I’m happy to say I’ve found a chocolatier whose caramels rival Prazen Sladkor, the difficult-to-pronounce caramel covered with gold dust made by Wen Chocolates of Denver. In fact, that rival—Christopher Elbow (CE) of Kansas City—seems to specialize in caramel.
When I had a rosemary caramel latte at LatteLand on the Plaza, it was his infusion in the latte. He also offers caramel with Tahitian vanilla bean, citrus caramel (my least favorite since I dislike orange-flavored chocolate), strawberry balsamic caramel…and the list goes on.
It took some doing, however. After showing up in Crossroads a week ago Monday with an out-of-date map, traipsing down deserted streets searching for CE, and then, when I did find it, discovering it was closed, I had to satisfy my chocolate craving with the Sweet Guy (not a bad thing) until the Friday before Halloween. (Note: The Sweet Guy closed in spring or summer 2010.)
The chocolates at CE’s sleek shop were so pretty that I bought a 9-piece box, along with a cherry-flavored pate de fruit, and laid them out next to the Sweet Guy’s key lime and hazelnut truffles. If the Sweet Guy’s truffles look the worse for wear, it’s not the fault of their maker. I was carrying them in a bag in my pocket.
Yes, it’s time for another chocolatier comparison.
The word that best describes the Sweet Guy’s truffles: rich. The key lime (the patterned truffle) was rich and limey, and the hazelnut was rich and slightly crunchy. I was going to say it had a “quiet nut flavor,” and then I decided “quietly nutty” sounded better, and then I gave up and settled for this: “It tasted of hazelnut, but it didn’t beat me over the head with it.”
I would like to try the Sweet Guy’s pesto truffle sometime. And the pistachio. And the Anasazi. Pine nuts, anyone?
CE’s pate de fruit above tastes as dark cherry as it looks. It was the best PDEF I’ve ever had. Eating the banana curry (the brown, sparkly half-sphere in the lower right) was like sipping a good wine: the banana flavor came in, and then the curry took over. Same with the strawberry (upper left): first fruit and then a hint of balsamic vinegar. The Earl Gray truffle (top center) had a definite EG flavor, unlike most tea truffles, which taste vague to me.
There were some my sister and I didn’t like. The coconut, that odd duck truffle in the center, didn’t impress my sister too much, though she noted the contrast between the textured outer shell and the smooth yellow filling. I didn’t care for the Persian (bottom center). It had a marzipan center, which I liked when it was combined with pistachio in one of Dietrich’s truffles, but not when it was flavored with almond and wrapped in a ganache containing saffron, clove, cardamom, cinnamon, and orange blossom.
I appreciate your patience with my chocolate obsession. It’s one of the few food groups I feel I can discuss with any authority.
Christopher Elbow’s store, on McGee between 18th and 19th, also serves drinks and sells cocoa. If you go there, be sure to use the sink in the bathroom. It is the coolest faucet* I have ever seen.
*I still remember this rather abusive Englishman named James, who was one of my flatmates when I did a year at the University of Sussex. I made the mistake of saying the word “faucet” in front of him (instead of “tap”), and he made me repeat it while he laughed at my Americanism. Or was it a Frenchism? Anyway, I was afraid of him when I was 20.