Then AJ took us back to Culver City (really, who knows where one part of LA ends and another begins? Only the mapmakers.) ChocoVivo’s owner, Patricia, explained that ChocoVivo is a bean to bar chocolate shop, which means they get their beans directly from the source in Tabasco, Mexcio, and prepare all the chocolate bars and drinks from the beans, which are roasted and processed at the shop. The cocoa is stone ground, just like the Mayans did centuries ago. The Mayan Hot Chocolate—made with milk, soy milk, or just plain water, is liquid gold—thick, strong, creamy, every sip a whole body experience. This is the "pound the table and ahhhhh" experience. Really, I can’t rave enough about this. Chocolate is steeped and mixed with hot liquid for five minutes—the result is heavenly. There are also Beer and chocolate and Bourbon and chocolate pairing tastings—yes, they really do go together.
On to Venice, in just a few minutes, to Sinners and Saints Bakery. Elisa Testone, the owner, specializes in saintly gluten free sweets (using agave to sweeten). Somehow, these Saintly dessert cakes have eggs, butter, sugar, but no flour. The method remains a mystery, but not the richness of both the gluten free cheesecakes, cakes, and truffles and the its so bad for you its good Sinners—tiramisu is a stand out among the tarts and cupcakes. Met by the well decorated Krista, Elisa quickly came to our group and guided us through our tasting. We had time to taste, to whet our whistles, and buy a few extras for the weekend.
We got on our van and AJ whisked us to Copenhagen Pastry in 7 minutes. We met the proprietress, Karen Hansen, who brings the best Danish deserts to Culver City. Karen took us behind the counter to the kitchen. Four taste treats await us—but they are so much, we can only taste one and take the rest with. The Almond Mazarin is elementally flavorful and a unique experience: cookie crust with creamy almond filling, surrounded by dark Belgian Chocolate. This would be worth waking up for on an otherwise lazy Sunday. Karen is gracious and generous with both her time and expertise.
Our tour began at Jin Patisserie. Annabelle, from Singapore, creates chocolate bites—beautifully decorated, changing with the seasons. Chocolate Easter Bunnies, painted with Cocoa butter, are a steal at $39. I tried a Mango Basil Chocolate truffle, with fresh fruit mango sweetness and slight basil spice. Yummy and elegant, and only $2.75 each.
Our guide, Trish, has researched the local chocolatiers and arranged for a diverse 3.5 hour experience; our driver AJ got us there— and only he had to worry about parking (a real plus in Venice). Trish has selected women chocolatiers, some home grown, one from Singapore.
I took the Chocolate Indulgence tour with Tourific Escapes. After meeting up in an Industrial park in Culver City, I spent an afternoon with about 7 other guests chauffeured in air conditioned comfort around West LA, visiting five chocolate shops, meeting with the owners and chocolatiers, and enjoying tastes of chocolate (and a few other sweets) at each shop, nibbling on cocoa nibs along the way, without the worry of navigating unfamiliar streets.
There is a hot chocolate sipper that is pure decadence, an ahhhhhhh moment, a pound the table scene from When Harry Met Sally moment, savor pure chocolate at its best from a bean-to- bar chocolate shop. This is what I’m looking for, what I can’t forget. How did I get here? When I lived here 20 years ago I could navigate—but never happily. Who, I ask you, likes to drive in Los Angeles? Certainly not me.
Laden with our finds, filled by our tastes, AJ and Trish got us back to our embarkation point right on time—where we still had a chance to buy a few Jin Patissiere treats.
We finished our tasting at Essential Chocolate Desserts, where owner Mellisa and her team make wicked chocolate cake, French macaron, and their own macaroons, among other taste treats. Their macaroon is unleavened, large, chewy-tasty, and the best I’ve had (and only $1.25). The 9.5 oz gourmet ding dong is a steal at $5.
How to make choc-olate
For a fun, filling, and educational afternoon tour—try Touriffic Escapes.