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Home-Grown, Home-Made Chocolates

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.) 

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.

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