To celebrate Valentine’s Day in true chocolate style, why not go to the source? There are many local chocolatiers to visit, and there is one where you can have a “factory tour.”
MAST chocolates, founded by brothers Rick and Michael Mast in Brooklyn, landed in Los Angeles last May, and the entire bean-to-bar process can be observed during their 30-minute $10 tour. Five observation windows reveal gleaming stainless steel drums that roast beans, separate them from their husks, and grind them into molten chocolate.
The last stop of the tour is a tasting table where several flavors are sampled, along with a non-alcoholic chocolate beer they brew. Their chocolates are in the Goldilocks zone of sweetness — not too sweet, not too bitter — and have a silky, satisfying finish.
In addition to 12 bar flavors, such as Smoke, Goat’s Milk, and Almond Butter, there are 6-bar collections dedicated to the tastes of their home cities: Brooklyn (smoked maple, vanilla and salt), London (includes gin, rhubarb and custard), and Los Angeles (miso, and sesame, horchata, popcorn). Call 213-261-0757.
Valerie Confections has beautifully crafted chocolates and Valentine’s specials, such as the $30, 11-piece Pour Elle Assortment, with bittersweet chocolate/green tea hearts and rose petal passion fruit truffles. Call 213-739-8149.
John Kelly Chocolates, another homegrown chocolatier, sells such handcrafted chocolates as the 12-piece $31 salted caramel collection and individual bars, such as the $7.50 dark chocolate with habanero and jalapeno. Glass windows between the sales room and factory allow a glimpse into the chocolate-making process. Call 323-851-3269.
Los Angeles-made Ococoa Chocolates is known for their “Buttercup” collections of beautifully decorated dark chocolate cups filled with nut butters, fruit, and truffles, priced $25 to $44. Call 855-350-4404.
Edelweiss has spread chocolate cheer in Beverly Hills since 1942, with handmade chocolates such as the $49.95 dark and light assortment. Their claim to fame is that reportedly their backroom conveyor belt inspired Lucille Ball to create the hilarious chocolate assembly line skit on “I Love Lucy.” Call 310-275-0341.
Sweet! is the place to go to see a portrait of Adele made from jellybeans, but it’s also a terrific destination for anyone interested in creating a $7.99 custom chocolate bar. At their Chocolate Lab, pick a chocolate (dark, milk or white), filling (coffee cream, blackberry jam, or any of six others) and up to three mix-ins (19 choices, such as coconut and ginger snaps) and watch as your creation gets made, wrapped and handed to you. Call 323-462-3111.
Before artisanal hype hit the candy shelf, the go-to chocolate shop in Los Angeles was See’s Candies. Since 1921 queues have been forming at See’s iconic La Cienega factory for Valentine’s Day collections of milk chocolate covered marshmallow hearts ($18.90 for six) or a one-pound heart-shaped box of assorted chocolates for $25.50. Call 310-559-4919.
By Helene Seifer