When Valentine’s Day rolls around this year, Ohio has plenty of sweet spots where theobroma cacao, the tropical bean that’s the root of all chocolate, is star of the show. Like Coco Beans in Fremont. There, Donna McNemar and company will greet you. And sweetly.
“I’ve been making candy since I was a little girl,” explains McNemar, who recalls stirring the pot for her grandfather at age three. September will be Coco Beans’ 10th anniversary. And of course, like most candy shops, all the chocolates are made on-site. “Oh we make candy every day,” McNemar says. The most popular item is buckeyes, with sea-salt caramels trailing a close second. The aroma of rich cocoa and sugar hits as soon as you open the door.
Like most sweet spots, Coco Beans sells bulk candies and treats made elsewhere as well as their own candies, truffles and cupcakes. And also: hand dipped ice cream. With the big day approaching McNemar is stocking up for their biggest guy seller: Chocolate covered strawberries. And their number one gal seller: Chocolate covered strawberries. They also sell plenty of heart-shaped boxes filled with chocolates as well as kid’s bags stuffed with treats for younger valentines. You can visit at www.facebook.com/Cocobeanscandy
Like Coco Beans, Fawn Candy in Cincinnati, is an all-around sweets shop specializing in fresh-made chocolates and treats. While they have third-party candies of every variety, the good stuff is made right there. “Our whole lower level is a kitchen,” explains Kathy Guenther, whose father opened shop when he returned from war in 1946. Fudge, popcorn, peanut brittle and a host of chocolates are Fawn staples.
“Oh, wow, what is this?” my mother inquires, though before the question is answered, she’s moved onto another chocolate and is formulating another mumbly, chocolaty inquiry. Fawn’s best seller? Hands down the Pecan Caramel Cluster, otherwise known as a turtle. In addition to candies, one of Guenther’s most popular items is more of a service: wine bottles dipped in chocolate. Yep, that’s the name of it and basically, it’s wine bottles dipped in chocolate. Folks drop off their full bottles, then take them home coated with chocolate, peeling away the yummy skin as they sip wine. “That’s when you know you’ve made it,” Mom says enthusiastically, “When you have chocolate and wine both!”
While we were gawking at goodies a man entered, then left with a large pink toy dump truck that had been custom-filled with chocolate treats for his daughter’s birthday party. Yes, Guenther said, they do all kinds of custom orders for folks. And also as a side note, my mother got chocolate one my car seat. Bad mom. Visit Guenther’s candy shack at www.fawncandy.com
And speaking of custom, you won’t find any tubs of jelly beans, gummy worms, buckeyes or turtles at Maverick Chocolate Co., a few miles away in Over-the-Rhine. The small space is all about chocolate. Serious, serious chocolate. The upstart bean-to-bar operation takes in cocoa beans whole and churns out chocolate. While a bourbon milk chocolate with smoked sea salt, including 60 percent dark is one of the best sellers, there is still something for the purists. What is it? Single origin chocolate, sourced from one specific co-op. The shop is situated in a vintage brick space adjacent to Findlay Market.
Customers at Maverick are offered samples of all the chocolates, which are sold in handsomely packaged bars. There are definitely no Hershey bars here. “No soy lecithin, palm oils or any types of fillers,” explains Hannah Bragg. “And, business is good.” A small selection of truffles is available, also. Maverick specializes in high-quality chocolates, leaning toward the bitter. And better. While the girls appear very serious about their chocolate, I figure they have to let go soon, so I ask them if they eat much of the product they’re supposed to be selling.
“Well, we do have to taste them. That’s all part of quality control,” Dana Hagedon explains. “Part of the gig.” Smiling, of course. One of those chocolatey smiles. Visit Maverick at www.maverickchocolate.com
For more Buckeye chocolates, check out some of the states many confectioners.
Elyria & Amherst: www.suzinl.com
Walnut Creek: www.coblentzchocolates.com
Troy & Piqua: www.winanschocolatesandcoffees.com