Home-Grown, Home-Made Chocolates

Deep-Dark Chocolate

Audrey Vaggione hand-forms almost every single chocolate she sells. What’s more, most of the fresh fruit, herbs, and flowers used to flavor the ganache for her bonbons was grown by her just a stone’s throw away in a community garden across the street from her Saratoga shop.

Dolce Bella Chocolates shop opened in July 2008. But Vaggione, a graduate of the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, has been making cakes and confections since she was a kid.

Her chocolates are $1.50 a piece or $17 for a 12-piece assortment. They’re available at her store or online. She also sells at the Sunday Saratoga Farmers’ Market (Fruitvale and Allendale Avenue), and at the Sunday Mountain View Farmers’ Market (600 West Evelyn St.) 

Dolce Bella Chocolates

I’ll use my patented scale of 1 to 10 lip-smackers, with 1 being the “Bleh, save your money” far end of the spectrum; 5 being the “I’m not sure I’d buy it, but if it was just there, I might nibble some” middle-of-the-road response; and 10 being the “My gawd, I could die now and never be happier, because this is the best thing I’ve ever put in my mouth” supreme ranking.

Dolce Bella Chocolates: What Vaggione doesn’t grow, she tries to purchase locally. Walnuts and almonds come from her local farmers’ markets. Honey is from the Santa Cruz hills. You can really taste the freshness in these confections. The Meyer lemon chocolate ganache hearts have the zippy floral quality that citrus is famous for. And wow, can you taste the crisp, just-picked quality in the nuts that cover her addicting toffee. What’s especially nice is that the bonbon fillings are smooth, and moister than most.  Rating: 9 lip-smackers.

Chocolatier Audrey Vaggione

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Date: Friday, 6. February 2009 5:33
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18 comments

  1. 1

    Meyer lemon chocolate ganache hearts? Wow. Next time I’m in the area. I love hearing about growing ingredients locally. Sounds like she’s doing things right!

  2. 2

    wow, a new chocolatier. I’ve been to the Mtn View farmers market a few times & never saw her stuff, is she new to the Mtn View FM? Have you tried Chocolatier Blue in Berkeley? He makes good chocolates too.

  3. 3

    Yup, Audrey just got the OK to sell at the Mountain View farmers’ market. You’ll find her there during the months of November through April.

    And yes, Ann, I have tried Chocolatier Blue. We obviously have the same taste in chocolate. ;)
    http://www.foodgal.com/2008/12/exceptional-chocolates-in-berkeley/

  4. 4

    Uh,oh. You already got me hooked on Sudonmor madeleines, when I thought I didn’t even like madeleines. (I ordered one box as a gift and one box to serve with tea when friends pop in, but I never shared a single one.)

    I’m trying hard not to go to the website because I don’t need another addiction.

  5. 5

    It’s hard to do bad homemade chocolates like that. If it’s packed with nuts, like lovely almonds, we’re sold.

  6. 6

    Susan, that is soooo hilarious! Hmmm, should I tell you that through Valentine’s Day, Donsuemor has a new madeleine available? It’s a chocolate madeleine that’s dipped in white chocolate. They’re available on the site, http://www.donsuemor.com
    Nope, probably shouldn’t tell you that to tempt you. ;)

  7. 7

    I do not believe my eyes!!!!!!!!!!! My mom was JUST telling me about these chocolates earlier this week! If memory serves me right, Audrey used to be a physical therapist (or was it OT?) who worked with my mom at Valley Medical Center in SJ, before turning to chocolate-making as a profession. What a neat career switch. I guess I’ll have to get my mom on here to confirm or correct my facts. In any case, my mom has tasted these chocolates and was SUPER impressed!

    On a side note, when I read your blog post title “Home-Grown,” I thought for a second you were going to say that truffles do grow on trees…in your own backyard. Maybe one day…

  8. 8

    Marni, what a small world! Yes, Audrey was a physical therapist in her former career.

    And I WISH I could grow my own chocolates on trees. I’d probably have better luck doing that than some of the other things I’ve tried to grow. Yes, my green thumb is lacking at times.

  9. 9

    I can’t walk past a chocolate shop with out going in and buying a truffle or two. Beautiful Chocolates!

  10. 10

    I am Marni’s mom (see her comment above) and I’m here to validate Marni’s comments! :-) Marni does have her facts right. Audrey is a physical therapist and many years ago we did work together at Valley Medical Center. In fact, she made an incredible poppy seed cake for a baby shower for my son (who is now 23). His oldest sister (then 5 at the time) still remembers the delicious and beautiful cake with the baby cradle on top and the fact that Audrey had made it. It’s no surprise to us that Audrey made the career switch and produces such exquisite chocolates!

  11. 11

    Wow, what a find, both your blog and these chocolates. Both are beautiful!

  12. 12

    Joyce, welcome to FoodGal! That’s incredible that your daughter still remembers a cake from when she was 5 years old. It definitely shows how special that cake was. Audrey told me that during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, she also sold a few homemade apple and pumpkin pies. Wow, what I wouldn’t give to have tried one of those.

  13. 13

    Ooh, is that chocolate in the top picture faceted like a jewel? It’s beautiful! The chocolate looks so smooth and flawless…yum.

  14. 14

    I’m on my way out for my normal run to the Sunnyvale Farmer’s market. Maybe I’ll try the M.V. one today instead. Especially since I showed the wifey the pictures and you have her excited :0)

  15. 15

    I don’t know that I’ve seen anything more beautiful

  16. 16

    Trent, put the brakes on. The Mountain View farmers’ market isn’t until tomorrow (Sundays!). ;)

  17. 17

    Thanks for the heads up. I know that the M.V. one is on Sunday. Had already plans for the S.V. one this weekend. Hopefully, I will get to the M.V. one soon. Maybe, next Sunday. Found some great Italian (baby) broccoli and cauliflower at today’s market.
    -Trent (http://blog.SmartShopIt.com)

  18. 18

    Wow sounds fantastic. Reminds me a bit of Kee’s chocolate here in NYC. All handmade and some are actually perishable (i.e. needs to be refrigerated and consumed within a few days). My list of places to hit up the next time I’m in CA are getting longer and longer…

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