“I always thought chocolate came from Europe,” says Maribel Lieberman, owner of New York’s MarieBelle and a native of Honduras. “When I learned that the Mayans and the Aztecs were the first to create chocolate, it connected me to my roots. I had found my destiny.” Chocolaty destiny might sound extreme (and lucky), but such passion is common among artisan chocolatiers, who can spend days crafting a single truffle.
These aren’t just candy — they’re mini works of art. Lieberman’s sweets boast hand-drawn scenes of New York women. Lillie Belle Farms uses local ingredients to create novel pieces like a smoky blue-cheese truffle. Spanish confectioner Oriol Balaguer’s mascleta truffle explodes with flavor: Inside the chocolate are carbonated candies like Pop Rocks. “What’s happening in chocolate goes hand in hand with the chef movement — better, more, trendier,” says Julian Rose of Moonstruck Chocolate, which is known for its animal-shaped truffles. (For fall, owls.) “As much as we hate the Food Network for some of the crazy stuff it does, it’s helping the industry, raising awareness about flavors and quality.”
A commitment to small-batch production helps maintain quality. Christopher Elbow, whose elaborate designs are now sold nationwide, says, “Growth is great, but we’ll stop producing before we mechanize or compromise quality.”