If you can't beat the chocolate frenzy this month, join it by visiting five of our city's best sweet shops.
The allure of chocolate is uncommonly strong this time of year; resistance, as the saying goes, would seem futile. But to effect a dignified surrender, no Portlander should settle for the usual Hershey’s Kisses, in light of all the artisanal chocolates handcrafted by a growing brigade of local chocolatiers. Here are five great ways to wave the white flag to the cacao cavalry.
The small storefront on NE 28th Ave that houses Alma offers plenty of unorthodox treats, but it also veers toward established religion. In fact, the shop is filled with Buddhas and Virgins de Guadalupe made from dark Peruvian chocolate and gilded with edible gold leaf. For those who pay their devotions more to Mother Earth, Alma produces around a dozen other fair-trade, organic caramels, toffees and truffles. Try the Salted Lavender Caramel made with fresh herbs, or go for the Ginger Almond Toffee, which harbors bits of chopped ginger bursting with brightness. Then give thanks.
140 NE 28th Ave; 503-517-0262; www.almachocolate.com
De Paula Confection
Having trained in the art of classical pastry in Paris, owner and ex-Intel engineer John DePaula has a unique cultural perspective on all things sweet. While French flourishes are apparent in such treats as his Grand Marnier, a blend of orange liqueur, candied orange peel, and milk and dark chocolate ganache, he infuses other masterpieces with the spirit of his native Louisiana. The Bananas Foster, for example, blends organic bananas, butter, rum, brown sugar and pecans inside a white chocolate shell. Of course, such cultural exchange makes it perfectly acceptable to sip bourbon while downing DePaula’s champagne chocolates.
To order, visit www.depaulaconfections.com
From Oprah to Ellen DeGeneres, Hollywood loves Moonstruck—and we’re not talking Cher and Nic Cage here. One might think demand for Oscar swag bags alone would prompt this growing company to spring for some automated machines and a bigger factory down in Venice Beach, but Moonstruck remains 100 percent handmade right here in Portland (although it has stores all over the country). From crescent-moon chocolate bars to kitten-shaped truffles, Moonstruck continues to crank out playful concoctions. The Connoisseur Collection—a $100 box that combines single-origin chocolates with high-end flavor blends such as chocolate and Cypress Grove goat cheese—promises anyone the red carpet treatment.
Visit www.moonstruckchocolate.com for locations.
Elizabeth Montes, owner of this cozy chocolate shop in Northwest, is something of a cacao conjurer, deriving her inspiration from a 16th-century text on Aztecan culture titled the Florentine Codex . Magic or no, just about every one of her specialties possesses an enchanting air, as evidenced by the otherworldly Pepitapas, which blends chocolate, pumpkin seeds and ground jalapeño, and by exotic dark chocolates from Venezuela and Ecuador that transform familiar ingredients such as Oregon hazelnuts and cherries. From canela truffle pops to candied bergamot, Montes’s pre-Colombian sorcery appears unbounded by time or, thankfully, place.
10 NW 16th Ave; 503-274-7065; www.sahagunchocolates.com
Xocolatl de Davíd
While it may seem an unlikely hobby for someone who spends 50 hours a week chopping onions and grilling steaks, the line-cook life at Park Kitchen has actually informed David Briggs’s on-the-side chocolate business. Take his Salt and Pepper (a blend of dark chocolate, fleur de sel and Sichuan peppercorns) or his Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil (a vegan chocolate made with olive oil as opposed to the usual cream-based ganache), for instance. Both prove that Briggs can dexterously toe the complicated line between savory and sweet. As does the simply named Bacon: a blend of dark chocolate and bacon so delectable you’ll be amazed you hadn’t thought of it first.
To order, visit www.xocolatldedavid.com