Who knew those “Keep Asheville Weird” bumper stickers were referring to its level of chocolate consumption?
Many visitors come to Asheville to see the big, pretty mansion, and leave without seeing the rest of this city, with its historic buildings, beautiful parks, bookstores, markets, boutiques and fine restaurants. It’s a shame not to stroll the streets of this charming Southern city, because they are uncrowded, people are polite and there are plenty of places to stop in for rest and some restorative calories before heading back on your journey.
Chocolate Fetish, opened in 1986, has the more varied selection of the two, and its interior is reminiscent of an old-fashioned candy store, with a glass-walled candy-making area, softly lit display cases, fancy gold boxes and lots of novelty chocolate items. A purchase of truffles here includes a variety of pamphlets to help you remember what flavors you’ve purchased (the names are delightfully descriptive, and include Dragon’s Sigh, Jewel of India, Ancient Pleasures and Velvet Sin) and the best conditions under which to enjoy your purchase (at room temperature and within ten days of purchase).
Chocolate Gems, opened in 2005, has a more low-key, workman-like atmosphere; the interior is a bit plainer and the selection smaller. But the seriousness of creating great truffles and other novelty chocolates is just as plain here as it is across town. You can find chocolate boxes (why not put your truffles in a chocolate box?), cakes and animal sculptures, in addition to single-origin truffles.
Chocolate Fetish will ship chocolate, Chocolate Gems does not. But if you are in Asheville for a while and interested in taking a chocolate-making class, Chocolate Gems can fill the need. Both have very knowledgeable staff and they are happy to take the time to answer questions and describe products. The great thing about buying by the piece is that you are investing in just one small example of chocolate, so take chances; buy and try new taste combinations.
So, who has the better truffles? You knew I’d buy from both, and taste them. The answer is: there’s no real contest here. They both fit the bill of high quality cacao and other ingredients, small production, proper storage and appealing surroundings. So check out both shops. Eat at one, then walk off the calories by going to the other. You can go to that big house outside town some other time.
Chocolate Fetish, 36 Haywood Street, Asheville, NC. Phone (828) 258-2353.
Chocolate Gems, 25 Broadway Street, Asheville, NC. Phone (828) 669-9105.