Sunday, April 17, 2011

I Died and Went to Chocolate Heaven

I love chocolates.  All things chocolate.  When I went to Europe 9 summers ago, I ate my way through Brussels, Paris, Venice, and Florence on the back of chocolate shops.  I'm not a chocolate snob per-say.  I would drown my sorrows just as easily in Cadbury Eggs, Almond Joy Bars, Hershey Hugs, or Reese Cups as I would Deitsch's Brothers chocolate covered pretzels, fine Belgian chocolates, Godiva, or any other handmade delicacy I can get my grubby, chocolate-covered paws on.  One of the many ways my husband romanced me was to bring chocolates and red wine over to watch PBS one evening (I never claimed we weren't nerds...)  Well, last Sunday, I discovered a new place for chocolate lovers, such as myself.  

Lilly Handmade Chocolates is located in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio.  We were having brunch just down the street, and when we were walking into the cafe I spied the bright pink sign for Lilly's down the street.  Of course, I would have to inspect it.  Immediately after brunch we took a stroll down the street.  According to Lilly's website they are, "an artisanal chocolatier that specializes in pairing fine wine & craft beer with its fresh, handmade chocolate confections."  Well, had I known that, I might have skipped brunch and headed straight for the chocolate shop.  (Okay, I wouldn't have, because Lucky's Cafe was amazing.  So good, I forgot to take any photographs, so much into a food coma was I.)  The shop is bright, shocking pink.  Delightfully pink.  Elle Woods would approve.  Each chocolate was matched with a bottle of wine or craft beer.  I think there may still be puddles of drool in front of their glass case.  (so sorry ladies!)  There were also these steel sculptures made by a local artist holding Lilly Chocolate's bark, and special Easter Eggs.  So began my decision making trial....

I decided to go with a six-piece assortment to sample a variety of flavors, along with a Salty Bunny Egg for our boy Jack (and us as well!).  Owner, Amanda Montague and a lovely assistant were both on hand to discuss the offerings that sunny Sunday afternoon, so when we left, I felt ready for my first (of many!) Lilly Chocolate experiences.  

My Six-Piece Assortment Box Sampler
Three of the chocolates I chose were a bit of a walk on the wild side for me-while I love chocolate, I do not typically like when it mixes with something healthy, like fruit.  But I chose 40 Winks (dark with lavender essence), Cinnabunny (dark with Vietnamese cinnamon/ground ginger and honey), and Lime (white with lime juice) as my "daring" choices.  My safer choices were Old School (milk with malted milk), PB Monsters (milk with peanut butter/honey/crunch topping), and Southern Gentleman (milk with Makers Mark and buttered pecan).  Ready?

Forty Winks
 This was my very first taste of Lilly Chocolate.  I chose it because the flavor profile reminded me of my favorite Jeni's Ice Cream Flavor (Wildberry Lavender).  I was a bit skeptical, but totally wowed!  The bittersweet chocolate made the lavender flavor more pronounced in the ganache.  And that candied violet on top, was a subtle and sweet crunch.  
Now, I have fallen in love with Saigon Cinnamon ever since Jeni used it in her ice cream, so while this was a little "daring" for me, I was looking forward to tasting it.  I found the chocolate profile to be less bitter than the Forty Winks but perfect for the accompanying flavors.  The cinnamon taste reminded me of those red hot candies I loved as a child-only all grown up!  And those cocoa nibs on top, where can I get my hands on some to throw into my own candies and cakes? Delicious!
Now, I am a sucker for Key Lime pie.  I see it on a menu and am immediately figuring out how to save room.  I love lime beverages, lime candy, lime everything.  However, I have yet to try lime with white chocolate.  Why have I waited so long?  I could smell the tartness of the lime curd filling before even biting into this.  The mellow, buttery white chocolate was perfect for the puckery lime filling...I could almost picture myself on the deck at AJ's Dockside in Tybee Island.  Almost.
Southern Gentleman
This ended up in our box because I made a killer Dark Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie for the holidays.  It fairly oozes chocolate, and I only use Maker's Mark.  I even put the booze in my whipped cream.  Well, the Makers Mark hits you as soon as you sink your teeth into this beautiful plaid chocolate.  The milk chocolate tempers the booze flavor only enough that it doesn't bite back.  And that pecan inside was buttery perfection.  I would swear that Amanda was standing over my shoulder as I baked my pies when she came up with this one.
PB Monsters
We are a peanut butter loving family.  So it only served to reason that I added a peanut butter filled concoction to our sampler.  PB Monsters ruins forever any grocery-store checkout peanut butter candy for me.  It was salty, crunchy, and had just the right amount of peanut butter flavor so as to not overwhelm the smooth milk chocolate.  

Old School
I ended the tasting with Old School.  This was dusted with malted milk powder on top, which was a delicious touch.  It reminded me of those delicious malted milkshakes you can only get in the summer from our Midwestern custard stands.  It was smooth, malty, milk chocolatey goodness all in one bite.  Perfection!

Snif. Guess it is time to restock.

In all, I would have to say that my favorite was the Forty Winks...a surprise for me since I am more a traditionalist when it comes to chocolates.  It makes me anxious to return to Cleveland and get a sampling of all the other delectable chocolates Amanda cooks up!  Of course, I could order online and have them shipped to my doorstep, but it wouldn't be as fun as strolling the length of the counter, chatting with them, and browsing the immense wine and craft beer selection they have.  I promise, if you can check out Lilly Chocolates, you will not be disappointed!

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