Valentine’s Day Chocolate Goodies

Valentine’s Day is coming: Think chocolate! (Make that hand-made, local chocolate)

I recently polled interior designers about their favorite this and that, and one mentioned Heidi & Arthur Chocolatiers in Rockland County. Hmmm. Chocolates I don’t know about — how can this be? One reason is that Heidi & Arthur has no retail outlets north of Rockland and Westchester counties, and I’m in Ulster. But we in the mid-Hudson region can order online.

The company is a father-and-daughter enterprise launched after Heidi Caren took a class in chocolate and realized she’d found her calling. She was in real estate at the time, but after taking up chocolate-making as a hobby, “it became a hobby gone wild,” she says. Her father, Arthur Wartenberg, often gave Heidi’s chocolates to clients of his toy company, some of whom liked them so much they asked to invest in her company. “But there wasn’t a company,” Heidi says. “My dad was edging into retirement and he didn’t have enough hobbies to entertain him. The chocolates were catching on, so we said, hell, let’s just go for it.”

That was about five years ago. Working out of a little factory in Valley Cottage, Heidi is chief chocolatier while Arthur handles the business end. “And he has the best metabolism, so he’s the official taster,” Heidi says. “Mom specializes in packing — she’s wonderful at bows.”

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The confections are made with Belgian or French chocolate and come in snazzy lime green and brown packaging. “We specialize in unusual flavors and designs you won’t see elsewhere,” Heidi says. “For Passover, we do the drunken prune stuffed with marzipan, soaked in Slivovitz and covered in dark chocolate.” Other quirky flavors include apple pie à la mode, limoncello, or tequila lime. “Whiskey gunpowder ganache made with Bushmills, cayenne and paprika sounds wacky, but it’s really good,” she says. Chocolate-dipped Swedish fish are big seller. Many are really pretty, and you can get custom-made ones, too. They’re high-end (as in not cheap), but so are you, right? And they’re delicious. I’m eating a delectable piece of dark chocolate ganache as I type.

Mid-Hudson residents may have run across little cellophane packets of Sidney’s Best, addictively good chocolate-covered raisins, nuts and such sold for around three bucks at the cash register in various stores. (I found chocolate-covered ginger at Kenco near Kingston, ate the entire bag before I’d even finished paying for my purchases, and had to buy another one to inhale in the car). Google turned up nothing about Sidney’s Best, but there’s a phone number on the packet. Sidney, it turns out, is what’s known as a character. He doesn’t want his last name in print, admits to living “near Woodstock,” doesn’t want to discuss how he got into the chocolate business and, when he does answer a question, immediately follows with: “But don’t write that!”

Tireless journalist that I am, I winkled out the following: He uses only dark chocolate (he won’t say from where, but it tastes like good quality); he makes 30 to 40 varieties, including “almond bark, blueberry bark, and chocolate covered sunflower seeds”; and you can find them in “about 70 outlets” in Ulster, Dutchess and Greene counties. “Tell them I’m a genius,” he instructed. Look for the chocolates at Adams, Emmanuel’s, Deisings, and “everywhere,” says Sidney. Or call him at 845-309-2414 to find the outlet nearest you and have a meandering chat. If you buy a lot he’ll deliver it.

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