“This might be your next favorite place in Napa”, said my nail technician Francine, a cheerful local lady and my infinite source of Napa news. I obediently walked over to La Foret, a tiny place in an unassuming shopping mall away from downtown. On a hot day with over 100 degrees, I was the only customer. Wendy, the store owner, was almost apologetic over the smallest – off-season – selection on offer. I bought two items I’d never tried before: strawberry marshmallows covered with dark chocolate and dark chocolate-dipped honeycomb.
Francine was right: three days later, I drove back to La Foret with an excuse to buy a little gift for a friend. Wendy, who was working in the kitchen behind a large window, recognized me and came out to chat. Do I need to say, I also bought a gift for myself?
Wendy’s chocolates have finesse and delicacy, which one finds in best European chocolates (which isn’t surprising, given her extensive French training). Their perfect texture, flavor complexity, and balance leaves one wishing for more. They aren’t too sweet, and dark chocolate coating isn’t bitter, so I can have a piece at a particularly nice breakfast or at the end of a dinner and feel light and content. They also look undoubtedly handcrafted, yet sleek and professional.
Particularly delicious: four marshmallows in dark chocolate – $8.50, a bag of chocolate-dipped honecomb (70 g) – $6, a box of almond turtles (ca 8 pieces, 160 g) – $12.50.
The store on 3261 Browns Valley Road, Napa, is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10am – 6pm.
With two prime locations in Napa – a large store on First Street and a stand in the popular Oxbow Public Market – Anette’s Chocolates are hard to miss. The spacious store on the First Street has three show-cases filled with truffles, caramels, bars, and brittles. One can take them home or enjoy right away with a cup of tea or coffee: there’re a few tables inside and on the patio. I wish the store had more character: it looks a little sterile, and the rows of bottled chocolate sauce, fudge, and drinking chocolate mixes create a rather touristy feel.
Anette’s truffles are good: intense and flavorful, but perhaps a little straightforward. I would also have a hard time distinguishing between many of the flavors in a blind tasting. Among 15 or so different kinds I tried, my favorites were a disheveled-looking but wonderfully nut-rich pecan flip with milk chocolate, as well as an intense tart cherry truffle, which would be interesting to pair with a big red wine.
For those interested to continue the chocolate exploration, there are about 40 other flavors to try. The store on First Street also does by-appointment tours and tastings.
Particularly delicious: large pecan flips – $ 4.95. Truffles and caramels are $1.60 a piece; a bag of 20 or so ‘seconds’ (less perfectly-looking pieces) at $19 is a steal when you’re buying for yourself, not as a gift.
The store on 1321 First Street is open every day until 6 pm, Friday-Saturday until 10 pm.
Vintage Sweet Shoppe
The oldest chocolate shop in Napa (established in 1978), Vintage Sweet Shoppe is located in the quiet corner of town, in the restored 19-century Hatt/Napa Mill buildings. Chocolates and wine share the space, and the store offers a chocolate and wine pairing. There’re also a few tables outside to enjoy a cup of coffee with a selected treat.
While I didn’t do the chocolate and wine pairing, I bought some chocolates to take home. Honestly, they were quite hit or miss. Or rather, miss or hit. Chocolate-covered honeycomb was so hard, I feared for my teeth. Pecan flip had much fewer nuts, compared to the one at Anette’s Chocolates. Chili truffle was intense and hotter than any spiced chocolate I’ve ever had. It might be, however, a perfect choice for someone needing an instant wake-up.
Particularly delicious: yet to discover. Chili chocolate costs $14.95 for 0.5 pound, a box of 12 assorted truffles – $28.95.
The store on 530 Main Street is open every day until 10 pm, Sunday – 9 pm.