Is This Heaven? A Chocolate Lounge in Asheville (and a Liquid Truffle Recipe)
Forget about that other “most wonderful time of the year.” The off-radar interval after Christmas is better. It’s the bonus time, the time that time forgot, and the best time to steal yourself a golden moment at your favorite bookstore, coffee shop, bar, boutique, bakery, or–if you’re lucky enough to find yourself in charming Asheville, N.C.–a spot that is all of the above rolled into one and dipped, like a truffle, in the uniquely Asheville blend of squeaky-green values and decadent pleasure.
Tucked into a corner pocket of the very popular, lushly comfortable French Broad Chocolate Lounge is its newest attraction, a chocolate library. As in, yes, North Carolina, there really is a chocolate library.
To reach it, you go to the new-as-of-Thanksgiving location of said Chocolate Lounge: a century-old former bank building in downtown’s Pack Square next to the Asheville Art Museum. Inside is a progression of airy rooms that can seat 250–100 more than in the lounge’s previous home. Beyond the tall cakes, gleaming truffles and cremes brulees at the front counter, past a copper-paneled eight-seat bar where a row of specialized agitators spins seven flavors of ganache, down a tiled hallway where hand-chalked, floor-to-ceiling murals diagram the journey of a cacao bean from farm to factory to chocolate bar and just off to the left lies the Chocolate Library.
You can go in that way, or you can avoid the steady lineup at the lounge’s front doors. Around the side of the building, a shingle marks the entrance to Chocolate + Milk. It opens hours before the lounge, at 7 a.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. weekends, the better to hand you your morning espresso. Baristas serve housemade ice cream here, too. Other new products, like the company’s packaged dragee nuts and sipping chocolates, are displayed for takeaway alongside handcrafted mugs and other “chocolaccoutrements” you won’t find anywhere but the brick-and-mortar.
Turn around and – shh! – you’re looking at the library, where row after row of artistically labeled front- and side-facing stacks of artisan chocolate bars basically dare you to tip the first domino among them.
French Broad Chocolates’ bars hold the distinction of being made from cacao the company imports directly from its producers. They sit democratically among Mexican-style disks from Taza, slim, gold-leaved panels from Marou Chocolate USA marked “Product of VietNam,” narrow bricks from Woodblock Chocolate of Portland, Ore., and the collected works of Brooklyn’s market-leading Mast Brothers, plus a dozen others from a growing slate of artisans.
More than 150 different bars make up the current collection, from which librarians will happily serve you samples. Online, selections are helpfully cross-indexed by affinity – including the offerings of French Broad Chocolates’ North Carolina neighbors. That’s because owners Dan and Jael Rattigan tend to see peers and collaboration where others might see rivals and competition. The narrative of the couple’s success and the principles propelling it are another story we love to share – and will, we promise, provided we can pull our head out of this scorcher.
Meantime, French Broad Chocolates’ recipe for their signature Liquid Truffle is so simple you can whip one up in a minute and enjoy it while you wait.
- 2 oz. chocolate
- 3 oz. heavy cream
5 oz. half-and-half
Chop chocolate and place it in a glass bowl.
Bring cream to a simmer at medium heat.
Immediately pour heated cream over chocolate. Let sit for one minute. Whisk until chocolate is melted and texture is smooth. (You just made ganache!)
Combine with half-and-half in a small saucepan. Whisk constantly until it begins to simmer. Pour into small cups.
Makes four 2-oz. servings. Liquid Truffle recipe and photo courtesy of French Broad Chocolates. The French Broad Chocolate Lounge’s Liquid Truffle comes in all their ganache flavors, such as the “Indian Kulfi” shown in the photo above.