With the holidays upon us, nothing stirs up a feeling of nostalgia like the yummy taste of a handmade confection. Shops that sell sweets are especially busy this time of year, and these four are no exception. Each one serves up treats that are so delicious, not even sugar-plum fairies could resist them.
This busy Saugerties store often bustles like the proverbial chocolate factory, but you won’t find any fancy equipment here. Everything is still made by hand, with the same painstaking methods that owner Karl Krause’s grandfather first used more than 80 years ago. The centers of their specialty sweets are first created in copper pots, then transferred to old-style candy presses and hand-dipped in Swiss-formula chocolate.
Krause stresses good, old-fashioned quality and flavor. “People tend to be very traditional with what they like,” he says. “Some places make really exotic things, but with us, it has to taste good.”
Caramels are the shop’s most beloved holiday treats. No-frills, chocolate-covered caramels are the top pick; others include pecans and peanuts, marshmallow (dubbed Caramallow), or dark chocolate-covered caramels with sea salt. The store — they take online orders, too — features nearly 50 varieties of chocolate, including nifty molded shapes ranging from tiny cars and trucks to pets (naturally, one doggie-shaped candy is called the “chocolate Lab”).
» Readers vote Krause’s Chocolates as the Valley’s best chocolate/candy shop
Another shop that puts its stock in tradition and old-fashioned taste, Commodore Chocolatier has been crafting chocolates since 1935.
Classics like bonbons, truffles, chocolate turtles, and caramels fill its display cases, and many longtime fans make an annual holiday pilgrimage to the shop on Broadway. Others send in mail-order requests from across the nation — even across the globe, says owner John Courtsunis. “Some of our customers are the kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids of people who originally shopped here,” he notes.
Originally a 1930s-style ice cream parlor and soda shop run by Courtsunis’ dad and uncle, Commodore was struck by fire in 2006. The family-owned business reopened, keeping much of its original art-deco design, including mahogany-paneled walls in the sales area.
Commodore’s staff also makes thousands of candy canes and ribbon candies during the holidays — all kneaded and pulled by hand. Another winter specialty — handmade marshmallows — are a sticky treat beloved by all ages.
For 20 years, Oliver Kita has turned chocolate making into an art — their artisanal truffles, for instance, have shoppers constantly “oohing and ahhing.” Customers can watch as shop employees create splendid chocolate offerings, including organic bonbons.
The intimate Rhinebeck spot features a variety of holiday yummies, including a dark chocolate Champagne truffle, which chocolate assistant Kelly O’Neil describes as “intense, but relaxing.” Cognac Crème Brûlée truffles are another popular form of holiday cheer, as are Lagavulin truffles (made from single-malt Scotch) and Cassis Caramels (filled with black currant purée and Cassis de Bordeaux).
For a different twist on holiday desserts, O’Neil suggests serving chocolates in place of traditional pies or cookies. “They’re very fulfilling, but not as a huge portion,” she says.
» See what else is cookin’ at Oliver Kita Fine Confections with chocolatier Oliver Kita
This funky Saugerties store encompasses multiple decorating styles, from 1930s to Victorian, and its chocolates are just as eclectic. Specializing in truffles and “really dark” chocolate, Lucky also offers several guilt-free creations with ingredients like agave and yogurt.
The dark chocolate with sour lemon truffle is a shop favorite, but owner Rae Stang also suggests an eggnog or gingerbread truffle, or port wine enveloped in dark chocolate. Another favorite, peppermint bark, is made with crushed peppermint candies and mint oil. Traditional Hanukkah treats — candied orange peel, and chocolate-dipped dried apricots and mangoes — are available as well. Don’t forget to check out their nifty, 15-piece “Hudson Valley Box”: the chocolates inside are made with locally produced ingredients.
For the holidays, Stang recommends enjoying truffles on their own, free of other desserts or drinks. “Chocolate is a thing unto itself,” she says. Spoken by a true chocolate connoisseur.
» See what else is cookin’ at Lucky Chocolates with chocolatier Rae Stang