What an assignment! As a bona fide chocoholic since before the term was invented, I fondly recall a button I kept for many years; it said, “If bearer is found unconscious, administer chocolate immediately.” So this “foodie” could write an entire column on each and every one of these places.
The idea here, however, is to poke around some of the options for buying chocolate in our town. There are as many more as there are here, prominent among them the venerable Kilwin’s “Mackinac Island Fudge,” on St. Armands Circle; See’s Candies’ kiosk, in Westfield Southgate mall; and the Chocolate Bark Co., in Gulf Gate Village.
5170 Palmer Plaza Blvd.
923-2462 | sirardschocolate.com
Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday
Carol Sirard started selling chocolate in 1980 — it was her first job. She started selling it eight years ago in Sarasota, in Southside Village, then three years later moved to a larger location on South Tamiami Trail. Just last October, she moved into a space in the Publix Plaza just south of Clark Road and west of Honore that offers even more square footage. She is right on her business plan, which called for her to add a café in year eight; Sirard’s Chocolate Café serves lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. six days a week.
Sirard’s new location offers the full range of the brand’s signature treats, including its award-winning dark raspberry pyramid truffles; “Sarasota Seafoam,” a chocolate-covered puffed or “sponge” candy; colorful, double-stuffed Oreos; and chocolate-covered marshmallows, graham crackers and pretzel sticks. Sirard’s wholesale operation serves 250 retailers (including Morton’s Market).
The Short Giraffe Mini Confections and Catering
1247 First St. | 704-2378
Open noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; noon to 10 p.m. Friday through Saturday; noon to 8 p.m. Sunday
This is a tiny new shop with a big hit on its hands! Twenty-five-year-old Leigh Growney opened her business just weeks ago, in what has to be the smallest space in Sarasota: 143 square feet. But, what a location — First Street just west of Florida Studio Theatre.
A born pâtissier, Growney inherited her passion from her mother and grandmother. She bills her enterprise as “mini confections,” which explains how she came to name it the Short Giraffe; it applies to the mini-cupcakes and other small treasures that she sells.
It does not, however, pertain to her best-selling toasted s’more ganache truffle (below), which weighs in at three-plus ounces and would be better described as a truffle-dessert-for-two. Starting from the center: marshmallow, ganache, chocolate coating, toasted graham-cracker crumbs, all house-made — and a spectacular value for $3. It simply boggles the taste buds.
8130 Lakewood Main St., Suite 103
Open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday
This shop, which opened in late September on Main Street in Lakewood Ranch, is a new outpost of one of America’s oldest candy brands. Fannie May was founded in 1920, in Chicago. It is famous for specialties, including Mint Meltaways, Pixies (milk or dark chocolate over caramel covered pecans invented in 1946 by Fannie May) and pastel confectionery-coated Trinidads. There are many new confections, as well, including beautiful artisan truffles created by famed chocolatier Norman Love, of Fort Myers.
Joan and Jim Ayersman own the Lakewood Ranch franchise and two more: the Landings and Brandon Town Center. Lucky us! These are presently the only Fannie May stores south of Illinois.
Read "Valentine's Day: Norman Love - Be my Valentine."
4101 S. Tamiami Trail
922-5727 | traderjoes.com
Open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Sunday
This is hardly the first place I would think of to buy chocolate, but folks keep telling me it is a great option — and guess what — it is. The location is totally different from the others discussed here but definitely worth knowing about.
Trader Joe’s has yards and yards of chocolate — a shelf that runs the entire length of an aisle plus additional displays by the checkout counters. The chocolate show starts at the front end of the aisle with bar chocolate for cooking — dark chocolate, 72% dark chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, milk chocolate and more — in “pound plus” packages for the remarkable price of $4.99.
Then come dozens of chocolate-covered treats, from the expected fruits-and-nuts to some almost astonishing options: “powerberries,” which are man-made “fruit-juice pieces” of acai, pomegranate, cranberry and blueberry juices; and edamame, sunflower seeds, pomegranate seeds and more. These are packaged in 5- to 10-ounce plastic containers and priced from $3.99 to $4.99. My taste-test choice was chocolate-covered candied ginger, and I am happy to report that it is all gone.
A worthwhile tip for would-be Trader Joe’s shoppers who are put off by the crowded conditions: go at dinnertime — 6 to 7:30 p.m. It is a downright pleasant time to discover the many surprises this place has in store.