A jewelry box filled with chocolates arrived in Laguna Beach directly from Portland when Verdun Fine Chocolates & Gifts owner Hamoody Houdroge opened the second location for the elegant Lebanon-based dessert shop last spring. He drove along Pacific Coast Highway looking for a new location to sell his product, and when he arrived in Laguna, he immediately felt confident that the store would be a great fit for the community.
"The area, the people and the weather reminded me about Beirut, Lebanon, which is where our chocolate is from," Houdroge says. "I found a sign for lease, I called the number and here we are. Honestly, I don't think any other stores here carry the same type of chocolate. We specialize in hazelnut butter and coconut, and we also specialize in layered chocolates. It's a unique and beautiful product."
What really makes these Lebanese jewels so sophisticated, delicious and unique is the sugar decadence, the lack of preservatives and how they're hand-wrapped in colorful foils.
Many people mistake Verdun for a jewelry store, which inspired Houdroge to fill jewelry boxes with chocolates decorated as though they were pearls. Each chocolate has its shape, flavor, name and the equivalent of 12 grams. The flavors offered at the stylish chocolatier include cappuccino, caramel, coffee and apricot.
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"There isn't a single flavor here I don't love. I love it all," Houdroge laughs.
Despite the distance, Hamoody commutes between Laguna Beach and the Portland location, which opened 8 years ago, making sure his chocolaty jewels are sophisticatedly sold. But while in Laguna, he invites the people of Orange County to the downtown location at 540 S. Coast Highway, Ste. 106. He hopes to get to know them and teach them about his elegant and delicious chocolates.