We stepped into a kitchen space known as The Hood (conveniently located down the street from our offices) for a ribbon cutting. This commercial rental space is now the home of Amy Jo Pedone. Her chocolate journey began with the passing of her dear cousin to ovarian cancer. Despite her finance degree and career in real estate, Pedone realized that what mattered in life was living it to the fullest and pursuing her passion. She is now a certified Chocolatier from Ecole Chocolat Professional School of Chocolate Arts.
Valenza Chocolatier creates Italian inspired artisan chocolate and confections. The bonbons, bars and confections sampled were all handmade here, and each showcased a particular ingredient. Her sleek, gumdrop-shaped bonbons featured notes of limoncello, Illy espresso or complex spumoni. We gravitated towards decadent bars, like the PB + C above. Our favorite flavor, the organic peanut butter pairing has a hint of Sicilian sea salt, swallowed up by Venezuelan dark chocolate.
Valenza's Bourbon bar possessed an effortless, melt-in-your-mouth quality. A treat this potent begged for live jazz and a cigar. Makers Mark was her ingredient of choice, but Amy Jo suggested pairing with a sip of your preferred brand. Her Sesamo reminded us of tahini, and had us craving Mediterranean cuisine. Tasting notes recommended a fruit or cheese plate to accompany the milky squares. It was also one of two that featured a white chocolate ganache, a pleasant compromise for those wanting a milder taste.
On the confection side, we could sum it up in one word: Chewy. Her Carmello delights left incriminating marks on our face. Our fascination with Pedone's Fig bite included a combination of lemon peel and roasted almond. Its complexity made an ideal dessert for chocoholics searching for something special.
In a way similar to our amusement with Corgis and cat videos, Valenza's playful Turtles were simply adorable. Winner of the 2012 Orange County Fair Culinary Arts Confections, they were inspired by Amy Jo's mother and her version of the hard-shelled crawler. Pecans, dark chocolate, caramel and sea salt were playfully lined up, ready for consumption.
Despite a lack of traditional retail storefront, Valenza Chocolatier utilizes alternate methods to conduct sales and communicate about their product. Via Pedone's social media outlets, she encourages walk-ins, email requests and soon, a fully operational website. Of course, you can keep it simple and just give her a ring on your smartphone. It's best to note that all orders are made when placed, with a three to five day production timeline.
Valenza Chocolatier is at The Hood Kitchen Space, 350 Clinton St, Costa Mesa, 949-891-1206; firstname.lastname@example.org. www.valenzachocolatier.com. Also find them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram .