Sometimes that feeling seeps inside your veins. You need chocolate and you need it fast. Or maybe it’s just a small taste after a steak dinner or plate of street tacos. Do what Europeans do, go to a chocolate shop! Here are 10 options that are sure to impress and satisfy. Some offer wine- and chocolate-pairing classes.
If you want to go the full distance (liken it to a marathon vs. a sprint), run straight for the Chocolate Lab, a chocolate shop, 24-seat restaurant and speakeasy-influenced cocktail bar wrapped all in one. Phil Simonson launched his experimental chocolate-making business in 2010, renting commercial kitchens and selling at farmers’ markets for six years before opening a storefront on East Colfax Avenue. In addition to indulging in small-batch, hand-crafted truffles, toffee and other decadent treats and desserts, be sure to try out the lunch and dinner menus featuring small plates, sandwiches and entrées where chocolate enhances the flavor of each dish. Simonson also has dared to collaborate with about 30 local breweries.
It’s true. Denver has its very own chocolate therapist. It all started when Julie Nygard wrote the book, “The Chocolate Therapist: A User’s Guide to the Extraordinary Health Benefits of Chocolate.” Nygard studied nutrition in college but spent more than 18 years in the sporting goods industry. Through it all, her passion for chocolate never waivered. When news broke that chocolate has major health benefits, she amassed hundreds of scientific research papers and became an author and speaker on the topic. Nygard established a chocolate shop of the same name in Littleton making handcrafted, all-natural chocolate onsite, serving local-roast gourmet coffee and specializing in chocolate and wine pairing. Look for pairing collections as gifts, uniting just the right chocolates with beer, wine, tea and whiskey.
Temper has a clear mission to share a love for chocolates and raise awareness of craft chocolate. Located at The Denver Central Market, a bustling food hall in the River North Art District (RiNo), there are always 15 to 20 unique flavors available such as salted caramel jalapeño, pecan pie, honey lavender and strawberry fields with both basil and strawberry ganâche. Plus, Temper sells gourmet chocolates from some of the best new American and longtime European chocolatiers as well as bulk and specialty candy from around the world. New on the radar, Temper is teaming up with a RiNo neighbor, The Infinite Monkey Theorem, to make a selection of wine-infused specialty bonbons.
Based in Grand Junction, two of Enstrom’s five Colorado locations are in The Mile High City, one in Denver and the other in Arvada. The fourth-generation family-operated business has been making delicious treats since 1960. Founder Chet Enstrom was more into ice cream as a founder of Jones-Enstrom Ice Cream Company and practiced the art of candy making as a hobby. His homemade almond toffee gifts earned a legion of fans that encouraged him to start a new business. In only five years, Enstrom Candies was shipping toffee worldwide. The company has expanded its product line to include toffee popcorn, truffles and gourmet chocolates.
Paul Tamburello also started out in ice cream as the man behind the Denver’s popular Little Man Ice Cream (named after his dad). He later launched Sweet Cooie’s Ice Cream and Chocolates in honor of his mom, whose nickname was Cooie. The classically inspired confectionery in Congress Park features house-made truffles, signature ice cream flavors from Little Man Ice Cream, and the Gooie Cooie, a fresh-baked brioche ice cream sandwich.
Miette et Chocolat
Chefs David Lewis and Gonzo Jimenez have been on a wild confectionary ride since opening Miette et Chocolat in Aurora’s Stanley Marketplace in 2017. How do two men, one born in rural Illinois and the other in northern Argentina, form a chocolate connection? They met at a pastry forum and six months later won the Best Artistic Award at a chocolate showpiece competition. Their culinary paths led different directions and encompassed Denver, Boulder, Las Vegas, New Orleans and Chile. The gifted pastry chefs and chocolatiers then reconnected to establish their French patisserie with a modern twist, offering everything from traditional bonbons and unique candy bars to beautiful desserts and chocolate showpieces.
Stargazer Fine Chocolate & Coffee Shop
Also entering the market in 2017, Stargazer Fine Chocolates & Coffee Shop is a family-owned business on Colorado Boulevard that specializes in the creation of handcrafted, artisan chocolates. Karen D’Onofrio studied with a local European-trained chocolatier for several months prior to his retirement and transitioned that knowledge to create a large variety of handcrafted truffles (mimosa, chai spice, London fog and rosemary honey are a few examples), chocolate bars, nut- and fruit-filled bark, specialty and hand-dipped items, and holiday-themed treats. Added bonuses are a coffee bar and wine and chocolate-pairing classes.
Owner Adrienne Johnson-Conway worked in the original shop, Dietrich’s Chocolates, for 15 years, purchasing it and slightly adjusting the name when the previous owner retired. She kept the shop’s memory-filled space in the bustling University of Denver neighborhood and continues handcrafting most everything in-house, including truffles, caramel nut turtles, nut clusters, nonpareils, custom chocolate bars and more. While time-tested recipes like Bavarian-style truffles continue to be favorites, new and innovative offerings are constantly added like wine and chocolate-pairing classes, chocolate-dipping classes, and happy hour on Thursdays and Fridays.
Since 1995, Roberta's Chocolates has focused on satisfying candy connoisseurs with gourmet chocolates and a wide variety of unique confections, including delicious candies, smooth creams, covered nuts and truffles. If you are both a chocolate and bacon lover, you’re in luck as Roberta’s offers chocolate-covered bacon, double-dipped Oreos with bacon, caramel pecan patties covered in bacon, marshmallows covered in chocolate and bacon, and more.
Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory
Another Colorado-centric name that has long been connected with chocolate and amazing treats is Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, which started out with a small shop in Durango in 1981 and has since become an international franchise with two shops in downtown Denver (one on Larimer Street and another on the 16th Street Mall). There are all sorts of chocolates to savor along with caramel apples, ice cream and more.
The Chocolate Lab's Ruby chocolate truffles pictured above.