While Belgium and Switzerland are worthy of their reputations as superb centers for chocolatiers (and I do love my Teuscher champagne truffles), I truly believe that Los Angeles has replaced Europe as the hand-hewn chocolate capital of the world.
Three small confiseries command attention with their confections being made on-site. These chocolates are fresh, fresh, fresh and natural. And shipping is readily available, if you are not able to personally visit these intimate and fragrant shops, always a treat. The John Kelly factory and store just off Sunset in West Hollywood, and its newer sister store in Santa Monica, showcase fudgy dark chocolates (and milk chocolates)
coated in various sea salts and containing all matter of nuts, caramels and dried fruit. I will admit Kelly is a favorite hang-out of mine….there are always samples to be swiped from the front counter. And while I was recovering from eye surgery, around ten boxes of the substance arrived at my door. Friends from as far away as Chicago and Miami knew how to aid my rehabilitation. Most of the chocolates are square-shaped, but there are also butterflies and frogs filled with vanilla butter, sea salt, and almonds You can watch the production through a glass window, and while all the employees are helpful, my favorite is Richard, a talented English jazz musician.
Back in the early 1980’s, I would stride the Upper East Side of Manhattan, beelining towards Kron’s hand-dipped chocolate-covered strawberries on Madison Avenue. Kron’s was the height of choco- desirability, and a then rare incursion into the world of dark chocolate, a world of terre rather than milk. Kron disappeared from New York…and then reemerged in Beverly Hills in 2000, (with a newer shop in Malibu)
as Diane Kron Chocolatier or simply ‘K’. The chocolate covered fruits are still a standout, and the liquor filled cordials are exceptional (I’m a major fan of the tequila). Diane’s husband Tom is the great grandson of the chocolate-maker to Emperor Franz Josef of Austria and some of his secret recipes are still in use. And Diane Kron is quick to emphasize the health benefits of chocolate. The Food Network has called Kron the “Rolls Royce of Chocolates” and their packaging is as stunning as the formulations it contains. They also sell a lovely “drinking chokolate.”
And then there is the grandfather of all the LA small-batch chocolates. Dating back to 1942 , Edelweiss on Canon Drive in Beverly Hills is a California tradition. I stopped by at Halloween for candy corn embedded bars and chocolate covered Oreos laid out in cardboard coffins. Like John Kelly and Kron, Edelweiss also excel at chocolate coated fruit, theirs created from luscious candied fruit imported from
Australia. Do try the orange. And their chocolate pretzels are addictive. And yes, they do have a small factory on premise. Long a favorite of legendary stars, Lucille Ball was inspired by Edelweiss when she and Vivian Vance created the famous “Job Switching” episode of “I Love Lucy” (although it was actually filmed at See’s factory-see below). For a period of five years, Edelweiss was even owned by musical star Shirley Jones, the beloved and adorable Mrs. Partridge from “The Partridge Family”.
Although it is a large company with thousands of employees, owned by Berkshire Hathaway, no talk about Los Angeles chocolate is possible without a mention of See’s. We all know that See’s candies are omnipresent in airports and there are hundreds of See’s shops, even in Asia, but the quality has never diminished since it’s Los Angeles founding in 1921. The company is now based in San Francisco, but the
original factory, the one that always catches my eye when traversing La Cienega en route to LAX, is still up and running and this is where Lucy and Ethel fought the production line conveyer belt, mostly by stuffing the chocolates into their mouths, in 1952. I am especially fond of See’s chocolate and nut Victoria toffee, and their lollipops in flavors chocolate, vanilla, coffee and butterscotch; the lollies last a long
time and are not at all that caloric. (However I did break a tooth on one recently.
Reminder: they are to be sucked rather than bitten. Even after a pricey visit to my talented dentist, Dr. Eric Fugier, I still blame myself, and not See’s.) Berkshire Hathaway’s “Oracle of Omaha”, Warren Buffett, says that See’s is “the prototype of a dream business.” And it’s also delicious.