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A visit to The Best Chocolate in Town 

click to enlarge Delicious chocolates on display at Best Chocolate in Town. - MARK LEE
  • Delicious chocolates on display at Best Chocolate in Town.
  • Mark Lee

Only the chump will settle for a heart-shaped box full of factory-made chocolate for this Valentine's Day. It's just too easy to find artisan-made chocolate in this town.

"I think over the past 15 years there has been an evolution of foods, in general, and specialty foods," said Elizabeth Garber, chocolatier and owner of Best Chocolate in Town. "It has happened to cheese, with craft beer, and even wine. Chocolate has done that too.

"Chocolate has been around for ever and ever, but then you started getting people specializing in the craft of chocolate and the higher quality and the artistic side of chocolate. People started creating it more visually and it became more about the palate. Now it's what flavor profile is in the chocolate and what works well with chocolate."

Wine and chocolate have long been a natural pairing, but it's not as simple as grabbing a bottle of wine and a chocolate bar.

"There are levels and strengths in terms of sweetness," Garber said. "A white chocolate is going to be sweeter because it has a lot more sugar in it. There are some grades of milk chocolate that sweetness depends on the amount of sugar, milk and cacao in the chocolate. Then you get in to darks which are going to get more bittersweet, though you can have really sweet dark chocolate too."

The higher the percentage of cacao you have on a bar means more cacao and less sugar. Garber explains the 80 percent you see on a chocolate bar means "80 percent cacao and 20 percent sugar, cacao butter and other stuff."

click to enlarge Elizabeth Garber, owner and operator of Best Chocolate in Town. - HOWARD HEWITT
  • Elizabeth Garber, owner and operator of Best Chocolate in Town.
  • Howard Hewitt

And simply enough the more bold the chocolate, the bigger red wine you're going to want to pair with the sweet treat. Chocolate ranging from 60-75 percent cacao pairs great with big red wines. Any bold red wine will do but experimenting will help you find your favorites.

But chocolate today is more than a plain chocolate bar. "We do a cinnamon basil and it might go well with one thing versus another," Garber said. "A milk chocolate could be paired with a Chardonnay or whites. Sometime that sweet white wine with a honey/lavender truffle is a great pairing. A sweet floral chocolate might pair better with white than just a red. So many people just think red wine with chocolate but you can mix it up."

Garber has been a chocolatier since 1995 with businesses first in Franklin and Edinburgh before opening her Mass Ave store.

She mixes spices, fruit, and even beer in her truffles to challenge her customer's palate. "There has been this slow evolution going on," she said. "It's sort of like jams and jelly; it used to be just grape and strawberry. Now you have pepper jellies and all sorts of combinations. So now chocolate has evolved and continues to expand in new directions."

Howard W. Hewitt, Crawfordsville, writes every other week for 22 newspapers in three states. Reach him at hewitthoward@gmail.com

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