This is my first year writing for the city guide and I couldn't be more excited. Not only do I get to write about my favorite things, I get to sample all of those things. And it's no secret I have a love for chocolate. These chocolate folks are relative new comers to the Austin food scene and I have chosen my three favorites. We have a bean to bar maker, a retail store, and a wholesaler that is all throughout Austin specialty shops. As you can see from the images, there are quite a variety of chocolates that are produced by these three companies.
I'll start with Srsly Chocolate. They are a bean to bar company. But first, a little background on what bean to bar is. Bob Williamson and his wife Robin Simoneaux-Williamson spend their time roasting fermented cacao beans they receive from the Conacado Cooperative in the Dominican Republic to bring out the chocolate flavor of the beans. Once roasted, they crack the beans to remove the cacao nibs from their husks. The nibs are roughly ground, where over time, they transform into a paste, before getting scooped into a granite stone mill and refined for days. Once it is fluid enough, sugar is added, and then the chocolate is tempered and poured into the molds to make the bars you see here. And I must say I can't wait to do some experimental baking with these bars! You can bet there will be future posts about this chocolate! Currently there are two bar sizes and four varieties of Srsly Chocolates. They have an 84% dark, a 70% dark, an Oaxacan espresso, and a sea salt and almond flavor. They can be found at: Wheatsville Co-Op, Whole Foods, Live Oak Market, and River City Market. You can also order from their website if you don't feel like having a bunch of chocolate in your suitcase to carry home. These two take their chocolate seriously but like to have fun at the same time, which is probably one of my favorite reasons for liking them so much.
Next on my list is Chocolaterie Tessa. Tessa Halstead is no stranger to chocolate. She started working at the age of 14 at her father's chocolate factory where her love of chocolate began, and she has continued to hone her skills over the years. Just within the last year, Tessa has opened up a retail shop. It's a cute little shop in central Austin. Small enough to feel cozy and comfortable, yet large enough to produce large volumes of European style chocolates. Tessa offers all sorts of bonbons with custom flavors like the Italian Cherry, which is whole Amarena cherry macerated in kirsch and buttercream. The Mocha Pyramid, which is coffee ganache enrobed in dark chocolate. And one cannot leave the store without getting the salted caramels. The edible boot is a special for SXSW and makes for a great souvenir at a reasonable price of $25.00 #YUM
The store is open M-F 10-6 and Saturdays 11-4. 7425 Burnet Road, Austin, TX 78757.
And the third chocolate maker is Steve Lawrence of The Chocolate Makers Studio. Steve was my first introduction into Austin chocolates while I was at Le Cordon Bleu. If you are familiar with culinary school, then you know that everyone must do an externship. I spent about eight weeks working with Steve before leaving for America's Test Kitchen. His flavors are creative and the blends of European chocolate that he uses make a great base for his candies. His specialty is bars of chocolates and if you are going to have just one, I'd recommend the cardamom and honey caramel with sea salt bar. Or if you are looking for something Texas themed, you must try his salted brown butter TX Pecan brittle bar. I don't even like Pecans, and I love this bar! You just can't go wrong with those ingredients. Actually I should say, that anything caramel made by Steve is worth your time. Salted caramel, rosemary caramel, etc. Good grief, it's just good stuff. Oh and don't even get me going about his peanut butter and jelly bonbon. If you haven't tried it, it's a must have! He also has drinking chocolates and chocolate sauces. My favorite is the five spice drinking chocolate. Nothing like a thick hot chocolate with just the right amount of spice. Now for the chocolate sauces, the fruit blend is always top on my list when I need something delicious. Put that on ice cream on a hot summer day...DELISH
And there you have it! Best of Austin chocolates for 2015. If you have any other chocolate makers that we missed, please leave a message in the comments and we will be sure to get out and taste them as soon as we can.