BIJOU FINE CHOCOLATE
Bijou Fine Chocolate invites you to relax the moment you enter this Shelburne shop. Chocolate displayed meticulously in glass cases like jewelry, evocative music, and simple tables scattered about a pristine room create a calming mood. On the walls beyond the chocolate display, colorful Japanese prints brighten the room. Creatively displayed boxes waiting to be filled with chocolates are wrapped in bright orange paper. A vase of fresh flowers, a row of brightly wrapped chocolate bars, and tins of French tea perch on a long shelf.
Kevin and Laura Toohey, Bijou owners and chefs, welcome me with gracious warmth. Usually they are behind a curtain making chocolate. Although today is Monday when the shop is closed to fine chocolate seekers, they are dressed in their chef whites, crafting chocolate, combining flavors and textures with care. I am here to learn more about a specific truffle – cardamom coffee truffle.
Kevin shows me to a table and asks for a few moments. We have planned this meeting. Weeks earlier, I stumbled across a cardamom coffee truffle that I spied in the glass case and purchased a box to share at my evening book group gathering.
That day, Kevin stepped away from his chocolate making and shared the back story about the truffle. His wife, Laura, discovered a recipe from a French chef who had married chocolate with cardamom and coffee. Laura, intrigued with this combination, decided to re-create it in the shop. I had returned to Bijou to gain a deeper appreciation of the cardamom coffee truffle.
Kevin returned to our table with a pot of hot tea, warmed white mugs, and a white rectangular plate with assorted chocolates and two heart shaped cookies half dipped in chocolate. In this peaceful, elegant setting, Kevin took me on cardamom’s journey from Persia to Scandinavia, a tale that involved Vikings, Christopher Columbus, Turks and much more.
Cardamom is the third most expensive spice in the world after saffron and vanilla. India was the largest producer of this “queen of spices” until 2000. Guatemala now reins number one.
The first bite of a cardamom coffee truffle reveals coffee and a lingering flavor of cardamom, subtle and complex inside a delicate dark chocolate exterior.
When it comes to flavor combinations, this pair of chefs looks beyond the horizon to see what trends are emerging. Maple season is almost here and will most likely inform some of their upcoming truffles. If you stay long enough to enjoy a cup of tea, a pastry, or sample one or two of the chocolates, the essence will seep in.
And the stories behind the flavors that inform the beautifully crafted chocolates will linger long after you have left, enticing you to return.