In LOVE with Local Chocolate
Whether you’re sentimental or traditional, a savvy shopper or a self-proclaimed Pinterest junkie, there’s one gift that everyone can agree upon when it comes to Valentine’s Day giving: chocolates.
Luckily for locals, made-in-Madison chocolates are both plentiful—and meaningful. It’s no secret that we admire the artisans who put their hearts into creating handmade confections. Here are just a few reasons why, from just two of our city’s award-winning chocolatiers:
There’s a backstory behind each box.
When you give chocolates from Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier, you can count on the fact that they’re inspired by every experience Gail has had, from growing up on a Wisconsin dairy farm to spending a decade as a cartographer to studying to be a chocolatier in France to visiting growers in Costa Rica. “Cacao is an exotic plant that only grows around the equator so it is my job to make it understandable to our locality,” says Ambrosius. “I travel to satisfy my need to understand the whole process, from growing cacao to turning it into the best bonbons.”
Lasting flavor begins … at the last minute.
Even two or three weeks out from Valentine’s Day, Markus Candinas couldn’t tell us what specialty items he’d be creating for this year’s assortments. Not because he didn’t want to, but because at Candinas Chocolatier, those decisions are made closer to peak purchasing times. “The beauty of buying chocolates made locally is the quality,” says Candinas. "We may prepare components to a recipe weeks before a holiday, but the hand work and designs are done in the days leading up to the event. Our staff of four simply makes more as we need them at our factory in Verona.”
Trendy is tempered with traditional.
The chocolatiers at both businesses give great advice about choosing chocolates for a loved one. “People often think ‘Oh, candy making is so creative!’” says Candinas. “And while a particular ingredient may be the latest trend or we’ve created amazing combinations with chai or anise infusions, adding new flavors can take old favorites out of the mix. We sell assortments as a means of providing the best experience overall, and encourage buyers to choose based on personal tastes.”
Ambrosius agrees. “We love to gear up for the holidays, as they bring us special memories—and special chocolates to go with it. This time of year, we have decadent Boozy Cherry Chocolate Hearts, which are made with cherries from cherry bounce and a secret syrup that turns the center liquid when you bite into it. But plenty of people prefer caramel with sea salt. My advice to others is that there is no right or wrong. If you like it, that’s great. If not, keep tasting and eat what you enjoy.”
If gifting great handmade chocolates is on your list, you don’t have to live locally! In addition to stopping into Candinas at 11 W. Main Street or Gail Ambrosius at 2086 Atwood Avenue, you can also order online at candinas.com or store.gailambrosius.com.