Chocolate Roundup #11: USA & Switzerland
Over the course of a year (and even just a month), my chocolate stash fills up, empties, fills up again and re-empties itself many times. There are always new bars to taste and brands to discover near and far.
I’ll start with the one bar that impressed me the most this year, so far. And… it’s from an American chocolate maker, which may surprise some. More and more American artisans are showing their talents in the chocolate world, many going from bean to bar; Patric and Askinosie both in Missouri, Dandelion and Theo in California, Taza in Boston and my latest find, Xocolatl by David in Portland, Oregon. A bar made with olive oil was certainly intriguing, and when I saw fleur de sel on the ingredients list too, I knew that was for me (my favorite way to eat dark chocolate – with salt). A light bar at just over 60g, it was also extremely light on the palate, an incredibly smooth bar, with a great snap despite the oil. To me, it was the perfect balance of sensations – creamy, dark, thin, sweet, salty – if a tad too addicting.
Yet another American chocolate maker that I discovered at New York City’s chocolate and salt shop, The Meadow (flagship store in Portland, Oregon), was Fruition Chocolate from the Catskill Mountains. At first, it was the colorful packaging that caught my eye. But what really peaked my interest (besides the fact that it’s made in New York) was the shopkeeper’s strong recommendation when I asked what dark chocolate she’d pick. And if you have seen the shelves of that shop, there’s quite the competition – Pralus, Recchiuti, El Ceibo, Åkesson’s, Vosges and more, making for one of the most impressive selections I’ve seen. Again, with fleur del sel as an ingredient in the Fruition bar they had that day, it was a definite must for me. Even if in the end, the salt was very subtle in this bar. More milk than dark to me, it also had a hint of condensed milk in its caramel-like sweetness, a characteristic in much Swiss milk chocolate.
Speaking of Swiss chocolate, and closer to home, a favorite local bakery and confiserie of mine is Honold, in business since 1905. You may recall a certain chocolate of theirs making it to my list of favorites from this year’s premier Salon du Chocolat in Zürich. “Lotti’s Best” still remains my single favorite individual chocolate/praline in Zürich. Quite a statement, I know. But when it has a texture reminiscent of a Butterfinger bar, made with natural ingredients (unlike the Butterfinger !) including flaky praline feuilleté, tonka bean, thin layers of both milk and dark (Criollo de Venezuela) chocolate as well as a powerful punch of salt (fleur de sel once again), I simply can’t imagine a better combination.
Before sharing a few of Honold’s colorfully packaged chocolate bars (to keep with Chocolate Roundup rules), I can’t resist sharing Lotti Honold’s namesake praline, gold dust and all.
And now, to those large, round bars of Honold’s, with a fun range of colors and flavors. For the extra dark chocolate lovers, Grand Cru 70% chocolate with roasted cocoa nibs is for you; and for those who prefer milk, Honold’s Alpenmilch bar is as classic and tasty as they get. Another milk chocolate bar made with Hüppen (rolled wafer cookies) and tonka bean is rich enough for the dark crowd too, whose crispy biscuits add a great textural element.
I’m not one for spices (in my chocolate nor in my savory cooking for that matter), but when Honold’s chocolatier Ivo Jud (above, top left) handed me a bar with a bright pink label, telling me it was his personal favorite, I hardly hesitated before tasting it. Topped with a beautiful confetti of crushed pink peppercorns, this 65% dark chocolate bar hits you with a blast of sweetness from strawberry crystals and then fills your mouth with the heat of the pepper. Perhaps too much kick for me (I’m a bit wimpy, I admit), it was still a unique and sharp contrast of flavors in a smooth, excellent dark chocolate. What’s your favorite Honold bar ? And what chocolate bars have you tasted or discovered lately ?
I’m looking forward to seeing what Jud and Honold introduce for the second annual Salon du Chocolat in Zürich next year (impossible to top “Lotti’s Best” though). And mark your calendars… this exciting Schoggi event is back at the Messe Oerlikon from March 22-24, 2013 !