Amuse Bouche

California-made chocolate bars with a French soul
Tasting Table: Amuse Bouche

"I make the chocolate I want to eat. Appealing but not too ordinary."

So says Diane Beaty, chocolatier and owner of Maison Bouche.

Beaty, formerly a pastry chef at Herbsaint restaurant, left New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina and relocated to California.

Lacking the funds to open a shop, she launched Maison Bouche, a line of chocolate bars made using a proprietary blend of chocolate from a secret European source.

She handcrafts the bars, wrapping them in colorful foil and labeling them with gorgeous paper, often printed with images that hint at her interest in 18th-century French history.

Pretty to look at, the bars ($6) are even more delicious than they appear. Our favorites contain crunchy bits--from the sablés croquantes, a bar with bits of crumbled butter cookie, to the riz soufflé caramelize, a high-class Nestlé Crunch.

Beaty frequently runs seasonal specials, such as a dark-chocolate bar with strips of candied blood-orange peel and one that combines rose and crystallized-mint leaves.

The Easter line has just debuted: In addition to bunnies, there are bars flavored like almond croissants and crêpes suzette.

This, in other words, is chocolate worth hunting for.

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