John Kelly Chocolates opened a new store at 1111 1/2 Montana Avenue in Santa Monica with a press-only tasting to which I was invited…and that meant that yours truly, beauty writer extraordinaire, was loose without editor Elise in a candy store. Well, not quite. Before we get started, let me tell you a little bit about John Kelly Chocolates. They make gourmet truffle fudge. Not the kind you get at the beach, or that your grandma made, or you gorged on at holiday season. It’s not grainy. It’s smoothy, silky, and with a satiny finish that melts in your mouth. Imagine! Try to imagine fudge that isn’t sickly sweet and doesn’t make your tongue go numb. And I got to eat lots of it.
Seated in rows with water and water crackers to cleanse the palate in between tastings, we first sampled Dark Chocolate with French Grey Sea Salt, which is a truffle fudge topped with a tiny dusting of French Sel Gris de Guerande. This won John Kelly the NASFT dark chocolate award of the year, and deservedly so.
Imagine beginning with this! I am either the world’s most enthusiastic chocolate tester or an absolute idiot. Mostly, I just felt like Dudley Moore in “Arthur” if you swapped out booze with chocolate. I have no shame.
Choclate and Caramel with Hawaiian Alaea Sea Salt was next, and then another Caramel- this time a Walnut Caramel Cluster with Mediterranean Sea Salt, of coarser grains. One thing I loved about their caramel is that is not tacky or sickly-sweet, which, three pieces in, you would be in overkill. Not so. It is smoothy, buttery, creamy and sweet without being overwhelming. John Kelly knows the meaning of understatement when it comes to sweet.
Chocolate and Caramel with Hawaiian Red Alaea Sea Salt
Next was white chocolate. I am not a white chocolate fan at all so I had to hand it to them for the big surprises here: it was more of a rich, complex cocoa butter-y mixed with vanilla flavor: less of an un-chocolate and more of a vanilla-chocolate. In the chocolate raspberry, rather than fruit, a fresh burst of raspberry essence extract followed the chocolate flavor. Again, no sickly-sweet flavors here: just a perfect burst of fresh fruit essence before it melts on your tongue.
The highlight for me was the Peanut Butter with Himalayan Pink Salt. As John and Kelly put it: “We were trying to go for that ‘fresh out of the jar texture.'” They succeeded. This is one of the most incredible candies I have ever tasted! This melts in your mouth so perfectly and at the right combination of flavors.
The last two are where John Kelly Chocolates exceeeds. I am not an adventurous eater, as Elise can attest to. I didn’t even want to try these. Dark Chocolate with Chipotle and Ancho Chile? with Habanero and Jalapeno Chile?
Both surprised me. Delighted me, even. Never would I have tried these nor would I have guessed that they tasted the way they did. Neither overpowered the chocolate; in fact, they balanced the chocolate and produced multilayered, unexpected flavors. In the first one, it was a warming at the back of the palate; in the second, with the hotter chilies, an intensity that only served to heighten and deepen the chocolate’s richness.
Dark Chocolate with Chioptle and Ancho Chile
You can visit the John Kelly Chocolate Factory at 1506 N. Sierra Bonita Avenue, Los Angeles.