Pittsburgh has excellent chocolates. You just have to know where to look.
Edward Marc Chocolatier is a Pittsburgh based chocolate maker with locations in Pittsburgh's Southside (Inside the fantastic Milkshake Factory), Monroeville, Trafford and even one as far-flung as Washington, D.C. Their factory is part of their Trafford retail shop and recently I was invited on an All-You-Can-Eat Chocolate Factory Tour. Oh my! I said yes right away and I must admit I got ready for the tour by nibbling a piece of chocolate on my way to the chocolate factory. Just a little priming method. Ahem!
Edward Marc Chocolatier is located in the old Sherm Edwards Candies building which at first might be a little confusing. The chocolate company has been owned by the same family since 1914 when Charlie and Orania Sarandou left Greece and decided to make their home in Pittsburgh. They began making chocolates and selling them informally from a street corner but in barely any time at all the quality of the candy became well known and they quickly opened their first shop on Butler Street in Lawrenceville. It wasn't until the '70s that they moved to their current location in Trafford.
Each generation of the family has taken the original recipes and kept them exactly the same, but each generation has rebranded the chocolates by updating the name and the packaging. It's current name of Edward Marc Chocolatier with it's sleek blue packaging and tempting chocolates combined with it's homey, family roots still made by hand in small factory combines the best of both worlds to create exquisite candies.
I felt a little like singing 'I've Got a Golden Ticket!' but I spared the crowd and waited excitedly with the crowd lined up happily waiting for the doors to open. I think all of us were waiting for a Willy Wonka-esque personage to come tumbling out of the door.
We didn't get Willy Wonka and he certainly didn't tumble out of the door, but we did get George Klipka, a local historian who filled us in on the history of Edward Marc Chocolatier. And better than tumbles was the serenade he gave us as we descended down the stairs and into the white room that smelled of chocolate and apples.
Everyone was required to wear a hairnet and it caused a lot of embarrassed giggles until we saw teh chocolate. Then they were rapidly forgotten.
And honestly? Who can think of anything else when presented with huge slabs of chocoate that are being chiseled off in chunks with a big rubber mallet? Edward Marc receives its chocolates in 10 pound blocks that come on a 2500 pound pallet of several various single source chocolates.
They then combine the chocolates in various secret ways to create their signature finished products.
Candy making must be born in the blood. This little boy belongs to Marc, one of the siblings who own Edward Marc's, and is already a natural at putting apples on sticks for candy apples.
The little boy was happy to eat an apple but I wanted to just lick the nuts, chocolate and caramel off of them.
Or.... let's be honest. I just really want the caramel.
The other bloggers and I were given private time to chat with Marc and Dana (the third sibling, Chris, was out of town) about Edward Marc's and ask all of the questions we wanted. Well, all but one. I was certain they wouldn't give out their caramel recipe and I didn't have the nerve to ask.
Marc and Dana told us about some of the expansion plans locally and nationally that Edward Marc Chocolatier is working on. A local grocer's, Giant Eagle in Bridgeville, will be carrying the chocolates along with the downtown Pittsburgh's Saks. Saks in Palm Beach, New York and DC will also be selling their chocolates for the holidays as well. A grocery chain in Texas will be carrying their pretzel bites soon as well.
Marc and Dana also mentioned a new candy that is in the final stages of development that will be available soon. 'Pie Pops' are pie flavored truffles on lollipop sticks that will come in various pie flavors such as banana cream pie, oreo pie, and coconut cream pie. They plan on having five different flavors to begin. I say, 'Move over cake pops...pie is always better!'
Long white tables held dish after dish of tantalizing chocolates to try. For those old enough to remember penny candy stores-- Remember going in to the store with a handful of change and trying to decide just which candies to buy and how difficult it was? The spread of candies Edward Marc Chocolates had to sample was just like that. I knew that I couldn't possibly have room to try one of each and I had to make careful decisions about which ones to try.
How did I decide? First, I looked at everything. When there was the same candy in milk or dark chocolate, I selected only one version to try, alternating if I was trying the dark or milk. And if I was trying a pretzel or a piece of bark I took the smallest piece. Other than that? I'm proud to say I tried every other type. Perhaps I shouldn't boast about that (and I shall certainly suck in my tummy next time you see me!) but I like to think that I've had 'training on food tours' and I'll sample everything. Except tongue. But that's another story. This one is about candy and I loved it all.
Especially the caramel. Oh. My. Goodness. I wanted to channel my inner Lucy & Ethel when I saw these.
Each one is meticulously salted by hand and days later I'm still not sure how so many get finished. One for the box, one for me. One for the box, two for me. My obvious gluttony should be evident enough to ensure that I never get hired by a candy company. That's probably best for everyone.
And lest you think, I've not given ample time to white chocolate let me assure you. I did. I adore good white chocolate and I one two three of these.
There was only one 'bad' part of this entire tour. Afterwards, I became obsessed with the need for a Red Velvet Milkshake because normally I visit the Edward Marc Chocolatier that is inside The Milkshake Factory and I always have both-a piece of chocolate and a shake because I like to spoil myself like that. It's possible that I may have driven down and got a milkshake later that very evening.