Your delicious choice of LOCAL CHOCOLATE SHOPS, just in time for Valentine’s Day
Working with chocolate is a passion for the artisans behind our favorite Westport chocolate shops, and the evolution of chocolate-making is here to taste, savor and share. Downtown Westport is home to two trained, artisan chocolatiers, Le Rouge by Aarti and Chocolatieree, and the newest chocolate store on the scene is Bridgewater, a Connecticut-based operation that opened an outlet on Main Street (enter near GG & Joe’s) in September.
In nearby Wilton, Sweet Pierre’s offers gourmet brands of chocolates, including House of Kniptschildt, the nationally recognized brand made in Norwalk.
Greenfield Hill, Fairfield, is the home of BE Chocolate, where a Belgian master matches tradition with ingredient-driven fillings. All take online orders and ship across the country. Many host classes and events. Here’s more about each.
Westport Chocolate Shops
1. BRIDGEWATER CHOCOLATE
Westport is home to the newest (its fourth) outlet of Bridgewater Chocolate (bridgewaterchocolate.com). The Connecticut-based brand specializes in sweet, creamy and crunchy upgrades on American classics, such as toffee, turtles (called törtél in honor of founder Chef Erik Landegren), bars, bark, shortbread, graham crackers, dried fruits and flavored fillings. In business since 1995, Bridgewater has built up the capacity in its factory in Brookfield to handle a high volume of corporate gifts and large events, as well as personal gifts. For Valentine’s Day, boxes of assortments will be tied with red bows, and milk and dark chocolate, as well as cherry-and-chocolate hearts will fill the display case.
The display case at Chocolatieree (chocolatieree.com) has a decadent austerity, and the shiny, tempered chocolates are decorated like jewels. Laureen “Ree” Hayes is the newest artisan chocolatier on the scene. She uses rare, single-origin Criollo cocao beans from Peru, which produce smooth, rich chocolate. For Valentine’s Day—its first in Westport—she’ll feature strawberry-and-champagne-ganache truffles enrobed in chocolate. Don’t be surprised to see some ex–New York City hipsters here; this shop is one of the reasons they’re glad they moved out to Connecticut.
3. LE ROUGE BY AARTI
The little den, Le Rouge by Aarti (lerougebyaarti.com), on upper Main Street, Westport, smells delightfully of chocolate, and that’s because Aarti Khosta is melting, molding and painting chocolates in the kitchen right off the display room. Celebrating her tenth anniversary of creating fresh chocolates sans preservatives or artificial flavors, Khosta is inspired by her world travels, flavoring truffles with masala chai and filling chocolate crowns with pistachio caramel. Her campaign “Give a Little Love” has funded chocolate hearts to thank teachers and staff of Westport’s school district and graduating students in Bridgeport. Valentine’s Day can also be about random acts of kindness. “Give a heart to someone who doesn’t expect it,” says Khosta. “It’s a way to spread love and inclusion.”
4. SWEET PIERRE’S
This gourmet retail chocolate shop, Sweet Pierre’s chocolate shop (sweetpierres.com) in Wilton, features organic, vegan, European and local chocolates, gift baskets, assortments, including locally made House of Knipschild, who began mixing savory flavors with chocolate back in 2001. (Fritz Knipschild has beaten Bobby Flay and been a contestant on Chopped.)
This is the modern atelier of Belgian Master Chocolatier Benoit. Chocolate and coffee perfume the air at BEchocolate (bechocolat.com). The Valentine’s Day pièce de résistance are heart-shaped boxes made of chocolate, filled with Champagne & Raspberry Hearts, Ruby Passion, Gin & T (local Fifth State Gin and Bigelow Earl Grey) or Vanilla Bourbons. They can be personalized with a sweet message written in white chocolate. (BE Chocolate is also sold at Isabel et Vincent in downtown Fairfield.)
Photographs: Bridgewater Chocolate, contributed; Chocolatieree by Emu Haynes; Le Rouge by Aarti and be chocolate, contributed; Sweet Pierre’s by Garvin Burke; cover – © Artem Shadrin – stock.adobe.com