Our annual trip to the East Coast was full of missed chocolate opportunities. We tried to visit SPAGnVOLA in MD, but we stopped by a few days before Christmas, and the place was packed. Not ideal for chatting up the vendor or even getting some snaps. It would be like trying to snap a photo of the Mona Lisa: All backs of heads with the subject too tiny to discern in the distance.
Their bonbons and truffles looked pretty, and I am intrigued by their story: They aren’t just bean-to-bar, they own their own chocolate plantation in the Dominican Republic, so they control the whole chocolate production process. And the plantation came first, then the classes in chocolate-making. Maybe next year I can report on them.
Is there a chocolate shortage?
We then stopped by Fleurir Chocolates in DC’s Georgetown on Christmas Eve as a light snow fell, and they were CLOSED. What chocolate shop closes on Christmas Eve? I can only imagine that business was so good that they sold out of their “hand grown” chocolates, so they had nothing left to sell that day. They have an overall 5-star rating on Yelp, so we will try again next year.
In Pittsburgh after Christmas, our bad luck continued. We tried to visit an old-school chocolate shop, Sherm Edwards, in the suburbs, but not only was it closed, it’s now an Edward Marc Chocolatier shop. Which would’ve been OK too — they are also a local old-school candy maker — but again will have to be explored next year.
By the time we got to Richmond, VA, New Year’s Eve, we’d given up on checking out local artisan chocolates this trip. But as luck would have it, a friend gave us a box of Chocolates By Kelly.
Hooray! Local artisan chocolatier we haven’t tried before!
The shop is just down the street from our friend’s house on Southside, and she wisely got us a box with 2 of each piece. No sharing required.
Kelly’s chocolates are very good: Quality ingredients and smooth, well-tempered chocolate. It seems like she does a lot of seasonal chocolates, and it looks like her website hasn’t been updated in a while, so most of the chocolates we tried aren’t listed there. But if I were to recommend some to check out, I’d definitely include the Bittersweet Chocolate Melt-Away with Cinnamon Sugar. It’s an upgrade to cinnamon toast: Instead of butter and bread, it uses a round ball of chocolate. Simple, but great.
I also liked the Sea Salt Caramel with Almond. It’s your standard artisanal sea salt caramel, but before she enrobes it, she places a whole almond on top. It added a nice crunch to the chewy caramel.
The rest of the chocolates were equally good: a delicate champagne truffle, a big cherry almond bonbon (again the chewy/crunchy combo but this time with more chocolate), a liquid-y maple creme bonbon that had a good maple flavor and wasn’t too sweet (I’m always leery of cream fillings because they are often sickeningly sweet), and a vegan cherry pomegranate truffle (I confess I didn’t taste pomegranate so much as cherry + berry/wine, but that’s probably my lack of familiarity with pomegranate).
So Kelly saved the day. We got to sample chocolates from at least one new-to-us East Coast chocolatier. And I am happy to report it’s a good one.