At its best, chocolate is everything we want in a deeply satisfying sweet treat. Yes, its richness is soothing and comforting, but the complex flavors and ***image1***chemical properties of chocolate makes us feel alert, alive and in love! Lucky for us, Santa Fe has a heap of places just waiting to give your sweet tooth all that it desires.
One of our favorite destinations for a chocolate fix, this little hideaway serves such good grilled sandwiches and thin-crusted pizzas that we can't resist a little lunch before settling into a piece of their famous Belgian chocolate torte or a plate full of chocolate cream pie. The Ultimate Chocolate Cheesecake should come with a warning label like a pack of cigarettes: Warning! Eating this cheesecake will turn you into a drooling, giggling fool! The Maven's insanely addictive Belgian chocolate fudge and double-decker almond chocolate chip brownies will have you wondering if your pants shrank in the dryer. Give one of their ganache-filled tarts or chocolate pecan pies as a hostess gift and you'll always be invited back.
821 W. San Mateo Ave., 984-1980, www.chocolatemaven.com
The famous chocolate pâté, a dense chocolate block dipped in multicolored layers of wax like psychedelic Gouda, is definitely the most eye-catching of the offerings at the ChocolateSmith. The regular pâté is addictive, but it's even better when flavored with raspberry; orange, cinnamon and chile; Irish cream; peanut butter; or ancho chile powder. It comes in colorful little rectangles as well as hearts, chiles, cacti, cowboy boots and a few other shapes. If you love chocolate with nuts, don't miss ChocolateSmith's crunchy toffee almond bark or the green chile and pistachio bark with dried cranberries. The mountain bark is filled with coconut and cherries and topped with almonds, toffee, coconut and white chocolate. Scrumptious! If you love white chocolate, then you must try their lemon lavender bark. The intense bursts of lavender and lemon are pleasantly mediated and distributed by the creamy white chocolate.
1807 Second St., Ste. 35, 473-2111, www.chocolatesmith.com
Here at the Santa Fe Reporter, we love chewing on Chuck's Nuts almost as much as we expect we'd love sucking on Chef's Chocolate Salty Balls, but when it comes to fudge, Chuck's rich and silky "Oh Fudge!" kicks the imaginary ass of the South Park baker's "I Just Went and Fudged Your Momma" bars. Over at Chuck's Nuts, the double entendres are free, but the fudge costs about $12 per pound. Here, silky, small-batch chocolate fudge mingles with pecans, piñons, dried cherries, espresso beans, walnuts, miniature marshmallows, fresh raspberries and chipotle powder. Chuck's special high-temperature technique ensures that the final product is moist, not dry or grainy. And because he uses only unsweetened dark chocolate, it's never too sweet. There are dozens of flavor combinations in Chuck's repertoire, and although they're not all available at the same time, with enough notice he can have just about anything gift-boxed and shipped.
847 Niñita St., 820-1315, www.chucksnuts.com
Kakawa Chocolate House
Drink your chocolate the old-fashioned way: in the 3,500-year-old style of indigenous Mesoamericans who pounded cacao seeds in giant mortars. At Kakawa, chocoholic Mark Sciscenti faithfully re-creates historical blends of drinking chocolate that will make you forget you ever sipped a cup of Swiss Miss. Most are made with water, although a few contain milk, rice milk or almond milk. His Zapoteca blend is made with nothing more than bittersweet chocolate and water, allowing the fruity, spicy flavor of the cacao to come through. His drinks are sweetened with restrained amounts of agave nectar and/or honey that will please chocolate purists. Sciscenti also makes more than 50 kinds of deliriously rich chocolate truffles in flavors like pomegranate, lavender, goat cheese and chile. One of his most unique creations is called Aphrodite's Nipples: a chocolate aphrodisiac blend of seven herbs, plus tangerine, rosewater, cinnamon, chile and ginger. Kakawa is in the same building as Chuck's Nuts.
847 Niñita St., 982-0388, www.kakawachocolates.com
If you want to send someone a box full of truly Southwestern sweets, check out Señor Murphy. Pick up a few of their bolitas, creamy-crunchy little balls of chocolate fudge dipped in dark chocolate and rolled in ground almonds. Don't miss the Twin Peaks, formed by pressing two roasted almonds (pointy sides up) into a coin of caramel and then dipping it halfway in dark chocolate. Don't like dark chocolate? Try milk chocolate-covered red chile creams. Need nuts? Their chocolate turtles, here called tortugas, are chock-full of piñons or pecans. For most of the year (January-August) the public is invited to take a free, 45-minute tour of the factory and see how all of their candies are made.
100 E. San Francisco St. (in La Fonda Hotel), 982-0461
4250 Cerrillos Road (in Santa Fe Place), 471-8899
1904 Chamisa St. (at the factory), 988-4311
Famous for his silver- and gold-leafed chocolate milagros, chocolatier Hayward Simoneaux stocks ***image2***hundreds of yummy little goodies in a Sena Plaza shop the size of a Whitman's Sampler. Especially popular around Halloween and the Day of the Dead, the milagros come in dozens of designs and range in price from $8 to $26. He also stocks a sweet collection of haute European chocolates like Altman and Khune miniature chocolates and marzipans that come in boxes shaped like steamer trunks and chests of drawers. Others are flavored with tart raspberry and fruity pink peppercorn; apricot and basil; and chile and tangerine. Take particular note of his beautiful molded chocolate leaves studded with orange peels, candied violets, marcona almonds, rose petals and mint leaves. To die for!
125 E. Palace Ave. #31 (in Sena Plaza), 982-3855