Searching For Caloric Nirvana? Check Out These Heavenly Shops.
By Rebecca Cook
THERE MAY BE some people who mistakenly believe chocolate is but a seasonal affectation, an indulgence best humored in the month of February with the purchase of heart-shaped, bow-topped boxes filled with sinfully sugary pleasures.
I, however, hold to the view that any time is the right time to indulge a craving for chocolate, including the merry month of May. If you must have a holiday on which to hang your chocolate hat, I suppose Mother's Day will suffice; but keep in mind that you'll need to buy extra if you're going to appease both your own appetite and your mom's.
As my palate has matured over the years, I've come to appreciate the vast differences between various chocolate products. It's true, for example, that a Three Musketeers or Milky Way gets me by in a pinch, but neither can compare with the subtle wonder of a Grand Marnier truffle made with the finest Belgian chocolate.
It's rather like the difference between getting from Point A to Point B in a Jaguar as opposed to a Yugo. Either can go the distance, but one is ever-so-much more delightful.
When you want to oblige your craving for chocolate in style, consider a few of the more decadent options Tucson has to offer.
At the top of the list has to be the Chocolate Depot, located on East Tanque Verde Road in Trail Dust Town. Owner Robert Dille started the business as the Kettle Confection about three years ago, but last October the enterprise moved around the corner and changed names.
"Out here in Trail Dust Town we experienced some confusion about what we really were," says Dille. "People kept thinking we were the Cattle Confection, which led to some interesting situations at times."
To be sure, what happens inside Dille's store has very little to do with open-range bovine creatures.
At the Chocolate Depot all candies, truffles, peanut brittle, toffee and caramel corn are handmade on the premises, in small batches to guarantee the utmost freshness.
Dille, who's been perfecting his chocolate expertise for the last 14 years, uses only Belgian chocolate in his confections, conferring an unmistakable distinction from the first taste.
Belgian chocolate is considered the Cadillac of the chocolate empire, a European elegance the exact composition of which remains elusive even after years of attempting to reproduce it stateside.
Dille also enhances his stock in the eyes of the truly chocolate besotted by offering all his candies in either a milk or bittersweet variety.
I've always thought milk chocolate was for weenies. I therefore exulted in the Chocolate Depot's rendition of a dark, bittersweet Belgian chocolate truffle, a swarthy masterpiece of unparalleled lusciousness. One taste of this and you'll no longer wonder why the Aztecs believed chocolate had potent aphrodisiacal properties.
Also remarkable is Dille's English toffee--nutty, buttery, crunchy goodness coated in a surplus of singularly delicious chocolate and dusted with finely ground nuts. You may think you've tried toffee before, but I doubt you've ever tasted anything as sublime as this.
If you go to the Chocolate Depot during the warmer months, you might want to take a small cooler to transport your treasures. Because he conspicuously avoids preservatives and shape-maintaining emulsifiers, Dille's chocolates will literally and quickly melt in your hand (not to mention your 140-degree car).
Choc-alot, in El Mercado shopping center at Broadway Boulevard and Wilmot Road, will appeal to those searching for the perfect gift for that hard-to-buy-for person. The atmosphere at Choc-alot is that of a party in progress: shiny, purple foil lines the display tables, and cellophane-wrapped gift baskets gathered in colorful ribbon are scattered everywhere.
Choc-alot specializes in novelty chocolate, chocolate that comes in more forms than you can possibly imagine--including telephones, computer keyboards, lips, tools, CDs, violins, dogs, apples and various and sundry body parts. Choc-alot is the only candy store I've ever been in that possesses an off-to-the-side adult section. With a little effort I'm sure you can imagine a few of the possibilities indulged and enhanced herein.
Choc-alot's candy may not be quite as celestial as that found at the Chocolate Depot, but it sure is fun.
The newest addition to the chocolate shop scene is the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, located in the Foothills Mall. A franchise operation based in Durango, Colorado, this tiny store pleases with its old-fashioned, wooden-barrel wholesomeness as well as its quality chocolate.
Truffles, chocolates, toffees and brittles can be found here as well, and, while perhaps not as fresh as the Chocolate Depot's wares, they're still delicious. Both dark and milk chocolate are available, and you'll also find some specialty gourmet dessert sauces and novelty items.
Given that the factory producing the chocolate is miles away, the resulting confections are really quite good. Had I not already been spoiled by the perfectionism of Chocolate Depot, I'm sure I'd have found these chocolates to be perfectly marvelous.
Even so, they were far from disappointing, imbued with a creamy, rich, thoroughly satisfying cocoa-scented character.
Few can afford either the calories or the cost of frequent trips to these gourmet candy stores. But now and then, when you want to splurge just a bit, try a taste of chocolate from one of these specialty stores. You'll be glad you did.
Photo by Desiree A. Rios
The Chocolate Depot (at Trail Dust Town). 6541 E. Tanque Verde Road, No. 38. 886-9203. Open until 10 p.m. most nights to accommodate the many restaurant patrons in the area.
Choc-alot. El Mercado Shopping Center, 6350 E. Broadway. 745-3977.
The Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. Foothills Mall, on Ina Road and La Cholla Boulevard. 797-9007.
Chow Scan is The Weekly's selective guide to Tucson restaurants. Send comments and updates to Chow, P.O. Box 2429, Tucson, AZ 85702; or use our e-mail address, firstname.lastname@example.org. These listings have no connection with Weekly advertisers.
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