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Chocolatier Makes Good – And Makes It Beautiful

07 Oct

Elegance in Shocolaaate: by the piece or the box, each ingredient represents part of the life of Cristina Vives and Diana Pace.

When you ask Shocolaate’s president Cristina Vives when her company started, her answer is, “It depends.”

The company began as a hobby several years ago, making chocolates that her friends loved, but her first box officially sold on Valentine’s Day, 2010.

At this point, the start hardly matters. What counts is where the company is now. And where it’s going. The answer: everywhere and then some. It’s growing and going places.

Vives and her mother Diana Pace are the people behind the artisan Shocolaate: hand-dipped pretzels, cookies, fruits and truffles. Pace is the creative designer, developing the website, photos, packaging and the company’s overall look, which is sleek, simple and lightly touched with a feminine hand.

The key to getting someone to become a Shocolaate client for life? “Getting them to try that first one,” Vives says. “If you get them in one time, they keep coming back.”

Vives knows this first-hand. At last year’s chocolate show in West Palm Beach, she ran out of product the first day, and spent Saturday night into Sunday morning making more, fueled on coffee and fighting the need to sleep. She returned to the show Sunday and had the same success. It’s one of the reasons she and her mother will be attending this week’s Fort Lauderdale Festival of Chocolate at the NSU Arena in Davie, near Fort Lauderdale (http://nova.festivalofchocolate.com/).

Mother and daughter got together in business partly out of necessity, but mostly out of love. “I needed her help here and there with certain things, and little by little, she got more and more involved with the company. We get along well; there’s no drama. Anyone watching us expecting a food fight would be bored,” Vives says.

When you look at their website, which will likely strike you as good enough to eat, you will be drawn to confections both familiar and unusual. There are chocolate-dipped fruits, pretzels and Oreos, ramped up with candy bits and ideal for parties, weddings, birthdays and other special occasions. But it’s the truffles and filled chocolates that are in demand by both individual and corporate buyers, including many hotels in the tri-county area. The dipped sweets are fun, but it’s the truffles that evoke Vives’ personal history and experiences.

“When I cook, or I eat out, I am always looking at food and ingredients and wondering if this or that will work in a truffle. And my own heritage {Diana Pace is Cuban and Italian and Vives’ father is Colombian} also plays into what I create.”

Are there ever any chocolates that don’t make the cut? “No, never. There’s always a home for what I create, no matter the combinations.”

And speaking of combinations, there are some that are literally rich, such as the Star of India (milk chocolate with ginger, honey, chili and 24 karat gold); others are reminders of her heritage, like the Colombian (milk chocolate, coffee, cinnamon and coffee liquor) and still others are very much in the present, including the Orange Blossom (dark chocolate, Grand Marnier, vanilla, fresh orange and candied orange peel).

Why is a company like Shocolaate important? “Everything comes from my hands,” Vives says. “These are  hand-made, hand-rolled, hand-dipped. I touch it, and my heart, soul and history are in every piece. I want people to know what quality is. I love what I do, even when I have to stay up in the small hours of the night. I’m my own boss and I make all my own decisions, from shapes to flavors to where they are sold.”

I’ll grant you this: it’s a long drive to Fort Lauderdale. You need a reason to go? You have a good reason now: Shocolaate.

And a taste test of some of the products:

The S’Mores truffle, with chocolate and marshmallow inside and finely crumbled graham cracker crumbles outside: this is what I call a “smack on the brain cells” truffle. And that’s just what happens when you slice it in half and smell it. It’s so rich and intense that it interrupts your train of thought. OK, now go ahead and try it. Totally worth the wait, wasn’t it?

The French toast truffle has maple syrup and butter, too. And the fact that it’s a white chocolate truffle should make it a no-go for me. It didn’t; it actually worked. Very subtle, with no one flavor overpowering any other.

White chocolate coconut truffle is the least sweet of those tasted, and the kind of thing you want to balance a strong after-dinner beverage, like espresso. The coconut is crunchy and fresh and the filling is smooth.

The Almond Marzipan truffle is at the opposite end of the sweet spectrum from the white chocolate coconut; a little bit goes a long way. If you ever ate the little slices of Italian rainbow cakes, with their tri-colored layers of marzipan and ganache coating, this truffle is that dessert – on steroids.

The Orange Blossom truffle has the appeal of dark chocolate nipped by a tiny triangle of candied orange slice on top. The fruit is almost bitter, slightly chewy – and balances the chocolate nicely.

Website: http://shocolaate.com/default.aspx?p=1

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Posted by on October 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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