Regional Chocolate Chasing
Whether your visit is online (for now!) or in person (the future), this list offers some great chocolate that can be delivered to your home.
DON’T FORGET THE CAPITAL CHOCOLATE FESTIVAL!
Don’t miss the 1st Annual DC Chocolate Festival. This year, it’s Saturday, October 9, 2021 at River-Sea Chocolates Factory. Lots of chocolate!! And free workshops, tasting classes, & plenty of fun! Tickets, only $10, must be purchased in advance (for security reasons, no ticket sales at the door.)
From ‘bean-to-bar’ chocolate bars to decadent handmade truffles to rare and inspired chocolate confections, indulge in a tasting experience that truly celebrates chocolate in all it’s forms!
While in DC, plan extra time to find more chocolate. Three shopping categories for you below (with some overlap):
- Bean to Bar Chocolate Makers
- Chocolatier Shops
- Specialty Chocolate Stores
1. BEAN-TO-BAR CHOCOLATE:
What is bean-to-bar? Think farm-to-table. A farmer grows a fruit, sells it at a farmers market, and you buy it. At your next meal, the fruit salad is sitting on your kitchen table. In this case, the fruit is cacao beans (chocolate is made from beans), the buyer is an obsessed chocolate maker, and the table is soon overflowing with glossy bars of rich, hand-crafted chocolate. Bean-to-bar (or single origin or craft chocolate) means chocolate that is transparent—you can trace the bar of chocolate in your hand back to the cocoa bean and the farmer who grew it. And everyone who has touched that bean during each step of the process has added love and flavor. Each slightly-daft chocolate maker, whether located in Madison, Wisconsin or Washington DC, specializes in bringing out the unique flavors of their tropically sourced beans. And, doing so correctly, means a chocolate unlike anything you’ve ever tasted.
BEAN TO BAR MAKERS:
Harper Macaw: The only chocolate maker, going from bean to bar, located inside DC with a store site. Follow the wafting smell of roasting cacao beans (roasted daily!) to find Harper Macaw’s new factory & café (opened in January 2020) on M street in Georgetown. As you enter, check out vats of melted chocolate on your right, then proceed down the short hallway to a sunlit café that serves a melt-your-toes-rich drinking chocolate. Also available are freshly baked goods & sweets created from Harper Macaw’s own chocolate bars. Grab a seat in the café or outside on the patio. Hands-on tours, chocolate classes & tasting sessions for all ages thru their website. Full coffee menu. Not to be missed: Cacao tea latte. Made with shells of Harper Macaw’s roasted Brazilian cacao. For hours & more info, check their website. harpermacaw.com
Instagram-worthy bars also available for purchase throughout markets & shops in DC. Try not to leave the DC area without tasting the creamy 57% dark milk or their smooth 70% dark Brazilian bar. Also keep an eye out for Harper Macaw bonbons (technically bean-to-bonbon).
Local shops carrying the bars: Chocolate House, Glen’s Garden Market, Shop Made in DC, Northside Social, Bourbon Coffee, Salt & Sundry, Dog Tag Bakery.
River-Sea Chocolate: Chocolate maker (from bean to bar) located about 35 minutes outside DC. Free factory & sample tours available. A fun and tasty variety of inclusion bars make a trip visiting the enthusiastic D’Aguiar family-business worthwhile. Full menu of drinking chocolates! Learn about lively hands-on classes online. Call ahead to confirm visit. Bars also available at Chocolate House, Trade Roots, other local shops.
Factory Retail Hours, 4520 Daly Dr. Suite 100, Chantilly, VA 20151, Tues-Friday 10-2, Sat 11-5, + Other times, email to set up appointment. riverseachocolates.com
Potomac Chocolate: Local chocolate maker (from bean to bar) based in Woodbridge, Virginia. Now with a retail shop (opened in 2019) in Occoquan, Virigina. Handcrafted bars, bean-to-bar caramels, bonbons, bags of drinking chocolate & sometimes even fresh loaves of sourdough make it worth the short drive outside the beltway. Check website for shop hours. Potomac’s two ingredient bars can also be purchased at shops and markets in DC. The Toasted Milk and Toasted Sourdough Dark NEED to be in your suitcase before you leave the DC area. Chocolate House carries a great selection. potomacchocolate.com
Chocotenango: Chocolate maker (from bean to bar); based in DC; no factory or store site, handcrafted bars & bon-bons can be purchased in shops & markets around DC. Be on the lookout for the natty Zanzibar, a milk chocolate with sea salt, chili & nutmeg. (Shop Made in DC, Café Chocolate, Glen’s Garden Market, Chocolate House) chocotenango.com
Spagnvola: Chocolate maker & chocolatier (from bean-to-bar and bean-to-bon-bon), located about 35 minutes outside DC, in Gaithersburg, MD. Factory/site tours & truffle making classes available. A few single origin bars, but larger selection of bon-bons & truffles (in this case, “tree-to-truffle”), gelato & coffee in their cozy Kentlands cafe. Next to/near a Whole Foods. 360 Main Street, Suite 100, Gaithersburg, MD 20878, 240.654.6972. Tues-Sunday 11-7. spagnvola.com
2. CHOCOLATIER SHOPS:
Chocolatiers are special people (combination chef & artist) who create truffles, bon-bons & other chocolate treats on-site. Most chocolatiers do not start from the bean, but use their choice of a pre-made, usually high quality chocolate, such as Valrhona.
Fleurir Chocolates: Truffles & bars, caramels & toffees; lots of tasty small-batch chocolate treats creatively made with Valrhona Chocolate. Stop in at 724 Jefferson Street, Alexandria, fleurirchocolates.com, 703.838.9055, Tues-Sat 11-6, Sunday 12-5. Closed Mondays.
Neuhaus Belgium Chocolate: Traditional Belgium chocolates, in Union Station. If you’re traveling through the station, a convenient place to grab the well-known Belgium sweets. When arriving in DC, the Orangettes (chocolate-covered candied orange peel) and Champagne truffles (although a tad on the expensive side) are a welcome reward after your mass transit adventure. 50 Mass Ave NE, Mon-Fri 8-9, Sat 10-9, Sun 12-6. Street Level, Westside Shopping concourse
Krön Chocolatier: A square-shaped Budapest cream truffle is the reason for a visit, if you like a truffle that reminds you of a tootsie roll combined with grandma’s fudge before it’s dipped in a chocolate shell & rolled in cocoa powder. (Yes, that was a run-on chocolate sentence.) Located at the edge of DC in bustling Friendship Heights/Chevy Chase at Mazza Gallerie (next to TJ Maxx). Krön has chocolate shops nationwide; this one is locally owned. www.krondc.com, 5300 Wisconsin Ave, NW, DC 20015 202.966.4946
Artisan Confections: In nearby Virginia, two locations. Small batch confections hand-made with Valrhona chocolate & local fresh ingredients! Arlington: 1025 N. Filmore Street, Arlington, VA 703.524.0007. A few blocks from the Clarendon Metro Station. Mon-Sat 11-6, Sun Closed. And, Mosaic District Fairfax: 2910 District Ave, Suite 170, Fairfax, VA 22031 http://artisanconfections.com703.992.6130, Mon-Thur 11-7, Fri-Sat 11-8, Sun 12-5.
3. STORES OR CAFES SPECIALIZING IN CHOCOLATE
Chocolate House: A must-stop, don’t miss! For the serious (and not so-serious) chocolate lovers. While the store doesn’t manufacture chocolate or confections, you will find the largest selection in DC of chocolate bars from around the world. Hint: ask for a sample & a story. They are happy to share. The best place to taste and learn about bars you might otherwise hesitate to buy. Also sell a large selection of high quality bon-bons; mix & match. (And known for offering tasting & truffle making classes.) In Adams Morgan neighborhood, near DuPont Circle, in lower level off of 18th street. Sun & Monday 11-6, Tues-Thurs 11-7, Fri & Sat: 11-8, 1904 18th St. NW, Washington, DC 20009. 202.903.0346 thechocolatehousedc.com
Café Chocolate: A chocolate & coffee bar; some selection of bars; with good drinking chocolate. Do NOT miss the hot, gooey, DC S’more’s pot; large enough to share with a (good) friend. Mon-Friday 7:30-6:30, Sat-Sun 12-6:00, 1423 H Street NW, DC 202.827.3057 cafechocolatdc.com
Chocolate-Chocolate: If you’re in the Farragut Square area, a small corner shop tucked into an office building. Both candy & chocolates, including chocolate replicas of local monuments, branded bars, truffles & bonbons such as Neahaus , Lake Champlain, Vosges and Chocolate Moderne from NYC. When there, grab a small white paper bag, use the white scoop, and fill it with goodies from a wall of by-the-pound loose gems of chocolate-covered caramels, nuts & malts; the snack bag makes for great rush-hour eating. Also look for their white tray with the “Daily House Selection” hand-rolled truffle (limited quantity of daily hand-made truffles.) chocolatedc.com 1130 Connecticut Avenue, D.C. 20036, 202.466.2190. Mon-Friday 10-6, Sat. 11-4.
And…these 3 stores do not specialize in chocolate, but are still worth a visit. Check out Glen’s & Made in DC for selections of local chocolates.
Shop Made in DC: New retail concept, selling exclusively DC branded gifts & useful items, with two store locations. Shops offer a selection of local chocolates, locally-made Chouquette confections and at times, treats from a new confectioner, Swoon Truffles. There is a café inside the Dupont Circle location. 1330 19th St. NW, Washington DC 20036. 202. Mon-Fri 8-8, Sat-Sun 11-6. And Wharf: 10 District Square, SW, 20024, Mon-Sun 10-8 shopmadeindc.com
Glen’s Garden Market: Specialty grocery, with cafe & deli; they source locally & love small, responsible brands. Near Dupont circle. 2001 S. Street, NW, DC 20009 http://glensgardenmarket.comMon-Fri 8-10, Sat-Sun 9-9, 202.588.5698
Officina: The new Italian-inspired culinary marketplace at the Wharf in DC, offers some Italian chocolate candies, including Amedei Chocolate, in their Mercato Area. (Thanks, Anna!) http://www.officinadc.com/mercato 1120 Maine Ave SW, The Wharf, DC. Closest Metro Stops: L’Efanta Plaza, Smithsonian, and Waterfront
And, a P.S. for you: Consider Leesburg, Virginia:
Although a bit further outside of DC, two places justify the trip to Leesburg:
Conche: Chocolate-based restaurant by award-winning Chef Santosh Tiptur; menu includes both savory & sweet dishes, and a glass window to observe the chocolatiers at work, with a bonus… Inside the restaurant is a chocolate mini-boutique with a selection of hand-crafted chocolates & bonbons. http://the-conche.com
Veritas Artizen Chocolate: Bean to bar chocolate maker AND chocolatier with a wide range of creative confections. Some chocolates can be purchased at Chefscape (limited hours,) or contact Andrea Howard for more info on tracking down her chocolate. Don’t miss: Joyful Almond—a bean-to-bar, satisfying, grown-up version of an Almond Joy® candy bar. 703.944.6021 veritasartizenchocolate.com
SOME CLOSING CHOCOLATE THOUGHTS…
A good chocolatier recognizes where their ingredients come from and how they are sourced. – Paul John Kearin
Paul John Kearin’s quote (above) is important because to be “farm-to-table” or “bean-to-bar” (if that’s important to you & granted, it may not be) means having transparency with ingredients.
Chocolatiers (the crazy-in-a-good-way artists, like Paul, who make truffles & things from pre-made chocolate) don’t always know the origins of their chocolate. Unless they, as Paul does, purchase & use only bean-to-bar chocolate rather than mass-produced chocolate. Not saying mass-produced chocolate can’t taste great (it can!) but do you know where the ingredients came from? Just raising the question.
In the future, what IS kind of cool, & will be fun to watch, is the growing movement in the US for chocolatiers (and chefs) to use more of the bean-to-bar, traceable chocolate, in their work. Plus, some chocolate users are also becoming chocolate makers. (Meaning buying cocoa beans in a burlap sack & making their own chocolate, first, before using it in a truffle.)
Be part of that overall trend! As you’re enjoying the hand-crafted chocolates made here in DC, watch & support these local chocolate makers (bean-to-bar creators, like Harper Macaw, River-Sea, Potomac, Chocotenango, Veritas). Hopefully the makers will find new ways to use (and give us!) more of their own craft chocolate in delectable finished treats, like brownies, s’mores or drinking chocolate. Definitely some gems around the U.S. doing that to perfection now (Dandelion & French Broad come to mind.)
That’s enough deep chocolate thoughts for now. Happy chocolate adventures to you!