exploring chocolate in Missouri

I was really pleased with my quest for some great Missouri chocolate. Considering Branson is a small community of less than 10,000 permanent residents, they are very lucky to have an innovative chocolatier offering a very creative range of chocolate treats.

missouri-chocolate

Shane and April Heaton say their daughter, Anora, already loves chocolate

Chocolat Hand Crafted Artisan Chocolates is owned and operated by April and Shane Heaton, who in themselves, have a fascinating background. Shane is originally from British Columbia, Canada, and chief chocolatier, April, was born in Korea. April’s Asian heritage can be felt throughout the shop, which is stylish and somewhat Zen.

Her chocolates offer a wide range, from the playful (inspired by the fact that the Heaton’s have a young daughter who can often be found playing in the shop) to the serene. I would have liked to have seen more dark chocolate offerings, but April confessed that it’s been a hard sell converting the sweet tooth of Branson residents and visitors from milk to a darker chocolate.

Even the dark chocolate at Chocolat at 60% cocoa is not quite dark enough for me. But that’s not to say I didn’t like it most of it. I was inspired by April’s playful approach to chocolate and you can’t help but feel good when you’re admiring the playfulness of her creations. There are gourmet Smores, a variety of chocolate covered pretzels, and about 20 varieties of Bella rounds that sell for just $1. So a trip to Chocolat won’t break the bank!

missouri-chocolate

The artisan chocolates at Chocolat in Branson.

A word of caution: I find the Mayan variety of Bella Bar to be much too peppery for my taste. The packaging says “an infusion of spicy chile and cinnamon in dark chocolate.” I could hardly taste the cinnamon and the chile pepper was far too hot for my taste, but for the most part, I’m not someone who likes chile with my chocolate unless in a mole sauce.

If you’re looking for truffles and moulded chocolates, there are some beauties to try. (No less than 56 varieties to tempt you on the “artisans” page of their website!) April truly is an artisan when it comes to creating beautiful chocolates and Shane has done a nice job at creating the travel-friendly packaging that help you get the chocolates home without damage.

more great missouri chocolate

Speaking of travel, I made the nearly four-hour drive from Branson to Kansas City, Missouri to meet another great chocolatier. Christopher Elbow has won a place in my heart.

missouri-chocolate

the fleur de sel dark chocolate turtles of Christopher Elbow

His fleur de sel dark chocolate turtles are totally amazing, and sold in towers of six. I had bought some to give away as gifts, but I can assure you … they didn’t make it into the hands of anyone else (other than my husband and friend who had accompanied me on the trip to Missouri and were treated to a taste.)

Christopher Elbow is quite the perfectionist, and knew his calling from a young age. “I wanted to be a chef since I was a very little boy. While other kids were watching cartoons, I was watching cooking shows,” he told me with a smile. After several years as a chef, his attentions turned to the pastry side of the business and eventually … to chocolate.

missouri-chocolate

A fellow chocolate lover ponders which Christopher Elbow chocolates to buy.

He is now an award-winning chocolatier with Christopher Elbow Artisanal Chocolate shops in Kansas City and San Francisco. Chris’s wife, Jennifer Elbow is a professional designer and designs all of Chris’s packaging–a reversal of roles with the Heatons of Branson.

missouri-chocolate

Christopher of Christopher Elbow Chocolates is a true master in the art of chocolate making.

I pretty much loved every type of chocolate Chris shared with me. He uses a 70% dark Venezuelan and a 64% Madagascar in his chocolates so they are rich and intense without being sweet.

I wish I’d had more time in Missouri as I didn’t have time to meet its two bean-to-bar chocolate makers: Shawn Aksinosie of Springfield or Alan McClure of Patric Chocolate in Columbia. A return visit is definitely in order as there is also much more to Kansas City that I’d also like to explore.

If you’re from Missouri, tell us about your favourite chocolate. If you’ve been to Missouri and have some experiences you’d like to share, please do!

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Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

43 Responses

  1. Thank you for referring me to Bissinger’s chocolates in St. Louis Missouri. It was a great place. It’s amazing how many elegant high-end chocolate makers are located in some very out-of-the-way places (not that St. Louis is remote or small but Bissinger’s is well hidden unless you know where to look. Haven’t been to Branson but if I do go there I know my first stop will be your recommendations on where to get chocolate!

  2. Doreen
    Twitter:
    says:

    Thanks for the comment, Suzanne!

    I’m glad you enjoyed Bissinger’s. I haven’t yet been there myself, but it’s great to have chocolate spotters like you help me out in getting the inside scoop on some of the chocolatiers I have on my radar or that have been referred to me by others.

    We’re all in this together. Together, we’ll discover the best chocolate of the world, and yes … Missouri was certainly a very pleasant surprise!

  3. Stephanie says:

    So glad you had a nice trip! You must taste the Askinosie and Patric chocolates! And, if you’re looking for a second location in St. Louis for chocolate–try Bailey’s Chocolate Bar for the best in chocolate drinks or the Crown Candy Kitchen for fun holiday-themed confections–Easter bunnies are definitely a specialty.

  4. Adrienne says:

    I can’t believe touristy and slightly cheesy Branson has a chocolatier! I’m also from Missouri and all the above suggestions are solid!
    Adrienne recently posted…Tuesday Tipday: Christen Your Year…Again!My Profile

    • Doreen
      Twitter:
      says:

      Thanks for your comment, Adrienne.

      Yes, it’s amazing where I’m finding noteworthy chocolatiers! I really am putting an emphasis on getting off the beaten path and into smaller, lesser-known destinations. Everyone knows New York has hundreds of them. But what about the rest of the world? It’s my job to find them all (with the help of all of you, of course!)

  5. Jennifer Woodard says:

    Doreen,

    Girl I am not much of a sweet fan or chocolate, but every time I read one of your posts it makes me want chocolate. My son must never find your blog, he would probably run away to live with you. The opportunity to travel around and eat chocolate, he would be in heaven.

    Great job as usual,
    Jenn

    • Doreen
      Twitter:
      says:

      Yay, Jenn! That’s EXACTLY what my posts are supposed to do!

      Glad you’re enjoying them, and hopefully … they’ll help you discover some chocolate that will melt your heart. Enjoy!

  6. Sounds like a great trip, Doreen! Missouri is such a large state with so many wonderful places to visit. Lake of the Ozarks and St. Louis are our favorite places there! Went to college in Columbia, so have put down a few roots there, as well. And chocolate … what’s not to love about that topic?! Bissingers in St. Louis is always part of our Christmas tradition but we want to explore Minneapolis St. Paul one of these days. Know of anything going on there? Best wishes for the new year!

    • Doreen
      Twitter:
      says:

      Thanks for the conversation and good wishes, Daisy.

      Yes, I do have a chocolate tip for you in St. Paul, MN. Try Brian McElrath Chocolatier. His chocolates are great. Try the Salty Dog Bar, and if you happen to be lucky enough to find them … the Dark Choc Peppermint Butter Cremes. They’re a holiday treat and are simply DIVINE. More on Brian at: http://www.btmcelrath.com/index.asp.

  7. Liz Palmer says:

    Hi Doreen,

    I would never have thought there would be chocolatiers in Missouri – this is exciting!
    Would love to plan a trip there this summer.

  8. Doreen
    Twitter:
    says:

    You’d like it, Liz!

    Something I didn’t even mention in any of the 3 posts, is that Branson has a couple of wineries! They are small, and we didn’t have time to visit, so I didn’t mention them, but be sure to check them out during your visit as I know that wine is atop your list of priorities. Cheers!

  9. Susan Oakes says:

    I really like your new web design Doreen and thanks for sharing another chocolate story. One question for you as you are my “go to’ chocolate person, I only like dark chocolate however don’t like it too bitter. So what level of cocoa would be recommended?

  10. Doreen
    Twitter:
    says:

    Thanks, Susan. Glad you like the new design. There will still be some tweaking (Sherryl Perry is helping me polish and integrate my entire online presence.)

    And I LOVE being your go-to chocolate gal!

    Experiment a little! You’ll find the better quality, artisanal chocolate to be far less bitter, even at a higher percentage of cocoa. It’s just pure, smooth heaven!

    Do you have access to Lindt Excellence chocolate bars where you live? If so, their chocolate is very smooth and easy on the palette. I absolutely love the dark choc sea salt variety. And now, many other chocolatiers are offering terrific dark choc blends with sea salt and caramel. Divine!

    Start at 60-64% cocoa when you’re “new” to dark chocolate. It’s less intense and may be more to your liking, and slowly work your way up …

    • Susan Oakes says:

      We certainly do have Lindt Excellence here and i even mentioned the chocolate in my latest post. Thanks for the information and I like the approach of working your way up.

      • Doreen
        Twitter:
        says:

        Terrific news, Susan. Good luck with your chocolate exploration.

        Thanks to Patty from Discerning Travelers for dropping in.

        And thanks to the latest visitor for kudos on the blog. It’s nice to be appreciated!

  11. Patty says:

    We’ve never been to Missouri — seems like an oversight we’ll have to fix! Thanks for the insights! Patty

  12. You should take part in a contest for one of the best blogs on the web. I will recommend this site!

  13. Lanre says:

    I don’t really know the details of chocolate but I love to eat it. My teeth have such affinity for sweet things that I give them the free will to eat or taste at will. Having a dream early and following it through would make you stand out. I’m happy for Chris.
    Lanre recently posted…A New Year Theme- Do You Have One?My Profile

    • Doreen
      Twitter:
      says:

      Hi Lanre: Yes, it’s really great to see someone like Christopher Elbow who has followed his dream and made it a reality and a successful one at that.

      That’s something I’ve noticed about most of the chocolatiers I have met. They are extremely passionate and driven individuals.

  14. Sherryl Perry
    Twitter:
    says:

    Doreen, I am a self-confessed chocolaholic (new word) and I really wish I had something other than semi-sweet morsels (left over from holiday baking) in the house right now. Between your photos and your writing, I’m craving a nice piece of dark chocolate (with nuts) right now. Christopher Elbow’s dark chocolate turtles would fit the bill quite nicely right now.
    Sherryl Perry recently posted…How to Balance Traditional and Social Marketing StrategiesMy Profile

    • Doreen
      Twitter:
      says:

      Sherryl: I knew I liked you! Chocolate lovers seem to gravitate to one another. I’m hoping they’ll ALL find me here!

      And chocoholic is not a new word – at least not to me! We’ve been calling ourselves that for years!

      Isn’t it awful when we don’t have any GOOD chocolate in the house and we have to revert to eating baking chocolate — or milk chocolate? Hope you’ll get yourself some of the good stuff soon. Boston has loads of excellent chocolatiers. Lucky you!

  15. Doreen I don’t have much of a sweet tooth and I’ve never been to Missouri, but right now I’m wishing I could be there. This selection looks amazing. I love chocolate. It’s one of the few sweets I do love and the Heaton’s have a done a great job with the aesthetic of their shop.
    Dennis Salvatier recently posted…A Brand Doesn’t Need To Be Eye-CatchingMy Profile

    • Well, it’s a good thing you’re not there right now, Dennis! Much of Branson closes up shop for Jan & Feb and reopens in March. So a trip planned for spring, summer, fall is highly recommended.

      Of course, KC is in full swing all year, and Christopher Elbow ships across the US, so those of you who want to try his turtles and bonbons can place an order online if you can’t make it down there.
      Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…challenges and achievementsMy Profile

  16. Levitra says:

    Hello! My colleague has recommended me to read your resource. And I’d like to say that I really appreciate what you’re writing here.

  17. Doreen
    Twitter:
    says:

    Thanks to all for your comments!

    I’ve just learned that Christopher Elbow’s annual Chocolate Ale (a joint venture with KC micro-brewer, Boulevard Brewing Company) will be available in Feb until it sells out. Read the full story here: http://www.pitch.com/kansascity/boulevard-chocolate-ale-christoper-elbow/Content?oid=2740681.

    If it’s anything as good as Elbow’s joint venture with The Roasterie of KC to produce a delicious air-roasted chocolate coffee, it’s bound to be amazing!

    • Doreen
      Twitter:
      says:

      Thanks for the positive feedback.

      I’m asking though, in future, if anyone posting a comment can make a specific comment as to why they might enjoy the blog or the post in order to have the comment designated as generic spam. Thanks.

  18. Kip Wurster says:

    Awesome post! I will keep an on eye on your blog.

  19. sandy says:

    Hello Doreen! I dropped by your wizard of words website and tried to leave a comment but my laptop kept saying “you have timed out ~ please try again.” Who knows why, so I just saw your link at the bottom of your sweet comment and found you here too … and walked into a world of chocolate {one of only a drop of my vices!) So interesting to hear the chocolate details and the photos of the beach now have me dreaming of eating those chocolates while lying there 😉 So nice to have met you … I’ll have to thank the lovely Diana of Shocolaateshop, who is simply a delight. Have a wonderful week!

    Sandy at Ooh La Frou Frou
    http://oohlafroufrou.blogspot.com

    • Doreen
      Twitter:
      says:

      Thanks so much for dropping by the blog, Sandy!

      You may have hit a deadend on the Blogger ID as I have recently migrated my formerly Blogger blog over to WP as well. You will now find it at: http://chocolatour.net/. It’s my writer’s/lifestyle blog. Take a look, as we often talk about creativity, and you certainly possess a lot of that.

      Your illustrations are simply AWESOME! Anyone reading this may wish to drop into Sandy’s blog. She’s playful and very talented!

  20. my p2p says:

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  21. Sounds absolutely amazing. I have to follow in your footsteps soon! Absolutely inspirational!
    Mostly About Chocolate Blog recently posted…zChocolat Touche Valentines Chocolates ReviewMy Profile

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