By Linda Kissam
You’re looking at a chocolate freak. Yup, as much as I’d like to say I am in control of the chocolate, it’s the chocolate that controls me. I love it. I appreciate its many attributes and benefits. I applaud its rich nature and rainbow of colors. I am most appreciative however, that it somehow has become an integral part of most holidays. You have to be impressed with credentials like that. Just sayin’.
TOURific Escapes Tour
On a lovely LA afternoon, I indulged my love affair with chocolate and gave into the dark side. And boy am I glad I did. TOURific Escapes offers a three-hour by shuttle tour of some of the finest chocolate shops in the West side of LA and Venice area that is both unique and affordable. Called the Chocolate Indulgence Tour – Westside ($65), it is undoubtedly LA’s best chocolate tour.
Food walks, food tours and eating local are trending in the foodie world for a reason. These kind of tastes are so much more meaningful when you can experience it at the source.
Seriously, what could be better than sampling gourmet chocolate treats while learning the rich history behind each chocolate delight, all while cruising some of the most famous streets in the world. Tips on tasting, buying, and storing chocolate were a bonus. The stops are all hiding in plain sight in West Los Angeles, you just need a guide to really understand where they are, where to park and what to buy.
A Signature Taste of Chocolaty Goodness at Each
The chocolatiers each showcased a signature item. Some of the tastes were big, some were small. Some came in a liquid form, others came from a deep freeze. Many originated in other countries, all were fashioned by great pastry chefs and dedicated cooks.
We got to meet the name behind the stop and go in a special tasting area where we could hear the stories, see some demonstrations and ask questions. This is a treat-yourself moment that provides lasting memories not only on your taste buds but in your bank of memorable times as well.
An Excellent “Experience” Gift
A big trend in gift giving is the “experience” gift. Forget the scarves, ties and washing machines. Buy an experience for a loved one and your status is likely to go up considerably. Notable experience gifts include beginner to advanced classes in flying on a trapeze, walking the red carpet with a celebrity, and now joining the fun on this three-hour tour with TOURific Escapes in a comfy 15 passenger custom van.
Ticket price includes at least five tastings plus a few surprises along the way. Time is allotted at each location for optional chocolate purchases. You are not going to feel rushed or bored. Perfect timing and amazing chocolate is the key to this outing.
The TOURific Roundup
Here’s a roundup of our stops, plus a recipe from one of the chocolate shops we couldn’t quite get to. But after tasting this recipe, I will be going quite soon. Book the tour here: http://www.tourificescapes.com/tours/chocolate-indulgence-tour/
We met head pastry chef Annabel, toured her chocolate kitchen, and sampled a chocolate or two or three of our choice. I tried the smokey chocolate cream made of moist chocolate sponge on a crunchy hazelnut base and fresh raspberry. Can you say, “OMG?” This chocolatier used to be located on Abbot Kinney in Venice. It has moved to a more commercial venue on Buckingham Parkway in Culver City. What used to be a gourmet tea, coffee and chocolate shop has turned into a gourmet take-out cake and macaroon shop, serving desserts that are nothing short of extraordinary. They do offer special events, so sign up for their mailing list.
Meeting owner Karen was a treat in itself. We toured her pastry kitchen, and sampled a whole lot of her chocolate pastries: Coconut-tops, Kransecake, Almond Mazarin and Romkugle. This is a true local’s hangout, designed with locals in mind. If you’re not seeing school children in for a tour, you are going to see tons of locals taking advantage of the freshly stocked bakery cases. My suggestion? If you come on your own – go early or late – this place is rocking with people all day long. Why? Amazing, gorgeous, unique pastries make this a place to self-indulge or gift to someone else. Located on Washington Blvd. in Culver City.
Sinners & Saints Dessert Shop:
Located on Lincoln Blvd. in Venice, you are going to love owner Elisa but sort of hate the parking. Do what you have to to experience this shop. Filled to the brim with tasty smoothies, teas, coffees, fresh fruit juices and many many gluten free treats, you’ll be pleased with the selections and vibe this place offers. Seriously, if you can’t find something amazing here, you are most likely dead or just not trying. I can highly recommend the warm flourless chocolate cake…and pretty much anything else within reach.
The most unique of our stops, meeting owner Patricia set the scene for the exotic nature of our visit. One of only a handful of bean-to-bar shops in LA, they grind their own chocolate using lava stones, just how it was done more than 2,000 years ago. Minimally processed to maintain the purity and nutritional value, the chocolate is made fresh every week without using any flavorings, extracts or additional cacao butter. It is 100 percent whole-bean chocolate using whole ingredients. We sampled a very exclusive (not offered on their regular menu yet) smoothie made from the pulp of a cacao pod, known as a Chocolate Pulp Smoothie. My wish for you and all of America is to be able to duplicate that experience. If not available, move on to the cocoa drinks. Think lush and sassy; it’s a true experience –nothing like it anywhere else. Find them seven days a week on Washington Blvd. in Culver City.
Essential Chocolate Desserts:
Our last stop brought big ooh’s and ah’s. Owner Melissa offered us a plate of chocolate goodies: chocolate French macaroons, chocolate coconut macaroons and a slice of their chocolate cake. The cake – by the way – was called out on LA Weekly as being one of the 10 Best Slices of Chocolate Cake in Los Angeles. She also gave us some chocolate take-aways for enjoying at home and I bought their version of an over-the-top Ding Dong. Oh yeah, heaven may have just kick started with this beauty. Also located on Washington Blvd. in Culver City.
Double Chocolate Cookie Recipe
Enjoy this Ooey Gooey Double Chocolate Cookie comes from MILK, which is a bakery on Beverly Boulevard. It actually has three kinds of chocolate in it. Serve warmed up just a bit with a big tall cool glass of milk or homemade lemonade – they really are ooey-gooey and fabulous.
MILK’s Ooey-Gooey Double-Chocolate Cookies
Total time: 40 minutes, plus one hour chilling time for the batter
Servings: 1-1/2 dozen
Note: Adapted from Bret Thompson of Milk in Los Angeles.
1/4 pound (4 ounces) unsweetened chocolate
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound bittersweet chocolate (chunks or chips)
1. In a bowl set over a pot of simmering water, melt the unsweetened chocolate and butter. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
2. In the bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using a fork, combine the eggs, vanilla and sugar. Mix just until incorporated and set aside.
3. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl. Set aside.
4. Add the melted chocolate to the egg mixture and mix just until combined. Stir in the sifted dry ingredients and mix just until combined, then stir in the bittersweet chocolate.
5. Cover the batter with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour to chill thoroughly. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
6. Divide the dough into 18 portions. Grease your hands (to prevent the dough from sticking) and shape the portions into balls. Place the balls on a greased, parchment-lined sheet pan, leaving two to three inches between each.
7. Bake until the edges of the cookies are just set and the center is still soft, 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. Place the cookies, still on the parchment, on a rack and cool completely before serving. They will be very soft.
Each cookie: 251 calories; 4 grams protein; 29 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 18 grams fat; 9 grams saturated fat; 42 mg. cholesterol; 92 mg. sodium.