Smooth bittersweet chocolate on the tongue is one of the more indulgent treats to enjoy. It has a richness that the lighter, milkier counterpart just can’t seem to compare to. Luckily for me and all the other dark chocolate lovers out there, Portugal has a similar love for this sort of dark velvety confection, often with a flair for marrying the traditional bonbon and flavors that are all Portuguese.
When I say “marrying” the two, I’m referring to the unlikely combinations such as wine or port mixed into chocolate that doesn’t seem to affect the taste as much as the texture. Think solid ganache that melts quickly in the mouth, leaving little to no bitter aftertaste. This obviously makes it more likely to reach for another! Another such pairing is chocolate and olive oil, a buttery, almost soft toffee like texture as it melts on the tongue, but still includes all the same taste of a good virgin olive oil; lightly fruity and pungent in the best way possible.
Chocolate isn’t just about mixing the two most ubiquitous Portuguese products out there; it’s also about injecting it into the pastries and treats that have, up until recently, been all about the Portuguese egg desserts! For instance, walking through the international chocolate festival in Óbidos will introduce you to such treats as the most famous of Portuguese sweets, the Pastel de Nata, but instead of the plain egg yolk custard filling; it has been chocolate-ified! Another such pastry would be the soft pillowy doughnut like Bola de Berlim with the egg filling having been replaced with ganache. The chocoholic can now rejoice when getting their Portuguese pastry fix!
Outside of your ordinary pastelaria chocolate fusion, there are still the elegant chocolate confectionaries such as liquor or fruit filled delights, linguas de gato, and bombokas.
Arcádia is one of the most famous chocolatiers in Portugal. Found in Porto, they have been in the chocolate business since 1933 and boast a few interesting types of chocolates such as the cherry and orange flavors, nuts, liquors with some produced without added sugar. They have also managed to maintain the traditional way of making their chocolates since opening!
If you’re looking for something that seems more familiar, try Imperial. In 2002 this brand merged with Regina, another famous chocolate producer in Portugal. They are known for their bombokas, a chocolate covered meringue bonbon, but that’s not all they make! Chocolate bars studded with nuts, fruit flavored bars, truffles and pralines can all be found among the ranks.
Don’t let the big guys fool you into thinking that there are no artisanal or specialty brands in Portugal. Cacao di Vine is all about wine and port infused chocolate. They produce what they call “wine bites” and come in sixteen different sweets that celebrate all natural ingredients in their recipes. Each “bite” package uses wine from different regions of Portugal in order to showcase the delicious differences between the vinho varieties across the country with chocolate.
And let’s not forget about one of the oldest chocolatiers in Portugal, Avianense. Founded in 1914, it’s one of the few remaining chocolate factories still in existence making exceptional chocolate in Barcelos.
Chocolate is found everywhere. It’s in every restaurant in the form of a rich egg heavy chocolate mousse for dessert, in the form of cookie peppered fudgy salame de chocolate in stores and kitchens around the holidays, and when it’s cold outside as a thick hot beverage made with real melted chocolate and milk, none of that powdered stuff! Chocolate is even found at nearly every festival throughout the country at any given time of year, in the form of little cups used for sweet Ginja.
A good spot to start out for any chocolate lover would be to hit up the yearly Óbidos International Chocolate Festival. They cater to both adults and children with cooking classes for young and old, fun candy inspired characters, shows and plenty of chocolaty things to taste. There is even the art element included with an all chocolate sculpture gallery to see.
If you’re diehard chocolate lover, you could book a stay in Portugal’s first chocolate-themed hotel in the northern town of Viana do Castelo. Hotel Fábrica do Chocolate is a four star hotel complete with a restaurant. Housed in an old Avianense chocolate factory, the restaurant features dishes with chocolate ingredients produced on premise. And like all good “themed” hotels, such as wine, you can experience chocolate-based treatments and therapies in the form of facials and body wraps, or peruse their on site museum.
Arcadia in Porto also has its own tasting experience, which allows groups to witness how chocolate is done their way. This includes a presentation, tasting and even a workshop!
More and more often, chocolate is now being made with the element that people already equate with what makes Portugal so interesting, its very own home grown products! This gives a unique take on an already beloved food can be found only from Europe’s western most country.
If you’re interested in a customized chocolate tour in Portugal, let us know! We’re more than happy to find an excuse to enjoy chocolate alongside you!
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