Explore The He(Art) of Chocolate!

By Dawnie February 6, 2012

Local Roots Food Tours Takes Your Palate on a Chocolate Tour!
by Bethany Woy

Chocolate is not what it used to be to a foodie. No more Hersey’s bar or Nestle treat. Chocolate has become a science. A sought after delicacy that is becoming all the rave. Instead of wine tastings, people are now hosting chocolate tasting parties. Buckle up, hold on and be prepared to get a little drunk with cocoa euphoria!

Our 1st chocolate stop will be at a local Sacramento Chocolate Shop:

Ginger Elizabeth
1801 L Street- Suite 60, Sacramento, CA 95811
(916) 706-1738

Ginger Elizabeth is a well-known dessert spot here in Sacramento. However, many people do not know realize the experience and accomplishment Ginger Elizabeth herself has achieved in her short life.
Ginger has been a chocolatier and pastry chef who has been working with chocolate professionally for over 10 years. She studied pastry arts at the Culinary Institute of America in New York and graduated with honors. After graduation she began her work with world famous pastry chef En-Ming Hsu in Chicago. After moving back to California she honed her skills and began her own business and created her own retail store in Midtown Sacramento.

In 2010, Ginger was also named one of the Top Ten Chocolatiers in America by Dessert Professional Magazine; a pretty amazing feat for such a young woman.
If you’ve ever stepped foot into Ginger Elizabeth you’ll know immediately what I mean when I say: your mouth waters instantly. Not only does your mouth water, it is pretty remarkable at the amount of selections the store offers. Just to name a few:

Chewy Lavendar Caramel- caramel infused with French Lavendar enrobed in a bittersweet chocolate topped with a bit of Fleur de Sel (sea salt)
Passion Fruit- Fresh passion fruit in a milk chocolate ganache (what a perfect combination!)
Hazelnut Praline- crunchy house made hazelnut praline with bittersweet chocolate (to die for!)
Raspberry- (my personal favorite) Fresh raspeberries in a milk chocolate gancahe

With Valentines Day quickly coming up- my recommendation is to head down to Ginger Elizabeth, tell her what your sweetheart is looking for- and she will assemble the perfect package for your lovebird!

Alegio Chocolates
1511 Shattuck Avenue,Berkeley, CA 94709
(510) 548-2466

No mass assembly lines, no preservatives, no artificial ingredients. These are things I look for not only in my daily food intake but also in my sweet tooth regimen. I had the pleasure of stopping by Alegio Chocolates the last time I was in Berkeley and was met with an education of chocolate… and some tastings ?
Why is Alegio Chocolate some of the best in the world? Because very little is added to the cocoa itself. Alegio prides itself on the fact that they sell only the finest chocolate in the world. An Italian man named Claudio Corallo sells his specialty chocolate to Alegio and for the first time ever it is for sale in the United States. I had the opportunity to try this chocolate on my trip and had never before experienced anything like it. We were given the chance to try 100% chocolate (you may be thinking that is what a regular old chocolate bar is… but our guide told us Hershey’s is made up of only about 11% cacao! (Cacao is the actual bean that makes up the chocolate) The bars that we were trying ranged anywhere from 75% cacao to 100% cacao. Now these did not taste like the chocolate I grew up with. I was told that chocolate in America (Hersey’s, Nestle, Etc) were mostly made up of sugar, oil, fats and fillers. Ew! Little did I know that real chocolate is actually very bitter. I was a little thrown off by this when I tasted the 100% chocolate bar. True chocolate at its most pure form. But it surprised me that I liked it. You could really taste the intense flavors. Woody and almost smoky. I was impressed. Alegio Chocolates offers a wide selection of dark, delicious treats, here are just a few to mix and match:

Ecuador 90%- a 90% cacao varietal grown in Ecuador with a fruity and floral taste.
Habenero- a naturally fruity 64% Madagascan ganache with habanero peppers. Ole!
The Scotch- 72% Venezuelan with smokey Single malt scotch ganache (drool!)
Raspberry- 64% Madagascar layered with raspberry jam and dark chocolate ganache

Yes, they can be a little pricey- but trust me the experience is worth every penny. Or become a member of the chocolate of the month club… It would make a PERFECT gift for the person in your life that needs their cocoa intake! Visiting this fabulous store I now know what REAL chocolate should taste like and appreciate it even more.

Wanting more out of your chocolate? Why not take you and your favorite chocolate buddy and participate in a Chocolate Tasting Event! For $30 both of you will be transported to our plantation in Africa, meet Claudio Corallo, then lean back, close your eyes and allow yourself to be overwhelmed by the strong, aromatic taste of our perfect cocoa bean! (You may be drunk with cocoa euphoria, but you definitely won’t need a designated driver). 45 minute tasting experience! Call Alegio to book your event!

The Truffle Shop
408 Broad Street, Nevada City, CA 95959

A truffle is a chocolate confectionery, traditionally made with a chocolate ganache center (and often mixed with alcohol or liqueurs) Solely based on the name of this place- you may probably be able to deduce what they specialize in. Yes, truffles. Not just any truffles, some of the most amazing truffles. Ever.
Each truffle, inside the historic New York Hotel in downtown Nevada City, is hand made. It takes 3 days to make 1 batch of these tasty treats. Chef Willem DeGroot founded The Truffle Shop in 1985 and only uses Belgian chocolate and imported liquers. He believes in the philosophy of fresh ingredients. His products have been sent to the White House and Vatican… Just to name a few. I love the variety of the shop most of all: bittersweet, semi-sweet, milk and white chocolate are sold daily to customers with tongues swaying and mouths watering. Here are a few examples of the over 23 flavors:

Imperial Dragon- crystalized ginger combined with imported liqueur rolled in a creamy white chocolate
Gold Rush- Jack Daniels #7 Bourbon (just like the miners used to drink!) mixed with the finest Belgian semisweet chocolate
Key Largo-a creamy white chocolate center spiked with tequila and tart lime (yum!)
Double Dutch- Chocolate. And then more chocolate. 3 different flavors of bittersweet chocolate meshed for the perfect blend of creamy and smooth. Absolutely delicious.

How could your mouth NOT water? Not only does the truffle shop specialize in truffles, but they also cater weddings, fundraisers and other events. Other products such as tortes, cakes and drinks are available. Oh yeah… You can also order them online! Choose some sweets for your sweet today!

Nelson’s Chocolates
Columbia State Historic Park- Main Street
PO Box 191, Columbia, CA 95310

Just outside of Sonora off of Highway 49 lies the little town of Colombia. This community is filled with rich history of the 1840’s. Many of the streets resemble what the Gold Rush era would have looked like. The Colombia Candy Kitchen began in the 1800’s when a Danish confectioner moved to California and opened this booming business. In the 1930’s another Danish miner, C. Rex Nelson moved to Colombia and joined in confectioner business as well. After 4 generations, the Nelson family still produces some of the finest candies in the state. Copper pots and marble cooling tables are still used from over 100 years ago. Talk about mixing history and tasty treats. My kind of place! Some of Nelson’s home made specialties include:

Whipping Cream Fudge
Peanut Butter Fudge
Almond Bark- Milk, white or dark chocolate
Hand dipped caramels: Brown sugar nougat, peanut, vanilla, sea salt
Peanut Brittle and Coconut Brittle

This is just to name a few of the creations they have at Nelson’s Chocolates. In June 2010, USA Today named Nelson’s Chocolate among the top 10 sweet shops in America.
Can’t make it out to Colombia? Don’t fret, Nelson’s has 2 other locations. Murphy, California and Sonora. Check their website for addresses. You won’t be sorry!