Complete Chocolate Lover’s Guide for the San Francisco Bay Area

chouquette Old Bay

Chocolate gems at a DC farmers’ market


If you think salted caramels are ho-hum, Sarah’s got an alternative you should try

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chouquette Old Bay
A savory chocolate find: Chocolate caramels flavored with Old Bay Seasoning.

Here in SFBA, we have Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” to memorialize our bay. Back East, the Chesapeake Bay has Old Bay Seasoning, a blend of celery salt, pepper and other spices, most often sprinkled on shellfish. I like it on corn on the cob and now, thanks to Chouquette Chocolates & Confections, in dark chocolate caramels.

A good chocolate pedigree

Sarah Dwyer started Chouquette (shoo-ket) a year and a half ago in the Washington, DC area. Before then, she worked in banking, then went to France for a year where she did pastry in Paris.

Back in DC, she did a 3-week stint at Citronelle, a well-reviewed, super-expensive French restaurant in Georgetown, but quit because she decided she couldn’t work for a boss anymore. She’d get home at 2am and want to make chocolates.

Since then, she has become a dedicated chocolatier with her chocolate-covered caramels in several stores plus 2 farmers’ markets in the DC area. She uses high quality ingredients in her handmade chocolates, and her technique is great — the chocolates have a nice sheen, the shells are neither too thick or too thin, and the caramels have a satisfying chewy, dense texture.

Interesting line of chocolates

Her Number 1 best seller is her Dark Chocolate Ireland Caramels, which include a Malted Caramel with Guinness Stout, Hot Toddy (tea & whiskey), and Irish Coffee. She was sold out of these when we stopped by her booth in the Farm Women’s Market on our recent trip to DC. Instead we checked out her Adventure Dark Chocolate Artisan Caramels and Classic 72% Dark Chocolate Artisan Caramels.

Chouquette dark chocolate caramels
The Adventure collection (bottom) features the savory Old Bay caramel.
The Classic collection (top) had an interesting cranberry caramel.

Our DC Adventure

The Adventure set is where we tasted the Old Bay caramel. If you like savory chocolate or are interested in chocolate oddities, this is the chocolate for you. The Old Bay flavor is pronounced: you taste that distinctive celery salt/pepper/spice first, before the chocolate. It’s so good, Chouquette offers sets of Old Bay Caramels exclusively.

Other flavors in the Adventure set include Rosemary Lemon (Sarah’s favorite), Spicy, Balsamic and Breakfast with Maple and Bacon, in which she wants to evoke your memory of chocolate chip pancakes and bacon. It had more of a maple flavor with a hint of bacon — spot-on for a kid’s sweet tooth. We would’ve preferred a more savory slant.

The Classic collection featured usual suspects like Vanilla Sea Salt and Coffee, but it also included the unusual Cranberry. It had a tangy berry smell, but the caramel had a texture more like Pate de Fruits. Delicious, but different.

We enjoyed all of Chouquette’s caramels. Some flavors we loved, like the Old Bay and Vanilla Sea Salt, but others were too subtle for us. We lean toward big flavor chocolates, which might be tricky to do in caramels. I’d be interested in what Sarah does with flavored ganache fillings.

Great gift options

Sarah changes up her offerings depending on the season and what she’s interested in. She views it like curating a collection, and she has a designer who works with her on custom chocolate transfer designs, so she has unique looks to go with her quality candies. The combination makes Chouquette a great gift option. Of course, she has an online store.

Sarah recommends her Monumental Collection as the perfect hostess gift, a set of 5 Vanilla Sea Salt caramels, each decorated with a different DC-area monument. I think it makes a nice souvenir for chocolate connoisseurs. And of course, the Old Bay caramels are good for giving or enjoying by yourself.

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Published March 21, 2013