Nothing cures a winter chill like dark chocolate. Here are five chocolate artisans who are creating Sonoma County-style products that will leave chocolate-lovers begging for more far beyond Valentine’s Day.
Sea of Change: Merging Superfoods of Land & Sea
Imagine salty, crunchy bits of seaweed mixed into a chocolate bar, comprised of about 70 percent cacao, and you have the nutritious, innovative and delicious new product developed by The Great and Wonderful Sea of Change Trading Company in Windsor.
Cole Meeker, who owns Sea of Change with his partner Courtney Smith, explained: “I was harvesting seaweed, and it’s very labor-intensive. I brought a chocolate bar with me and I was happily eating seaweed and took a bit of chocolate and it was like ‘ding!’ We have to do this!’”
“What’s really cool about seaweed and chocolate is that cacao is such a healthy superfood, and seaweed is one of the biggest superfoods on the planet—so it’s like the superfoods of the land and sea coming together,” Meeker added.
Three kinds of seaweed are being used for their first three bars: nori, dulse and wakame. Coconut sugar and a touch of maple syrup are used to sweeten them. The chocolate is fair-trade, single-origin Ecuadorian. seaofchangetrading.com.
Baci Artisan Chocolatier: The Ultimate Experience
Crave chocolate? Baci Artisan Chocolatier invites you on a journey of delicious discoveries. Headquartered in Windsor, certified chocolatier Jeffry Burgess recently opened his first culinary kitchen—mixing a passion for chocolate with a pantry full of gourmet ingredients and a file full of secret recipes. The Baci experience, however, is more than artisan confections.
“Chocolate is not just about taste, it’s about romance,” Chef Burgess said. “Every bite is a ticket for the palate to travel on a romantic journey.” When asked what makes his creations so unique, Chef Burgess explained that he formulates his delicacies “to dance on the palate with a subtle acidity that allows the chocolate to develop a soft buttery warmth, followed by a long, barely sweet finish of caramelized pecan.”
Pairing small batches of handcrafted European fudge, truffles and creams with iconic packaging, “Baci Artisan Chocolatier has created the ultimate experience for chocolate lovers around the world,” Chef Burgess said. PureBaci.com.
Firefly Chocolate: Cacao with Intention
Try Firefly chocolate bars, and you’ll experience “an intensely flavorful chocolate experience that is not about the sugar, but rather about the cacao. It is extraordinarily healthy and an ally in living a thriving life,” said Firefly Chocolate owner and chief chocolatier Jonas Ketterle.
Ketterle makes dark chocolate bars with 85 percent organic Belizean cacao in a variety of flavors, freshly roasted cacao nibs and 100 percent dark rounds of ceremonial-grade cacao. All chocolate is organic, beyond fair trade, stone ground with coconut sugar, vegan, soy-free, and low-temperature processed. He knows the source of every ingredient and visits the cacao growers annually.
In tune with the importance of rituals, Ketterle’s favorite is preparing and consuming a ceremonial drinking chocolate. “Enjoying the cacao with intention amplifies its effects, whether that is giving gratitude, bringing creativity to a task, experiencing joy, or connecting with a friend,” he said. fireflychocolate.com.
Patisserie Angelica: All About Amore
Patisserie Angelica’s owners, Paris-trained chef Condra Easley and her sister Debbie Morris, have been called “angels put here on earth to give mortals a taste of heaven.” They bring French flair to the all that they create in their jewel box of a shop, gracing Sebastopol for 10 years (and Sonoma County for 20).
For Valentine’s Day—one of their favorite days of the year—you’ll discover gold palettes decorated with chocolate transfers, such as heart patterns, plus chocolate macaroons, chocolate raspberry and caramel truffles, chocolate fudge sauce, brownies, chocolate cookies and heart-shaped cakes, including their raspberry-chocolate truffle mouse cake and Cardinal Sin cake.
Many of the bakery’s products are gluten-free; all are GMO-free and made with organic eggs and dairy, and Belgian or Swiss chocolate. Customers also love the French-style hot chocolate. patisserieangelica.com.
Sonoma Chocolatiers: Unexpected Flavors
“We’ve been told we should change the name of our company to OMG Chocolates because the first time people try our chocolates they often exclaim, “Oh my God!” said Sonoma Chocolatiers owner David Gambill, who started the business with his wife Susan in 2008. Together they’ve created unexpected flavors and expanded their award-winning product lines using organic, local ingredients and Scharffen Berger chocolate.
The Sebastopol shop makes more than 100 truffles, caramels and other chocolates. For Valentine’s Day, there are Aztec Aphrodisiac; Lavender, Love and Lust; and Rose Heart truffles—plus two new (undisclosed) flavors.
“We make our chocolates so that the first flavor you taste is chocolate, then the other flavors evolve along the palette, and the final, lingering flavor returns to dark, rich chocolate,” Gambill said.
Their newest line celebrates Sonoma County-produced olive oil: dairy-free truffles with orange olive oil, lemon olive oil and balsamic olive oil. The shop also makes ginger cardamom hot cocoa, European-style sipping chocolate and a cold dairy-free Coconut Chocolate Chill. sonomachocolatiers.com.
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