Chocolate Roundup #3: France, Italy, Austria, Switzerland
Back by popular demand, the third chocolate roundup is here! And today on December 1st, what I consider the official start of the holiday season. We even had our first snowfall here in Zürich yesterday. Christmas trees and mistletoe are on people’s minds, roasted chestnuts and marzipan, panettone… and chocolate of course! Perhaps the majority of that chocolate will be shaped like Santa Claus, but for me… it’s all about bars.
So here’s what I have been tasting lately. Let me know what you think of these bars if you are already familiar. And if not, be sure to let me know what’s in your chocolate drawer!
There is no other place to begin than with a bar near and dear to my heart. A bar that is both an old and a new favorite. It was at this year’s Salon du Chocolat in Paris where I was chatting with Franck Kestener and tasting his products. He gave me a square of a bar that almost had me fall on my knees, it was so divine. My immediate reaction was – wait, I know that bar, I have had it before (because I probably had the same reaction!) Fast forward to me rifling through my collection of chocolate bar labels back at home – and voilà, there it was, the original packaging I had saved years back (which has since changed, hence my not recognizing it at first). Why did I save it? So I wouldn’t forget what it was, and be able to buy it again. That was how my collection began after all. Now… back to that bar. Supreme quality dark chocolate, thick and solid. A layer of crispy and delicate sablé (buttery shortbread). Each square just ready to burst with salted caramel, a perfect compromise between liquid and soft. It can be difficult to cleanly cut individual squares, so I recommend simply taking a row and enjoy biting off one by one.
Italy is back in this third roundup with Amedei’s Toscano Red, a 70% dark chocolate with a delicious variety of dried red berries: strawberries, raspberries and cherries. Don’t be intimidated by the word “bitter” on the label; the berries, along with a touch of vanilla, round it out very nicely, and in the end it’s quite addictive. A small and light bar with a perfect snap, it goes rather quickly…
Another chocolate that did not stick around very long was Debauve & Gallais’ dark chocolate with pieces of nougatine. I first discovered this prestigious chocolatier (Paris’ oldest, since 1800) back in 1999 when living in Paris and rediscovered it in 2002 when doing research for Mort Rosenblum on his book, Chocolate. I have remained a fan of the beautiful and refined individual pralines, but had never tasted their bars. It was time. Think crunchy bits of hardened caramel in a sweet dark chocolate (72%). I am often disappointed when chocolate bars that are made with berries or bits of toffee have just so few of that ingredient. You can see above that Amedei’s bar was not one of them, and nor was this one below. However, I was very surprised that with such a high quality chocolate maker, the bar bloomed (discoloration) after just a few days, hence no glamourous close-ups below.
And last but not least, two more bars from Austria and Switzerland… that I haven’t actually tasted yet. You first! I smelled them, that’s for sure. You open these wrappers and there is no doubt about what flavors you have in your hands. So how do you all feel about savory ingredients in your chocolate?
The top bar is Bachhalm’s dark chocolate with … mushrooms! Did you notice the word “shiitake” above on the packaging? It is 54% chocolate with dried shiitake mushrooms and a touch of white truffle oil. The other bar is 42% milk chocolate with kiwi, pine nuts and curry from Nobile. A label in German, yet a name in Italian had me curious: Nobile, artisti del cioccolato. When I asked one of the chocolate makers if Nobile is Swiss or Italian, he said, “Swiss chocolate, absolutely, but with an Italian spirit and inspiration.”
I think I bought both of those bars out of pure incredulity! And perhaps to take out at a dinner party, see the reactions of guests! Would you taste them? Or have you already?? What else have you tasted? Let us know!