Feb 10, 2011

Agrentina's Chocolate Street

When we were in Argentina we loved the city of Bariloche. It is located in the southwestern part of Argentina near the Chilean border. It may have many claims to fame but for us it was a chocolate paradise. Since chocolate and Valentine’s Day are a perfect combination John and I often think of Bariloche at this time of year.

In the late 1800’s Austrians and Germans looking for a better life settled in the beautiful, fertile valley nestled in the Andes because it reminded them of their Bavarian homeland. Bariloche's chocolate history began after World War II, when some of the European immigrants began making chocolate at home. Today some of Bariloche's chocolates are still handmade but most are prepared by a combination of machines and handcrafting.

John and I dubbed Bariloche’s main street the “Street of Chocolate Dreams.” It is lined with stores selling chocolates with tourists trying to decide which store offers the best chocolate. It is a yummy dilemma! There was only one solution to the dilemma. John and I visited all the stores tasting samples from all the chocolatiers!

We started with a sample of milk chocolate at Franton’s small candy shop with a corner candy store ambiance and continued to Del Turista, a chocolate department store where the chef was creating Mousse de Chocolate. We watched as he spread the smooth creamy chocolate on the marble counter, waited a few minutes, then peeled off strips, which he curled and crowned the mousse. It looked so easy – and yummy!

Next stop was Fenoglio, a bit of the Black Forest in Bariloche. They claim it is the place where chocolate dreams become reality. Fenoglio is the original chocolate factory of Bariloche. It is where it all started more than 50 years ago. With a little bag of mint chocolates we walked to the next store.

At Boniface Chocolates, a small and friendly family store, they insisted we try one of their specialties – chocolate liquor. Truth be told it didn’t take much persuading. Chocolate with a little kick. We liked that!

La Mexicana Chocolates was one of our favorites. The saleslady, Martha, extolled the virtues of La Mexicana chocolates, “The company is still family run.

Next stop, grandmother’s. Abuela Goye is another family brand of chocolate. (Abuela is “grandmother” in Spanish). It is easy to find because of the life-size figure of “grandmother” stands outside the store enticing customers to enter and try the chocolate from “grandmother’s” own recipe.

I was intrigued by the huge matryoshka nesting doll display above the entrance to the Mamuschka Chocolate store. “Why a Russian name for a chocolate store in Argentina?” I asked the store manager. “No special reason except the owner loves the Russian nesting dolls.”

The final store was another chocolatier with a catchy name, Rapa Nui, which is the Polynesian name for Easter Island. Easter Island is part of Chile not Argentina; but again, it was just a favorite of the owner. We caught Maria Luz delivering a fresh batch of bonbons so, of course, we had to try them.

John and I headed to the Bariloche’s picturesque main plaza, gazed out over the tranquil lake, and had our lunch of chocolate. We each had a different favorite. I liked the caramel filled while John favored the dark solid chocolate. However, we both agreed it was all good.