Chocolat by Daniel is now open in Rockford and if you think you know chocolate, prepare to be surprised. Just talking for a short time to the Daniel referenced by the name (Daniel Nelson that is) you'll realize that the man has a passion for the substance and it shows through in all aspects of this business. While his passion will find him talking at length about his love affair with chocolate, he would rather let the chocolate speak for itself. The end result is an incredible experience for the Rockford area.
Just listening to the adventure that brought him to this place is a fascinating tale. While he says that, "he's not interesting, the chocolate is" I have to disagree. Still it is the chocolate that will tickle your taste buds and open up a whole new world of taste sensation. Nelson says that many people in the Rockford area (and in the United States in general) have not tasted real chocolate. They are used to the over-sweetened product that is sold as chocolate, but is often filled with paraffin wax, corn syrup, preservatives and other things to the point of only barely being recognizable as chocolate. Nelson opened his new venture (which he describes as "a chocolate lounge and dessert bar") only a few weeks ago to bring the real thing to Rockford residents. Already he's been bringing in a lot of people.
If you wonder how Nelson came to have his understanding of chocolate, that in itself has been a journey. He studied at the prestigious L'Ecole Chocolat Professional School of Chocolate Arts in Vancouver, earning a certification there. His culinary education did not end, there, though. Based on his work he was offered an opportunity to work with one of the premiere chocolate artists in the world, Philippe Givre in a small town outside of Paris. Needless to say, Nelson did not let this chance slip by, but as a true symbol of how committed he is to his art, he even went beyond that experience. Indeed he arrived in France a full week ahead of schedule to go in to see 16 of the finest chocolatiers in Paris at work and speak with them. Then he spent over a month studying under the master, pulling 16-hour days. You might guess that when he finished with this he would head straight home - not so. Instead he then made the rounds at the same places in Paris, with a new understanding and grasp of the art. That's what you call commitment to your art.
That same commitment comes through in all the creations at Chocolat by Daniel. Each day he creates a new assortment of chocolate delicacies, often making more during the day because they sell so fast. So you are guaranteed fresh quality, hand made treats on each and every visit. Nelson takes raw chocolate from all over the world - from the best artisans in such places as Belgium, France, Switzerland and Venezuela. He chooses each one based on the particular attributes that the type of chocolate imparts and his vision for the item that he's creating. This type of hand crafted chocolate artistry is only practiced by a few people in the United States. His particular style (Nelson told me that each artisan has their own individual touch) is then used to create such treats as the "Naked Chocolate Torte," "L'Orient" and a whole selection of individual chocolates. In addition you can get chocolate fondue with fresh fruit and assorted cookies or White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake - and any number of daily varieties.
If that's not enough Nelson also serves up a selection of gourmet coffees and teas and authentic European hot chocolate. I sampled the Bicerin (hot chocolate and coffee in an Irish coffee mug). I can tell you that that in itself is a sublime experience, and one that I'm guessing is matched by virtually everything on offer at the establishment. Don't take my word for it, though, stop in and try it for yourself. If you are worrying about your diet or other such considerations, don't. One misconception that Nelson wants to break is that chocolate "is bad for you, fattening, unhealthy and a source of guilt." Served the authentic way, without all the added sugars and other things, this chocolate is actually good for you. Chocolat by Daniel is open at 211 East State Street. The hours are Monday through Thursday 10-10 and Friday and Saturday 10-midnight. For more information be sure to check out the website at www.chocolatbydaniel.com or call at 969-7990. Get ready to fall in love with real chocolate.