Sweets

 

Alma chocolate

140 NE 28th Ave, 503-517-0262
almachocolate.com

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The Find: The habanero caramel

Sure, habanero is another entry in the flavored-caramel trend, but owner Sarah Hart’s version mixes hot and cool—literally—with chiles and cream. A former grant writer who moonlighted in the food world, Hart opened Alma four years ago. Inspired by sweets from around the globe, Alma offers such delicacies as Thai peanut butter cups, toffee studded with pistachios (in a departure from the usual almonds), candies made with fresh local cherries and Oregon hazelnuts, and a fine selection of top European and American chocolate bars like Valrhona and Pralus. Alma’s icons—dark chocolate shaped into images like the Virgin of Guadalupe or the Buddha and then gilded in edible gold—turn an already spiritual experience into something akin to religious ecstasy. And you can wash any of them down with a Spella espresso. —EH
Likely to Spot: Chef Tommy Habetz of Bunk Sandwiches browsing for after-lunch chocolate

Cacao

414 SW 13th Ave & 712 SW Salmon St
cacaodrinkchocolate.com

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The Find: The city’s best selection of single-origin chocolate bars

Co-owner Jesse Manis beams proudly over his newest chocolate bar, a shell of dark chocolate encasing a filling of hazelnut-and-roasted-almond paste. Indeed, Cacao is a store that shines with selection, particularly in its careful curation of bean-to-bar chocolate from the world’s best chocolate makers. It carries the work of small-scale chocolatiers as well as renowned French companies Michel Cluizel, Pralus, and Bonnat. You’ll also find a wide range of confections from locals like Xocolatl de Davíd and DePaula Confections, plus Fran’s Chocolates and Theo from Seattle—all best enjoyed with the three varieties of what is without a doubt Portland’s best drinking chocolate. “We want to celebrate dark and solid chocolate like the Europeans do,” Manis says, “and Portland is the perfect audience.” —EH
Likely to Spot: David Briggs of Xocolatl de Davíd delivering his latest creations

Northwest Sweets

740 NW 23rd Ave, 503-360-1350
nwsweets.com

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The Find: Coconut Matcha Meltaway

Northwest Sweets owner and confectioner Steve Gazda likes to shake up typical candy conventions. Case in point: the Coconut Matcha Meltaway, a confection made from white chocolate, coconut fat, and matcha, a finely powdered green tea. After working in the pastry kitchen at the Four Seasons and teaching a course called Advanced Patisserie and Confections at Portland’s Western
Culinary Institute, Gazda noticed the absence of a truly great candy store in Portland. And so he opened this tiny Nob Hill shop, with an open candy kitchen where visitors can see trays of toffee or curried cashew brittle cooling. In addition to his innovative original concoctions, Gazda also showcases a stunning variety of nostalgic candy. “I want to be the place where, if you remember it and you’re looking for it, you can find it,” he says, proudly noting his collection of clove gum, Squirrel Nut Zippers, and candy cigarettes. Cutting-edge candy comes in the form of Drunken Tortoises, a mix of red-wine caramel, toasted walnuts, and gray salt that’s a grown-up version of a typical Southern turtle. “Everybody loves candy,” he says. “And even when it’s expensive, it’s not that expensive.” —EH
Likely to Spot: Upstairs neighbors Angela and Dominic Valdes, owners of Tea Chai Té, wandering down for a mug-size marshmallow

Sahagún

10 NW 16th Ave, 503-274-7065
sahagunchocolates.com

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The Find: Luscious Caramel

With a sweet, injection-formed center barely contained by a thin shell of dark chocolate, Sahagún’s house specialty, the exploding Luscious Caramel, has been carefully engineered to be a one-bite experience. Trained at the French Culinary Institute in New York, owner Elizabeth Montes opened Sahagún in 2005 after selling her chocolates at the farmers market for four years, hoping to “create a magical step out of the regular world.” Indeed, the excitement of Montes’s candies often comes from their unexpected ingredients and the final, carefully manipulated moment of enjoyment. Sunflower seed butter, for instance, provides a ganache-like structure to a praline, while the Oregon Kiss combines Oregon hazelnuts with Valrhona milk chocolate and fleur de sel. —EH
Likely to Spot: Elizabeth Beekley from Two Tarts Bakery enjoying a single-origin hot chocolate