Andrew Starr is a choc-tease. He and his chocolatier partner, Jennifer Spielman, own Black Star Chocolates, and they create exciting, luscious and downright sensual confections. Since their chocolate creations are handmade, small-batch and filled with fresh, seasonal herbs and flowers, thought, they are available in limited quantities -- at limited times. Andrew Starr's optimism for his small, local business is almost as appealing as the palate-tempting treats, including the signature Basil-Lemon truffles (butter-smooth, sweet and fragrant filling surrounded by a hand-dipped white chocolate shell). But right now, they're making everything in a tiny, leased kitchen space in Lafayette. "We have to have a very precise kitchen to make the chocolates," he says. "Most kitchens don't work -- too humid, too hot."
He and Spielman began creating their chocolates as a hobby, and they spent two years perfecting their recipes before deciding to turn pro. "We wanted to develop recipes that were special -- ones we could be proud of," he explains. "And we wanted to make sure we still liked working with each other."
Despite the lack of a permanent structure, he and Spielman are committed to making sure their chocolate-craving customers get a well-thought-out variety of chocolates and truffles, and they are continuously experimenting to find the perfect blends of flavors. "We have seventeen recipes ready now, and several more works in progress," he notes.
Starr takes a plastic bag filled with fresh rosemary leaves from his bag, opens it, and explains that he grew it himself to use in his Rosemary Caramels -- diminutive squares decorated with edible patterns in shades of green. "We are fans of local, amazing products, and we want to find ways to connect our product with people who genuinely love good foods," he says. The chocolates are available for purchase on their website in boxes of four, six, nine, twelve and gift-box stacks. Starr admits the shipping costs are high, but high-quality chocolates are delicate, and they require temperature control and careful handling. And Starr is willing to hand-deliver orders at no cost if customers can arrange a local pick-up. "Just ask and I'll make it happen," he says.
He'd be happy to make a permanent kitchen and retail storefront for Black Star happen, too. "If there is a zero-interest business loan out there, throw it my way," Starr says, smiling.
Among the current experimental products are saffron and hibiscus fondant chocolates and gourmet peanut butter cups. "We are working on a recipe for Thai chili peanut butter cups and testing it now," he says. They are also creating an orange-cayenne caramel and toying with the idea of making special "lovers" boxes, such as a sea salt-lovers gift box, and one that features their coffee and chai tea chocolates.
Starr is optimistic about the upcoming holiday season, and so Black Star has been doing free tastings at Mondo Vino in Denver, and Cured in Boulder; he again to have chocolate/truffle collection gift boxes for sale at the Truffle , too. These "pop-up retail locations" will sample out batches as they are produced, and the 2011 Christmas list of available chocolates include salted caramel truffles, pear-cinnamon, fresh mint, anise caramels, pomegranate-raspberry-rose chocolates and their newest batch: mint cherry cordials made with Croatian Marasca cherries.
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Black Star's signature lavender chocolates really are the gift that will keep on giving any time of year. The rich, silky centers are expertly flavored with lavender flowers soaked in cream to give the butter-smooth chocolate a well-balanced floral tang, and each individual treat is decorated with delicate purple buds. They smell so good that it's almost a shame to bite into one -- but the lustful temptation is too strong.
Thanks to Facebook, customers can get frequent updates of what's being made, and even get pictures of the process -- smart interactive social media marketing or choc-teasing, depending on your point of view.
"Call us," Starr says. "Let us know what you want, and we'll do our best to do it --- special orders are welcomed." In the meantime, the wait for new batches only seem to make the chocolates more appealing -- if that's possible.