Behind an attractive storefront on Mission Street in Santa Cruz, Richard Donnelly makes internationally award-winning chocolates and truffles. At the front door, customers gather in the small retail space. Bookshelves and tables hold pre-packaged sweets, and a glass cabinet displays available truffle flavors. In the open kitchen, chocolate is being mixed and candies are laid out for packaging. Much of the work here is done by hand—the hand of a master.
After studying with Master Chocolatiers in Europe, Donnelly established this creative kitchen in 1988. From fruit to spices and liqueurs, there are numerous unexpected flavors to choose from. I decided on a six-item custom truffle selection and a dark chocolate candy bar ($25). Thick, velvety chocolate ganache filled each truffle. The first one carried the essence of cardamom, a spice seed important to Indian cuisine: its earthiness balanced well against the rich chocolate. Chipotle chilies added a spicy, smoky bite to another piece. A hint of lavender flavored the chocolate bar (1.6 ounces), making it taste like a sunny afternoon in Provence.
Donnelly's also offers a line of sauces and mixes, including a mix for his mother's chocolate cake and frosting.
There are recipes on Donnelly's website such as chocolate ice cream sauce, pie dough, and baked and barbecued ribs. But if you really want to experience the effort that goes into Donnelly's truffles, from careful selection of ingredients, to the detailed treatment involved, his recipe is there. You can even purchase the imported European couverture (coating) chocolate from Mr. Donnelly himself.
Donnelly Fine Chocolates, 1509 Mission St., Santa Cruz, 685-1871. Visit donnellychocolates.com.
On the other side of town, the Mackenzie family has made candies since 1984 in their building which serves as both kitchen and large showroom. What began as a mother's hobby outgrew her home kitchen, at which time Thelma and her husband Colin Mackenzie purchased the property on the corner of Soquel Avenue and Frederick Street. Artwork for the original candy molds was designed by Thelma. Eight years later, son Ian attended candy-making school back east, returning with wonderful new ideas. Mackenzie's later added an automated mold-filler which substantially reduced labor costs.
Walking through the door, the aroma of chocolate was warming. Three glass cases illuminate individual confections and the fourth wall holds boxes of chocolate assortments. In a cabinet, a chocolate Eiffel Tower stands beside a chocolate motorcycle.
Whimsical chocolate banana slugs, both solid and filled with treats such as peanut butter are big sellers. Some are even colored yellow. I selected a half-pound heart-shaped gift box ($14.95) with a red ribbon.
I also selected three truffles ($2.40). Inside the little hill of dark chocolate, thick, rich ganache tasted like chocolaty orange marmalade.
Mackenzie's Chocolates, 1492 Soquel Dr., Santa Cruz, 425-1492. Visit mackenzieschocolates.com.
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