A couple weeks ago, I got to visit 3 chocolate shops in Florida. Usually, I try to limit myself to one chocolate shop per travel excursion, but the last couple of trips I have had the enviable problem of finding too many without even trying. For today, I am going to tell you what I found in Orlando, what I liked or didn’t about each one, and if their chocolate was any good.
The first shop I went into was difficult for me. Really. How does one know how much to taste when you already know there are more shops on the agenda!? The other issue was that it was a fudge shop, and I’ve not been a fan of fudge in the past. However, I did want to see what they had and it all smelled enticing from the entrance. (click on any photo to enlarge)
It was called The Fudgery, and was part of the Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets on the north end of International Drive, just a bit northeast of Disney World (which I did not venture into). The Fudgery had multiple large logs of different flavors of fudge, lots of them with nuts. Within seconds after we had gone inside, we were offered a sample by a quiet spoken gal who was working hard on the fudge making process. It was quite good. I seriously considered buying more, but it was just too early in my explorations for much of an investment. Luck of the draw for them with coming first. I will have to consider fudge more in the future. The shop also had ice cream, and I was sorely tempted to try that, but decided to wait and see what else came up.
The next shop was a Godiva chocolate shop, in a sister outlet location on the southern end of International Drive. This place was hopping busy and we had to wait quite a while in the crowded interior to get waited on. Still, they made eye contact and repeatedly made it obvious we had not been forgotten. When it was our turn, the “our” in this case being me and a girlfriend who was shopping with me, they were completely patient in spite of how busy the store was. That doesn’t mean they were slow in any sense of the word, though. They were very excited about their chocolates, their special deals and clubs, ice cream, and coffee they could offer us. We were relatively light spenders here, too, (only two pieces, though their pieces were some of the largest I have seen in my travels) and this was handled cheerfully, the help being satisfied that we had signed up for the rewards program! I have never signed up for a chocolate shop rewards program before! Truly, I only did it to get a discount for the purchase, since I do not have any Godiva shops near where I live.
I have had Godiva chocolate and ice cream in the past, as it is sold pre-packaged in quite a few places. I have always found it richer than I liked or could enjoy much of. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the specialty chocolates sold behind the counter were much more to my taste. Full flavored without being over powering in any way. Of course, I got dark chocolates. I was interested in trying their delicious-looking chocolate covered strawberries, but passed on that when I found out they were $7 each. I am spoiled by husband and children who provide me with such treats, often homemade gourmet versions, so I have no need to splurge like that.
The last chocolate shop we visited we almost missed because we were tired of shopping (you know we were tired if I forgot about the chocolate shop!), then ended up stopping by accident when my friend remembered she needed something and we pulled up at a small grocery store. In my estimation, we were providentially directed to the best of the three shops, there on International Drive, in a newer looking strip mall next to Cici’s pizza.
The name initially struck me as rather contrived and hyped. However, once inside, seeing the set up and hearing the story of the shop, it made perfect sense. It was called The World of Chocolate Museum and Cafe. It was not very busy, being only one year old, but there was a steady flow of a few customers at a time. There was one long case of beautiful chocolates from various places around the world, or based on what kind of chocolates are made in different countries. There was another smaller case with cakes and pastries. They also had a few unique cheeses and some gourmet wines.
The cafe, with quite a lot of seating at pretty tables, was strictly a “chocolate and wine” cafe, so our hopes for lunch had to be postponed. This wasn’t terribly hard on us. The woman behind the counter told us everything we wanted to know about the shop. This included a brief history of how she was one of several owners and how she grew up helping her own father grow chocolate bean producing trees in Ecuador. She explained the details of each chocolate, why some were made with certain ingredients, how some went well with fruit, and which ones were hand painted. She even gave my friend a sample taste of the wine that would be in a chocolate coated wine bottle that was going to be purchased as a gift.
Here I did splurge on the box of 16 pieces, hand picked, (plus 2 as a bonus for the quantity purchase) for $25. That was about a pound, maybe a bit less, but it was worth it. All except for the one white chocolate one she talked me into trying. I should have known better. But, the rest were exquisite! I enjoyed them more than the Godiva, mostly because their flavors both invited contemplation and totally satisfied my palate in a lingering sort of way. That didn’t keep me from finishing them all in 2 days. I spaced them out “appropriately,” to enjoy them as much as possible, but I saw no reason to let them get stale.
The World of Chocolate did have a museum, with an tour price of $16.95 per person. Another customer whispered to us that we could find a coupon on livingsocial.com and get get in for closer to $10, but I have read so many books on the chocolate making process that it really didn’t seem worth the time or money. I was happier getting my description of all the chocolates. The shop does have a website, worldofchocolatemuseum.com, but there is not a lot of information on it and it takes a while to load. Too many fancy photos, I think. There is a map of their exact location down in the bottom bar, though, which could be helpful since it is new enough that the only result I got from google maps, even when I specified “Orlando, Florida,” was a chocolate shop in Germany.
In the final analysis, I would buy chocolate at any of these stores again, depending on availability. All of their chocolates lived up to my standards, which no longer includes grocery store check out aisle impulse chocolate. Give me dark, high quality chocolate. And then give me some wine to go with it.