The other day some “well-meaning” person told me I had smears of chocolate on my cheek, neck and ear, and then, with pity in their sanctimonious eyes and a glance at my voluptuous choco-booty, mentioned that exercising can help quell chocolate cravings. To which I replied, why would anyone ever wish to stifle the finest craving ever invented? It just so happens that I wear my chocolate smears as a badge of honor, and so should you. Here are the top places in Portland to get your cacao on.
The devil is in the 23-carat chocolate details at this Laurelhurst chocolate shop, where you’ll find a darkly delicious world of 73% single origin Venezuelan chocolate devils, saints, crosses, and heart icons gilded by hand in edible 23 karat gold leaf, chocolate frogs and owls, beautiful bon bons, creamy buttery caramels and caramel sauces, Oregon hazelnut toffee, mocha almond nibby and lime-piñon bark, pepita pistachio hazelnut chocolate bars, “Mom’s” chocolate cake, chocolate peanut butter cookies, and frozen chocopops. If you like to drink your cacao, there’s a long list of chocolate elixirs both hot and cold, like the Iced Shaken Mocha–three shots of espresso with melted chocolate and milk. And on Saturdays, you can shop their wares al fresco at the Portland Farmer’s Market at Portland State University.
The name says it all—this gorgeous store in downtown’s fashionable West End district is the source for all good things from the other Supreme Bean. A temple to the mighty cacao bean, with lofty ceilings, marble countertops, a selection of both local and internationally-sourced chocolate bars that would move an Oompa Loompa to tears, truffles and caramels by the piece, delectable chocolate sauces, coffee drinks, and hot and iced chocolate, this is both a destination to share with others and ground zero for any personal chocolate needs you may have. But it’s the drinking chocolates that are so good they have the power to heal the sick(&tired) and bring back the (brain)dead, which is why I visit Cacao every day after work. $2 for a cup of Revival seems like a deal to me. If you’re on the other end of downtown and need a theobromine kick, visit the tiny, exquisite Cacao annex inside the Heathman Hotel.
Good things come in small, sweet packages–as proved by this 240-square-foot sugar shack on NE Alberta. Owner/head sweetie Amani Greer oversees her internationally-sourced stock with a gimlet eye, even importing Haribo gummies from Germany to avoid the high fructose corn syrup pitfalls of the American version, and her sampling motto is one I can definitely get behind: Try everything. Sensitive to a variety of dietary needs, she has candies that are gluten-free, dairy-free, and cholesterol-free, and she even makes her own cotton candy daily, producing ethereal organic, kosher, free-trade, no-GMO fluffballs in flavors like cardamom, coconut and watermelon. How Portland!
Wine and cheese get a lot of press as a match made in culinary heaven, but what about wine and chocolate? The good folks at this Alberta Street wine shop have helped this dark and sultry romance flourish, courtesy of their marvelous chocolate wall, a rainbow of artisan bars crafted by the likes of Michel Cluizel, Bonnat Chocolatier, Michael Recchiuti, and Portland’s own Sahagún, Xocolatl de Davíd and Alma Chocolate. And they’re more than happy to help you select just the right chocolate to pair with that bottle of Pinot Noir or Champagne you’re planning to impress your friends with at your upcoming wine and chocolate tasting party. A wine and chocolate party?? What time should I be there?!
Little Bird Bistro
Late hours, a central location, and trés delicious dishes make this younger sibling of renowned Le Pigeon an inviting downtown destination regardless of the hour (they’re open until midnight) or your craving—stop in for a glass of wine and a charcuterie board or reserve a dark red leather banquette for a leisurely supper. The kitchen is helmed by longtime Le Pigeon sous chef Erik Van Kley, who orchestrates a simple French menu that zeroes in on beloved, expertly-executed bistro classics like steak frites, coq au vin, and marrow bones (and the iconic Le Pigeon burger), while pastry chef Lauren Fortgang spins sweet fantasies like strawberry elderflower floats, apricot givré with a corn financier, and her housemade chocolate plate. Depending on your mood, sit at the gleaming copper bar, see and be seen in the main dining room, or, provided you don’t suffer from acrophobia, opt for my favorite perch—the tiny upstairs table hugging the balcony corner.
The next time your favorite vegan does something nice for you, you might want to return the favor with a box of Missionary truffles. Actually, the next time your favorite non-vegan does something nice for you, you could do the same, because Missionary truffles are so dark, dense and creamy, they are a shoo-in success for any chocolate lover, vegan or not. Missionary’s signature almond balls, coconut silk, raspberry hearts, espresso squares, cinnamon chipotle, peanut butter, and Meyer Lemon Explosion truffles are handmade in Portland with locally sourced organic ingredients and you can find them around town at various farmers’ markets, Whole Foods, Food Front Co-op, Food Fight, Sheridan’s Fruit Company, and PETA rallies. Just kidding about that last one.
Giving recommendations for must-eats at this pretty European-style Pearl District bakery is easy–I wholeheartedly endorse anything you might find in/on a cake pedestal, plate, shelf, or bread basket, a few of my favorites being the chocolate panini, walnut levain, almond croissant, cinnamon crown, espresso walnut brownie, lemon crème fraiche cake, macarons, huckleberry fromage blanc tart, and chocolates. Yes, Pearl Bakery makes their own line of chocolates, and they are predictably excellent. On a warm summer morning, take an hour before work and order a cappuccino and an almond croissant or piece of orange-rind studded gibassier bread, sit outside at a sidewalk tables, and read or watch passerby—it’s one of life’s greatest little joys.
When I was little, I thought I wanted to be a scientist when I grew up. This dream died quickly when I read The Value of Believing in Yourself: The Story of Louis Pasteur, and my key takeaway was that being a scientist was a scary job involving rabid dogs, dangerous germs and very large needles. How could I have foreseen the advent of Pix Patisserie’s chocolate lab, a magical place where chocolate scientists mix and blend and swirl lovely things like cacao, cream, butter, sugar, marzipan, pistachios, rosemary, blue cheese, fleur de sel, and chipotle to create beautiful chocolates like the Ambrosia–rosemary ganache and a port reduction in a technicolor chocolate shell, and the Troubador–milk chocolate ganache layered with marzipan and crystallized ginger? Not to mention the Chocolate Drenched Drunken Cherries, which are given a good long soaking in Kirsch then dipped in fondant and bittersweet chocolate. If only I’d known that I could have gone into Chocolate Science, without so much as one rabid dog or big needle in sight.
The sweet younger sibling of master sugar mama Jami Curl’s Saint Cupcake brethren, this closet o’ candy is tucked into the middle of downtown’s Union Way, where its dark wood shelves showcase Curl’s painstakingly cultivated confection collection–sparkling blackberry tangerine and smoked cola gummidrops, puckery cherry sour supremes, soft caramels infused with Steven Smith chai tea or studded with popcorn, jars of “Sniffle Slayer” lollipops, loops of “Marshallow By The Foot” made with Water Avenue Coffee and Oregon strawberries, and bright, fruity Dreams Come Chews (Curl’s take on that old candy aisle favorite, Starburst). As if that weren’t enough, half the shop’s a wall of chocolate, bearing artisan brands like Sweeteeth, Askinosie, Dick Taylor, Mast Brothers, and Fine & Raw, plus local favorites like Woodblock.
The Meadow is a wonderful place filled with flowers, wine, chocolate, and a rather astonishing selection of artisan salts–rock salt, flake salt, coarse salt, finishing salt, sea salt, gray salt, smoked salt, curing salt, Himalayan salt slabs, salt grinders, salt graters, salt spoons–it’s enough to give a girl hypertension of the eyeballs. But after you’ve ogled the salt, bow before The Meadow’s glorious wall of chocolate, where I was nearly rendered speechless by the selection of fine chocolates. Try few of my saliferous favorites, like the luscious Vosges Barcelona Bars with hickory smoked almonds and fleur de sel, chocolate-covered salted caramels by Portland’s own Xocolatl de Davíd, and the lust-inducing Cioccolato Fondente al Sale by Italian chocolatier Cioccolato di BruCo–two dark Italian chocolate bars heavily accented with…you guessed it, really good salt.
Right next door to its ever-popular sibling restaurant, this European-style market sells fresh produce and farm eggs, cheese and charcuterie, exceptional wine and other genteel sundries, as well as hearty housemade sandwiches and a chocolate pudding so exceptional, you will want to buy it by the barrel (you can’t though, sorry for getting your hopes up).
Xocolatl de Davíd
I’m always wary when someone hands me a Xocolatl de Davíd’s chocolate, because even though former Park Kitchen sous chef-turned-master chocolatier David Briggs makes some of the finest chocolates to have ever passed my lips, once I was given one of his pig’s blood ganaches by a real funny jokester and that memory doesn’t die easily. Although he works from his secret lair in the back of Meat Cheese Bread, David doesn’t technically have a storefront, so check his website for the nearest source of his exquisite sweet and savory and tea-infused chocolates (think vanilla brown butter, mole, strawberry balsamic, orange cardamom, creme fraiche, hojicha, and kir royal), salted caramel chocolate bars, Raleigh bars (salted caramel with pecan chocolate nougat), rhubarb chocolate preserves, and my favorite wunderdrink–the thick, creamy, and Daddy Warbucks-rich Champ’s Chocolate Milk, found exclusively at Pine State Biscuits.