Valentine's Day Chocolate Guide: Top Chocolatiers Across America
Sure, you could wait until the Big Day arrives and dash out for a box of mass-produced chocolate for your sweetheart. But it won’t hold a candle to chocolate lovingly made in small batches from locally-sourced ingredients. Plan ahead and he or she will be swooning over tiny gems filled with Black Mission figs or ganache made with freshly juiced Meyer lemons. Here, just in time for Valentine’s Day, are our favorite local artisanal chocolatiers.
Bon Bon Vivant: The Dark Chocolate Heart Of Lagusta’s Luscious
By Jay Blotcher / Photos By Phil Mansfield
Lagusta Yearwood Umami, the owner of Lagusta’s Luscious chocolate shop in New Paltz, is a larger-than-life character who could be cast as the lead in an enchanting and improbable Miranda July indie film. But the director would likely be accused of overwriting. After all, who could believe such an offbeat creation? Lagusta rocks vintage ‘60s dresses, liberally quotes Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky, blogs ferociously and meets every contradiction in life with a sense of wonderment – or full-throated protest.
Olive & Sinclair Chocolates: Stoneground In Nashville
Olive & Sinclair’s artisanal chocolate is made with what Scott describes as the “new old-fashioned way”. His original inspiration was grits. If corn could be ground into tasty bits with the machines that were available to him, why not cocoa beans? That turned out to be a bit simplistic. So, he got the right machines and O&S has never looked back. By the way, one of Scott’s biggest fans, Gwyneth Paltrow had this to say: “The cinnamon chili chocolate is the best interpretation we’ve tried”.
A Chocolate Life: Sweet Odyssey Leads Chef To Paris And Back Again
By Jessica Goldman Foung Photos by Stacy Venura
Alexandra Whisnant of Gâté Commes Des Filles on making chocolates: “Chocolate is a powerful ingredient, it creates beautiful memories and emotions and feelings. Take a bite and close your eyes and you’re transported to another place.” She calls that dreamy phenomenon an imagination break. “I don’t find that with other foods.” Chez Panisse restaurant Chef Jean-Pierre Moullé described her chocolates as avant-garde and said “You Cannot Get Chocolate Like This In Paris.”
Welcome to the Dark Side
By Gretchen Schmidt Photos by Robert Parente
It’s not enough that chocolatier Ricardo Trillos crafts exquisite bonbons and truffles from fine Venezuelan chocolate. He is obsessed with sharing what he knows, one silky bite at a time. Among the many treats at Cao Chocolates are mendiants, a traditional French confection made of thin chocolate disks studded with nuts and fruits.
The Candyman: Brent Davis Finds His Golden Ticket
By Sarah McKibben - Photography by David Johnson
In his more enthusiastic moments, local chocolate maker Brent Davis evokes Gene Wilder’s charismatic Willy Wonka. When Davis went looking for a new venture prior to launching Davis Chocolate, he was inspired in equal parts by tales of serendipitous invention, internet how-to videos, his own mechanical know-how, determination to manufacture in the United States and childhood memories of riding around downtown Mishawaka, Indiana on his bike with the first chocolate bar he bought for himself, only to find it tragically melted when he unwrapped it.
¡Bate, Bate, Chocolate! Rediscovering Hot Chocolate
Story and photos by Kristina Sepetys
Winter winds make us think of warm things, like wool sweaters, cozy blankets, and perhaps the fiery collision between Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés and the Aztec civilization. That meet-up helped to produce one of the best-of-all warm things: hot chocolate. We may not grow cacao in our corner of the world, but here in the East Bay, we do have knowledgeable purveyors and food artisans that are crafting high-quality ingredients into fine drinking chocolates; all without the additives, artificial ingredients, and excessive refined sugar typically found in packaged mixes. Seekers on this hot chocolate trail can expect to find a subtle balance of sweetness, bitterness, and acidity: the key tastes found in chocolate.
Taught by Trotter: Chocolatier Chris Blue's Seasonal Sweets Have a Chicago Legacy
By Ben Narasin
In California, local, fresh, seasonally shifting ingredients aren’t exceptions, they’re expected. The ethos of the everyday exceptional draws food craftspeople and artisans from around the world, and it drew Chris Blue here to start Chocolatier Blue. Blue moved from Chicago, where he attended pastry school and then worked for, and learned from, Charlie Trotter as the chocolate maker. “The Charlie Trotter philosophy is that if you use the best ingredients you don’t have to alter the food,” says Blue. “And it’s easier. You can rest on your ingredients and sleep well at night knowing you’re doing the best you can do.”
At Roni-Sue's, Chocolate Covered Bacon Delights the Senses
By Will Budiaman
Rhonda “Roni-Sue” Kave, a native of southern New Jersey and owner of Roni-Sue’s Chocolates, is not afraid to reinvent herself. As a lifelong hobbyist of creating chocolate candies, she always thought that opening her own place was something that would happen one day, but the right opportunity had to come along. Her best seller is pig candy — chocolate-covered bacon, available in both dark chocolate and milk chocolate. Rhonda normally prefers dark chocolate but says that when it comes to pairing with bacon, it’s hard to beat milk chocolate.
Chocolate the Old-Fashioned Way
Handmade, artisanal chocolates are like edible treasures – each morsel created with care, the freshest ingredients and great passion. In the age of mass-produced everything, chocolates made the old-fashioned way are a scarce commodity and very special. In San Antonio, we have a handful of chocolatiers that make chocolate by hand, the old-fashioned way. Their styles may be different, but their confections are all delicious. With Valentine’s Day, Easter and Mother’s Day on the way, it’s good to know your local chocolate sources.