Sunday, December 30, 2007

Éclat Chocolate

It can be tough to get motivated, much less find the time, to do holiday shopping when you work in the retail industry. This year was particularly tough as I also needed to squeeze time for blogging into an already packed schedule. The only outing I managed, aside from some on-line shopping, was to Éclat Chocolates. I’d had the itch to visit Éclat ever since reading Rick Nichols’ feature on the shop in the October 21, 2007, edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer (the article seems to have been removed from the Inky’s archives). Seeing their single origin mendiants for sale at Talula’s Table further piqued my interest. But it was a strong nudge from my wife which finally put me behind the wheel for the trip out to West Chester.

There’s really not much to the shop, a smallish, rather sterile storefront operation in West Chester’s village center. The service counter, a single display case, a couple of shelving units for the plastic tubes full of mendiants and a bit of artwork are about the only things to see. I guess I’d hoped for something a little more interactive, perhaps along the lines of the exceptional chocolatier Joël Durand in Saint-Rémy de Provence, or at least for an open kitchen scenario. However, the engagement of one’s aromatic senses at Éclat is undeniable. The air is thickly laden with the intensely rich scent of chocolate, which one can only imagine being melted, seasoned, tempered, molded and sculpted in the back room.

However compelling the expression of chocolate terroir in Éclat’s mendiants, more deeply satisfying experiences are to be found in Master Chocolatier Christopher Curtin’s caramels and truffles. Size, texture, sweetness level and execution are all spot-on and handled with aesthetic care. Infusions of bergamot, lavender and star anise along with caramel that’s, well, caramelized to the perfect tone of smoky darkness, make for memorable executions of the chocolatier’s art. It’s more than worth a trip out to West Chester.

If you’re curious about the marriage of chocolate and the fruit of the vine, Mr. Curtin will be teaming up with Chadds Ford Winery staff member Mark Cochard on Thursday, January 31, 2008, to present a seminar on chocolate and wine pairing. Featuring the chocolates of Éclat and PA wines from Chadds Ford, the event will run from 7:30 to 9:00 PM at Chadds Ford Winery. Cost is $50 per person; reservations can be secured by calling 610-388-6221.

Éclat Chocolate
24 South High Street
West Chester, PA 19382

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