Chuao Chocolatier - Irvine
Quickly! Name two female indulgences.
If you said "chocolate" and "shopping," then you are thinking the way the owners of Chuao Chocolatier must have been thinking when they scouted the location of their store. It's situated smack dab between the two retail anchors of the Irvine Spectrum Center; Robinsons May and Nordstrom.
I don't know for a fact if this was truly a strategic decision or just a happy accident. But it sure smells like part of a carefully calculated plan to cleverly tap into female psyche, mining the fondness of the cocoa bean and fashion.
Perhaps I'm doling out too much credit where it is not due, but I can't help but think that some forethought was involved. This is Irvine after all, where the placement of every shrub on every corner goes through a vote by committee.
Think of it:
Hey Ashley, Nordstrom's out of stock of the Jimmy Choos I wanted. I'm, like, so bummed! Let's check out Robinsons May across the way. Wait a minute...let's stop in here to get a chocolate bon-bon first.
Oh Mary-Kate, Robinson's May didn't have my size in Levis. Let's walk to Nordstrom. Hmm, I feel like a flourless chocolate cake.
I am making this up. I don't know if those Olsen twins even eat. (And I'm told that it's unlikely that they'd wear Levis or step foot into "Rob May").
And also, I wouldn't know if they sell Jimmy Choos at Nordstrom. As a guy, I don't know these things. Really, you should just be amazed that I even know what Jimmy Choos are. But the truth is, I know as much about chocolate as much as I do about shoes, fashion, and the Olsen twins.
And eventhough I can probably tell the difference between a Hershey's and a Scharffen Berger, I consider myself a chocolate idiot. So I'm not going to pretend that I know the flavor profile of Venezuelan chocolate and how it compares to those made from Ivory Coast cocoa beans.
But apparently, the folks at Chuao do know the difference, because they make it a point to note that all of their chocolate comes from Venezuela and that, in fact, their name is taken from the region where the beans are cultivated. It's evident that they are intensely proud of this.
Read their description of two of the chocolates I tried:
MODENA: Dark Venezuelan chocolate bon-bon filled with a soft caramel deglazed with strawberry pulp and balsamic vinegar from Modena.Each piece is placed on a pedestal. Literally. Albeit teeny-tiny ones, made from brushed metal, inside the long glass display case.
CARDAMOM: Soft cream ganache scented with fresh cardamom covered with Venezuelan dark chocolate.
I bought a sample box of nine chocolates, which they called a "Tease," and found them decadent, creative, complex, and not sugar-ladened. The depths of flavor from the chocolate comes through clearly, even when it is paired with unconventional and sometimes odd ingredients like balsamic vinegar or cardamom.
The former, by the way, was probably my favorite out of the nine, with the oozing syrup of tart balsamic vinegar and strawberry bleeding out as soon as I took a bite. The Cardamom tasted vaguely of Indian curry, which is as close to "Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans" as we'll ever come.
But how much of the credit is attributable to the Venezuelan origin of the cocoa beans is still unclear to me. My kudos goes to the inventiveness and artisanal method of preparation more than anything else. But what does this idiot know?
Regardless of where the cocoa beans came from, I thought these were damn good chocolates. Good but unapologetically expensive too. This handsome box with nine small chocolates was $15.00.
Too many of these and not even Mary-Kate and Ashley will be to afford their couture.
Chuao Chocolate Café
Irvine Spectrum Center
95 Fortune Dr. Suite 603
Irvine, CA 92618