Ridge shop serves up chocolate in all its forms
The logo for CocoAma-trice, the “Artisan Chocolates and Tasting Salon” on the Skyway in Paradise, features a Victorian-looking woman who appears to be seducing you to come inside as she hides part of her face behind her fan. In fact, it’s as if the logo is a foil character to See’s Candies’ familiar old grandma who looks strict and uninviting in comparison with her bun, spectacles and black shawl. Meanwhile, CocoAmatrice’s siren has a choker necklace and a half-done bun with a tease of hair falling down.
“The logo, yeah, she’s flirting with the whole idea,” said owner Clarice Armstrong. “You know, is she flirting with a man, or is she trying to get [him] to buy her some chocolates?”
Armstrong opened the shop in Paradise two years ago with her husband, Ken Yoskowitz—she’s the chocolate lady and he’s the gelato man. Yoskowitz usually runs the store while Armstrong works by day as a dialysis nurse. With the stresses that naturally come with nursing, Armstrong says that working with chocolate provides a nice, happy counterbalance in her life.
The shop is warm and inviting, with a rosy color scheme and soft music floating from the CD player. The tables and chairs are augmented by a few stools, couches, a coffee table, and even a coloring and Play-Doh table for children.
The glass case below the front counter is the main attraction, holding a trove of playful chocolate confections that look like a scene out of Alice in Wonderland. All of the chocolates in the case are shipped in from Switzerland and are $1.50 per piece. There are trays full of sensuous shapes: some plain dark, some lacquered and specked with colors, like smooth stones from a stream. There are dark truffles and white truffles, swirled bonbons, heart-shaped treats and checkered chocolates.
On one visit, Armstrong showed me how to eat chocolate in conscious steps, having me compare both dark chocolate and the milk chocolate familiar to most American palates.
For the lesson, she chose organic, fair-trade, soy-free Art Bars made in Switzerland ($4.30 for 1.6 oz)—one with 70 percent cocoa and one with 58 percent—as well as an American-made, premium, milk-chocolate Marital Bliss Bar featuring 34 percent cocoa ($2.50 for 3.5 oz.).
First, Armstrong advised to place it on your tongue and savor as it begins to melt, then mesh and crunch the chocolate, noting its flavor as you go. You’re even supposed to make the meditative “om” sound while doing this—which of course naturally turns to “mmm” as the flavor erupts upon your taste buds. Next, there is a second stage of flavor as the sweet sugar and bitter cocoa coat your throat, and finally, as the warmth of the chocolate settles in, whatever caffeine or endorphin chemistry that is taking place completes the experience.
Of course, as a purveyor of the ubiquitous gift of lovers, Armstrong suggests that chocolate has aphrodisiac properties as well.
The range of exotic specialties at CocoAmatrice could certainly cause a sensory overload: The chili truffle that tastes like a shot of Mexican hot chocolate, the raspberry heart, the hazelnut-crunch and the sipping chocolate, made with liquefied dark chocolate, a little added milk and a dollop of whipped cream on top ($3 for 3 oz cup) were all delicious. But the most impressive might have been the Marc de Champagne truffle, with a soft brown outer shell and a gently powdered sugar crown. Inside is a fudge-like ganache filling and even deeper is a remarkable biting taste of champagne.
CocoAmatrice also serves gelato, the Italian ice cream made rich and more dense than traditional ice cream with extra butter cream and about half the air mixed into it (from $2.50-$4.50), and during a second visit I tried a mix of two, making a classic combination with half peanut butter and half of the dark-chocolate Cioccolato Mortale (“Death by Chocolate”). The familiar flavors blended perfectly as I sat melting away blissfully in my chair.
CocoAmatrice is a treasure for those in need of a unique confectionary, and who don’t mind taking a drive to satisfy a craving or stock up for a romantic date.