I always thought that 34 flavours were plenty. Well, clearly that's not the case for everyone. Some people think 50 and more is better. The someone I'm referring to is Austrian chocolate maker Sepp Zotter. I ran across some of his chocolate bars in a local wine shop and became instantly intrigued. The first thing that caught my eye was the packaging. Almost all the front of the package is taken up by pleasantly designed pictures created specifically for each of the chocolate tastes by the Austrian artist Andreas H. Gratze. These little works of art are so nice they almost make me feel like collecting all 50+ of them. What I found even more interesting was the different taste combinations Zotter offers. Some chocolates are a gourmet version of classics, like the milk chocolate cream. Quite a few use the many delicious Austrian spirits distilled from fermented fruit juices. But even more intriguing are the ones offering adventurous taste pairings. Combinations like dark chocolate and pulverised shitake mushroom or Fontina (an Italian cheese) seem quite over the top but the title IMO goes to the chocolate with coffee marinated plums and caramelised bacon (speck). I considered for a while one of these three but decided to go for a less "extreme" pick: I carried home a marzipan and Kirshbrand bar, a pumpkinseed and egg flip one and one with cranberry and thyme.
Before I give my opinion about these chocolates I have to admit something. I am, depending on how one sees it, a chocolate purist, simpleton or brute. That is, for me the best chocolate is still simple dark chocolate, though I do prefer the more pricey versions. Filled chocolate is fine by me but it doesn't rock my world. It wasn't clear to me that all of Zotter's chocolate are filled ones. A rather thin layer of nice chocolate encasing some delicious gourmet filling is the general "structure" of these bars. I got disappointed as I had my first taste. For me that "thin chocolate layer" could have been a wee bit thicker. SO admittedly my opinions are slightly biased in a negative sense: if you liked filled chocolates and pralines you'll probably love these. Once my initial disappointment was over I managed to taste the chocolates somehow more objectively.
The marzipan one. a layer of Kirschbrand loaded marzipan and one of nougat, also with Kirsch, enclosed in dark chocolate tasted great: both kirsch and marzipan were of top quality and worked great together.
The pumpkinseed and egg flip one, a layer of cocoa butter cream containing these two wrapped in milk chocolate, was also quite pleasant. A bit sweet for my taste but nonetheless enjoyable, if in small amounts.
The thyme and cranberries one was... well... weird. Yes, weird sums it up quite well. The filling in this case, thyme flavoured nougat studded with cranberries and biscuit crumbs would have been great without the thyme. Not that it tastes bad but the thyme just doesn't match for me.
All things considered I'd rather buy a bar of one of Vahlrona's dark chocolate crus but I'm sure I'll be trying some of the other spirit-flavoured chocolates Zotter makes. And although I didn't like the thyme one my curiosity for the more extreme tastes has been awaken: maybe next time I'll get the shitake chocolate too.