Maple syrup and Cheddar cheese may be Vermont’s culinary all-stars, but artisan chocolatiers add their own sweet touch to the state’s food scene. Think about it: All that fresh-from-the-farm milk, cream, and butter, spun into heavenly confections. Add a swirl of Vermont maple syrup, or a hint of local craft beer, and you’ve got dreamy truffles. Add a drop of CBD oil, or a dribble of olive oil, to some fine-quality dark chocolate and you’ve created a bar that’s anything but average. We’d take a couple of these over a truckload of those leaf-shaped maple candies any day! Making a sweet business even sweeter, some Vermont chocolatiers incorporate a community service aspect to their businesses.
The Vermont tourism folks (www.vermontvacation.com) have mapped out a chocolate trail of 15 purveyors. (Sadly, some have already closed permanently because of the pandemic.) Using the map as a guide, we took a dip into Vermont’s chocolate box. Our Tour de Chocolat took us to East Arlington, Manchester, Rutland, Middlebury, Bristol, Burlington, Jericho, and Montpelier. A jog up to Stowe would’ve added a couple more worthy stops, and we definitely missed some cocoa-drenched gems elsewhere, but our sweet tooth — prodigious though it is — just couldn’t handle more confectionery. (Tip: Bring a cooler to stash take-home bars.) To practice social distancing, stay “one cow apart,” according to local signage. Herewith, our sweetest finds.
Chocolatorium/Village Peddler, East Arlington
This family-owned business has a second outpost in Bennington, but this homey emporium is the original. “My dad and brother make the chocolate in our candy kitchen out back, using local Vermont cream and butter to make the caramels,” says Sherry Monte. Typically, they offer a chocolate exhibit, tastings, and classes, but those have been suspended because of COVID-19. For now, “We’re just happy to be open and can’t wait to start our chocolate-making classes again,” Monte says. Sophisticated palates will be tempted by their single-origin chocolate bars and chocolate infused with extra-virgin olive oil from the Umbria region of Italy; kids make a beeline for Cocoa, the world’s largest chocolate teddy bear at 100 pounds. (Estimated worth: $1,695, but not for sale.)
Nibble this: Death by Chocolate bars, featuring layers of dark chocolate fudge, crushed chocolate cookies, chocolate chips, chocolate butter creme, and dark chocolate ganache, covered in dark chocolate. So many layers of dark deliciousness! Death by Peanut Butter bars will send PB lovers into spasms of delight. Think layers of peanut butter fudge, peanut butter chips, peanut butter meltaway, and peanut butter crème, encased in milk chocolate.
261 Old Mill Road, East Arlington; 802-375-6037; www.villagepeddlervt.com.
Mother Myrick’s Confectionery, Manchester Center
What’s not to love about a town that boasts a great bookstore, a Theory outlet, and a wonderful confectionery? Mother Myrick’s began life as a fudge shop in 1977, and then husband-and-wife owners Jacki Baker and Ron Mancini added ice cream, but now the focus is on their melt-in-your-mouth buttercrunch toffee (made with Vermont’s Cabot Creamery butter). They also offer an enticing array of baked goods. Everything is made locally. Sweet touch: Mother Myrick’s runs a Summer Reading Program for kids from kindergarten through grade 6.
Nibble this: Swoon-worthy buttercrunch! A crunchy toffee center is dipped in milk chocolate or dark chocolate and rolled in oven-roasted ground cashews and almonds to make this toothsome treat. Also delectable: Lemon LuLu, a moist, lemony pound cake. 4367 Main St., Manchester Center; 802-362-1560; www.mothermyricks.com.
Vermont Truffle Company, Rutland
Talk about local: “We go to the farm to get our milk products. I think it helps to provide a better product that lasts longer,” says Steve Montanez. He launched this storefront shop with his wife, Anna, six years ago, when the pair of Johnson & Wales graduates realized there wasn’t much craft chocolate in the area. They started with their signature Vermont maple truffle, an original formula, and now sell at least 24 varieties of truffles at any given time. The word’s gotten out: The company now provides chocolates to several New York City restaurants, including Café Luxembourg. “People from New York just love stuff from Vermont,” says Steve.
Nibble this: Maple truffles, of course. They also make a killer Maple Creemee ice cream cake with an Oreo cookie crust that “really took off” after a posting on Facebook. “It’s all about the [maple] syrup,” Steve says. “Without that, it’s just vanilla soft serve!” 37 Center St., Rutland; 802-772-0274; www.vermonttrufflecompany.com.
Middlebury Sweets Candy Shop & Motel, South Middlebury
This one isn’t officially on the Vermont chocolate trail, but what goodie-monger could resist the state’s largest candy store? “I’m not sure if it’s the largest size-wise [at 1,800 square feet], or variety-wise, or both,” says owner Blanca Jenne. But who cares? They make more than 100 types of handmade chocolates on the site (a former scrapbooking store with an attached motel), plus there’s a back room lined with dispensers of retro, kid-pleasing favorites. A display case is home to a giant gummy snake. A recent (less scary) item: Quarantine Candy Survival Kits.
Nibble this: Jumbo-size peanut butter cups and Fluffernutter cups. “They’d kill me if I quit making these,” Jenne says. 1395 VT Route 7, South Middlebury; 802-388-4518; www.middleburysweets.com.
Farmhouse Chocolates, Bristol
“I’ve always been in love with chocolate as a medium — it just spoke to me,” says Erle LaBounty, a former dairy farmer who began making truffles in his grandfather’s farmhouse in Randolph as a teenager. These days, LaBounty and partner Eliza La Rocca — who helped transform LaBounty’s hobby into a business — sell their organic, fair trade, soy-free chocolates at their factory store — sort of. For now, the outlet is closed, but they’re filling mail orders, and offering curbside delivery for online and phone orders. They hope to reopen the store in December. Meanwhile, “we’ve stopped making ice cream and sorbet, but are “playing around with some CBD-related products,” La Rocca says. They also make six types of vegan chocolate bars.
Nibble this: Salted caramels, and a deeply decadent 85 percent dark chocolate bar with lavender dust. 25B Mountain View St., Bristol; 802-349-6228; www.farmhousechocolate.com.
NU Chocolat, Burlington
Wow. Biting into one of NU’s passionfruit truffles delivers a serious punch of fruity flavor; no wonder this one (and the cardamom coffee variety) is a fan favorite. Run by the Toohey family — parents Laura and Kevin are Swiss-trained master chocolatiers — this downtown shop is currently closed but doing curbside delivery. They typically offer a viewing window and samples, says daughter Virginia Toohey, and hope to reopen the shop in the fall. Formerly proprietors of Bijou Fine Chocolate in Shelburne, the Tooheys use local dairy in their European style (creamy) chocolate.
Nibble this: Passionfruit truffles, and the fabulous “crispy pearl blonde chocolate bar,” a buttery rich, caramel-flavored chocolate bar studded with crispy dark chocolate cookie pearls. 180 Battery St., Burlington; 802-540-8378; www.nuchocolat.com.
Snowflake Chocolates, Jericho
Named for local legend Wilson “Snowflake Bentley”, who discovered that no two snowflakes are alike by photographing snowflake crystals, this shop is run by four generations of the Pollak family. The charming, stuffed-to-the-rafters store opened in this historic village in 1986. Just a quick look around will bring a smile to your face, as you spy the smiley-face chocolate pops, and S’mores bars filled with house-made marshmallow. Fudge and caramel corn are popular choices. Of course, Vermont butter and maple syrup play major roles.
Nibble this: Those choco-pops are adorable, but for an adult-y taste, you can’t beat the Vermont microbrew-infused sweets collection. 81A Vermont Route 15, Jericho; 802-899-3373 (also at the Blue Mall, 150 Dorset St., South Burlington); www.snowflakechocolate.com.
Rabble-Rouser Chocolate & Craft Co., Montpelier
OK, this is where we fell hopelessly in love with a hunka-hunka nutty chocolate. The object of our affection is Rabble-Rouser’s maple toffee with pistachios: House-made toffee (just Cabot Creamery butter and maple sugar) enrobed in 70 percent dark chocolate, and topped with roasted, salted pistachios. Think salty, sweet perfection.
To-die-for carbs are just part of the story here. Worker-owned Rabble-Rouser is part art gallery-slash-bar-slash-café-slash-living room for downtown Montpelier. Part of their “give-back” philosophy is a pay-what-you-can foodshare, giving café customers the option of paying what they can afford, or paying twice the price to support a guest in need. The indoor space is currently closed because of COVID-19, but they’re serving customers at outside tables, and selling merchandise in the doorway. Store windows reveal some highlights, including the Bernie [Sanders] chocolate collection, a CBD-infused line, and Nutty Steph’s Granola. So Vermont! Behind the scenes, they work with local farmers and maple producers and Central American cacao producers, and support social justice movements. Open since last August, “We envision this as a gathering place for the community,” co-owner/chocolatier Liz Knapp says. It’s all about the unifying power of chocolate.
Nibble on this: Maple toffee with pistachios; Magic Chunks (chocolate-covered granola with whole almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, and maple-toasted oats). 64 Main St., Montpelier; 802-225-6227; www.rabblerouser.net.
Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org