sweet sweet visit to chocolate chocolate

AS furry residents posing with their favorite bon bons from the shop.

Chocolate Chocolate!

So good, you have to say it twice🙂.

Some of you may remember when I reviewed Chocolate Chocolate: The True Story of Two Sisters, Tons of Treats, and the Little Shop That Could (Thomas Dunne Books, 2011), and interviewed co-authors Frances Park and Ginger Park. We rhapsodized about half-moon buttercream dreams, le bouchon, chocolate covered pretzels and dark almond bark.

We learned how Frances and Ginger opened Washington, D.C.’s, first independent, high-end sweet shop featuring decadent delights from all over the world. We met some of their most memorable customers and marveled at how they launched their writing careers on a rented Selectric typewriter in the store’s tiny backroom.

Most important, we reinforced our staunch belief that writers and chocolate naturally go together — the creamy, dreamy combination seems to create magic in its wake, forging lifelong friendships, steeling sisterly bonds, and inspiring award-winning books.

You may also remember that Chocolate Chocolate was my hands-down favorite food memoir of 2011. I gave everyone I could think of a copy for Christmas, and I gave my brother’s family a copy when I visited them in Hawai’i last November.

Well. My 13-year-old niece Julia absolutely loved the book and shared it with her friends. Going to Chocolate Chocolate and meeting Frances and Ginger was at the top of her must-do list when she visited us in Virginia recently.

Julia loves reading, writing, blogging, and chocolate!!

I don’t know who was more excited! I’d never been to the shop either, though I’d met Francie and Ginger at two library events.

Julia and Francie!

We got there shortly after the store opened Saturday morning and was sorry to hear Ginger wouldn’t be in since she wasn’t feeling well. But we were greeted warmly by Francie and the famous Koomo, store manager extraordinaire, who is known for his quirky charm, funky neckties, shot glass collection, hot pepper plants and ramblings in Middle English. (Ladies, he’s even more adorable in person.)

“Ther nys no thyng superlatif as lyveth . . . “

Julia and I were beside ourselves, snapping photos left and right and making hard decisions about which chocolates to sample and/or purchase. Familiar favorites like Lake Champlain and Neuhaus beckoned alongside exquisitely presented collections by Michel Cluizel and Laderach. No chocolate snobbery to speak of with a nice balance of nostalgic favorites (marshmallow pillows, pecan turtles, non-pareils, English toffee, mint meltaways).

You can also purchase all the Park Sisters’ books here!

What’s your pleasure? A hand-selected box of bon bons, a darkest of the dark bittersweet chocolate bar, maybe a big bag of chocolate covered espresso beans or raisins from one of the plastic bins? It’s all about your mood that specific day — childhood nostalgia or an artisan brand?

Lillie Belle Farms artisan chocolates!

Well. I was most curious to try a few pieces from Lillie Belle Farms of Oregon. I’d read about hippie chocolatier Jeff Shepherd via the Chocolate Chocolate Facebook Page. He grows all his own marionberries, raspberries, strawberries and boysenberries, etc., on his organic family farm in Southern Oregon and sources fair-trade chocolates from all over the world for his scrumptious award-winning artisan creations.

They’re touted as some of the best chocolates in America and, *wait for it* — they’ve even been on the tour buses of Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Steely Dan, and, *BE STILL MY HEART!*, ♥Bob Dylan♥ (tangled up in Blue Berry Bon Bons).

*dies*

Where was I? Oh yes, Lillie Belle. Naturally I didn’t know which ones to pick so I asked Koomo for advice. “You must try a Lavender Caramel . . . Boysenberry Buttercup. Strawberry Passion Fruit Buttercup. Jamaican Spiced Caramel.”  Julia and I thought the Raspberry Cordial Butterflies were pretty so I also got two of those.

Lillie Belle goodies. Lavender Caramel, center.

O.M.G.! I’ve always loved raspberries and I’ve had other raspberry filled chocolates before. But these were so, sooooo good! What you really notice is the fresh fruit taste, truly a symphony of flavor, perfect sweetness, just rich enough. Definitely in my top 3 of all time!

BUT. My absolute favorite is the Lavender Caramel. This took me by surprise. Unlike some of the other beautifully handpainted pieces, this caramel, a modest, unassuming little dark square topped with Fleur de Sel salt, doesn’t need a fancy calling card to call attention to itself. One bite, and you know you’ve just tasted the best caramel on the planet. The lavender infusion is perfection, a very subtle note with big impact. I know I am sometimes prone to exaggeration (who, me?), but this is truly THE BEST. You MUST try one — both Oprah and Martha Stewart have given it the nod as well as Sunset Magazine, which deemed it “the best of the West.” NOM!

Baci Kisses!

Meanwhile, Julia grew giddy spotting the bin of Baci Kisses, which she’d read about in Chapter One: “Starry foil wraps velvety dark chocolate around a creamy hazelnut nugget and a love note to remember.”

Seduce a future editor with dark chocolate orange peel!
House Truffles to die for.

Also exciting was trying the dark chocolate orange peel, a favorite of the National Geographic Editor who walked into the shop one day, went nuts over the orange peel, learned F&G were writers, and commissioned their first picture book (Goodbye, 382 Shin Dang Dong). (Yes, the stuff of fairy tales!) Julia and her mom also got some chocolate covered pretzels and naturally couldn’t leave the shop without a box of Ginger’s House Truffles — you should have been there for the squealing and swooning when they first tasted them at home. Both pronounced those handmade, homemade truffles as the best piece of chocolate they’d ever had in their entire lives.

Julia, her brother Jared and her Dad (cookie monster) check out all the deliciousness.

Now, Julia wants to visit Virginia every summer and Christmas, meet Ginger and her husband Skip, work part-time at Chocolate Chocolate, and egads — she plans to buy property adjoining ours and build a house with a connecting tunnel — so whenever the mood strikes, she can pop over, help me bake cookies, play with Cornelius and Hatley, and of course, EAT MORE CHOCOLATE!

Sigh. We read, we saw, we tasted. Chocolate Chocolate is pure magic, I tell you. Like walking into a dream, only it’s divinely real.

* * *

Personalized dark pralines from Swiss Laderach.

Chocolate Chocolate DC
1130 Connecticut Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20036
Toll Free: 888-466-2190
Order Online or by phone. Nationwide shipping.
**Learn more about the Park Sisters’ books at their Official Website.

Enjoy this cool video produced by Voice of America:

* * *

Thank you so much, Francie and Koomo! We missed you Ginger, but look forward to seeing you next time🙂.

♥ My review of Chocolate Chocolate is here.
♥ My Chocolate Chat with Frances and Ginger is here.

Oh, did I mention the Lavender Fleur de Sel Caramels?

Mmmmmmmmmmmmm!

* * * * *

This post is being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food-related posts (recipes, fiction/nonfiction/cookbook/movie reviews, photos, and musings, etc.). Come join the fun and check out all the deliciousness!

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Copyright © 2012 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

44 thoughts on “sweet sweet visit to chocolate chocolate

  1. I’m a big fan of Frances, Ginger, their wonderful shop, and their delightful books. How lovely to see them all featured here. And Koomo, too! It looks like Julie and your bears had a great time.

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    1. We all loved the shop and seeing Francie and Koomo and all those chocolates!! There are so few retail businesses that “feel like home” to their customers.

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  2. Sometimes when I wake up in the morning, it takes me a while to recharge the old battery. Thank you so much, Jama, for making this morning so easy to rise and shine! You’ve captured the true essence of CC in this wonderful post! Like chocolate – you’re magic, Jama! I only wish I wasn’t too sick to make it in to meet your precious Julie. As you said – next time. xoxoxoxo

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    1. Julia has vowed to return very soon — we’ll be sure to get together with you next time. I think a few Lavender Caramels will get those juices flowing🙂.

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  3. What a beautifully written piece. You captured the magic of both the store and the people behind the scenes. CC is a magical place and Francie, Ginger, Koomo, and Skip are special people who go out of their way to extend themselves to others. My 10 year old is planning a move and planning to work at CC as well!! Well done!

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    1. Thanks for the lovely comment, Anita! I think your daughter and Julia would get along great. The CC family is a rare breed — good feelings radiate like ripples in the water :)!

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      1. I agree Jama.. they are a special breed in a society where people can be so uncaring. Hope to meet you and Julia sometime!

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  4. Love this entry! Love Chocolate Chocolate, Francie and Ginger. Love Koomo, all the chocolates (especially the ones I’ve eaten!), and the welcoming atmosphere of their store. What a wonderful job you did with the words and photos in this story.

    Keep writing…

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  5. What’s my pleasure? Um, three dozen of the raspberry cordials and and few dozen more of the blood orange, please.

    To start.🙂

    ‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.

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    1. Three dozen raspberry cordials? Wow, you’ve got a mighty appetite. Blood oranges or orange peel? Lillie Belle does make a blood orange bon bon. Not sure who makes the orange peel.

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  6. After reading about the Parks on your blog last time, I got their book, and then lent it to my mother, who ended up buying her own copy too.
    I would love to go to that store!

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    1. Glad to hear you and your mom liked the book. I know you’re a fellow chocoholic; you’d LOVE the store — which is so much more than a store selling chocolate . . .

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  7. Best post ever! I enjoyed reading this so much🙂 My friend who I shared the book with is sitting right next to me. She wants to go to the shop so badly. “Take me to Chocolate Chocolate RIGHT NOW!”

    Oh btw: I’ve always loved raspberries and raspberry chocolates as well. 😀 I know you’ll get this ^

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    1. Eeeee, forgot to give you one of those butterflies! Too distracted by the orange peel and house truffles. Trust me, they were really really good.🙂

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  8. Late again, but had to say how much fun I had this am reading your chocolatey post, about the visit & being with your niece. How did you manage to have her named Julia? What fun is that! I loved seeing the photos, especially enjoyed the video, Jama. I didn’t know about all the books. Such creative sisters & a wonderful story.

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  9. WIsh I could take even a little credit for Julia’s name. Actually, my great grandmother’s name was Julia🙂.

    Talent, good hearts, graciousness, business savvy — so many good qualities seem to run in the Park family. Hope you read some of their PBs soon!

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  10. Julia will have to fight me off for the chance to work at Chocolate Chocolate! LOL. What an amazing place. I remember your review of their book, but seeing the store in person is definitely swoon-worthy. Thanks for giving me a peek and letting me dream in dark chocolate and rasberries this morning.

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  11. This post made me smile and smile! What a wonderful experience for you and your niece and everyone else involved.

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  12. Oh, this looks fantastic! Maybe even better than Hotel Chocolate, which is one of my favorite chocolate shops (it’s in the UK, maybe also where you are?).

    Lavender is my favorite new ingredient in chocolates, I discovered it only recently. So, ending with those chocolates is so mean of you!🙂

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    1. Hotel Chocolate?! Oh, that sounds very interesting. Hadn’t heard of it — none here in the U.S. as far as I know.

      I hadn’t tried any lavender in chocolates before and I really love it now . . .🙂

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  13. OH. MY. GOODNESS. My mouth is absolutely watering beyond compare right now. What an amazing foodie/chocolate-lovers trip! And I am going to go find that book. Thank you for taking me on that virtual trip (now if only I could reach in and grab those orange peels!).

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  14. You have to excuse me for a moment, because I need to grab a piece of chocolate before I continue… but seriously, this is amazing! So much chocolate, chocolate chocolate even😉 No wonder your niece looks so happy! Lavendar and fleur de sel must be the perfect combination. I have serious chocolate envy right now… I guess I need to get that book.

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    1. Yes, you must read the book! I was surprised at how good the lavender infusion was, and that bit of sea salt really topped everything off so well. Beautiful combination, definitely my favorite caramels ever.

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  15. Lovely post. Interesting to see the Lindt chocolate – they didn’t have my favourite only displayed – A Touch of Salt – if you get a chance to try it, give it a go. Sadly my local supermarket has stopped stocking it – I just hope they are still producing it.

    Have a great week.

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  16. I can’t believe I didn’t know that this shop was in DC! I work downtown and I’ve never been (shame on me…). I shall have to remedy that soon!

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