|Photo courtesy of Robin Chocolates website|
Just recently I noted I’d been added to a Twitter list of Colorado food ‘people’. Out of curiosity I perused the list and came upon Robin Chocolates in Longmont. Having not heard of her, I went to her website and was instantly all a flutter. The photos of her creations assured me she was local and a bonafide food artisan. Her bio was impressive and left me wanting to know more. We made contact and a few days later I find myself on a stool mesmerized over her ability to have three things going on at once and carry on a conversation with me without missing a beat.
Snuggled up in her ‘chocolate room’ in a darling home converted fully to a professional kitchen, she begins describing her journey to chocolate. She’d always wanted to pursue a career in the culinary arts. After being declined by her parents to attend the Culinary Institute of America in an era before career cooking had the Top Chef cache it does now, she instead lied her way into the role of running a dining room for a company who had no more secretarial jobs open.
‘Could you cook?’ I asked. She scoffed and admitted to having hospitalized her first boyfriend, after preparing a meal for him including the contents of a can with a bulging top (don’t worry; those days are long gone!). With her desired career not seemingly a possibility, Robin enlisted in the Navy but kept her passion alive in a form of a hobby.
Fast forward a decade and a half. Life circumstances brought Robin and her family to Colorado. Her passion for food and cooking had only strengthened over time. She took a job with a large high tech company and pursued courses for the home cook at the Culinary School for the Rockies in Boulder which offers professional training as well as specific courses of the serious home cook. Robin ultimately wanted to pursue her lifelong goal of a professional career and made the decision to dive into the Culinary School’s professional instruction, leaving her career in high tech behind.
Robin wanted to be a savory chef. Desserts to her were an afterthought; a pretty end to a meal with no flavor. Not her kind of deal. She wanted her food to be a main event. As our luck would have it, as part of her culinary course she was sent to France to intern in the pastry arena which melded her lifelong passion for chocolate confections and her thirst for success. Her path was set.
After graduating, Robin began working at different pastry establishments. While at one someone mentioned loving her chocolates and that they knew a florist looking for a source for boutique chocolates. The connection was made and she was embarking on the American dream of her own company, doing what she loves. Her business increased 1600% in the first year.
I’m fascinated with all going on and Robin’s clear command of the process personally. She was constantly checking and considering if the outcome of her small batches were meeting her high expectations.
Robin uses only the finest ingredients from all over the world. Whenever possible she uses local and seasonal ingredients and does use local distributors for her ingredients. She got a twinkle in her eye and asked if I like salt? “I do”, I replied and commented it seems to be the new ‘wine’ of the culinary world. She jumped into her ingredient pantry and pulled out a ziplocked bag. ‘Smell this!’ I got a delicious smoky inhale of Danish Viking Smoked Salt made from 5 different smoked woods. She keeps it bagged for obvious reasons (rogue culinary thieves lurking in the bushes I surmise after experiencing the divine whiff).
She pulled out some Peanut Butter Shale. Never heard of it. Now I shall forever covet it. I would say it’s like a soft type of a peanut brittle (almost the consistency of inside of a Butterfinger bar with a bit more structure but not hard like a regular brittle) drizzled with chocolate. Perfect.
We went out to the main kitchen to check on Ellie, one of Robin Chocolate’s employees who is scrutinizing a batch of caramel and perfectly cutting it into strips and then into exact pieces. They chat technically about the state of the batch leaving me clear I’m in the presence of an artisan chef with great pride and commitment to her craft (and I can attest we recipients of her focus and scrutiny are all the better for it).
We backtrack to the chocolate room for a full process run through. They have molds which are all washed by hand in preparation for a new batch. The cavities are then air brushed or painted in some way to create the beautiful outer shell. They are filled with a ganache and sealed safely to await their adoring public.
I sampled a piece of Ginger Drizzle (crystallized ginger drizzled in chocolate), imagining the health benefits and wanting to pour the entire tray in my purse were Robin to leave the room even briefly. The bite of the ginger combined with the sweetness and chocolate is sublime.
I had perused her website selections before visiting and was concerned I’d be lowered to wiping involuntary saliva from my face triggered by a Pavlovian reaction to seeing any of her chocolates live. I think I held myself together pretty respectably but waivered a bit as she began listing the special seasonal chocolates they will be featuring: Roasted Chestnut (made with caramelized white chocolate that has been roasted), the Ginger Drizzle, Pumpkin Pie Caramel, Walnut Cream, Cranberry Lime in White Chocolate (‘Dear Santa, I’ve been a really, REALLY good girl this year…..’) and Gingerbread Spice. I now think we need to observe a brief moment of silence to let this all soak in.
Just when I think I can’t take much more of this Robin continues our visit while stirring a creamy caramel something. ‘What is that?’ I ask. She asks if I’d had a pecan turtle before and all I could remember is a lovely flavor but an experience similar to watching a dog eating a big wad of peanut butter (or Sonya Nighswonger’s horse in Junior High when we’d feed it balls of hard candy and it would desperately try to keep them in its mouth). ‘Yes…..I have’, I answer tentatively feeling equally intrigued and worried this was all about to go south.
‘This is the center’. Hmm, creamy and beautiful. Robin confesses to wanting to indulge the essence of the turtle but in a more enjoyable way. She then reaches into her baking rack to present me with what I’m sure is a piece of jewelry by the look of it (I’m flattered, totally, feeling we HAD gotten much closer over our hour together); ‘Here is the turtle’. This turtle is covered by a shell of 23 karat edible gold. I was truly slack jawed feeling I wanted to either wear it on my lapel or find a bejeweled terrarium and keep it forever, not imagining devouring such fabulosity.
Despite wanting to move in right then and there, our time wound to a close. She kindly packed up more to taste: Mexican Mole, Passionfruit, Pomagranite, Mint Chocolate, Rosemary Caramel (born from a local chef challenge where willing chefs are given a call with a mystery ingredient and have 24 hours to produce something fabulous; Robin, who does not care for rosemary the secret ingredient, mastered it beautifully), Expresso and more. She also gave me a sample of the organic dual flavor lollipops they are currently cultivating that could not have been a more gorgeous translucent shade of peach.
How on earth could I possibly wrap up this wondrous tale of vision, talent, tenacity and chocolate? By telling you the magic words: She ships!
Robin Chocolates can be found in several locations. Click here for a list and maps. Also click here to order online for shipping to you directly! This is a Colorado delicacy not to be missed by out-of-staters! Please note all the seasonal holiday chocolates may not be on the website but are available for ordering.