In Sonoma chocolate is a thing. Like wine, beer and food, we’ve got a special talent for mixing cocoa, sugar and milk. Here are some of our favorite Sonoma chocolatiers…
New: Eye Candy Chocolatiers: Chocolate is Dr. Sonja Schluter’s happy place. The Sonoma ophthalmologist spends her days working with patients facing serious vision problems, primarily glaucoma. So her off-time passion for making beautiful chocolate truffles has become an outlet of beauty, precision and, of course, deliciousness.
But after 20 years practice (and giving most of her chocolate creations to friends), she’s finally opened a tiny retail shop at Sebastopol’s Gravenstein Station called Eye Candy.
Jewel-like truffles of every size and shape line the case, with flavors like passionfruit, guava, Earl Grey tea, chai coconut and cinnamon cardamom, making decisions difficult. What we love is the bitterness balancing act. Schulter uses a chocolate that’s between 54-64 percent cacao (milk chocolate has as little as 10% and extra-dark is around 80%), easing up on some of the intense bitterness of other dark chocolates.
Each of the truffles is made in the shop, with a mix of precision and creativity. “It fits my personality,” said Schluter, who has culinary training from the Ecole Chocolat in Vancouver and Callebaut Academy in Chicago. Crediting her mom, Tamara Suslov, M.D. (who founded the Eye Center in Sebastopol) for her tenacity and inspiration, Sonja brings her two worlds of chocolate and ophthamology together by donating a portion of her candy proceeds to the Glaucoma Research Foundation.
“Its a beautiful balancing act,” she said. 6761 Sebastopol Ave, Sebastopol. Open Monday through Saturday from 11a.m. to 4p.m.
Cocoa Planet: Someone just answered your prayers. Rich, creamy, dark chocolate with “pearls” of flavor (mint, mandarin orange, vanilla espresso, salted caramel, deep dark truffle. Turns out you can get incredible flavor without all the sugar and just 96 calories per disk. This is a Chocolate Revolution! Available at Oliver’s Market, 461 Stony Point Road, Santa Rosa, (707) 284-3530 or at cocoaplanet.com.
Recherche de Plaisir: For more than 20 years Sonoma County native Lucy Gustafson has been giving away chocolates confections by the dozens of dozens for appreciative friends and family. After making more than 500 truffles for Christmas a few years ago, Gustafson decided to enroll herself in the Ecole Chocolat’s professional chocolatier program and make her part-time passion a full-time calling.
Firefly Chocolates: Bean-to-bar chocolate made in Windsor. Small batch, artisan, dark chocolate made by Jonas Ketterle. Available at Community Market.
Sjaaks: Vegan, organic chocolates made in Sonoma County.
Wine Country Chocolates: Chocolate with a local flavor, this Sonoma chocolateria fills their truffles with Cabernet, Zinfandel, Port and champagne. Not into wine? How about the Elvis, a peanut butter truffle with banana ganache or a boysenberry gananche with blackberry honey? Tasting rooms at 14301 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen, 966-1010 and on the Sonoma Plaza, 414 First St. East, Sonoma.
Patisserie Angelica: We’ll let you decide whether the creamy, decadent Better Than Sex Hot Fudge Sauce at this Sebastopol bakery actually is. What we can say is that loading it on top of ice cream or eating it right into the jar is a heaping helping of deliciousness. 6821 Laguna Park Way, Sebastopol, 827-7998, open Friday and Saturday from 10am to 5pm.
Chocolate Cow: Lots of truffles, fudge and other chocolate treats, some made in-house. 452 First St., E. Sonoma, 935-3564.
In Napa, there are a number of high-end chocolatiers as well. We especially love…