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 ParisJean-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…

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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…

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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?

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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

20 Responses to “Chocolate Roundup #7: France, USA, New Zealand”

  1. Victoria (District Chocoholic) says:

    I love how manufacturers here in the U.S. are offering mini chocolate bars – it gives you a chance to sample an unusual flavor before investing in a full-size.

    I personally happened upon some fairly good locally-made chocolate in Milwaukee of all places – Indulgence Chocolatiers happens to have several varieties of bars with coarse sea salt that are divine.

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  3. Julia @ Mélanger says:

    Wow, round up #7 already? All that sweet chocolate information. Where does one really start? Another great selection of goodies for all your readers to keep an eye out for. I am surprised the US has smaller bars. As your brother-in-law says, everything is usually bigger in the US. (Though I do remember a boutique beer place in Boston that served different beers in mini – so you could try more!) Anyway, as I was reading, I thought to myself…..I wonder how many different chocolate bars exist in the world and how many Kerrin has tasted? Probably a lot! 🙂

  4. Romy says:

    Wow, that was quick – I snuck that Schoc bar just under the Roundup Deadline! Glad you liked it and glad we got a chance to hang out! 🙂

  5. Kerrin says:

    Victoria, you’re so right, minis are an excellent idea – very smart on the part of manufacturers. Especially with Vosges as they have some pretty exotic flavors. Not so sure I’d want an entire bar made with curry either ! 😉 And love your chocolate find in Milwaukee, you just never know when and where that next sweet discovery will be…

    Julia, funny you said #7 already – I said, wow it’s only #7, haha ! I’ll admit I’ve tasted an extraordinary amount of chocolate bars (so far…), but that isn’t even scratching the surface of what’s out there. How many exist in the *world* ?! Oh la la… more than we both can even imagine ! =)

    Romy, good timing for sure ! 😉 Loved hanging out, and thanks again for our sweet and photographic introduction to New Zealand. Perhaps one day….

  6. Yeye says:

    I always love your chocolate stories, so exotic. A bar from New Zealand !!! Wow! I wonder what’s left on your country list for chocolate? Zimbabwe maybe 🙂 Thanks Kerrin for such sweet stories, as always …

  7. Lani says:

    If I eat the chocolove coffee crunch I won’t need my caffeine fix in the morning! So where can I get this bar? I also just love the packaging of the Jean Charles Rouchoux! Amazing…and I am sure it tastes as magnificent as it looks. Such a fun thing for you to do is the roundup! I would love to dive right into your chocolate draw!!! How come you don’t overdosed on chocolate????

  8. Emma says:

    It’s a sure thing that 2011 is the Year of More Chocolate!

    I see some mini TCHO bars in one of your pictures above; I just tasted their citrus bar for the first time a few weeks ago. Tasty. Around the same time, I also had a few of the mini Vosges bars, the Woolloomooloo (fun to say) and the Black Pearl (fun to eat).

    I’ve really been hitting the chocolate drawer heavily in the past month. Perhaps the most unexpected hit was Vivani’s Dark Chocolate with Lemon bar (http://www.vivani.de/P_USA_Bitter_Lemon.html). I like the artwork on their bars as well.

    I’ve got to get my ol’ grubby chocolatey paws on some of that alligator skin pistachio chocolate by Jean-Charles Rochoux. The packaging is chic and the flavors sound amazing!

  9. Kerrin says:

    Yeye, so glad you love the chocolate roundups. There’s plenty more where that came from ! 😉 New Zealand was so exotic for me too. My country list to taste list is long, and oooh, I forgot Zimbabwe on there, thanks ! =)

    Lani, the Chocolove Coffee Crunch bar sounds like a perfect replacement for your morning caffeine fix ! I think it is available in many big supermarkets in the US; I got it at Food Emporium in New York City in fact. I think Whole Foods carries Chocolove bars too. Hope you enjoy…

    Emma, just wait for 2012… the Year of Even More Chocolate, haha ! Good call, I didn’t even mention the little Tcho bars, oops ! That’s since I have yet to taste them. And I’m with you, Woolloomooloo – say that three times ! 😉 Just looked up Vosges’ Black Pearl (http://www.vosgeschocolate.com/product/black_pearl_exotic_candy_bar/exotic_candy_bars) – ginger *and* wasabi ?! That’d kill me. Thanks for sharing the link for the Vivani bar, I’ll check it out too. [Holding up a square of chocolate] Cheers !! =)

  10. sweet tooth says:

    Hi Kirrin

    Mmm mmm mmm!

    I just read this articlea bout rare, extra tasty cacao called Nacional.;
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/12/dining/12chocolate.html?scp=1&sq=cacao&st=cse

    A company each from Swiss, Canada, Germany and USA are making into chocolate. If you found one, please let us know how good it is!

  11. Duncini says:

    I see, in my mind’s eye, the book on shelves now, “Kerrin Rousset’s Chocolate Roundups from Around the World”

  12. kelleyn says:

    Drooling!

  13. Kerrin says:

    sweet tooth, thank you for sharing the article, and guess what…. I just met Franz Ziegler a couple of days ago, when he gave a presentation on the Maranon cacao beans they discovered in Peru, as you read about. I met the chocolatier Roger von Rotz at his shop outside of Zürich – he’s the chocolatier in Switzerland who is working with the chocolate. It is indeed exceptional, smooth and totally void of any bitterness. I’ll have to taste some more to be sure though =)

    Duncini, I like your thinking. Not bad, not bad at all. You available to be my agent ?

    kelleyn :O)

  14. Evert-Jan (Choqoa.com) says:

    hello Kerrin,
    I totally missed the link you live in CH, and hence are pretty close to Maranon. however I would be glad to help you with the last sentence in your last comment above =) Any options? I’m still open for barter 😉

    100% tschuss
    EJ

  15. sweet tooth says:

    Whoa! You’ve already tasted it? And met all those choco-important people? Awesome!

  16. Sharon says:

    Hi — i almost never comment on blogs, but I love revisiting Zurich through yours. Most of my trips there have been with my mom who had some family ties … Chocolate is always on the agenda … and we shop for the exotic and the less so — we always stock up on some grocery store chocolate (mostly callebaut noir) which we’ve dubbed “emergency chocolate” I hope to return soon and tour with you

  17. Sharon says:

    ooops Cailler Frigor noir

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  19. Kerrin says:

    Sharon, thanks so much for the comment, much appreciated ! Glad to hear chocolate is always on your Swiss agenda, but of course ! =) Hope to meet you soon on a sweet tour…

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