Ambrosia – A Paradise of Spices, Chocolate, and More

Ambrosia – A Paradise of Spices, Chocolate, and More

Posted on 16. Jun, 2011 by in People & Events, Shopping

There is a charming little shop in the building at 29 Centre Street that you must visit at least once – and, if you do, I’ll lay bets that it won’t be your last time, especially if you are a chocolate lover.

The aptly-named Ambrosia is owned by Claudia Butler, a young woman who is passionate and knowledgeable about the things she creates and sells. Walking into the store is a bit like stepping back in time – there is a wall lined with wooden apothecary cabinets (each little drawer of which holds a different organic herb or spice), cork-stoppered glass jars filled with various seasonings and salts, and deceivingly antique-looking coffee grinders that are actually quite new and functional. And right in front of you is a lovely old wood and glass display case filled with chocolates. Let’s talk about those first.

Ambrosia’s chocolates
Claudia makes her chocolates by hand, using fresh and, where possible, organic ingredients. Each one is beautifully formed with a special accent (a bit of dried plum, a swirl, a pattern of sesame seeds, for example). They are sold in boxes of 10, distinctively packaged with artfully decorated cards describing the flavors and ingredients.

Currently, because her operation is small and everything is hand-crafted, Claudia has been focusing on collections of selected flavors that change based on the season and whatever inspires her. For example, her early spring collection contained the following flavors (with my somewhat pedantic, but well-meaning, tasting notes – you can skip that part if you get bored!):

  • Green Tea – white chocolate, cream, matcha tea, and honey. The sweetness of the white chocolate and honey were most evident at first, but a subtle undertone of matcha became pleasantly and intriguingly stronger as the flavors developed. (If you’re not familiar with it, Matcha is a finely milled Japanese green tea with a unique, rich and intense taste. It is also known to relax the mind and is considered a natural mood enhancer – everyone needs some mood enhancement now and then, and it’s nice to find one that’s legal…).
  • Sesame – dark chocolate, tahini, sesame seeds, honey, sugar, and sea salt. If I had to choose a favorite, this probably would be it – the flavor of rich dark chocolate was followed by a hint of sesame, then a subtle burst of saltiness. Crushed sesame seeds provided a gentle crunchy texture that I adored. The long, lovely finish put me in mind of chocolate covered espresso beans, but a more delicate and sophisticated version. Eating just one of these kept me satisfied for a long, long time (unlike most of the men I have known…..sorry, guys, but it’s hard to compete with good chocolate!)
  • Plum – dark chocolate, plums, wild Nantucket beach plums, cream, sugar, honey, and lemon zest. This one is all about the chocolate, creamy and rich, with balanced flavor and tartness from the plum. Another long and satisfying finish.

Another recent collection, designed for this year’s Wine Festival, was intended to be wine-friendly. The white chocolate-based Citrus was meant to match well with white wines. Noisette, with milk chocolate, hazelnuts, and a bit of cassis, was intended to pair with light- and medium-bodied reds, while the dark chocolate Madagascar was for full-bodied reds. The latter two chocolates are delicious, and I thought they could get along nicely with a number of red wines that came to mind. But the idea of pairing white chocolate with white wine was new and intriguing to me, so I decided to test it.

I happened to have a bottle of 2009 Argiolas Costamolino Vermentino di Sardegna hanging around that I had picked up at Nantucket Wine & Spirits (next to the Stop & Shop), and decided to try that for the pairing. This reasonably priced (less than $20) vermentino is a light, lively wine with good acidity and an undertone of richness – to me, it has strong flavors of citrus and tropical fruits (banana, pineapple, mango). At first, I wasn’t sure if it was a good match with the Citrus chocolate when an initially strong burst of tartness arose, but then everything settled down to what became an aromatic and pleasurable finish. I liked it a lot, and was sorry that there were only two Citrus chocolates in the box that I’d purchased. Bravo, Claudia!

Be forewarned — these are not chocolates that you eat by the handful. (Well, you can – I can’t tell you what to do – but if you did, you’d be missing the point). These are unique creations that you really should try to eat slowly and savor, observing the texture and flavors as they develop on your palate. They are truly works of art, and if you are a chocolate lover, you must try them!

Spices, Salts, Teas, and Other Things
The shop contains a great selection of organic herbs and spices, and Claudia, who is a certified clinical herbalist, also makes her own blends. Recently, I purchased a small jar of a blend she had just created, an aromatic mixture of cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric, coriander, cloves, dried rosebuds and other spices that she intended as a milder version of Ras el Hanout, the popular North African spice blend. I have been using it on and in everything I can think of: roasts, rice, cereal, and even smoothies. It’s fabulous.

Claudia also carries several different kinds of salt from all over the world – pink salt from the Himalayas, grey salt from the coast of Normandy, white salt from Cyprus and so on. There are peppercorns here, as well, and beautiful salt and pepper grinders made by Peugeot (yes, the car company – apparently that’s how they got their start….who knew?). Next on my list of things to try is a smoked salt that Claudia says imparts a subtle smoky flavor to anything to which it is added.

In addition, you can find various tea blends, coffee and nutmeg grinders, pretty ceramic ware, and more. It’s worth going in to take a look around, you can sample the different chocolates that are currently available, and if you’re not sure how to use a particular salt, herb or spice, just ask. Claudia or Lindsey Toft, who works with Claudia, will be able to tell you all kinds of wonderful things you can do with them!

If and when you do go, I’d love to hear about your visit to Ambrosia, and if you’ve discovered any new and interesting things while you’re there…….

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4 Responses to “Ambrosia – A Paradise of Spices, Chocolate, and More”

  1. Alison Dinerstein

    29. Jan, 2012

    Do you know how to get in touch with Claudia from Ambrosia?

    Thank you!

    Reply to this comment

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