Restau­rant Re­view

Chocolate Smith, C.G. Hig­gins, Señor Mur­phy Can­dy­mak­ers, To­dos San­tos, Kakawa Chocolate House

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO -

No mat­ter how many times I re­cited “The Night Be­fore Christ­mas” as a kid, I never once drifted off to sleep with vi­sions of sugar plums danc­ing in my head. What I did look for­ward to were Her­shey’s kisses and minia­ture chocolate bars in sea­son­ally tinted foil wrap­pers and the home­made fudge my grand­mother whipped up ev­ery Christ­mas Eve, stud­ded with pecans and some­times tiny marsh­mal­lows. My tastes are a bit more so­phis­ti­cated now, but there will al­ways be some­thing deeply sat­is­fy­ing about a chocolate treat, whether it’s an art­fully crafted gold-leaf-laced square, a truf­fle blended with ex­otic in­gre­di­ents, or a dense wedge of sug­ary, creamy fudge.

Santa Fe’s cho­co­latiers are here to help. Each shop I vis­ited has a dis­tinct style, am­bi­ence, and spe­cialty, though as you might ex­pect, each shows an al­le­giance to Santa Fe by offering at least a few con­fec­tions fea­tur­ing chile.

The store­front at Chocolate Smith might re­mind you of your grand­mother’s house, with quaint retro-style dis­plays and pas­tel-ori­ented dé­cor. It’s a well-lit, wide-open space, so you can watch as candy makers stir, tem­per, dip, and cut just be­yond the dis­play counter; this also means that chocolate’s heady aroma hits you right as you walk in the door. Chocolate Smith of­fers a nearly over­whelm­ing range, from cov­ered nuts to caramels, over­sized bars, men­di­ants, and a va­ri­ety of gen­er­ously stud­ded barks. HIGH­LIGHTS: green chile pis­ta­chio bark, Moun­tain Bark (dark chocolate with mar­i­nated cher­ries, co­conut, tof­fee, white chocolate bits, and toasted al­monds), Pe­cos peanut but­ter bar, Don Juan pecan bar.

In its two shops — one just off St. Fran­cis Drive and an­other a block from the Plaza — C. G. Hig­gins fo­cuses on fudge and truf­fles. The Lin­coln Av­enue lo­ca­tion can vary from quiet café (you can or­der a cap­puc­cino to ac­com­pany your con­fec­tion) to bustling candy shop. You’ll spy truf­fles in clas­sic fla­vors — mint, straw­berry, rasp­berry, cherry, laven­der, and a tra­di­tional Mex­i­can heavy with cin­na­mon — to ones with more cre­ative part­ners, like ap­ple­wood-smoked salt (suc­cess­ful) and St. Agur blue cheese (definitely not). An en­tire shelf is ded­i­cated to chile-based truf­fles, from man­go­ha­b­anero to the Santa Fe Fi­esta. HIGH­LIGHTS: plain fudge, tra­di­tional Mex­i­can and Santa Fe Fi­esta truf­fles.

Señor Mur­phy Can­dy­maker is a color­ful Santa Fe institution, with out­posts in three lo­ca­tions (as well as in the Buf­falo Thun­der Re­sort). The case is packed with Tor­tu­gas (tur­tles), nut clus­ters, tof­fees, and old-fash­ioned creams, some of which are avail­able in sugar-free ver­sions. While the chile-pis­ta­chio bark packs a punch, Señor Mur­phy’s fa­mous chile creams have only the mildest of heat, which makes them an ideal treat for friends and fam­ily vis­it­ing from out of town. The boli­tas (balls of fudge rolled in crushed al­mond) are also pop­u­lar sea­sonal fa­vorites, though we found them dry and overly crumbly, and the piñon in both our clus­ters and Tor­tu­gas was well past its prime. Other nut-based treats fared well, though, and we fought over the last bit of crisp, but­tery chocolate-cov­ered tof­fee.

HIGH­LIGHTS: chile cream, chile pis­ta­chio bark, tof­fee chips. In the Sena Plaza Court­yard, packed into what is surely one Santa Fe’s small­est re­tail spa­ces, is To­dos San­tos ,a wildly whim­si­cal, dizzy­ing shop, fes­tooned in color and sur­real de­tail that mar­ries Día de los Muer­tos and Mardi Gras. Hay­ward Si­moneaux’s con­fec­tions are the most art­ful in town, rang­ing from pieces mod­eled af­ter mi­la­gros to bars in elab­o­rate dec­o­ra­tive wrap­pers to bite-size jewels al­most too pretty to eat. “Ba­sic” truf­fles are avail­able, but from there the se­lec­tion sky­rock­ets, with so many el­e­gant, in­ven­tive op­tions it’s hard to keep them all straight. For a more rugged but el­e­men­tal treat, try the al­mond clus­ter with milk chocolate. HIGH­LIGHTS: chocolate-al­mond clus­ter, smoked pasilla truf­fle, cof­fee truf­fle, sig­na­ture dark chocolate truf­fle.

The cabin that houses Kakawa Chocolate House has a rus­tic, old Santa Fe feel to it, with wonky wood floors, dark vi­gas, cor­bels, and equipal chairs. The chocolate has a rus­tic slant, too, offering you a chance to enjoy ca­cao in the way it was orig­i­nally con­sumed — in the form of aptly named elixirs (tra­di­tional Pre-Columbian, Me­soamer­i­can, Mayan, and Aztec; Euro­pean ver­sions whose recipes date to the 1600s; and Colo­nial Amer­i­can and Colo­nial Mex­i­can). If you’d rather chew your chocolate than sip it, you’ll have plenty of op­tions. The case is stocked with solid choco­lates, var­i­ous lovely caramels, and truf­fles blended with ev­ery­thing from goat cheese and sage to mez­cal. HIGH­LIGHTS: red chile caramel, goat cheese truf­fle, chile elixir.

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