candy chocolate reviews

Chocolatier Blue – Berkeley, CA

Chris Blue, the owner/operator of Chocolatier Blue in Berkeley, CA, is a lucky guy—he’s young, talented, and passionate about his work. By combining fresh, mostly local ingredients with the world’s best chocolate, Chris has created line of chocolate truffles with bold yet balanced flavors.

TrufflesChocolatier Blue’s truffle assortment.

A stint as chocolatier at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago taught Chris that you have to use the best ingredients to make the best product, and this ethos is reflected in every chocolate truffle he creates.

To start, Chris is the only chocolatier in America that’s allowed to make chocolate confections using Amedei chocolate from Tuscany, which is considered to be the world’s best chocolate. Amedei’s chocolate is unique because they get all their beans come from the famed Venezuelan region of Chuao, which has an ideal microclimate and an age-old tradition of harvesting cacao. Amedei has complete control over the chocolate from bean to bar, and they developed their own processing techniques that maximize the bean’s delicate flavor. Amedei is also one the most ethical chocolate companies in the world, negotiating directly with farmers, ensuring workers rights, and paying them above fair trade standards. For a good overview of how Amedei does business, see this article.

(Amedei’s story is intriguing to say the least, especially when one if its main driving forces is a personal vendetta against French chocolate maker Valhrona, who refused to sell chocolate to Amedei founders Alessandro and Cecilia Tessieri because “Italy wasn’t evolved enough to appreciate such ordinary chocolate.” The Tessieri’s took it as a “personal slight, a national insult, a call to arms” and declared war on Valhrona. Seriously…read the article).

The $14 Chocolate BarThe $14 Chocolate Bar.

We ended up ordering a 15-piece box with one of every flavor they had on hand: apple cider, pumpkin, peppermint, pistachio, chili, lime, grapefruit, tangerine, lemon, caramel, passion fruit caramel, egg nog, espresso, and palet d’or. There were 14 flavors total, so we got two palet d’ors to fill the extra space. Each one of these truffles needs to be savored, but since my wife and I were splitting them and only had half a truffle each, we made sure to take the time to enjoy every second that they were in our mouths. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but the palet d’or, caramel, espresso, lemon, peppermint and lime truffles were definite standouts. There’s a detailed list of Chocolatier Blue’s current offerings on their Web site.

TrufflesTruffles on display.

We originally went into the store to buy a box of truffles as a present for a friend who was in town, and ended up staying for nearly an hour talking to Chris about his career, chocolate, and the chocolate business. He offered us some chocolate samples and even gave us a taste of some of new flavors he was developing. The more Chris talked about chocolate, the more I started picking things up off the shelves to buy. Our finally tally was over $80 for two 15-count gift boxes of truffles, a couple packs of Amedei tasting squares, a little bag of the best peanut brittle I’ve ever had, a bag of gianduia (hazelnut) truffles, a $14 bar of Amedei Chuao 70% bittersweet chocolate that was unbelievably smooth with a fruity finish, and a perfect cup of cinnamon chili hot chocolate (the secret? a little sea salt).

Gift Boxes

Overall, we came away impressed with Chris’s commitment to his craft. He makes all the truffles himself in the store’s open kitchen and doesn’t have any other employees as a way to control quality and reduce overhead, which keeps prices down—his truffles are a bargain at $1.50 each. One of the reasons Chris set up shop in Berkeley was because the rent was much lower than more high-profile locations in San Francisco, like the Ferry Building (although I’d love to see him go head to head with Michael Recchiuti).

It’s pretty obvious that we’ll be going back, especially with Valentine’s Day just around the corner…

Chocolatier Blue
1964 University Ave
Berkeley, CA 94701 map
Web site

bacon candy chocolate dessert

Bacon + Chocolate = LOVE!

If you believe that bacon makes everything better, you really need to try it with some chocolate. That’s what some of the higher-end chocolatiers are doing, and it really is a match made in heaven.

The salty/sweet combination works in mysterious ways, especially with fried chicken and waffles, bacon and maple syrup (which is often accidental), and the classic peanut butter and chocolate. But bacon and chocolate is combination I’d never considered or even heard or until my friend Soo Jin gave me a piece of Zotter’s Bacon Bits bar. The finely chopped bacon bits are incorporated throughout the bar giving it a subtle, salty bacon flavor that was really nice.

zotter bacon bar

Let it be known that Soo Jin is my chocolate enabler, having introduced me to Fog City News, one of San Francisco’s best newsstands. It’s also one of the city’s best chocolate shops, sporting an extensive selection of imported chocolates from around the world. They offer a Premium Chocolate Passport, a frequent buyer program that gives you a free premium chocolate bar for every 10 bars you buy. Needless to say, Fog City News is an excellent place to try some exotic chocolate concoctions.

Last week, I got an email about one of Fog City’s chocolate tasting events, and here’s what caught my eye:

Meatpaper and Meaty Chocolate Tasting
We hope to see you tomorrow (Friday) between Noon and 2pm when you’ll have the chance to meat (sorry, couldn’t resist) Amy and Sasha, the editors of this unique new “magazine of art and ideas about meat.” And what could be more appropriate than trying samples of the latest chocolate bar with applewood smoked bacon which are being donated by the sweet (can’t help myself today) folks at Vosges? Be among the first to pick up the premiere issue of Meatpaper (Members take 10% off the magazine at the event) and learn about the trials and tribulations of launching an independent print publication in the electronic age.

First, there’s a magazine called Meatpaper? I gotta really look into that!

Since Soo Jin works nearby, I suggested that she stop by on her lunch break and she was happy to oblige. She ended up enjoying herself and picked up a Vosges bacon chocolate bar for us. Vosges has been a sentimental favorite of mine for awhile; I bought my then-fiancee some of their fabulous truffles when I was in New York on business a few years ago, and recently we discovered their delicious chocolate bar with goji berries.

Vosges bacon bar

The Vosges bacon chocolate bar is fantastic. Instead of finely chopped bacon bits like the Zotter, there are much bigger pieces of bacon in the Vosges bacon bar, and it’s got a hearty, smoky, salty kick that the Zotter lacks. So if you see a Vosges bacon chocolate are at your local market…make sure you pick one up and give it a try.

And remember…bacon makes everything better.

candy New York reviews

Economy Candy

Economy Candy is cramped, crowded and filled with candy from around the world, and it just might be the most beautiful place on the Lower East Side.

It was a lot of fun squeezing our way through the aisles (or should I say piles) of candy and even better listening to a man have an orgasm as he told his friend about what “a decadent treat” Scharffen Berger’s roasted cacao nibs were. They also have a huge selection of baseball cards from waaay back in the day (the 80s), and I wasn’t sure if they were originals with old stale gum or if they were cheeky reissues with new stale gum. My wife picked up a Baci from Italy and a Duplo from Germany, and I got myself a kitschy Economy Candy T-shirt.

There’s a lot of candy shops and chocolatiers in NY, but they’re very hoity-toity and “grown up” places to shop. If you ever want to recapture that true feeling of being “a kid in a candy store,” make your way down to the Lower East Side and drop by Economy Candy.

Economy Candy
108 Rivington Street
New York, NY 10002 map
Web site