Surely there is a Duff Goldman of chocolate out there somewhere. But all of the real-time chocolatiers (sorry, Willy Wonka doesn't count in our book) we've spent tasting time with, including Diana Malouf, owner of Ococoa, have more temperate personalities — a compliment. Measured, focused and with a patience that bodes well in the confectioner's kitchen, where precision is essential. Kind-hearted, too, perhaps partly the result of the contentment that a life of making chocolate brings.

If you strip away the tired cliché, it actually makes a box of chocolate seem fitting for Valentine's Day, even at this early January hour (some of us prefer to go directly from holiday cookies to chocolate, skipping the diet talk altogether). Get more on Ococoa chocolate after the jump.

Pistachio Butter-Date Ococoa Chocolate; Credit: jgarbee

Pistachio Butter-Date Ococoa Chocolate; Credit: jgarbee

Malouf makes a handful of ganache and caramel-filled chocolate bars, but we're partial to her specialty, nut butter cups. The petite cups come across much as Malouf herself does at Unique L.A. and other events around town: elegant in their simplicity, adorned with flourishes like a single hazelnut or a sprinkling of fleur de sel; a few go the French bonbon route with pretty floral and honeybee transfer sheet designs. But you came, we all came, for the fillings.

For purists, Malouf has a “classic” peanut butter rendition filled with lightly sweetened, natural peanut butter. Hardly concession stand fare, unless you happen to have an artisan fare-filled movie theater down the street (lucky you). Almond-cherry, marzipan-truffle and hazelnut-chocolate (a la Nutella) also make appearances.

The best are those that were inspired by Malouf's Middle Eastern heritage, like the tangy cashew-apricot and buttery macadamia-guava. Our favorites: pistachio butter- date and sesame butter-fig filled chocolate cups. Now, about that movie theater.

Check back in the coming weeks as we celebrate the best cocoa bean interpretations, chocolate bonbons and beyond, this time of year.

Ococoa chocolate is available online and at Farmshop in the Brentwood Country Mart.

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