Finely Crafted Confections

Chocolate reigns as the ultimate rich indulgence.

By Elizabeth Brignac
Photography by Nancy Thaapa / @FoodieTeee

Boasting two award-winning bean-to-bar chocolate makers, who make chocolate from scratch, and several excellent chocolatiers, who create confections from prepare chocolate, Raleigh has established itself as a city that appreciates quality confections. Here’s a list of Wake County chocolate makers and chocolatiers that are worth the calories to visit—they all run storefront shops where each takes a unique approach to creating high-quality chocolate products. 

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Escazú Chocolates

Chocolate Maker
936 North Blount Street, Raleigh

When Danielle Centeno cofounded Escazú in 2008, it was one of the only bean-to-bar chocolate shops in the country. Centeno developed her approach to making chocolate through trial and error. Over a decade later, Escazú has won numerous awards, including six from the prestigious Good Food Foundation.

Centeno finds inspiration in inviting the community to explore new flavors, and her flavor profile leans heavily on South American influences, though she works with other flavors as well. “We’re all really good about trying to get people to try different things,” Centeno says. “We try to get an idea of what kind of thing they may like and then roll with that.” She encourages people to explore the flavor of chocolate itself as well as other confections, since artisan chocolates all have unique flavors. “You can have the same bean in the same percentage from ten different chocolate makers, and every single bar is going to taste different,” Centeno says. Selections:
Confections, chocolate bars, ice cream made in-house, and a beverage bar with drinking chocolate and coffee.

Most popular items:
Sea Salt Bar, Brown Butter Vanilla Truffles.

Specialties:
Vegan options for chocolate and ice cream.

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Videri

Chocolate Maker
327 West Davie Street, Raleigh

Videri has been making chocolate in downtown Raleigh since December 2011. Customers can learn about chocolate-making in the factory and then sit inside or outdoors to enjoy sipping chocolate from the coffee bar. Videri’s menu includes six standard confections and others that rotate every three months. They make all of their own fillings (caramels, ganaches, etc.) as well as their chocolate, using locally sourcing ingredients whenever possible. The factory has won four Good Food Awards over the past seven years.

In addition to premium ingredients, owner Sam Ratto puts people at the center of Videri’s work. He only uses cacao beans from suppliers who have transparent systems for offering farmers fair compensation for their work. Videri also fundraises for causes important to the local community.

Ratto credits much of the factory’s success to “always thinking about the people who work here and the people who come in here as the reason we do what we do.”

Selections:
Chocolate bars, confections, a drinking
chocolate/coffee bar, and self-guided tours.

Most popular items:
Dark Milk Chocolate Bar, Chewy Salted Caramels.

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Specialties:
Vegan chocolate options. Allergy aware: No tree nuts, soy, eggs, or gluten are used in the factory or in any of its products.

Azurelise Chocolate Truffles

Chocolatier
702 North Boylan Avenue, Raleigh

As a young child, Reginald Savage learned all about candy-making from a family friend, who gave Savage many homemade chocolate candies over the years, always asking for his opinions. “She made me into a chocolatier,” he says. “I was trained by tasting.”

In 2002, Savage decided to leave his job as a philosophy professor to start making and selling chocolate confections instead. For many years, he was a supplier for Southern Season, but today, his chocolates are sold from his own storefront and online.

Savage keeps his chocolate production small, doing all of the work himself because he trusts his own instincts more than any training that he could offer. He emphasizes keeping confections basic in appearance and high-quality in taste.

Who makes the chocolate? Belcolade, from Belgium.

Most popular item:
Salted Chocolate Caramels.

Options:
One vegan chocolate selection—White Chocolate Espresso.

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Chocolate Smiles

Chocolatier
312 West Chatham Street, Cary

Variety is key at award-winning Chocolate Smiles, which has operated in Cary since 1984. From nut clusters and caramels, to dozens of types of truffles and
chocolate-dipped strawberries, this shop offers a generous array of options. At Christmas, chocolate wreaths and reindeer abound.

Around Easter, the shelves fill with as many as 20 varieties of the proverbial chocolate egg. If you want it, chances are Chocolate Smiles makes it. If they don’t make it, just ask them to, and they might try it.

Who makes the chocolate? Peter’s Chocolate,
of Switzerland.

Most popular items:
Chocolate-Covered Almond Toffee, Snappers.

Options:
Sugar-free and certified nut-free chocolate options.

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The Chocolate Boutique

Chocolatier
8480 Honeycutt Road, Lafayette Village North Raleigh

The Chocolate Boutique owner Kesha Dozier’s goal is to create “the Tiffany’s of chocolate,” striving for high-quality chocolates with impeccable attention to fine detail. Having studied at Ecole Chocolat in France as well as with chocolatiers in Italy, Spain, and Belgium, Dozier brings a sophisticated European approach to chocolate. The Chocolate Boutique also offers chocolate tastings, including pairings with wine and bourbon, and chocolate-making parties.

Who makes the chocolate? Callebaut, from Belgium.

Most popular items:
Nut Clusters, Dark Chocolate Mint Truffles.

Options:
Sugar-free chocolates.