Since we're on a tight budget (hey, the recession might be letting up but we're in no position to splurge) chocolate is our go-to Mother's Day gift. There's only a few days left until the big day so if you're in the last-minute "I need a present for Mom ASAP" predicament, we've created a neighborhood-by-neighborhood list of our favorite L.A. chocolatiers. And while we can't guarantee you won't be stuck in rush-hour traffic on your way to get Dom Perignon truffles, sea salt fudge bars and chocolate-covered Cheerios, we can guarantee you'll get some fabulous chocolate that Mom will love.
WEST LOS ANGELES
Lady Chocolatt: Lady Chocolatt's Belgian founder, Tarcis Verfaillie, says it perfectly: "I love chocolate. It's that simple." Before bringing his chocolate to the US, Verfaillie set up three tester team to rate thirty European chocolate manufacturers. Tough job, right? His team narrowed it down to ten before deciding on the few he would be "proud to sell." For Mother's Day, Lady Chocolatt has created a one-pound chocolate egg filled with chocolate pieces ($28), Gucci chocolate shoes ($39), marzipan fruit boxes ($6) and more. Lady Chocolatt: 12008 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles; (310) 442-2245.
Compartes: Talk about tiny works of art. Since the 1950's, Compartes chocolates have been creating chocolates with vibrant colors, modern patterns and even painstakingly-placed sugar crystals, nuts and shreds of coconut. Flavors like caramelized pineapple, raspberry pink peppercorn, brown butter sage, brown sugar banana, umeboshi plum and sichimi 7 spice are almost too pretty to eat. Almost. If Compartes was good enough for regulars like Marliyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra, it's good enough for us. Compartes: 912 South Barrington Avenue, Brentwood; (310) 826-3380.
Jin Patisserie: Kristy Choo, Jin Patisserie's proprietor, is the darling of the Abbot Kinney chocolate scene. Inspired by frequent trips to Japan in a previous life as a flight attendant, she traded in flying the friendly skies to follow her passion: dessert. A degree from San Francisco's California Culinary Academy was the icing on Kristy's cake, giving her the tools to create the chocolates, cakes and cookies she now sells from her Venice shop. Check out her silk and wood box chocolate collections, sold from two chocolates ($5.50/box) to 32 chocolates ($60.50/box). We go for the toasted sesame, caramel clove, Grand Marnier and lemon grass truffles. Jin Patisserie: 1202 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Venice; (310) 399-8801.
Leonidas: In 1913, Leonidas Kestekides' chocolate won the Gold Medal Diploma at the World Fair. Today, Leonidas is a worldwide chocolate phenomenon, selling over 100 kinds of Belgian chocolate through 1,400 outlets. Leonidas' head chocolatier, Claude Sénèque, is the Belgian outlier, instead traveling to cocoa-producing countries like Africa to better master his craft. With original creations like chocolates with Turkish hazelnuts, cherries from Périgord and Italian almonds, Leonidas is the chocolate for the worldly Mom. Leonidas: 331 Santa Monica Boulevard, Santa Monica. (310) 917-4496.
BEVERLY HILLS/WEST HOLLYWOOD
K Chocolatier: K Chocolatier is for the Beverly Hills (and Malibu) Mom's watching their girlish figures. Originally based on century-old family recipes, K Chocolatier's collections have been modified to include as little sugar as possible. The cocoa beans are still roasted according to Hungarian methods, the chocolates still filled with decadent concoctions like mousse and marzipan, and the collections even include a "For Women Only" selection featured on Good Morning America. K Chocolatier: 9606 Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills; (310) 248-2626.
Madame Chocolat: Hasty Torres, wife to Jacques Torres (yes, that Jacques Torres) and judge on TLC's upcoming Chocolate Wars, is half of a dynamic chocolate duo. Her half runs Madame Chocolat, high-end chocolate across the street from Beverly Hill's Montage Hotel. Hasty ships all her chocolate directly from Belgium and creates her famous chocolate molds (chocolate Valentino, Christian Louboutin, Monolo Blahnik, Chanel high heels), bars, truffles and filled chocolates 100% in-house. If Mom is looking for something more creative, try Hasty's chocolate-covered Cheerios or homemade s'mores. Madame Chocolat: 212 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills. (310) 247-9990.
Zagat declares Teuscher has "the best champagne truffles on the planet." Fill anything with Dom Perignon and we simply can't argue with it. Enough said. If you're not a champagne fan, try Teuscher's assorted chocolates. They're both delicious and come in whimsical flower-topped, character (think colorful chocolate giraffe) or party favor boxes. Teuscher Chocolates & Cafe: 9548 Brighton Way, Beverly Hills. (310) 276-2776.
Opened in 1942, Edelweiss is a Beverly Hills landmark. Dubbed a "Chocolate Lover's Paradise" by Zagat, Edelweiss' assortment of Old World, handmade chocolates, marshmallows, fruits and specialty molded chocolates (golf balls, computers, champagne bottles, teddy bears and even their famous "Holiday Houses"), has Mom covered. Edelweiss Chocolate Factory: 444 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills; (888) 615-8800.
John Kelly Chocolates: What happens when you combine truffles and fudge? Nothing short of magic. John Kelly Chocolates has a line of 2 oz. and 8oz. truffle fudge bars (cappuccino, caramel, mint, orange, etc.) and 1oz. truffle fudge bites that will knock mom's socks off. How about a four-piece box of semi-sweet chocolate and caramel fudge with Hawaiian red alaea sea salt? Or a four-piece box of dark chocolate with French grey sea salt? With John Kelly's Mother's Day collection, Mom gets both. Or you can keep one. She'll never know. John Kelly Chocolates: 1506 N Sierra Bonita Ave, Los Angeles. (323) 851-3269.
Chocolate Box Cafe: With a second location open in Malibu, Chocolate Box Cafe is taking their pralines, ganaches, truffles, buttermilks, marzipans and boxed assortments on the road. While you're waiting for your box of chocolates to get wrapped up, why not give the sandwich (grilled ahi tuna with lemon ginger slaw), salad (Mediterranean grilled shrimp with hearts of palm) and gelato menus a once over? Gianduia gelato with milk chocolate and hazelnut sounds pretty good to us. Chocolate Box Cafe: 714 Foothill Boulevard, La Canada; (818) 790-7918.
L'Artisan du Chocolat: L'Artisan has all the traditional chocolate you could ask for, but their avante-garde collection really kicks it up a notch. Check out their "Fruits and Flowers" (grapefruit, rose petal, green apple, passion fruit, etc.) and Farmers Market selections (basil, rosemary, thyme, fennel, etc.). If Mom is adventurous, give her a sampler pack with Greek Kalamata olive, Korean garlic, Japanese red bean and Aztec chili truffles. Just make sure to follow it up with a box of mint truffles. L'Artisan du Chocolat: 3364 West 1st Street, Silver Lake. (213) 252-8721.
Valerie Confections: Valerie Confections is going straight for Mom's heart with their Mother's Day gift set. For $70, Mom gets Pansy petits fours, chocolate-covered almond shortbread, Champagne truffles, rose petal meringues and Valerie's handmade strawberry rhubarb jam. Looking for something more simple? Go for the passion fruit truffles, each dipped in bittersweet chocolate and topped with a tiny rose petal. Valerie Confections: 3360 West 1st Street, Silver Lake. (888) 706-1408.
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Mignon Chocolate: Mignon Chocolate is the definition of a family business. Opened in 1910 in Ukraine by Hovsep Ter-Poghossian Sr., this bakery-turned-chocolate shop survived the communist regime of Soviet Union and Hovsep's arrest and sentencing as a Serbian prisoner. While it's hard to make such a compelling yet long story short, Hovsep's family jumped in and by the early 1970's, Mignon was known as the "King of Chocolate" in Tehran, Iran. In 2003, the family opened a Pasadena-based branch and the rest, as they say, is chocolate history. Try the lavender, Cuban mojito, chili pepper, ginger with sea salt and caramelized pear truffles. Mignon Chocolate: 6 East Holly Street, Pasadena. (626) 796-7100.
Christie Bishop writes at PardonMyCrumbs.com.