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Chocolate

  • Twill Jun 1, 2007 12:13 PM

I was just trolling for some info on La Traviata, and came across a dinner "blow-out" post (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/353241 ) wherein a notable Hound states, "I won’t rest until I find something closer to chocolate nirvana in the Lone Star state. If it kills me, then at least I will die in pursuit of a good cause." This audacious declaration was made in response to a failed attempt by the Driskill Grill at creating a memorable chocolate dessert, and subsequently referenced two recognized gourmet chocolatiers.

I recently visited one of the places referred to prior to the to the grand, and potentially fruitless, pronouncement when visiting Brooklyn; the place was Jacques Torres (http://www.mrchocolate.com ).

I'm not really-ahem-wasn't really a chocolate devotée until I consumed what I consider to be one of the finest examples in the nation and quite possibly beyond. I'm still getting my taste buds trained to the intricacies of chocolate (esp. the artist/artisan variety), aided in no small part by the fact that I still have some of the Torres booty left over from my trip. In an effort to stretch out my hoard for as long as possible, I've been trying to find something in the Austin area that even approaches what I found in DUMBO. Having virtually no luck independently in my search (and I was relieved to find that one of the most discerning Hounds was in similar straits), I'd love to hear some suggestions.

Where is the best chocolate in Austin?

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  1. Twill, I am probably pointing out the obvious, but you can order JT chocolates online. Not as thrilling as a new local find, but a good option should your supply run out prior to finding something as delicious.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Honey Bee

      I've considered that route, but the shipping costs due to our climate make it pretty expensive. If I want it bad enough, though...

      Hopefully the Park Slope clan will visit soon, and I can get them to pack an extra suitcase.

      1. re: Twill

        Mary Louise Butters' brownies are very tasty and decadent. Plus they come in traditional flavors as well as more exotic combos like ones with chilis, crystallized ginger, and stout to name a few. I've seen them all around town and I think she is still at the farmer's market downtown. See products here: http://www.buttersbrownies.com/flavor...

    2. i don't think there are any good chocolatiers in austin that can compare to what you'd find in ny... there seems to even be a lack of just chocolatiers period. the Roscar chocolate selection at Breed & Co. made in Bastrop is pretty good. but, i think you (and I) are out of luck.

      3 Replies
      1. re: yimay

        also, at Grapevine market you can get SXUL chocolate truffles. i think they are made locally. those are quite good even with the dumb name.

        1. re: yimay

          I'll give those a try. I was already comped some of the Vosges that they sell at WF, but I think it's because they weren't moving. They certainly tasted as such.

          FYI, I'm open to chocolate in its myriad forms, so if you know of a dish that stands out, that works for this purpose as well.

          1. re: yimay

            The guy that makes those has chocolates available under two names, SXUL, which he first started with and then for the "Red state crowd", as I call it, he has some labeled with his name, Riks, or Ricks, I forgot which. He has boxes of two, four, and them maybe eight. I frequently buy the four box and it is around 10$. BTW, he refers to these as the traditional bon-bon. FWIW.

        2. This is a subject very near and dear to my heart. I do not consider myself a food expert at very many things, but chocolate is something I try to do my best. :)

          There are a couple of localish companies making noteworthy chocolate products. The already mentioned SXUL truffles are probably my favorite. His couverture (the outer hard shell) is pretty thick but the ganache is lovely--I think he may spike his ganache with caffeine or something because man is it tasty and addictive. We tried his chocolate sauce and weren't too impressed. As mentioned, they are best found at Grapevine (running about $2 a pop).

          The Kakawa Pure Whole Bean Chocolates are also quite scrumptious. He takes a roasted cocoa bean and rolls it various chocolate coverings before finishing in cocoa dust. Cocoa beans can be bitter but his outer covering layers smooth the taste. Sorta the effective of eating chocolate covered espresso beans or chocolate covered almonds. You can meet the owner, Tom, at the downtown Farmer's market on Saturdays and the gourmet markets (CM, WF, and Grapevine) usually stock his stuff.

          Finally, Miles of Chocolate is an extremely decadent brownie. Usually people can only eat two or three bites before filling up. Its a pretty gooey brownie and I like to get it at Grapevine because they'll cut a piece to order for you but the other gourmet groceries carry it. I occasionally see it on menus (maybe at Hyde Park).

          Speaking of restaurants, the ancho chile fudge pie at Z'Tejas is my favorite chocolate dessert in Austin, hands down. People like to snark on this board about Z'Tejas being a chain but I don't care. If they served this dessert only at one McDonalds in the parking lot Wal-Mart in suburban Dallas, I'd still look forward to getting a chance to eat it (though I wouldn't road trip for it).

          There are some other chocolate product makers that haven't captured my taste buds like the places above. I want to love the Brown Paper Chocolates (out of Houston) but the chocolate is not good enough though the flavorings are wonderfully imaginative (Jack Daniels, cashew and caramel). Fat Turkey Chocolates I've had once or twice but didn't grab me as distinct.

          For non-local chocolate bar selection, Grapevine has had the best selection (though I haven't been in a while) A year or two ago they started stocking the high-end Italian lines: Amedei and Domori. Amedei Chauo is one of the most famous lines out there though I prefer their Porcelena line. Sadly, last I looked Grapevine had no more stock of the Amedei line--these bars are expensive so I'm guessing they weren't moving enough of them. Domori is slightly lower on my scale but there are still a relatively top line bar and they seem to be expanding into the US though still pretty rare. Grapevine also has a large selection of Valrhona, El Rey, and Scharffen Berger. Valrhona Caraibe is one of my favorites (you can find it in blocks at the gourmet stores or get it individually packaged in bars). Grapevine also has other flavored and lesser (to me) lines like Dolfin and Vosges. Needless to say if you want to sample various single orgin bars and brands, Grapevine should be your top stop.

          Whole Foods (downtown) has been expanding their chocolate selection of late bringing in some of the new single origin Valrhona bars and a nice selection of other bars. Central Market definitely trails the pack of gourmet groceries in town though I think their bulk bars may be more extensive then WF.

          Sadly, I've yet to see any Cluizel or Pralus in town. These two lines are my two favorites with very solid choices across the whole range. If you are going to make a chocosphere.com order, do pick up some of their premimum single origin lines.

          I've spent most of my time talking about bars, but if you are after truffles, other than SXUL, there's not a whole to impress. WF's candy island has some nice flavoring options and rotating choices which is nice.

          If you want to order online or if you are traveling my favorite truffles have been Recchiuti out of SF's Ferry Building (his book Chocolate Obsession is also great and relatively easy to make if you want to try your hand), Kee's in SoHo NYC (Torres is probably second in the city for me though I adore his spicy hot chocolate and warm chocolate chip cookies), and Pierre Herme and Michael Chaudon in Paris (if you are in Paris I also highly, highly recommend David Lebovitz's Chocolate Walk).

          Finally, if you have the chocolate bug like I do, read Mort Rosenblum's fine book Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light

          11 Replies
          1. re: Carter B.

            Went to SF for work las week and searched out Recchiuti for some chocolates. The truffles were amazing. Thanks for the tip!

            1. re: Carter B.

              I was at the Ben White/Brodie Spec's this weekend and they have a good selection of Cluizel single plantation bars.

              1. re: Brian Lindauer

                I missed this reply about Cluizel--thanks for the heads up. This will save me some shipping costs and allow me to have Cluizel when it's not dreadfully hot.

                Also, I have seen (and purchased) the Vosges bacon bar at WF downtown. I'm not a big fan of Vosges chocolates but I do like some of their flavorings. The bacon one is pretty smokey and salty but pretty good if bacon is your thing.

              2. re: Carter B.

                I've enjoyed those Miles of Chocolate brownies on more than a few occasions. Their website gives information on where to get them and how to serve them:

                http://www.milesofchocolate.com/

                The MOC brownies were the only palatable item on a recent dessert-buffet that consisted entirely of product purchased at Central Market. I'll share some hard-earned wisdom: CM's chocolate-mousse cake and chocolate cupcakes look much better than they taste. The former was moist and sweet because of the mousse, but the cake itself tasted like it was made from a bad box-mix. Plus, the chocolate flavor in the mousse itself was weak. The chocolate cupcakes suffered from the same bad-mix-cake problem. They were also dry, and the buttercream-frosting was dense and too sweet. These were just gross.

                1. re: MPH

                  I actually like the CM North cupcakes on occasion. I completely agree the chocolate ones are gross, but the vanilla ones are passable in a fix. I also think the buttercream frosting (chocolate and vanilla) is better when you let them warm up to room temperature.

                  That said, I wanted to post that I was at Whole Foods up North last weekend, and they had fairly good sized blocks of El Rey chocolate (white, dark, milk) for about $3.50 each.. I'd say it was 1/4 of a pound. I snapped one up because its a pretty good chocolate to cook with and the price was right.

                  I've actually been looking around in town for the new Vosges chocolate bar. Apparently it is chocolate and bacon. Anyone seen it?

                  1. re: shan

                    These cupcakes were sitting out for an hour or so, and the frosting was definitely at room temperature. Unfortunately, it still tasted bad. I take your point, though, that the vanilla cupcakes are the lesser of two evils.

                    I've purchased the Vosges bars at the Neiman Marcus at La Cantera in San Antonio. The company's website suggests that their products (which ones aren't specified) are available locally at Therapy on South Congress, The Steeping Room on Century Oaks Terrace, Tessera Collection on Avery Ranch Boulevard, and both locations of Whole Foods.

                    1. re: MPH

                      I've found the best selection of Vosges bars at Grapevine and Whole Foods Downtown. The one up north doesn't carry them (I've checked several times), Central Market carries a limited selection at times, Therapy carries some of them, and I'll have to hit the other places to check.
                      I went to one of their company stores when I was up in Chicago a couple weeks ago and picked up some Vosges truffles and hot chocolate mix. Both were excellent (I had the white chocolate and olive truffle among several which is superior to their similar chocolate bar), and I have been looking for the full range of their chocolate bars here since I got back. Most places carry 2,3 or 4 varieties but not the full complement.

                      Thanks for the tip... I'll check out the other places.

                      While I don't think CM cupcakes are the best, I've pretty much given up trying to find a decent cupcake in this city. I've yet to find a place that consistently has a good cake and icing/frosting. I mostly just make my own nowadays.

                      1. re: shan

                        Speaking of cupcakes, shan, I just had a fairly good one (chocolate cake with chocolate frosting) at Sweetish Hill. The mountain of frosting was soft and sweet, the cake decent. By "fairly good," I mean noticeably better than the one from Central Market, about which I posted above. I'm going to retry the SH cupcake later this week and will repost if my rating was influenced more by comparison with the truly horrid CM version than by actual deliciousness.

                        Although they are not necessarily filled with chocolate, Sweetish Hill's tart crusts still look great but taste awful: They have no flavor, and the texture is neither flaky nor buttery. I guess they expect us to be thrilled that the tart shells are not tough as hell, but that's not enough. A good crust is Baking 101, people!

                2. re: Carter B.

                  I've tried a couple of new Austin chocolates/places recently so I thought I'd add an update.

                  I've seen a few references (including this thread) to Arte y Chocolate and so I checked bought some at the Armadillo Bizarre. It was a strange setup because even though their website clearly shows truffles they seemed to be selling mostly barks (flavored and not) and the barks seemed to mostly bagged (or boxed) of broken pieces. My impression is these guys are selling to others to repackage and their stuff at the bizarre was leftovers. Still I bought a peppermint pecan and a chocolate with nibs barks and found the flavors pretty good. The lady said they were using Valrhona and they seem to focus on their designs (hence the "arte"?). Anyway, I won't ever seek them out but it was decent chocolate.

                  We had a fabulous meal at Uchi last week and their dessert of the week was a beyond amazing layered chocolate mouse "cake" with lemon ice creaming. The chocolate flavor was superb and the ice cream was a great compliment. The best chocolate dessert I've had in Austin. Alas, I think they change their desserts week to week.

                  The local paper mentioned a new chocolate shop in the Domain called "Viva Chocolato!" and we stopped by today after a yummy pizza at Oakville Grocery. The truffle case looks impressive but alas my two initial truffles were lacking in freshness. They have truffles from Europe (including Cluizel which I've never enjoyed despite my love of his chocolate bars) as well as Texas. It seems they may even be selling Arte chocolate bars that I mentioned above. None the less, the first two truffles (I bought about 10 total) were lackluster and I fear disappointment with the rest of the set. The place does sell packaged bars including at least one "Amedei" bar--I haven't seem them since Grapevine stopped carrying them a while back. They also sell Amano chocolates which are an American chocolate with a growing reputation (the Ocumare is considered the best). They also sell Cluizel tasting bars which is a great way to introduce yourself to his single origins bars (Specs sells the full bars if you find a flavor for you). The store also has a gelato case, crepes and wine bar.

                  1. re: Carter B.

                    Viva Chocolato is definitely chocoholic heaven. I just picked out 5 truffles, though I haven't eaten any yet, so I can't comment on the freshness.

                    I saved my truffles for later because I also indulged in their chocolate chipotle gelato while I was there. It's sweet, creamy, and packs just the perfect amount of heat that makes you perk up but won't leave you gasping for a glass of water.

                    1. re: llamapyjamas

                      I'm interested to know what you think about the truffles. I went in the other day, but I passed on the truffles because if I'm going to spend 2 bucks a truffle they better be darned amazing. I've been disappointed by alot of chocolate lately and I wasn't in the mood to be disappointed again.

                3. Twill,

                  I can’t believe you dug up that old thread! After all this time, I still prefer to smuggle in my chocolate truffles from out of town.

                  By the way, in addition to Carter B’s impressive overview of the chocolate scene, there are a lot of good posts on this subject on General Chowhounding Topics:

                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/342953

                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/337527

                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/361028

                  Dallas-based chowhound Scott is quite the chocolate connoisseur. He has quite a few reports on chocolate on his website (www.dallasfood.com ).

                  Since I posted the message that you linked to, I’ve been trying chocolate desserts all over town. I’m sorry to report that I still haven’t found one that’s chocolatey enough for me.

                  I agree that most chocolate desserts in town, from both bakeries and restaurants, don’t taste like chocolate because they don’t use high-quality chocolate; or they don’t use enough good chocolate; or they employ bad technique; or they use bad recipes. I do like the chocolate-malt cake from the Backstage Steakhouse (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/380863 ). A couple of people who've also tried it have commented, more or less, “It’s just a cake.” It is nothing more than a chocolate cake, but it’s a good chocolate cake that tastes like it was made from melted solid chocolate, of good quality, and then baked to perfection and topped with a frosting that tastes like something. . . specifically, something good (in this case, malt). That’s more than I can say for the [room-temperature] chocolate cakes I recently tried at Russell’s. I appreciate the labor that went into the fine product at the Backstage Steakhouse because I make special-occasion cakes the same way, using the best ingredients that I can find. It’s much easier to just use a cake mix, which can make it seem like any cake that's made from scratch must be good. Yet not all chocolate cakes and desserts are truly delicious.

                  Of course, in a perfect world, I’d prefer a decadent chocolate tart or torte or soufflé or flourless cake or soup. You get the idea. However, I haven’t found a great version of any of these, despite trying the richest-sounding chocolate dessert on the menu everywhere I go—including the restaurants Wink, Jeffrey’s, the Driskill Grill, Hudson’s on the Bend, Cafe Josie, Castle Hill, Bistro 88, and Cafe 909, and the bakeries Sweetish Hill and Upper Crust.

                  I look forward to trying some of the chocolate desserts recommended here, especially the Miles of Chocolate brownies. I have already checked out the chocolate-covered coffee beans sold at the downtown farmer’s market. I thought they tasted like adult-marketed M&M’s, which is to say, I didn’t care for the quality of the chocolate coating.

                  I don’t like Z’Tejas not because it’s a chain, but because, in my opinion, it’s a bad chain that sells mostly mediocre food. However, as part of a chowhounding mission, I would brave the inner circle of hell itself—at least long enough to get my hands on really good chocolate and then get the heck out of there. Maybe I’ll try the ancho-chile brownie at Z'Tejas this weekend.

                  I’m glad to hear that you tried Jacques Torres on your last visit to NYC. I like JT’s “wicked” hot-chocolate mix and some of his truffles. When the weather gets cooler (like November), order an assortment from L.A. Burdick, based in New England. I think I love their chocolates most of all. If you’re ever in NYC in the fall, you must try the hot chocolate at City Bakery. And Payard’s chocolate tarts. In Park Slope, the sandwich shop spin-off of Tempo (Tempo Presto) sells delicious brownies.

                  I’m a former Sloper myself, and I’ve noticed that there are quite a few ‘hounds who used to live in NYC. Maybe next time one of us Austin hounds is traveling to NYC or Boston, he or she could weave in a brief heads-up to an Austin-centered post on this board. That way, we transplants can chime in with out-of-town tips, too. On the appropriate boards, of course. I’m sure the Outer Boroughs and Manhattan ‘hounds, for example, would be most amused by us.

                  Best,
                  MPH

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: MPH

                    I had a good chocolate souffle once at the Four Seasons. However, I'm not a souffle expert so take this with a grain of salt. But, if eating there, give it a try.

                    1. re: ashes

                      I like the chocolate cake at Mirabelle, and I dont like chocolate cake as a rule. This one is not for sharing, make your companions order their own.

                    2. re: MPH

                      Have you had the Jack Daniels Chocolate Pecan Pie at Backstage, and, if so, what did you think?

                      1. re: Twill

                        Now that I think of it, I did have their chocolate-pecan pie. This hybrid must be harder to pull off than one would think. It tasted like an average pecan pie with chocolate flavor—not a deep, rich chocolate, but there was enough to mask the corn-syrup taste of most pecan-pie fillings. The Jack Daniels flavor wasn't pronounced. Granted, this was more than a year ago, but I was quite sure afterwards that this dessert didn't make my "best pecan pie" list, let alone my much more important “best chocolate” one.

                        Thanks to your thread, I really wanted chocolate tonight, but all the good options were closed. Someone mentioned the Roaring Fork below, but their lava brownie just doesn’t do it for me (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/353192 ). Here's hoping that tomorrow will be a good chocolate day!

                        1. re: MPH

                          I note from an earlier post of yours that you had tried some of the other desserts (pies and such) at Backstage, so I assumed that this included the JDCPP. I'll meet you in the middle and say that I really enjoyed this particular version, though I'll agree that there was no real evidence of Jack Daniels in the slice we had either. What made it better IMO was the shortbread crust; there was something synchronistic about the combination of the oozing smoky sweet chocolate melding with the texture of the pecans and the rustic muted sweetness of the crust. We really enjoyed the Chocolate Malt cake as I well expected from your previous toutings, but when we saw the Pecan Pie, we felt compelled (despite the extensive meal we had) to order both. Not that it was a paramount "chocolate" experience, but rather it was a memorable dessert event (though possibly due as much to the combo as to the individual dishes themselves).

                          BTW, we were fortunate enough to hap into Bill as our server, and he lived up to every bit of your prior "bill"ings.

                          1. re: Twill

                            Glad to hear that you had an enjoyable dinner experience at the Backstage, Twill. I'll have to give the chocolate-pecan pie another try the next time I'm there.

                            By now I have sampled almost all of their desserts, since I've been several times with large groups who like to share chow. I noticed last time that some desserts have changed for the better. For example, the first time I tried their carrot cake, it was just okay; the second and more recent time, I thought it was one of the better carrot cakes I'd had in a while. I think tom in austin really liked it, too, when he was at the Backstage. You've now given me new hope about their (chocolate) pies, too.

                      2. re: MPH

                        I just found this fascinating, extremely well-informed report on the (poor) quality of the locally-produced Kakawa chocolate-covered cocoa beans:

                        http://www.dallasfood.org/modules.php...

                        On a positive note, Valrhona's relatively affordable "baking" chocolate is available at Spec's, and probably also at the high-end grocery-stores in town. Your preferred baking chocolate; Plugra or another European-style high-fat unsalted butter; and eggs (don't add sugar)—That's all you need to create an almost obscenely rich, satisfying version of this chocolate truffle torte from Rose Levy Beranbaum's _Cake Bible_:

                        http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/...

                        So, at least we can make our own "best chocolate" desserts in town. I shouldn't say more about the potential ingredients or preparation of this torte on the Austin board, but you'll find several discussions of it on Home Cooking. There are also informative threads comparing the textural and flavor notes of various baking chocolates on General Chowhounding Topics. Here's one example:

                        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/326259

                        1. re: MPH

                          I know Central Market carries Valrhona baking chocolate in chip/disc form and Dutch cocoa powder in the bulk department, which is vastly more cost-effective than buying the individual bars. The cocoa powder, when I was there, was not visibly labeled Valrhona, only Dutch-process, but when you print the sticker it says so. It's pricey, compared to the regular stuff.

                          I dont know who makes their non-Dutched bulk cocoa powder.

                          1. re: renz

                            Thanks for sharing this info, renz. The bittersweet kind that I like only comes in tablet form. If I used more chocolate, I'd probably purchase it by the 12-bar case or the 1- to 3-kg industrial-sized bloc from an online source with good prices. For anyone who does go through a lot of baking chocolate, there are some good discussions of mail-order sources (including who has the best deals) on General Chowhounding Topics.

                            Best,
                            MPH

                      3. Those JT Key Lime might be one of my favorite things in the world.

                        I'm pretty partial to Christian Constant from Paris, but as I just ran out of my stash, I'm pretty good with Vosges or Lake Champlain.

                        13 Replies
                        1. re: foodiegal71

                          For truly extraoridnary chocoltaes and truffles, try ordering from Woodhouse Chocolate in Napa. Makes Jacques Torres look like See's candy.

                          www.woodhousechocolate.com

                          1. re: Bababooey

                            Back in February, someone did a great price-comparison of chocolate on the Chicago area board:

                            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/374386

                            According to these figures, Woodhouse costs $21 more per pound than Jacques Torres does. Moreover, the price-per-pound excludes shipping charges. As Twill pointed out, at this hot time of the year, you have to pay extra for overnight shipping if you want to increase the possibility that the chocolate will arrive intact. I thought this might be of interest to prospective buyers.

                            Are there any more ideas on good chocolate that’s already available here in Austin?

                            This weekend I tried the ancho-chile-brownie pie at Z’Tejas, and I’m afraid that it wasn’t my cup of chocolate, so to speak. The filling is fudge-like, or like a barely-set, gooey brownie, in texture. There are some scattered walnuts in the filling as well. I couldn’t taste the heat from the ancho chiles. The chocolate wasn’t of awful quality, but it didn’t have enough chocolate intensity for me. Like many brownies, the filling for this pie was sugary, more so than I personally would have liked. The soft crust tasted like salt—plus uncooked flour and Crisco. It was more crumbly than flaky. I think the salt kept it from being completely unpalatable.

                            To me, this might be a decent dessert if I had diminished expectations. It was also the better of the two desserts that I’ve sampled at Z’Tejas. Their cobbler looks and tastes like a big wedge of pie with a mushy crust and undercooked and underseasoned fruit—on that day, apples. Neither a basic butterscotch-like sauce nor the crumb topping could save it.

                            Thus, the search continues for chocolate—available locally—that’s so intense that one bite makes me feel like I’ve momentarily left this earthly plane for a higher level of consciousness. Maybe I’ll try the chocolate soufflé at the Four Seasons next. Thanks for the tip, ashes. The cake at Mirabelle, suggested by travisleroy, will probably be next on my list.

                            1. re: MPH

                              Woodhouse is absolutely worth it...And they only ship overnight. Any choclatier that doesn't insist on overnight shipping must not think too highly of their own work. Freshness matters, regardless of outside temperatures. Woodhouse, by the way, is shipped in a double cooler packed with dry ice. I've had it shipped here, Arizona and Colorado with each shipment arriving very well packaged and still cool.

                              Jacques Torres; chocolate is very innovative and beautiful, but the taste does not hold a candle to Woodhouse. Woodhouse is quite creative and beautiful in it's own right!

                              Anyway, There is no chocolate in Austin that I have come across that even compares with Godiva. Internet ordering is by far the best way to access good chocolate here.

                              1. re: Bababooey

                                Bababooey,

                                I certainly agree that a lot of good chocolate is available via the Internet. There are numerous excellent threads on General Chowhounding Topics that discuss the best of the mail-order sources (Woodhouse and Jacques Torres are only two of many chocolatiers). I’ve linked to some of these threads above.

                                Twill's OP [original post] on this board specifically asks about the best chocolate that's available locally, not by mail.

                                Best,
                                MPH

                                1. re: MPH

                                  Unfortunately, there is no good chocolate in Austin, unless it has been sent via FedEx to your doorstep from a purveyor outside the state - just as Twill wrote in his OP [original post].

                                  1. re: Bababooey

                                    Unless one's tastes consider all chocolates to be of equal quality, from wheat-free brownies to Hershey's milk chocolate to Valrhona bittersweet to Roscar truffles, then it should be possible to select one or more chocolate preparations as the best available in Austin from the array one has tried so far. (In a similar vein, people can recognize a best among Austin pizzas while stating that no pizza in Austin lives up to his or her standards.) It would be great if I were able to consider See's the equivalent of Jacques Torres, since I actually see See's in Austin from time to time.

                                    In Austin, I concur with Carter B. that Valrhona bars have among the best available flavor in a bar, and I have been alternating between that and Scharfen Berger for cooking desserts at home. I have yet to find a dessert in Austin that fulfills a chocolate craving, but if I find one among the recommendations that are coming in, I'll be sure to chime in.

                                    I do find myself ordering chocolates from afar when I need good truffles (partially because I trust the quality of my sources, and partially because I have not made enough effort to try all the chocolates Austin has to offer), but that does not help when a sudden craving hits. I suspect the Austin market would not keep in business a shop that received daily shipments from the great chocolatiers of the world, but maybe someone should try it.

                                    This thread did inspire me to try some truffles from the local Roscar ( http://roscar.com ), which yimay mentioned above. They have some beautiful bonbons, but I struck to the truffles on this visit. In fact I've only tried two varieties so far, but I'd suggest that those who are open to a little experimenting give them a try. I'm impressed with their dedication to dark chocolate. (They'll only coat bonbons in milk or white chocolate for special orders.)

                                    Since this thread started out talking about chocolate, without mentioning inventive fillings that can be combined with it, the truffle I sampled first was the “Pure Cocoa Soul”. Be cautious as you bring this one near your face: it's far too easy to breathe in some of the cocoa powder. Within the thick dusting is a solid dark-chocolate wall surrounding about a one-inch sphere of dark ganache. I can't say it had the most intense chocolate flavor I've ever tasted, but the cocoa kept it from being overly sweet, and I was left with a lingering flavor of dark chocolate that I had not found locally.

                                    I also tried the “Lime-Tequila-Jalapeño” truffle, of the same size, and coated on the outside with sliced almonds. I tried this, recommended by the salesperson as their fastest seller, with some trepidation. Often the most popular is representative of the lowest common denominator. In this case, it was an interesting combination that I would not mind trying again. The filling tasted something like a key-lime pie, but as I savored it, a little jalapeño kicked in to keep it from being too cloying. I'm sure there's tequila in there somewhere, but the flavor did not stand out.

                                    I'm thinking I need to pay Roscar some more attention. Their flavors are fresher and more intense than either the Lake Champlain or house-brand chocolates I've tried from the Whole Foods candy case. I'll need to try some of the others that have been mentioned, as well. Even now, though, I can say that to my tastes, there is good, if not great, chocolate in Austin.

                                    1. re: Knoblauch

                                      Nice fieldwork, Knoblauch. Your report is appreciated, as I am regularly in the vicinity of Breed & Co. I did some research, too, but I had less luck. After my first post on this thread, I remembered that I’d enjoyed some kind of chocolate dessert at the Shoreline Grill on a visit to Austin in 2003 and then again in 2004 (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/38107... ). Intent on investigating, some accomplices and I checked out all of TSG’s dark-chocolate offerings.

                                      The “chocolate intemperance” consisted of a layer of cold, hard “ganache” over granular chocolate mousse. The bottom layer or crust was a mediocre-to-decent, dry chocolate brownie. I wondered about the freshness of this dessert on my visit. Ultimately, this “intemperance” wasn’t intensely or extremely chocolaty. It was mild and well-behaved. While not as bad as many versions of same that I like to call by the name of “chocolate indifference,” this wasn’t the holy grail that we’ve all been searching for. I don’t know if the Shoreline Grill has recently changed pastry chefs or suppliers, but this wasn't as good as I recalled.

                                      The other dessert sampled was a molten chocolate cake that bore an unnerving resemblance to a Ding Dong. It was slightly overcooked: The edges were drier than they usually are with similar offerings, and there was less melted chocolate in the middle. FYI: The cake itself is raspberry-chocolate, which some people love and some people hate. No trio of sauces were served with it , despite what the online menu stated; it just came with a raspberry sauce. There are so many bad restaurant-versions of this dessert (many of which are "freshly made" from cake mixes) that it’s almost time to ban it from the face of the planet.

                                      The “intemperance” was the better of the two. It’s also slightly above the pack compared to other versions in town. But both the flavor of the chocolate and its cacao content were lacking.

                                      Since the accompanying vanilla-bean créme anglaise [like whipped cream] and strawberries actually tasted good, perhaps TSG would do a good strawberry shortcake. Of course, I have no evidence that they can make good shortcake, so you might want to bring your own cake.

                                      So, that’s one more report on locally-available chocolate desserts. By the way, thanks for the tip [right below this post], scrumptiouschef, on the chocolates made by the barista at Azul. We can always trust you to sniff out good stuff that no one else knows about!

                                      1. re: Knoblauch

                                        I have finally remembered to try the Roscar chocolates at Breed's and I got all bon bons no truffles (which seemed to be mostly filled with liquors which I find dreadful with chocolate). I've sampled so far the basil and mint and am quite impressed by his quality and flavors. The chocolate is thin and of top quality and the flavoring is smooth and strong. Prices can't be beat at $1.25 a bon bon. I will be back (again and again). I can't fathom why his stuff is sold at Breed's and not a more food oriented venue.

                                2. re: MPH

                                  MPH,Roll by Azul on Cesar Chavez...one of the baristas has a side business[La Perla]making bon bons...this young lady has her game face on when it comes to chocolate.

                                  1. re: scrumptiouschef

                                    I was at Azul recently and didn't see any tasty chocolate treats but nor was I really looking. Are they on that counter/wall between the kitchen and dining area?

                                  2. re: MPH

                                    I should have mentioned the gooey brownie portion about the dessert, it's definitely not a pie and the crust (and whipped cream) are pretty forgettable. But I think the chocolate taste is strong and the chili accents help intensify the taste in a way that the spicy Vosges bars try but fail because of too much chili. Even the Torres spicy hot chocolate has too much chili for me to taste the chocolate, but I love its ultra-smoothness (which comes from corn starch as best I can tell from the ingredients list).

                                    This has been a great thread really uncovering all the choices--even though no one has found anything spectacular, Thanks, Twill for starting it.

                                    [Edit, whoops, I meant for this to be in reply to MPH's Z'Tejas brownie experience above]

                                    1. re: Carter B.

                                      Thank you, Carter, for getting this off to a great start. I'm happy this thread progressed as it did; the expansive and considered posts are going to make for a nice one-stop reference point for me (and hopefully others). I wouldn't claim to be nearly as knowledgeable as the likes of you, MPH, Knoblauch or the others, so your thoughts are providing interesting criticism, great suggestions and much desired insight into all things chocolate. If nothing else, I feel like it's held our notable Hound's feet to the fire w/r/t fulfilling the original, if long dormant, pledge. ;)

                                      1. re: Twill

                                        And how! I feel like I've been eating nothing but chocolate the past few days. I have you to thank for that, Twill (and Carter B., Knoblauch, and many more).

                                        After trying the Z'Tejas pie, Carter, I looked up your old posts about this dessert and noticed your caveat about the crust. In the span of a few days, I've sampled this pie and the chocolate desserts at the Shoreline Grill. I have to say that the Z'Tejas brownie-filing had more (but not enough!) chocolate flavor; in comparison, it was more satisfying. I can see why you like it. I'll give this dessert another try at some point in the future. But I will not be eating any other food from Z'Tejas. [More on my lackluster brunch experience at a later date.]

                                        Best,
                                        MPH

                              2. On a related note, the wife and I have attended the special chocolate event right before Valentine's day at the Texas Culinary Academy on Burnett Rd for the past 2 years. Here is the link to last years press release: http://www.tca.edu/press/press_07_cho...

                                Both years were quite fun and interesting. 2 years ago, there were a lot of local chocolate candy makers as well as several local vendors. I was able to sample at least 20 different chocolate candies. However, the setup and lack of crowd control made it a little difficult to get around.

                                Last year, there were only a couple of vendors present, but the students prepared many different types of chocolate desserts to sample. Truffles, candies, cakes, brownies and many other delicious things. I actually ate so much chocolate that I couldn't stand to eat another bite(I know, I didn't think it was possible either).

                                I recommend checking it out next year if they have it again.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: ssouth

                                  Decades ago, the only question about chocolate dessert in Austin was whether you ate chooclate cake at the Drisklill's 1866 Room or Pecan St. which I think are both still around--I always liked Pecan St. better. Now molten chocolate cake is pretty ubiquitous; I've had good versions at Wink and Zoot though not lately. My local preference is dark chocolate ice cream at Amy's with hot fudge sauce.
                                  As for local chocolate makers. I think Chocolate Expressons is still in business and they make a good raspberry truffle along with other flavors.
                                  As for mail order, See's Chocolates are still pretty awesome (this U.S. company won blind tastings against European chocolates) and it's much more affordable. (I highly recommend their chocolate and raspberry creams, butterscotch chew, appricot and tipperary bonbons) As for European front, I have just discovered the Belgian company Galler (biscuit and cafe noir bars are excellent, but the latter is only availble in Europe). I found the biscuit flavor on Amazon at chocolatesource. An old standby, available at most stores is Lindt's raspberry filled milk chocolate bar, much better than Lindt's more recent raspberry truffle. Lindt's dark chocolate truffles, also widely available are some of the best truffles I've eaten.

                                2. There's almost nothing better than a fantastic chocolate dessert. As far as packaged treats from a local market, my hands-down favorite is Miles of Chocolate. It is sinfully rich, flavorful and gooey. It's a cross between a brownie, fudge and truffle filling. I've bought Miles of Chocolate from Whole Foods, Central Market and Grapevine Market. I also recommend Butter's Brownies. My favorite local truffle is sold at Gardens on 35th Street. I can't remember the name of the truffle maker, but Gardens is possibly the only location in town that sells them. I've tried Chicago chocolatier Vosges and enjoy their curry truffles and chocolate bars, but it doesn't compare to the local chocolate available. SXUL chocolate isn't bad. Brown Paper Chocolates have really fun and unique flavors, but it is a drier hard chocolate and isn't as satisfying as others.

                                  Ive had a lot of chocolate desserts around town and the chocolate brownie at Roaring Fork (basically a molton chocolate cake) with ice cream and caramel is excellent. The molton chocolate cake at Roy's and Flemings (served with actual real whipped cream) is also very good, but I generally try to recommend local restaurants over chains.

                                  I had the chocolate chip cookie cake at Cru, and it was good but not amazing.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: ls29

                                    Miles of Chocolate is so incredibly delicious, my fave packaged chocolate!!! and i really enjoy Butters brownies as well. i've had the Zen (w/ ginger) and the Aztec God (chipotle) flavors. yum! Vosges is pretty good, just b/c of the unique flavor combos. i made a Ginger-Wasabi Chocolate cake (from epicurious) that was inspired by their truffles - very tasty.

                                    i've sampled Brown Paper Chocolates, at the Sunset Valley farmer's market and at Central Market. They are good enough, but i am SOOOOO turned off because BOTH times that i've tried them, the owner guy looked at me like i was homeless or something because i asked for a sample (it's what he was doing - giving out samples). i could let it go the first time, but twice!?? i assure you i am a functioning member of society with a job and a house, but i wanted to strangle that a-hole the second time he looked down his nose at me. i'll never buy that crap just because of that. (i'm not bitter, right?) =)

                                    1. re: ls29

                                      The truffles that you are thinking of at Gardens are Wiseman House chocolates (made locally in the Hill Country). They are fantastic and definitely my favorite local chocolate. I am not ashamed to say that I ate the entire box by myself. I have also seen the truffles sold individually at Oakville Grocery in the Domain.

                                    2. We had some great choclate truffles the other night at Cork & Co provided by Truffles by Trish. The flavor and texture was unlike any truffle I have ever had, it was very light and almost pudding cakey in the middle. It was intense and rich and not cloyingly sweet. I would highly recommend them as a great taste of chocolate, but if you decide to indulge don't get caught up in the name, as I would not consider these tasty treats to be truffles. Her Website is www.trufflesbytrish.com if you would rather not hit up the wine bar for a taste.

                                      1. I went on a chocolate search around town to a few easily accessible places - Whole Foods, HEB, Central, Grapevine, Specs, etc.

                                        The general standards in the industry are El Rey and Callebaut, and for good reason. I will say that from a bakers point of view, Callebaut is the gold standard.

                                        However, I was specifically sent on a mission by someone to find something else besides those two. I tried Whole foods. Nothing. Apparently they are caught up into other issues rather than variety of good chocolate. They didn't even have Scharfen Berger.

                                        So, I ended up going to my default market three bloks from home - Central Market. Why did I even try anywhere else? Not only did they actually have SB, El Rey, Valhrona, and Callebaut in bulk chunks/bars (much more affordable, for those that use lots of chocolate), but they also had two non-standard brands.

                                        Cutting to the point, go to Central Market and buy the Caro dark chocolate. At the original central location, the display is located near the cheese counter. The chocolate has a deep flavor with a slight bit of spice that just intensifies the chocolate. No waxiness at all, unlike other brands. Importantly, it maintains the flavor throughout baking, not losing that intense flavor like those 68% cocoa levels of Valhrona or El Rey.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: austinethos

                                          I'm prone to ragging on Whole Foods, but I must differ on their chocolate section: really, Dagoba is quite good, and that Chocolove isn't too bad. They also have some dark El Rey and Valrhona in "bulk" presentation.

                                          Two plugs I'd like to make I haven't seen on this thread: Equal Exchange makes an outstanding Very Dark Chocolate (71%), however, I only have ever seen it at Ten Thousand Villages, and the one time I got it there, it had "bloom" on it (i.e. overexposed to heat). Another option is Anderson & Co., which of course not only has the best coffee in town (if not the continent), has recently increased their selection of chocolate including single origin and "vintage"--the latter being a bit of a weird idea to me, though the selections I have purchased have all been incredible, a bit on the pricey side ($4-5/bar), yet thankfully with none of that nasty "old chocolate" flavor one might associate from bad hershey kisses found in one's Halloween trick or treating bag as a child.

                                          1. re: austinethos

                                            Come now. I'm guessing you didn't ask anyone at WF about Sharffen Berger. They have it in the same aisle with packaged nuts and candy, with the big bars on the bottom shelf. They do make it confusing to find and compare all the chocolate they carry, but they have a fair variety in there somewhere.

                                            1. re: Knoblauch

                                              I did ask people at Whole Foods - several people actually. The one up north (Gateway) has a very limited selection.

                                              Also, I would hope that certain stores would carry more bulk options, since you can easily go through 2-3 lbs in one day making truffles for friends and family. I would hate to pay for good chocolate by the single bar. Perhaps this is a reason why it's good to shop online.

                                            2. re: austinethos

                                              I just want to reiterate, since there may be confusion, that the Valrhona bulk pieces (available at Central Market and other places) are *different from* some of their chocolate that's only available in bars (carried at Spec's and other local stores). The bulk disc/chips may be bittersweet, with a similar cacao content, but it's not the same chocolate. Thus, going for the better price is, in this case, going for a different product.

                                              While some dismiss any brand but their preferred one, it's not always that simple. There is a wide range of opinion, from chefs as well as experienced home cooks all around the country, about the best chocolates for baking. Here are links to some of the debates:

                                              http://www.latimes.com/features/print...

                                              http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article...

                                              http://www.nytimes.com/2003/12/03/din...

                                              Personally, since no pastry chef in town has produced a rich chocolate dessert that's truly blown me away (and none that I even enjoyed, when the kitchen used predominantly El Rey chocolate), I tend to buck the "conventional wisdom" and experiment with chocolate of different textures, acidity, sweetness, and flavors.

                                            3. If any of you chocolate lovers hasn't tried Miles of Chocolate "brownies" you should waste no more time. Calling them brownies is actually close to an injustice - there's no flower to dry them out, and no nuts to get in the way. So gooey, decadent and delicious...

                                              They're found at CM and Grapevine Market, in the refrigerated bakery section. They are the Most. Amazing. Chocolate. Dessert. Ever.

                                              1. My husband bought some espresso ganache bonbons from Arte y Chocolate at the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar. My mother in law loved them and asked us to get more.

                                                1. I had heard rumors of this because I work in the area, but I just found the first official confirmation. Teuscher chocolates is opening a store in downtown Austin. I've had their chocolates several times in New York and in San Francisco, and I think they are excellent. Here's their website, which confirms their plans to open: www.teuscheraustin.com I'm excited about it, but have no idea when or where they are actually opening. All the website says is that it will be in the second st. district.

                                                  1. The best chocolate truffles I've ever had, Austin or elsewhere, are Edi's Chocolates, and I've eaten my fair share of gourmet truffles. Handmade truffles using only high quality dark Belgium chocolate; in particular, her coffee truffles are incredible. She sells them Saturday mornings at the Sunset Farmer's Market in south Austin for $20/dozen.

                                                    1. Has anyone tried the new chocolate place at the Domain - Viva Chocolato? (http://www.vivachocolato.com/)

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: moosy

                                                        We stumbled onto Viva Chocolato at the Domain last night...my SO had a tiramisu gelato,that he loved. I had a chocolate mint truffle. It was OK, not the best I've ever had, but it was creamy (although I'd bet they had been there awhile). But it satisfied my chocolate craving. I would go back again and try some of the chocolate dipped fruit and the bark next time. I hope they stay around, it's a nice addition to the area, and perfect for a quick, easy after dinner sweet!

                                                        1. re: dc2austin

                                                          You MUST try the truffles from Wiseman House Chocolates (available at Gardens)! They are handmade in the tiny Texas Hill Country town of Hico. I simply love their dark Belgian chocolate truffle: the Wild Woman!

                                                      2. This thread seems a little old but I thought I would mention that ChocoSutra just opened up behind Thom's market on Barton Springs Rd. It's a food trailer dedicated to chocolate.