Tuesday, February 5, 2013


I flew from San Diego to Zurich.  Zurich is very small, and chocolate is everywhere.  I took a train into the main station, and before I could even find my way anywhere, I ran into a Sprungli shop. 


I feel like the Swiss think of Sprungli the way Americans think of Godiva.  It's high-end for most people, but it's not handmade.  You may know them as the second half of Lindt & Sprungli but likely have only had the Lindt-branded products.  Sprungli is certainly higher end than Lindt, and it's actually very good by any standards.  It was a great way to start, because it created a good standard to which to hold other Swiss chocolate.  I had their signature Luxemburgerli -- essentially just an overweight chocolate macaron (thick, with a small diameter) -- and an excellent truffle.  Europe: off to a good start.


My next stop was Merkur, which was also in the train station.  I had heard Merkur was good, but I didn't really understand its deal.  Apparently it's a distributor for another popular company, Laderach.  I purchased a truffle, a bonbon, and a slab of chocolate.  All were labeled as 70%, Brazilian-origin.  I brought my haul up to the famous Swarovski Christmas tree in the station and waited for my friend Bob to arrive.  By "wait," I do not mean "wait to eat the chocolate."

waiting for my friend, i had a long conversation with a swarovski representative.  she told me how much each crystal cost, how many there were, and the total cost of the tree.  the math did not even come close to adding up.

Neither the bonbon nor the truffle particularly impressed me, after Sprungli.  The bar as set high, and Brazil is not my favorite origin, but I still expected better.  The slab did not fair much better:

I hadn't busted out my good camera yet.  Food porn is still to come.

It was fruity and otherwise uninteresting.  

After a mild ordeal in finding Bob, we left the station, and I found myself in Europe:

the europest
Completely Europe
Our first stop was Honold.  We were excited.  We got a hot chocolate.  We got a piece of cake.  We got a dark chocolate truffle.  We got a hazelnut bonbon.  We were out of the train station and ready to rumble.
The hot chocolate was not great.  The cake was okay, but also not outstanding.  Bob didn't seem to mind:

The truffle and bonbon were better.  The first things I'd had that were in the same league as Sprungli.  So far so good, but so good isn't so good when you are in pursuit of greatness.


I found it.  Truffe (or, as we say in English, "Truffle") is the most adorable chocolate shop I encountered in all my travels.  It's small, and it's run by a very small, older lady.  This is her retirement job.  Leila and I have already thought this one through, but this lady is a step ahead of us.  Much like The Meadow or Fog City News, she scours the world for the best chocolate -- mostly, but not exclusively, bars.  She also has an adorable cafe in the back.  She is extremely knowledgeable and friendly, so definitely step in and have a chat.  I purchased three chocolate bars, and she threw in a waffle thing and a little nougat:

The bars were as follows: a 74%, Dominican-origin bar from Swiss chocolatier Nobile, a 74%, internationally prize-winning, Venezuelan-origin by from Swiss chocolatier Idilio, and a giant brick of chocolate from ancient Italian chocolatier Roberto Catinari.

The Nobile bar was exquisite.  It was rich and chocolatey, but it was interesting and different from typical West African chocolate.  I usually like Dominican chocolate, and this was no exception.  The Idilio bar was almost as good.  It's exactly what top-tier Venezuelan chocolate should taste like -- chocolatey, bright, and flavorful.

But the real surprise winner was the Roberto Catinari block.  I had been told that he is some master chocolatier and friend of some chocolate pioneer, but I started spacing out.  I was hungry.  Apparently his son isn't as good as he is.  I dunno.  All I know is that this bar is just knock-your-socks-off good.  It's about 80% chocolate, but it isn't sweet.  It's stone ground in that Italian way, and it includes nibs for an even rougher texture and chocolatier flavor.  I can't say enough good things about this bar/brick.

(As an aside, the nougat didn't interest me, as it wasn't chocolate, but the Viennesi-brand chocolate-covered waffle was surprisingly delicious.)


I know Teuscher.  I love Teuscher.  There's a Teuscher in New York City (in Rockefeller Center).  Angel and I constantly debate whether it's worth its chops, but I always defend it.  So of course I needed to go to the hometown shop:

 like back home, only more european
I just ordered a single truffle.  I could get more back in New York.  But I wanted to see how my tastes had calibrated.

hey ease off the truffle is almost in focus

It was delicious.  It was noticeably, though not by leaps and bounds, better than Sprungli.  It's good to know that what I like in New York still stands up in Switzerland.


We wandered past a few chocolate shops that hadn't made my list.  Usually I didn't bother going in.  But something about Aeschbach called to me.  I ordered a Crillollo bonbon, and they threw in a free truffle.  Both were exceptional.  The bonbon was the best I had in all of Zurich.

H. Schwarzenbach:

With all that walking around, it was time to sit down at a cafe.  We got some hot chocolate at H. Schwarzenbach.

can you guess the continent?

It was good.  It didn't blow me away.  I liked it better than the version at Honold, though.

good guess.

Mostly, the cafe was a nice place to recharge for a bit, before hitting our final shop.

Cafe Schober/Peclard:

Way to save the best for last.  There was a great dark chocolate truffle.  There was an exquisite hot chocolate -- the best I had in Zurich.  It was thick, chocolatey, and just right.  But most importantly, there was this:

just look at it

This was the best chocolate cake I'd ever had.  It's mostly flourless, except a thin bottom layer.  It is devastatingly chocolatey.  The name "Intense Chocolate Cake" did not even do it justice.  If you can only get one chocolate product in Zurich, get this cake.

My Cousin:

Coincidentally, I have a cousin in Zurich, so I called her up and found a lovely spot to spend Chanukah.  She has three adorable kids.  And she offered me a little chocolate for the road.

 taken back in nyc.  these were not my priorities, i must admit.

So this is probably not where you expected us to be reviewing M&Ms.  But this is the place our blog is going to put its review of M&Ms.  In the post about the chocolate of Zurich, under the subheading of my visit to my chassidic cousin.  In any case, here's the thing about M&Ms.  I ate these in an airport with some exquisite dark chocolate.  I had two bites of the dark chocolate, and I was done.  I put it down.  And I felt great.  The M&Ms were the opposite experience.  I had one.  Then another.  Then I found myself just pouring them into my face as quickly as possible, until they were all gone.  For about two seconds, everything was wonderful.  Then I felt just awful.  I think we have all had this experience with M&Ms.  They are delicious.  But they are disgusting.

As for the gelt... a dog ate it.  The good news: it lived.  The better news: it was ugly.

Bottom Line: Zurich is small and in Europe and has pretty good chocolate, though I am not sure it quite lives up to its reputation.  That cake, though.  I'll dream about that for a while.

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