As I enjoyed the mountain views and cool breeze off the lake I had to remind myself I was in Argentina, not Switzerland. St. Bernard’s walked along the sidewalk and the A-frame chalet style buildings kept tricking me into thinking that I was in a Swiss ski village with plans to hit the slopes. The surroundings aren’t the only thing in Bariloche that reminded me of Switzerland, the abundance of chocolate shops had me convinced that somehow I had wandered into a portal that had transported me to Europe.
It seems the European immigrants that brought chocolate to Argentina were not traditionalists. The chocolate on offer at the many shops on Mitre Avenue were not of the Lindt variety, the combinations were creative and distinct. Chocolate bars included fruit, nuts, liqueurs and came in a wide array of shapes and sizes. Just window shopping and drooling over the truffles and bars was enjoyable, the beautiful packaging and delicious looking ice cream were enough to keep me occupied.
However, the real fun began when I used my broken Spanish to request a sample at the first shop I went into. When I was rewarded with a generous taste I decided that chocolate tasting was the best way I could think of to spend an afternoon. I spent hours wandering in and out of chocolate shops trying everything from chocolate fondue to chocolate ice cream. After consuming an entire meals worth of chocolate I finally chose my favorite and purchased a box to eat later when chocolate withdrawal inevitably kicked in.
It seems that all the sugar and cacao went straight to my head as all the shops blend together for me with the exception of the following three shops, which shouldn’t be missed:
Started by Italian immigrants in the 1930′s Rapa Nui knows how to make gelato. Their “helado” is second to none and you can buy it by the kilogram, which is how it should be purchased. The chocolate is fantastic as well, I enjoyed the samples and melt in your mouth chocolate. They also have a small cafe in their store, which is reportedly delicious, but I never made it past the helado counter.
Mamuschka’s reputation preceded it as it came highly recommended by an Argentinian friend as the best chocolate in the country. It’s hard for me to disagree, I enjoyed the generous samples and couldn’t possibly pick a favorite flavor, but the dark chocolate covered orange peel was a highlight. The store is fabulous, if Willy Wonka were Russian this is what his chocolate store would look like. All the packaging is inspired by the Russian nesting dolls Matryoshka and just beg to be bought and taken home as a gift.
Maybe it’s the “Mom and Pop” feel of the store or the friendly older woman that helped me, but this place really stood out to me. My favorite chocolate was Patagonico, the simple chocolate bars were creamy, sweet and only came in a few flavors, but I couldn’t resist buying a box for later. The tiny shop tucked away down the street from the huge “chocolate malls” of Turista, Rapa Nui and Mamuschka offered tastings of each of their flavors and very reasonable prices.
Reminiscing about my day in chocolate heaven brings back sweet memories, but even if you aren’t a chocolate fan you should treat yourself to some window shopping and helado. You might be surprised by Argentinian chocolate.
WHEN YOU GO:
Enjoy an afternoon of chocolate tasting, there are several shops and cafes to enjoy- allow yourself half a day to enjoy them all!
Explore Bariloche, there is more to the city than just chocolate. It’s location in the Argentinian Lakes District offers lots of activities such as hiking, kayaking, canoeing, biking and skiing to burn off all those chocolate bars
“Your hand and your mouth agreed many years ago that, as far as chocolate is concerned, there is no need to involve your brain.”
― Dave Barry