dark, crunchy, bitter (nibs), fresh (salt) and intense.
Another French name that many of you may recognize is Mariage Frères. But for tea, not chocolate, right ? Waiting in line to pick up a tea order for a friend in this very exclusive, elegant tea room, I noticed a few chocolate bars on the wall. What was my natural reaction ? To get one of course, especially when I saw there was a dark chocolate bar filled with “praliné croquant” – two words each a weakness of mine, and together, I clearly had no choice. I would be curious to learn more about the chocolate they are using, which was smooth and of a high quality; and this bar had a light praliné filling. There isn’t quite enough crunch to warrant the croquant in the name though. Overall, a pleasant surprise that made waiting in line well worth it.
Lastly, while there have been many countries in the previous nine chocolate roundups that may not immediately come to mind when we think of chocolate, like Croatia, Slovenia, Poland and New Zealand, here’s another first appearance… Australia. Luckily I have a friend Down Under who contributes to my sweet discoveries around the world, this one from Koko Black in Melbourne. The Criollo beans in this single origin bar were from Mexico. If you think about how chocolate was consumed in Mexico, as a beverage blended with spices, you may not be surprised that this bar is not at all sweet either, with “a very earthy, smoky character.” I love the size, thickness, snap and texture of this bar, and would recommend it to someone who likes their chocolate with savory notes.
What have you all tasted lately ?
Past Chocolate Roundups:
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
Chocolate Roundup #7: France, USA, New Zealand
Chocolate Roundup #8: Switzerland, Italy, USA
Chocolate Roundup #9: Switzerland, UK, USA, Poland
* Salon du Chocolat in Zürich, March 30 – April 1, 2012 *