I can hardly believe my luck. Over the last few weeks I’ve encountered three boutique artisans making amazing small-batch chocolates in interesting flavors that I would never have imagined could work. And their offerings perfectly reflect the chocolate maker’s respective cultural background and locale. For one, that includes our beloved Garden State.
CHOCKRITI: These French-style truffles and bon bons are spiked with the traditional flavors and spices of India. “Choc” stands for chocolate, of course, while “kriti” is Sanskrit for work of art. My friend Anne, who discovered these chocolates, gifted me with an assortment and I couldn’t stop eating the Masala Chai and Cardamom Coffee flavors.
The chocolate maker behind these elegant creations is Pragati Sawhney, a NYC dentist who taught herself the art of chocolate making. I plan to order the Sweet Pumpkin Spice – decorated with edible gold and silver leaf – to go with my Thanksgiving dinner.
JADE CHOCOLATES: As a thank you to Anne for introducing me to Chockriti, I sought to reciprocate. So on a recent trip to San Francisco I sought out Jade, the maker of award-winning high-end chocolates that have Asian-fusion and Pacific Island twists. The Dragon’s Breath bar is flavored with lapsang souchang tea, sesame seeds, and chili. The Genmai – a milk chocolate bar with roasted brown rice and roasted green and jasmine teas – sustained me while circling over Newark Airport on the flight home. Anne received a small box of bittersweet chocolate palettes topped with dried green mangoes with a lime-chili rub.
The company and its products could not be more reflective of owner Mindy Fong’s background. A native of San Francisco, her heritage is Chinese and Filipino. Before turning to chocolate making, she earned a degree from UC-Davis and worked as an architect, specializing in environmental design.
DONNA & COMPANY: Think you know Donna Pinder’s Piscataway, NJ-based all-natural chocolates? I did, until she informed me of her new Summer Collection, a 5-piece assortment that incorporates locally grown, seasonal produce – including heirloom Jersey tomatoes. You’d expect Jersey blueberries and peaches to show up in the assortment, and they do. But the mind-bender is undoubtedly the Heirloom Fruit piece, pictured at right. Pinder crafts tomatoes into small-batch pate-de-fruit, which evokes black cherries. Over the pate she layers dark chocolate ganache made with vanilla and vodka, then enrobes it all with dark chocolate and decorates the piece with a cute hand-applied tomato painted with natural coloring.
The other pieces in the Summer Collection are no slouches, either. Peach Cobbler includes a layer of small-batch shortbread as well as Jersey peaches in white chocolate, and Blueberry Lemon includes both white and dark chocolate. Rounding out the summer collection is Orange Thyme and Long Island Ice Tea – black tea craftily infused into dark chocolate ganache with lemon, Triple Sec, rum, and tequila (and preservative-free candied citrus peel).