On the Chocolate Trail

Plan B: Swiss Chocolate for Rosh HaShanah

After trying for weeks to get confirmation for our Rosh HaShanah reservation at the Pines in Fire Island–to pray in a new setting, to be with friends, to be at the beach, to have a break–we decided we had better go to our fall back option: Switzerland!

So it was chocolate that ultimately escorted us into Rosh HaShanah.  Until the last two days of the Hebrew month of Elul, the final days of the old Jewish year 5770, my personal preparation for the High Holy Days had included private meditations, some journalling, daily chanting of Psalm 27’s Achat Shealti, and an online shofar blowing every morning.

Then chocolate took over.

The 28th and 29th of Elul brought us to Zurich where multiple chocolate opportunities finished off the year:  beautiful, even snobby, chocolate shops of Teuscher, Sprungli, Schober, Truffe; four chocolate factories Camille Bloch, Halba, Maestrani and Cailler; multiple samples, freebies and purchases garnished the month’s meltdown into Tishrei with Yom Tov candle lighting on Wednesday evening.  Appropriately Mark and I toasted Rosh HaShana with a grappa filled chocolate after kiddush at the Reform shul in Zurich. An interview with CEO, Daniel Bloch, and tour at Camille Bloch, a third generation family owned company, was certainly a highlight.

With our tourguide

The local supermarket chain, Coop, displays a huge chocolate assortment.

Chocolate selection at Coop Grocery Store

The Halba and Maestrani factory stores offered great prices, but one of the Maestrani hazelnut bars contained rancid nuts.  Very disappointing.

Mark’s Nisus work contact in Zurich, novelist and screenwriter, Anne Cuneo, pointed out a couple of chocolate places we would not have otherwise found, lamenting however, that none of them really have good chocolate anymore.  It was a little like the old joke about the synagogues you don’t attend: this chocolate store is no good, that one is too expensive, that one used to be good, this one could be better, leaving us respecting her discernment but salivating for the good stuff.  Instead, we settled for drinks because she just could not bring herself to patronize her beloved Schober chocolate store, recalling the former higher quality when the two sisters, now very advanced in age, who ran it after their father had, prepared everything in the back, and shared specialties with her.

Several people we met in Switzerland confessed to me that they do not like chocolate, yet Camille Bloch’s largest market is in Switzerland.  And, several volunteered to us that they hate Hershey.  (I had read something of the competition between Swiss milk chocolate and American Hershey milk chocolate–very different formulations, which was not so easy to develop in either case, and clearly strong opinions.)

Our decision to be at home in NYC for Yom Kippur with Noam and Rachel was most importantly about being with family.  Had we stayed in Switzerland, avoiding the chocolate, plus the ubiquitous plum tart, (similar to our favorite family recipe but certainly not as good) would have been very difficult.  As it was, I did a lot of atoning at Yom Kippur for all the chocolate, the cheese and the plum tart I had eaten in Switzerland.

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On the Chocolate Trail

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