It's no small honor to be listed among 10 top sweet destinations across the nation, in the Food Network magazine. But that's exactly where chocolatier, Gail Ambrosius, found her stellar dark chocolate creations, when the publication named hers the 'Best Little Box of Chocolates.'
Beyond the big red awning that bears her name, Ambrosius and her staff create unusual flavor combinations that have also landed this popular shop on the Best of Madison list, for four consecutive years.
Not bad for a business that opened in 2004 and an owner who previously worked as a cartographer for the state of Wisconsin. But Ambrosius only made the leap into chocolate making after she studied the art in Paris, fulfilling a decades-old dream.
We sampled many of Ambrosius's dark and decadent signature truffles while sitting in her tiny kitchen. All of her chocolate comes from Central and South America, creating a smaller carbon footprint than if she purchased it from Europe. Ambrosius regaled us with stories about the warm relationships she has developed during her visits to cacao farms in Ecuador, and Colombia, and particularly with Costa Rican farmers.
Shiitake mushrooms amplified the chocolate flavor of 65 percent Peruvian cacao, in shiitake mushroom truffles. Ecuadoran chocolate from an heirloom cacao bean combined with cognac and ginger to create a smooth, seductive filling with just a bit of 'kick.' Sweet curry with saffron offered a different kind of heat in a Hawaiian chocolate truffle. And Cinnamon/Cayenne truffles added sweet/savory heat to dark, rich chocolate.
Madison residents are lucky to have Ambrosius chocolates nearby. The rest of us will just have to satisfy our cravings by mail order. It's well worth the effort.