Chocolate Santas, chocolate dreidels and big ballotin boxes stuffed with truffles, wrapped like presents and tightly tied with satiny ribbons and bows — what family doesn’t love to indulge for the holidays?
“My dad used to come up with different ideas to hide treats inside hollow chocolate Santas,” said Joe Terpoghossian, third-generation owner of Mignon Chocolate shops in Glendale and Pasadena. “My brothers and I would fight about who got the best ones, filled with different kinds of gum, candies and small toys, like Lego pieces.”
The Covitz family celebrated Hanukkah, and because Mom had opened the Beverly Hills location of Swiss chocolatier Teuscher, they had plenty of holiday treats, too. “Most of the products, I mean like 99.9 percent of them were Christmas-themed,” said Phil Covitz, who parted ways with Teuscher to found AndSons Chocolatiers with his brother, Marc. “At the end of the year, we would definitely have molded Santas we would enjoy.”
In this pandemic year, some traditions may have to give way, but enjoying chocolate needn’t be one of them. Here’s a round-up of exceptional California chocolatiers, who are shipping their sweets in time for the holidays.
Kriss Harvey creates gourmet confections such as the signature speculaas truffle, based on a European spice shortbread. Seasonal flavors available beginning Dec. 1 include eggnog, cinnamon caramel, mint with a berry pâte de fruits, marzipan and saffron. For Hanukkah it’s sesame-honey and pistachio-praline.
This year, Georgia artist Angela Chrusciaki Blehm has decorated 12, 24 and 36-piece boxes, sold for $45, $65 and $95. Care packages with bon bons, chocolate-covered cranberries and other goodies are also available. Two-day shipping nationwide makes this a great last-minute gift. and-sons.com
With single origin bars, online classes and a wealth of info on its website, Dandelion is for purists. Co-founders Todd Masonis and Cameron Ring, who sold their online address book service Plaxo to Comcast in 2008, did their R and D in a garage for this bean-to-bar company, building their own equipment with PVC pipe and toaster ovens. They emerged with Dandelion Chocolate in 2010 and now have shops in San Francisco, Las Vegas and Japan, although some are on pause during the pandemic.
Without being snobby or geeky about it, Masonis said foodies can learn to recognize origins if they eat chocolate slowly and start to pay attention. “It’s really fun to watch people. Someone might pick up our Madagascar bar and put it in their mouth and say, ‘This is fruity. How did you add the fruit?’ No, no, no, that is the flavor of that bean.”
The terroir comes through in Dandelion’s bars ($35 for 3 with tasting notes), single origin truffles ($45 for 15) and even the hot chocolate mixes ($30) that come in house blend, Mission (peppers, allspice and cinnamon) and Hojicha (roasted green tea) versions.
“It’s a wonderful gift,” said confectioner Annie Kamen who suggests a Zoom or FaceTime get-together while you’re drinking it. “You can send it to somebody across the country and make your hot chocolate at the same time and feel like you’re sharing it together.”
For family gatherings, Dandelion now offers a decadent chocolate dessert, whole six-inch Gâteau Basque cakes ($50, serves 4) with brownie-like edges that encase pastry cream or jam and a pudding-textured center. “It actually gets better at room temperature,” Masonis said. “They’re perfect for shipping. So it makes a nice, little family dessert.
Nationwide shipping (order by noon on Dec. 16 to ship in time for the holidays), local pickup and delivery ($10) within San Francisco and parts of the East Bay. The 740 Valencia Street and One Ferry Building locations are open for no-contact to-go service; store.dandelionchocolate.com.
Former hockey ref Jeffray Gardner moved shop when his landlord gave him notice after spotting his kids (he has five and refers to them as his “oompa loompas”) playing road hockey in the parking lot. Gardner has faced ups and downs since then, but found a new spot in Torrance and keeps turning out his bars and truffles as well as chocolate-infused teas.
He makes his own fillings, such as from-scratch marzipan, lemon (with fruit picked from his own tree), salted caramels with sea salt he gathers in the Pacific and more. His 100-percent bar contains no sugar and no cocoa butter. “The machinery we have makes it so smooth, it’s like a baby’s bum,” Gardner says. He also sells a Super RayBar ($19) made from 33 super foods. Assorted bon bons come in 5- ($17), 12- ($28), 24 ($52) and 48-piece ($99) boxes.
Order 2-3 weeks ahead for the holidays to make sure you get your favorites. Shipped nationwide; marsattachocolate.com.
Founded in 1935, this family business in Glendale and Pasadena specializes in truffles, chocolate-covered orange peels and peppermint and gingerbread flavors for the holidays. Its signature ginger-lime sea salt truffle will also be available. Hand-painted Christmas trees and Santas range from $9-$30, 9-piece boxes smartly decorated for Hanukkah or Christmas are $14.
Allow a week or more delivery time; mignonchocolate.com.
Michael Recchiuti started selling chocolates out of a cooler at the San Francisco Ferry Building farmers market before the famous food hall opened. Some 25 years later, his burnt caramel truffle remains a signature.
For the holidays, he’s offering Champagne Truffles made with blanc de noir sparkling wine from Schramsberg Vineyards, as well as pâte de fruits ($24) squares in vibrant flavors. “They’re coated in granulated sugar, so it gives them a really beautiful crystally, sparkly look. That’s definitely a popular one for Hanukkah,” said Cara Loffredo, marketing and e-commerce manager.
Other holiday truffle collections include Oh, Christmas Tree ($48 for 16 pieces) and Christmas Cheer ($88/32 pieces), as well as Winter’s Day ($23/8 pieces), a box of burnt caramel truffles with images of Arctic foxes, penguins, polar bears and other endangered animals. Some proceeds from each sale benefit 1% for the Planet. Local delivery in the Bay Area; shipping nationwide. Ferry Building, Shop 30; recchiuti.com.
Award-winning chocolatier Amy Jo Pedone specializes in Italian flavors and ingredients. Her holiday collection includes a large hollow ornament ($32) stuffed with pistachio-hazelnut and dark chocolate truffles as well as peppermint candy bars, a break from the Italian tradition created just for her mom.
For Hanukkah, she fashions a hollow dreidel ($48) filled with 73-percent dark chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil and decorated in silver and blue hues. Two-pound solid chocolate Christmas trees ($115, serves 20) are often ordered for tablescapes.
Order from the Costa Mesa chocolatier by Dec. 4; valenzachocolatier.com.
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