Chocolatier Will Poole, the owner of Wen Chocolates, has an affinity for the obscure. Soon after we enter his little shop at 1541 Platte Street, he thrusts an intricately designed white Pandora truffle into our hands and tells us the recipe is based on a 16th-century aphrodisiac formula. It has a marzipan filling infused with nutmeg, cinnamon and juniper berries, and each truffle is bruléed by hand and dipped in a 61% Venezuelan semisweet chocolate. "It's a magical experience, like waking up in a witch-ruled forest in Eastern Europe," says Poole about the truffle. And it's an eerily accurate description, as the slight pull of juniper instantly recalls pine trees, while the subtle spicing lends an exotic air to the chocolate.
Just in time for Valentine's day, Poole is offering a creation no chocolate-lover should resist.
The heart-shaped box, crafted from a vintage candy mold, is a pound of solid dark chocolate that's filled with ten truffles. "No fillers, only the good stuff," promises Poole. If your heart isn't that large, the more modest "Cherub Box," which holds a single truffle, is also available. Wen's vintage valentine line includes various heart-shaped confections made from antique molds, which Poole hunts for on eBay or at estate sales. "I have one guy in Paris," he says, "who texts me from flea markets to see if I want anything." Almost all of these molded chocolates shine with a hand-applied gold dust.
If you're not in love with molded hearts, the collection also includes violet-hued nonpareils and two types of barque: a dark chocolate studded with crystallized ginger, and a white chocolate capped with cinnamon decors.
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All of the chocolates, which are made by hand in Poole's Wheat Ridge kitchen, are transferred to the shop's truffle case, a complex tour of unusual taste combinations. The Rue Royal, based on the Sazerac cocktail, is made with rye whiskey and absinthe. The Triglav mixes rum, lime and white pepper, while one of the ingredients in the Molotov Pineapple is simply "heat." The beautiful thing about Wen's truffles -- besides, of course, their physical attractiveness -- is that they're so wonderfully balanced. Flavors that you couldn't imagine marrying, play off one another in surprisingly successful ways, while seemingly overpowering ingredients -- violet, banana and hot paprika -- actually introduce themselves quietly. Caramel fans will swoon over the Prazen Sladkor, a shining gold globe holding a dark caramel that's not quite solid, not quite liquid.
If you want chocolates prior to Valentine's day, you can place your order ahead of time (like, now) and pick it up from the shop, which is open Wednesday through Sunday.
Chocolate heart box with 10 truffles $39.99 Cherub chocolate box with 1 truffle $5.99 Truffles $1.92 apiece Heart Lolly $1.75 Vintage Heart $6.99 Pandora Heart $3.25 Ribbed Heart $4.50 Barque $2.75