Gearhart’s Chocolates

Artists, whatever their medium, have an uncanny ability to take a fairly straightforward material, whether paint, stone, or chocolate, and express its essence in a new way. Tim Gearhart, the mastermind of his eponymously named company, has a knack for elevating chocolate, caramel, toffee, and nuts, into the stratosphere of gustatory pleasure. Eating his Chai Spiced Pecans reminded me of Perigord Walnuts from France, an exquisite sun-dried nut with a thin coating of bittersweet chocolate. Here, super crunchy pecans are infused with Chai Spices that enhance both the chocolate and the nut. I could live on these.

All the chocolate is Venezuelan Criollo, a nuanced, deeply captivating bean that doesn’t compete with the addition of nuts, liquors, spices, or caramelized sugar.

I also sampled some of Tim’s chocolates, which are larger than most artisanal fare. My favorites were Maple Pecan, a maple and milk chocolate ganache studded with nuts and enrobed in dark couverture; Maya, a bittersweet ganache infused with cinnamon, Ancho chili and orange, a divine balance of flavors; Raspberry Zin, an intriguing semi-sweet raspberry ganache with raspberry Zinfandel conserves; and Almond Mocha a truly innovative combination of espresso ganache, marzipan and a whole roasted almond. Other delights in this range I didn’t try include: Apricot Brandy, with cognac soaked fruit; Kauai, a blend of coconut, rum, white chocolate and macadamia nut; Michigan Cherry, enlivened with Kirsch; and, Taj, bittersweet ganache with candied ginger, cardamom, and rose in a dark shell.

If you hanker for a dark chocolate caramel (yes, the actual caramel is dark), heightened with a touch of balsamic vinegar and cracked black pepper, dipped in dark chocolate and finished with smoked sea salt, Gearhart’s will sate your craving. Consistency is always the sticking point, so to speak, with caramel. These have a softer, but not runny, texture. Smoked sea salt boosts the flavor profile significantly and marries beautifully with the dark chocolate’s depth.

Tim creates a Pistachio Toffee enrobed in dark chocolate that couldn’t be better. The generously nut-studded toffee is friable. Its alchemy allows for a variety of textural shifts that astound. First, there’s the tender crunch. I know it sounds oxymoronic, but it really is tender and crunchy at the same time. If you are mindful and aware, there are more layers of subtlety awaiting, as it next morphs into a melty-crunch. Like caramel, toffee is a matter of personal taste. I like mine loaded with nuts, not too sweet, and not requiring a dental consult. These were brilliant.

Tim Gearhart achieves a level of sophistication and artistry with his confections that is worth your time and money. Speaking of which, Gearhart’s offers a flat rate two-day shipping of $7.50, with a minimum order of $20. Quite an incentive to succumb to all their chocolate charms.

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