I love chocolate and got the cavities to proof it. Basically in Europe you grow up on Nutella. The maker of that very excellent hazelnut spread used a brilliant form of advertising along the lines of" Give your child the energy boost it needs for school - NUTELLA FOR BREAKFAST". So we get addicted early in life. Terrible, but fabulous.
On my last trip to Europe I realized that even in Austria there are more and more artisans who produce top quality chocolate these days. Some use funky packaging to stand out, others use an interesting selection of ingredients to capture their share of that lucrative market of chocolate addicts.
Of course there are national and international manufacturers like Suchard, Lindt and Ritter who provide us with less expensive versions of a daily fix, but it's those artisans around the world that make chocolate so exciting.
I went to school in Kirchdorf/Krems, a small town about an hour from Salzburg and to my big surprise I found that my favorite Kaffeehaus of flunked school days is now also the home of Maitre Chocolatier Johannes Bachhalm. Family owned since four generations, they turned a new leaf and started producing high end, hand scooped chocolate. I bought a "Taster" selection with 9 different flavors of chocolate.
Though not all hit the spot for me, I recognized the quality in each type, even as strange a mix as loaded with pink peppercorns. His creations are so well known that you can find his chocolate even in the Vatican gift shop. Check out the link below.
Of course I cannot write about Austrian chocolate artisans without mentioning Josef Zotter, who may have started this trend in Austria. A self proclaimed Taste Artist, he truly came up with some funky flavors over the years. This time I purchased a few bars as always, one of which blew me away , though I was very hesitant to buy it in the first place. Dark chocolate with Ceps and candied lingonberries. Ceps? Wild mushrooms? Cannot work. Impossible. How wrong. A mistake.
The flavors hit me like running into a tree. The very subtle mushroom flavor underlines the strong taste of cocoa (minimum 60%), which mixes very nice with the sweet European relative of our Cranberry. Actually, I smelled a forest I think. Or am I high?
Not all of his creations are a hit for me, sometimes he uses strong alcohol to support the chocolate bars, which remind me of those liquor filled chocolate bottles on my childhood Christmas tree. Too overpowering. But the majority are excellent and well worth a trip to Austria...
I think he has a distributor in Vancouver and maybe, just maybe,I can get Victoria to stock some varieties in her bakery. Check out Zotter's brilliant website: