Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Piece, Love, & Chocolate

I was in Boulder, CO recently for a conference, and while there I found what I think is my favorite chocolate shop I've been to yet. It's the closest I've seen to what I would want if I finally gave up on grad school and opened my own chocolate shop:

Piece, Love, & Chocolate

Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera on me, and they don't seem to have any photos of the shop on their website. Which is a shame, because it's quite lovely. Probably a little more hippie than I would lean with the decoration, but it is Boulder. But it had loads more personality than most chocolate shops I've been in!

Then, of course, there was the chocolate. There's a counter with an array of pastries as well as a long line of truffles, a revolving cake display, and a menu of chocolate beverages. Then opposite the counter is the retail area - in the back, they have their own line of chocolate bars (with real examples of each framed on the wall, which was a cute touch), and next to that a wall covered in an array of truly high-end chocolate bars, probably the best collection I've ever seen. You won't find any Ghirardelli here - I don't think I even saw the higher-end grocery store brands like Scharffen Berger or Green & Black. Start with Vosges and Valrhona, then work your way up in price from there. The selection was dizzying!

Along the next wall you'll find even better goodies for the hobby chocolatier - an array of couverture discs, cocoa nibs, cocoa butter, cocoa powder, etc, in bulk baggies. Not things you find in most chocolate shops I've been to! Next to that, some savory chocolate items, such as chocolate pasta or cocoa-infused olive oil. On the floor between all this are shelves piled high with a variety of packaged tasties both from the shop's own brand and other small chocolatiers.

The truffle selection in the counter display was lovely. So many independent chocolate shops I go to have a huge selection, but it's the same 150 things you find everywhere. Worse yet, much of it looks mass-produced and possibly even made with "candy coating"instead of real chocolate. Not so here. They have a lineup of a few dozen flavors, and it's clear that each one was made in small batches with attention to detail. They do sell a few other companies' products here, but most are made in-house. And the flavors range from the expected to the hard-to-find, such as Blood Orange or Bakhti Chai.

Sadly, we didn't try any of the truffles. We'd just finished dinner and decided to focus our limited stomach space on the pastries. My husband got a slice of their huge chocolate layer cake, while I got a caramel and sea salt "cookie torte" - two chocolate cookies dipped in ganache, with a layer of caramel mousse in between. We also each got a mug of sipping chocolate; mine with cinnamon, his with mint.

I had seen a package of the sipping chocolate for sale, so I knew it was 85%, but apparently this fact didn't make an impression until after I'd tasted it. It really is 85% dark! I'm more of a 70% girl myself, so I put a couple packets of sugar in mine - if you can do that to coffee, you can totally do it to hot chocolate, right? (The cinnamon probably added a bit of extra bitterness.) It was incredibly thick and rich, though, even more than I was expecting. We brought leftovers home in travel cups and the next day it was just as good, if not better, eaten with a spoon after it had thickened in the fridge.

The cake was great. The mousse layer was also a smidge less sweet than I was expecting from it, but still delicious. The cake itself was dense, and the frosting was thick and fudgy. But I have to say that my cookie torte was my favorite. The caramel and sea salt mousse was amazing (and, in fact, I found that I liked it mixed with the thickened sipping chocolate...), and there was just the right amount of it to smear on the cookies without overwhelming them.

So basically: These people are serious about dark chocolate. More than you might be expecting when you place an order, but that's not a bad thing. Just a surprise!

One last touch that my husband and I loved (in fact, he just came and reminded me that I had to mention it - like I would forget a thing like this): For $20, you can buy a huge three-dimensional chocolate (about 10" long and 5" diameter) molded into the shape of a cocoa bean. There are a million things in here to buy for a chocolate-loving friend, but that might be the ultimate chocoholic gift.

I am so excited to have found this place, and I'll be making a beeline the next time I'm up in Boulder. In fact, given our family's biannual trips to Denver, I may have to find my way up to Boulder just to come back! I just hope that next time I come with an emptier stomach and plenty of spending money.

(I'll be sure to bring a camera next time, too...)

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