Chocolate Roundup #8: Switzerland, Italy, USA
It’s time for another chocolate roundup ! Way too much chocolate tasted in the past few months (weeks even) not to share a few highlights…
No place to start other than here in Switzerland. And with the very best.
Reichmuth von Reding is the ultimate in dark chocolate, and many would agree there’s simply nothing better. I love how his initials RvR are emblazoned on each thick, shiny square of chocolate because I consider this the absolute Rolls Royce of dark chocolate. I’d say it’s as elegant as I’ve ever seen chocolate to be – the sturdy, solid colored boxes (each color hinting at the corresponding flavor), and the bars themselves with 15 squares that always break cleanly with a loud snap.
Each box has a plethora of information on it, including the cocoa content and the origin of the cocoa beans, and even on some bars, the hours of conching (up to 72 !). What it doesn’t say is that they use chocolate from my all-time favorite, Felchlin in Schwyz, *the* chocolate of choice of professionals in Switzerland. There are a few bars made with cocoa beans from Madagascar or Ecuador, and even wild beans from Bolivia, but most use the top of the line Criollo bean from Venezuela. Variations on the latter have hazelnuts, ginger, coffee (love this one) or almonds, as below. In the almond bar, there is one whole California almond in each square, a fresh, perfectly caramelized nut that gives you sweet, crunchy, creamy, rich and dark all in one bite.
Another favorite chocolate of mine is also dark (naturally) and also Swiss. And no surprise here then, also using Felchlin chocolate. Not very well known, Nobile Cioccolato from Bätterkinden (near Bern) certainly should be. Especially the bar, Nusskrokant Maldon Salz. Little pieces of crunchy nougatine made with California almonds, Sicilian pistachios and Piedmont hazelnuts are in a thin bar of excellent, smooth 71% dark chocolate (whose cocoa beans are from Ecuador and Madagascar) with a touch of Maldon sea salt from the UK. Need I say more ?!
When Lee of Chocolate Reviews asked the very fun but difficult question of naming your favorite chocolate bar, Nobile was my answer. And I mentioned this bar in particular, not Nobile’s milk chocolate bar you may recall from a previous chocolate roundup, with kiwi, pine nuts and curry ! You can find their bars in a few select shops throughout Switzerland, and apparently in Harrods in London. Anyone across the Channel want to check that out ? You will be rewarded if so… with this bar below !
In a stark contrast to the two chocolates above that are the epitome of smooth, Sicilian CioMod is doing something at the opposite extreme. When you open a bar of their Neropuro chocolate, you may be quite shocked and probably not too tempted to try it. It looks downright unattractive and perhaps bloomed or old. It may be lacking that glossy shine we look for, but there’s nothing wrong with it, au contraire ! It’s simply chocolate in an ultimately pure form – nothing more than two ingredients: cocoa mass and natural cane sugar. Lacking the elegance of Reichmuth von Reding, the four pieces of this bar are thick and rustic, with a very sandy texture that leaves crumbs like a sablé (shortbread).
The reason for its gritty appearance and mouthfeel is the lack of cocoa butter and conching (the process whereby frictional heat gives chocolate a stable, smooth and liquid form). Using an old Sicilian tradition of chocolate making and “antique, artisanal methods,” the chocolate is cold pressed, leaving you with a rather intense hit of cocoa, whereby one small piece may be enough. It makes for a very different taste experience, that will have you appreciating chocolate as a pure product – and also appreciating the invention of the conch (thank you Rodolphe Lindt).
When a friend told me she was traveling through Mississippi and had some southern chocolate to send me, you can imagine how curious I was to try it. A couple of bars from Tennessee made their way to Zürich and I loved Olive & Sinclair‘s packaging and the look of their logo on each square of the bar itself. Reading about the company, I was reminded of fellow American bean-to-bar chocolate maker, Askinosie, as well as Taza, the first “stone ground” chocolate I had come across. (You can watch a short video of the native Nashvillians making their “hand crafted, small batch, slow-roasted and stone ground” chocolate.)
The bar I tasted was Salt & Pepper, the latter in that duo raising a red flag for the supertaster I am (I’m not boasting, it’s an actual label). One small bite and…“water !” So I called on my #1 taster here to give me his objective opinion. Even for someone who seasons his food like confetti, it was still too strong for him. The taste of pepper was overwhelming and lingered for way too long. That said, if you like heat (a lot of it) and a serious kick of it with your chocolate, then this is for you. Me ? I’ve got my eye on their Sea Salt and Coffee bars; anyone ever try those ? The new white chocolate bar with buttermilk sounds interesting too – and oh so Southern.
If you think pepper in your chocolate is strange, what about… carrots ?! Genusswerkstatt (gourmet workshop) co-founders K+K, chocolatier Markus Kunz and master distiller Ruedi Käser call themselves creative food artisans. They created a platform for high quality, sustainable products from NE Switzerland, especially the Frick valley. Once I learned that Frick is in the canton of Aargau, it came as no surprise that they have a dark chocolate bar called Rüebli-Schoggi, local dialect for carrot chocolate. Aargau happens to be the carrot capital of Switzerland and even holds a market festival dedicated to the root vegetable in the fall. (I hope to be at this year’s Rüeblimärt on November 2nd.)
But carrot in chocolate ? I bought this hand-numbered bar at the Viadukt market when it caught my eye – carrot liqueur 50% alcohol and carrot jam in the ingredients list ?! I have to say, it’s not as weird as it may sound. Sure it’s still weird, but oddly enough, the bright orange, caramel-like filling in a thin, rich dark chocolate shell was quite nice. It’s not all vegetables though, this line of Königlich Kaiserlicher chocolate has other fillings flavored with pear Williams, wild cherry, grappa, quince, wild raspberry or whiskey. I like my chocolate sans alcohol, but always fun to try different things.
What chocolate have you tasted lately ?
Good thing chocolate never goes out of style. Here are the previous chocolate roundups,… and stay tuned for #9 !
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