Works of art too gorgeous to eat—well, almost.
David Ramirez Chocolates
Executive pastry chef and chocolate sculpture wizard by day, chocolate truffle entrepreneur by night. David Ramirez, inductee into our 2011 Dining Hall of Fame, trained at the Johnson and Wales culinary academy and led Team USA at the World Pastry Cup. Ramirez’s pride is his two chocolateria, the newest in the Plant Street Market. There, house-made gelato and macarons compete with the dazzling array of chocolates, but the gemlike treats (above) are always the draw. An almond brownie crunch is adorned with leopard spots, a Key lime truffle wears an airbrushed green swoop, and then there’s the pink and white op-art masterpiece of guava cheesecake. Locations in Orlando and Winter Garden; davidramirezchocolates.com
Farris & Foster’s Famous Chocolate Factory
Chocolate party. That’s really all the description necessary, but let’s elaborate. Farris & Foster’s has made a name (or two) by involving kids, adults and general chocolate lovers in make-your-own-confection affairs. Birthdays, date nights, even the dreaded team-building exercises become sweet and slightly silly when accompanied by chocolate waterfalls and truffles made by your own hand. Farris Riggsbee made the Air Force a full-time career in 2003, so technically it is just businessman turned chocolatier Jon Foster Lanenga’s job to tempt us with chocolate truffles and “Farris wheel” cashew treats—when he’s not driving his famous yellow Model A or practicing his competitive ballroom dancing. 4875 New Broad St., Orlando; farrisandfosters.com
Ghirardelli Chocolate and Ice Cream Shop
Ghirardelli could be entered in every category in our sweets section. The grand old company has been making some of the best chocolate in the country since 1852 and is one of the few in the world that controls importing, roasting and grinding cocoa beans. All that goodness is used to make silken chocolate, fudge and several decadent ice creams. Disney Springs Marketplace; ghirardelli.com
Kevin and Jami Wray are the hands-on local owners/operators of the shop on Park Avenue (above), and their sense of adventure shows in the offerings of chocolate shoes, chocolate-coated popcorn and chocolate-dipped wine bottles. With 22 locations, the Peterbrooke company is building a giant factory in Jacksonville this year, where the candy maker began, but much of the items in-shop are made in shop. The highlight might sound like their simplest confection: a hand-made dark chocolate ganache truffle, dipped in more dark chocolate and then rolled in cocoa powder, but it is exacting work to get it right. “Chocolate is art and science,” says Kevin. “A lot of science.” 300 S. Park Ave., Winter Park; peterbrookewp.com
Kilwins looks the part: a chocolate shop full of cases of bonbons, toffees, nut brittles and hand-dipped ice cream (the Traverse City cherry and chip is amazing). There’s something about seeing a display of in-house-crafted fudge that is irresistible. The Kilwins candy shops were started by Don Kilwin in 1947 with one Michigan storefront bakery where he developed recipes for caramel apples and chocolate. There are more than 90 locations now, and many of the products like ice cream and fudge are still in-house secret recipes. Locations in Winter Park and Celebration; kilwins.com
It must be great to have a market to yourself. While there are other artisan marshmallow makers around the country, Wondermade has our area pretty locked up, and Jenn and Nathan Clark have made a success of a kooky business by paying attention to quality, creating inventive flavors and playing up the fun factor. Bourbon and gin marshmallows? Of course! Serve puffy cubes of whipped sugar in fresh roast Lineage coffee? Why not? From fruity chocolate-covered strawberry to seasonal eggnog and peppermint, there’s a pillowy treat for everyone’s taste. 214 E. First St., Sanford; wondermade.com
Smith & Adams Confections
It took longer than anticipated to open Smith & Adams, the shopping center chocolatier with a most un-shopping center appearance. Styled like an exclusive French maison du chocolat, with imported wooden display cases, European decorative touches and a walk-by hallway with an observation window, the creation of Kelly Smith, the confectioner, and former attorney Kim Adams was held up by the usual regulatory red tape that seems to affect any new food business these days. But none of that shows in the artistic arrangements of elegant and tasteful treats.
2560 E. Colonial Drive
Smith had a 25-year history making pastry at Disney and building intricate chocolate sculptures. Her background in art and design comes into play while decorating and spray-painting the variety of high-end chocolate bonbons in the shop. “I like the art part,” she says. “I like playing with chocolate.” Each truffle is hand made and exquisitely detailed.
Adams runs the nuts and bolts of the business (a business that uses its share of nuts) while learning the intricacies of tempering and molding candies. “We’re going to make special use of seasonal fruits,” she says, “and we’re working with a local coffee roaster for the best product.” Included in the offerings are glossy ganache, silky fondants, and several varieties of authentic Italian gelato made without powdered ingredient shortcuts.
Putting their names atop the storefront may seem like an audacious move for two first-time business owners, but Adams likes it. “It sounds very American,” she says.