Some destinations are synonymous with their landmarks…Paris and the Eiffel Tower, London and Big Ben, or a visit to Egypt unthinkable without at least gazing at the pyramids. Switzerland has the Alps but I argue that chocolate is right there elbowing its way past the famed Matterhorn. Even if you hate chocolate, it’s simply impossible to ignore its presence anywhere in this artisanal-based country.
Chocolate here is a craft, a tradition that’s been fine tuned over hundreds of years and multiple generations. Oh yeah, and milk chocolate was invented here. I’m not talking Hershey‘s kisses or even a Lindt bar that’s sold in the U.S.. The key distinction is the milk added to the chocolate in Switzerland is fresh from regional farms. No powders or approximations! While visiting Lausanne, a vibrant hilly city overlooking Lake Geneva, I was obliged to taste the difference both at Le Barbare and Durig Chocolatiers.
Le Barbare, a cafe tucked in a granite storefront shrouded by a green awning, is the place to go for hot chocolate as thick as pudding. Just to prove it, check out the picture to the right illustrating my teaspoon
sticking straight up. At first sip, it did taste like warm pudding but after savoring a bit, the milk and fine mellow chocolate permeated my palate like a top quality cocoa confection. So I left with the notion of having just imbibed a liquid truffle.
At Durig Chocolatiers, a broad spectrum of treats and an unmistakable aroma of freshly made chocolate hits you in the face as soon as you enter. I was part of a lucky group who got to walk around the back counter and into the kitchen where chocolates were being made from scratch. Every step of the action was visible and in progress from the melted chocolate stirring in a drum to rose petals being delicately placed in newly molded dark chocolate squares. As soon as the finished results were placed on trays, they were hustled over and placed behind the store’s glass case. You can be sure that I followed these morsels hastening their life cycle by taking them to the register and popping them into my mouth!
photos and video courtesy of Steve Mirsky