TNT Diner

A tour of chocolate shops and cafes from Gig Harbor to Poulsbo

VIDEO: Candyland: Olympic Peninsula confectioners make scrumptious treats

Encourage your sweet tooth with this visit to Carter's Chocolates and Amy's Decadent Chocolates.
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Encourage your sweet tooth with this visit to Carter's Chocolates and Amy's Decadent Chocolates.

A chocolate company founded by a 15-year-old.

Artisan chocolates as pretty as they are delicious.

One store with 60 kinds of fudge.

Another with more than 200 confections from which to choose.

If you’re looking for a sweet journey, all you have to do is cross the Tacoma Narrows Bridge for a day trip.

From Gig Harbor to Poulsbo, you’ll find a half-dozen cafes and boutiques specializing in handmade chocolates and other sweet confections.

Trop’s Chocolates

3303 Jahn Ave. NW, Gig Harbor

Contact: 253-238-7771, tropschocolates.com.

Hours: 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday.

Seating: For groups large and small.

The first stop of my chocolate tour was also the newest chocolate cafe just over the Narrows bridge.

Trop’s Chocolates opened in July in an unexpected locale. Follow the forested bend in Jahn Avenue to a business park holding a number of service-related businesses — and in the middle is Trop’s, part chocolate cafe, coffeehouse and candy factory.

Display cases offered row after row of chocolates and confections including hand-dipped truffles, coconut haystacks, caramels jacketed in chocolate, chocolate with cream centers, nut clusters sunk into milk chocolate, and graham crackers and brownies wrapped in chocolate. And there was something unexpected — pretty boxes made entirely of chocolate.

A coffee counter served beans roasted at Tacoma’s Valhalla coffee company and syrups made by Trop’s (a mocha is a must order).

The family behind the counter is well known to Gig Harbor and countless coffee shops that serve the company’s brownies and coffee syrups. The Trops operated a wholesale chocolate company for years before opening their first store in the summer. They previously operated a chocolate company and bakery in California from 1986-1998. There’s father Larry and mom Heather, with children Emily and Spencer helping out with everything from counter work to coffee and chocolate making.

Find plenty of seating for snacking and sipping in the 4,000square-foot space with a sizeable chocolate production area that’s mostly on display. Large groups are welcome, as are tour groups (call in advance) and private birthday parties with reservations.

Carter’s Chocolates and Ice Cream

715 Bay St., Port Orchard

Contact: 360-602-0703; carterschocolates.com.

Hours: 5:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday; 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday.

Seating: Inside and outside the cafe, plus seating in the public market.

Matt Carter’s emporium for handmade chocolates, coffee and pastries is tucked into the rear corner of the Port Orchard Public Market, an indoor market holding a collection of food businesses and shops.

He started Carter’s Chocolates and Ice Cream in 2008, moving a handful of times before landing in the public market in May 2014. At first, his chocolates and ice cream commanded a small counter, but his move to the corner spot came with seating, plus a large chocolate case, ice cream storage and another display case filled with pastries and cakes. He also serves espresso.

Carter’s artisan chocolates were as pretty as they were delicious. Lacy patterns and vibrant swirls of color turned the chocolate truffles into edible art. Flavors pushed into unusual territory with boozy tones: orange muscat, honey mead and Bailey’s Irish cream. Ginger, grapefruit and chile-spiked truffles were right alongside caramels encased in chocolate. Dark and milk chocolate wrapped around nuts and coconut, with cutesy molded chocolates for kids. Of every stop on this tour, Carter’s chocolates proved the most elegant.

His housemade ice cream, in a dozen choices, ranged from straightforward flavors to fanciful flavor tweaks, such as gorgonzola, maple bacon and Thai red curry. Pastries included sweet and savory, with cakes offered, too.

The Candy Shoppe

833 Bay St., Port Orchard

Contact: 360-874-2576; thecandyshoppellc.com.

Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 1-4 p.m. Sunday.

Seating: None.

Sandy Charbonneau has been making fudge for more than a decade at her all-purpose sweet store.

Entering the packed store was like walking into Wonka-land, with candy stacked vertically, nearly to the ceiling. Plastic bins holding a rainbow of saltwater taffy climbed the rear wall, alongside ’80s era nostalgia sweets and row after row of Pez dispensers. Behind the counter, glass jars displayed a dozen kinds of gummy chews and sour candies. Truffles took up a great deal of space, but those aren’t made on site, or even the real specialty.

The real lure here is the fudge. Charbonneau mixes 650 different fudge flavors behind a glass door marking the entryway to a fully equipped fudge kitchen. At any given time, up to 60 kinds of fudge fill the glass case up front.

On a weekend visit, there were swirls of chocolate and mint, pumpkin mixed with cream, amaretto and orange with squiggles of dark chocolate. Sea salt caramel and double fudge were pushed to the back counter, a consequence of a packed case jammed with blocky bricks of peanut butter, rocky road, chocolate walnut, chocolate toffee, key lime and a vibrant blue-and-green nod to the 12th Man. Look to the bottom display for something tricky to find — sucrose-free fudge in a half dozen configurations. Buying a pound of fudge always comes with a bonus — a quarter pound free for every 1-pound purchase.

Amy’s Decadent Chocolates

2801 Sixth St., Bremerton

Contact: 360-377-2252; amysdecadentchocolates.com

Hours: 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.

Seating: Just a few seats.

Be prepared for chocolate overload when walking into Amy Jablonski’s professional extension of a family hobby of candy-making.

She learned her trade during her childhood in Michigan, watching her mother and aunts craft countless sweet treats for holiday gift-giving. As an adult, she worked in food-related businesses, but it was about a decade ago that she decided to take her family’s love for candy-making professional. She opened Amy’s Decadent Chocolates store in Bremerton in 2006, and doubled her business into the adjoining space a few years later.

Her store is exactly as the name suggests — a decadent tour of all kinds of confections, many chocolate based.

Display units were packed with chocolate bark, butter brickle toffee, peanut butter cups, candied apples, cherry cordials, fudge, cocoa mix and handmade marshmallows. I spied a dozen kinds of caramels, including sea salt dusted, and caramel-nut confections coated in thick wraps of chocolate. Barks, too many to name, came in all kinds of shapes and flavors.

Caramels and chocolates were prepackaged for easy pickup, but I relished the opportunity to customize a box from a display case filled with truffles in flavors that bend from routine to fantastic: lavender, Mayan-spiced, Irish cream and two kinds of mint. Peanut butter, mocha and hazelnut teased while ginger twist and a buttered rum version taunted.

Here’s a tip: Jablonski offers reservation-only tours for up to 20 people that includes hands-on chocolate making (prices vary).

Boehm’s Chocolates of Poulsbo

18864 Front St., Poulsbo

Contact: 360-697-3318; boehmspoulsbo.com.

Hours: 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 9:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Sunday.

Seating: None.

Suzanne Suther worked for the mother ship of the Boehm’s chocolate company in Issaquah when she convinced its owners to expand to Poulsbo.

They weren’t so sure about stretching their business from east of Seattle all the way to the Peninsula, but she convinced them to do so in 1984. Suther bought the Poulsbo store in 1987 and it’s now mostly run by her daughter, Karen Suther, since Suzanne’s “sort of” in retirement. Despite that alleged retirement, she’s still a fixture at the shop.

Chocolates are still made at the Issaquah factory, which means Karen Suther takes a weekly ferry ride to fetch fresh product. Her car is burdened with chocolates of all shapes and sizes as the season moves into the holidays.

The store was a merge of a chocolate cafe and a gift shop. Not only were there home and gift items for sale, but an entire wall featured pre-boxed chocolates ranging from a few bites for a few dollars to elaborate boxes that would be enough to feed an entire office of chocolate lovers.

The display case held truffles with boozy roots — Irish cream, Grand Marnier, Kahlua and Hennessy. Straightforward raspberry, strawberry and mocha were right alongside cherry cordials and just above a tray filled with fresh vanilla caramels. Look to the bottom case for hotel-sized pans filled with everyone’s favorite — fudge.

ChocMo Cafe

19880 Seventh Ave. NE, Poulsbo

Contact: 360-930-0283; chocmo.com.

Hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 8 a.m.-close Friday and Saturday; 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday.

Seating: Plenty in the cafe.

What happens when you’re too young to open your own business? You get your mom to be your business partner. That’s what happened to Peter Crabtree and his mother, Colleen. He caught the entrepreneurial bug from his family’s farm raising Angus cattle.

Peter took a cooking class while in high school and started CBC chocolates in 2005 at the age of 15. He started at farmers markets, but in 2007, he moved to his current space, then little more than a commercial kitchen space. He expanded the chocolate company into ChocMo Cafe, opening in 2011. He purchased the state-owned liquor store next door the following year and turning it into a spirits shop.

ChocMo is much more than a chocolate counter, although it has that. It’s also a bistro, serving lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. The focus of the menu is on the seven burgers featuring the Angus raised on the family farm. And, of course, there’s a hefty selection of desserts — many featuring chocolate.

The chocolate shop has a display case filled with truffles in a number of flavors, but also shelves lined with take-away packages of truffles, confections and drinking chocolate.

Crabtree’s truffles run the gamut of flavors, but the series of beer-infused truffles caught my eye. And they were made with South Sound brews - 7 Seas and Silver City, and Ellensburg’s Iron Horse.

Sue Kidd: 253-597-8270

sue.kidd@thenewstribune.com

@tntdiner

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