Monday, December 7, 2009

Visions of Chocolate

By Pat Tanner

Who doesn’t like to give or receive a gift of chocolate? With that in mind, here are delectable ideas for the devoted chocoholics in your life.

Support your local chocolatier. No matter where you live in the Garden State, some local confectioner is whipping up chocolate bonbons, truffles, and holiday-themed candies. Forego the big-name chocolates this year in favor of helping a talented community artisan to thrive.

Restaurant Guys Chocolate. That said, you might just want to look into these chocolates for the over-the-top chocolate gourmand on your list. These “American-size” chocolates (i.e. bigger than most) from New Brunswick-based restaurateurs Francis Schott and Mark Pascal come in four interesting flavors: elderflower, Austrian roasted pumpkin seed with Maldon sea salt, Irish cream (made with real Irish whiskey), and the diablo, which gets its kick from chilies.

Kallari Chocolate. For those who insist on a clear conscience while chomping on chocolate, the bars from this Bridgewater-based company can’t be beat. Their cocoa beans are Rainforest Alliance certified, organically grown, and harvested by a cooperative of more than 900 Kichwa family farmers in the Ecuadorian Amazon. 100% of the profits are returned to the growers. The bars are sold at Whole Foods, Zabar’s in NYC, and Rojo’s Roastery in Lambertville and make excellent stocking stuffers.

Bent Spoon European Hot Chocolate Mix. Think you’re too old for hot chocolate? You’ll think differently once you taste this Princeton ice cream shop’s exceptionally thick, rich hot chocolate mix. The 16-ounce cans make terrific gifts and come in classic and habenero flavors. Plus, owners Gab and Matt put a Bent Spoon and New Jersey tattoo prize inside every can, for the child in all of us.

Inhalable chocolate. For the chocolate lover who has everything, a Harvard science professor, now living in France, developed aerosol chocolate you puff via a contraption similar to an asthma inhaler. “Le Whif” is virtually calorie free, comes in three flavors, and has received mixed reviews. Check it out at (Orders placed before December 10 will arrive by Christmas.)

Visit a big-city chocolate café. Why not incorporate chocolate into a fun day trip?
In New York, start with free ice skating at the Bryant Park pond and then indulge at Lily O’Brien’s Chocolate Café right inside the park. Every hot drink comes with cozy, European ambiance and a complimentary chocolate from this Irish candy company. In Philadelphia, Naked Chocolate Café has three locations in neighborhoods close to tourist and culture hotspots. Plus, the cafés have bona fide Jersey chocolate roots: Tom Block, a founder of Thomas Sweets (which happens to be my local confectionery), created Naked Chocolate with his daughter, Sara.

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