Alas, the Chocolate Bar at the Langham Hotel is on hiatus until September, and the chocolate trolley tour won’t be visiting the city’s sweet spots again until January. Is that a hint, that we chocolate lovers should deny our passion during swimsuit season? Not a chance!
“I’ve eaten chocolate every single day for the past 15 years,” says Dorian McCarron, who leads the Boston Chocolate Workshop from September through June. McCarron advises fellow chocoholics to go with the good stuff, since just a tiny taste of real chocolate will satisfy you more.
With that in mind, we devised our own do-it-yourself chocolate tour.
Our first stop was Beacon Hill Chocolates, a tiny jewel box of a shop on Charles Street. “Do you make chocolate here?” we said. “No, but we carry the finest chocolate in the world,” the woman behind the truffle case said, gesturing toward an array of gorgeous sweets by names such as Anna Shea Chocolates. This shop is the exclusive Boston purveyor of Anna Shea and other artisan lines. We bought a tiny chocolate-caramel piece of sushi (a best-seller, and totally cute) and a chocolate mint truffle for $2.50 each — and then we noticed the gelato. It’s not house-made either, but who can resist the deep dark joys of chocolate gelato on a steamy day? We bought a small cup, a major hit of chocolatey deliciousness. 91 Charles St., 617-725-1900, www.beaconhillchocolates.com
Fueled by chocolate, we ventured toward the Financial District to check out Au Chocolat, a sliver of a shop devoted to sweets ranging from low brow (stuffed Oreos) to high brow (Neuhaus chocolates from Belgium). The candy-loving kid in us couldn’t resist buying a locally made, oversized, dark chocolate, sea-salt peanut butter cup. The intent was to save it as a snack for the Red Sox game. Nothing doing! “I think it will melt in the heat,” our companion Jackie Blank said, breaking off a chunk. It was fantastic — a perfect marriage of salty and bittersweet. 35 High St., 617-737-1197, www.treats.net
The store windows in the Back Bay were full of skimpy swimsuits and slinky dresses, exactly what you don’t want to see when you’re binging on chocolate. Undeterred, we headed to Flour Bakeryon Clarendon Street. Joanne Chang’s famous sticky buns have reached iconic status in Boston, but would Flour have a chocolate dessert that would rock our world? “What’s your best chocolate dessert today?” we asked one of the folks behind the counter. “Boston Cream Pie,” she said, gesturing to a slice. “No. More chocolatey,” we said, and she produced a chocolate dome filled with chocolate mousse. It was so pretty, the kind of dessert we’d serve to dinner party guests. We took it to go, sharing it alfresco in Copley Square. The verdict: Lovely, creamy, and subtley delicious. “This offers a grown-up chocolate experience,” Blank said. 131 Clarendon St., 617-437-7700, www.flourbakery.com
By now, we were ready for “real” food. But since this is a chocolate tour, we opted for Chocolate by the Bald Man Max Brenner on Boylston Street. Yep, this is a chain — founded in Tel Aviv — but who can resist the Willy Wonka-esque appeal of the place, with its tubes of treats, vat of chocolate, and chocolate-themed decor? “We make our own chocolate,” the hostess said. “But do you make it here?” we asked, noting the churning vat of chocolate beside her. “Yes!” she said, shaking her head no. Hah! We settled in and scanned the menu, noting that the theme extends to the bar, where chocolate martinis reign. Here, you could turn your entire meal into an orgy of chocolate, choosing, say, milk chocolate-filled bagels and beer-battered onion rings with dark chocolate ranch dressing.
On the advice of our waiter, we shared the Cobb salad ($14.50), blessedly chocolate free, and the popular Brenner Burger ($14.25), served with waffled fries dusted with chili and cocoa powder. We didn’t taste the cocoa, which was fine, since the waiter had talked us into the restaurant’s signature dessert, the fondue with tempura bananas ($12.25). This is a dessert for one, but totally shareable, with two dipping sauces — milk chocolate and toffee — that we ate with a spoon when we ran out of fried bananas. Overall, we like this one for families, first dates, and those who favor milk chocolate over dark. 745 Boylston St., 617-274-1741, www.maxbrenner.com
On the theory that too much of a good thing is just right, we checked out the chocolate scene in Fort Point Channel. We had heard that chocolatier Jen Turner, formerly of Blue Tierra Chocolate Cafe in Southie, had joined forces with Jason Owens to open the new Fort Point food emporium, Bee’s Knees Supply Company. Would she — fingers crossed — still be making her killer (all natural, locally-sourced) chocolates? She is, hooray, so we paid our respects by indulging in a slab of Turner’s freshly made “chocomel,” a thin bark of milk chocolate with caramel and toasted coconut. Yum. As McCarron says, nothing beats real chocolate. 12 Farnsworth St., 617-292-BEES, www.BeesKneesSupply.com
Inspired, and not quite at chocolate overload level, we made one more stop: Taza Chocolate Factory in Somerville. Not officially in Boston, true, but a must-do field trip for the chocoholic, this artisanal factory produces a gutsy, gritty variety of organic, stone-ground chocolate. Taza founder Alex Whitmore first tried stone-ground chocolate in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2005. It was love at first bite, so Whitmore decided to open a chocolate factory at home using the same traditional methods. An hourlong tour ($5 per person, reservations required) reveals that Whitmore hand-carves the granite millstones used to grind cacao into rustic bars and disks. Making these bars taste even sweeter: The company is all about sustainability, and they even use bikes to deliver chocolate to local retailers. The best part of the tour is the sampling, featuring chili-spiked chocolate and factory-limited flavors. 561 Windsor St., Somerville, 617-284-2232, www.tazachocolate.com
Too many calories to count later, we still hadn’t hit all of Boston’s chocolate hot spots. Catch you next time, Chocolee, Finale, L.A. Burdick, and hotel chocolat. We’ve got guests coming from Switzerland and we can’t wait to show them how Boston does chocolate. And if we’re not up to the task (as if!), we’ll set them up with the folks at Boston Chocolate Tours (www.bostonchocolatetours.com). They offer guided walks year round.Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.