The Orange County Register
Michael Antonorsi of Chuao Chocolatier
hether a gift for a friend or a treat for yourself, chocolate's never a bad idea. You can't go wrong with some of our favorite local artisan chocolates.
Spice of LifeChuao Chocolatier
Goat cheese, crushed peppercorns, balsamic vinegar -- unusual flavor combinations spice up this Irvine Spectrum purveyor of Venezuelan chocolates. Favorites like the Picante bite, a raisin fondue in cabernet caramel with spices covered in dark chocolate, or the Le Citron bon-bon, a Meyer lemon pulp infused with caramel and milk chocolate, are sure to make this a unique gift. 95 Fortune Dr., Ste. 603, (949) 453-8813; www.chuaochocolatier.com
Sam Gangwer/the Orange County Register
Tracey Downey-Racen with pods of cocoa beans from Belize, the type of fresh ingredients used in the sweets at Downey's Chocolates in Laguna Niguel
Watch through the observation windows inside this upscale boutique and café as owner Tracey Downey-Racen prepares her award-winning sweets from scratch. The signature collection includes artisan pieces like espresso almond caramels and jazz-inspired dark chocolate pianos filled with creamy peppermint mousse. A sentimental favorite is the BigMouth -- marshmallow, crisp rice, creamy caramel, and peanut butter covered in rich Belgian chocolate -- dedicated to the owner's late father, television personality Morton Downey Jr. For a final sweet touch, present treats in one of Downey's jewelry-box-inspired packages. 23902 Aliso Creek Rd., Laguna Niguel, (877) 815-0814; www.mychocolatefix.com
Ygnacio Nanetti/The Orange County Register
Sweet hearts from Bodega
Star PowerBodega Chocolates
Founders Martucci Angiano and her sister Jene Paz continue the chocolatiering tradition passed down from their great grandmother at this world-famous shop. With a spectacular selection of truffles, toffee, barks, and brittles, its no wonder this homegrown shop has provided sweets for the Oscars, the Grammys, the Golden Globes, and a host of charity events. 17290 Newhope St., Ste. A, Fountain Valley, (714) 432-0708; www.bodegachocolates.com
Private StockMontage Resort & Spa
Chef Richard Ruskell's all-natural exotic chocolates
Once offered only to resort guests, the Montage Resort & Spa's exclusive line of artisan chocolates is now available to others craving the confectionary craftsmanship of Executive Pastry Chef Richard Ruskell. You'll appreciate all-natural, exotic flavors like bitter raw clover honey and organic Madagascar vanilla, oven-roasted banana caramel, sea salted chewy caramel -- and any other treats Chef Ruskell dreams up. For more information, or to place an order, call (949) 715-6603.