Fleurir’s Secrets to Putting Love in Chocolate

In the historic port town of Alexandria, Virginia lives an elderly author and poet by the name of Nancy. Like any artist, Nancy draws much of her inspiration from some of her favorite places. One of those places happens to be her local chocolate shop, which she visits on a regular basis to catch up with neighbors, watch pastry chefs at work, and purchase her favorite chocolate for motivation at the writing desk. In addition to supplying her with enough caffeinated energy to push through her day’s worth of writing, the chocolate serves as a memento of a beauty that can come through imagination.

Matt and I after finishing boxing holiday special truffle boxes to be shipped across the country.

Matt and I after finishing boxing holiday special truffle boxes to be shipped across the country.

Working with Fleurir Chocolates

The Fleurir team hard at work into the cold winter night.

The Fleurir team hard at work into the cold winter night.

Fleurir Chocolates hosts regulars like Nancy everyday. And if there’s one thing that I’ve learned while working at Fleurir these past few weeks of winter holiday break, it’s that people aren’t just coming back to the shop each week for high quality Grand Marnier truffles and smoked dark chocolates (although the quality of Fleurir’s chocolates is so damn high). Nancy and her fellow local chocolate lovers of Alexandria have a special connection with Fleurir because of the people that work there.

Tony (Antonia) packages toffee decorated with dark chocolate and sesame seeds. We bonded over our Italian-Americaness.

Tony (Antonia) packages toffee decorated with dark chocolate and sesame seeds. We bonded over our Italian-Americaness.

Robert cuts the hardening toffee. I struggled with this. When you pour hot toffee (which is butter, sugar, brown sugar, salt and glucose syrup raised to 306 ºF) out, you have only 30 seconds to spread it and cut it before it turns into glass.

Robert cuts the hardening toffee. I struggled with this. When you pour hot toffee (which is butter, sugar, brown sugar, salt and glucose syrup raised to 306 ºF) out, you have only 30 seconds to spread it and cut it before it turns into glass.

Ashley sets up things at the retail counter. I'm preparing those truffle boxes to be filled.

Ashley sets up things at the retail counter. I’m preparing those truffle boxes to be filled.

The Fleurir team consists of a handful of young pastry chefs led by the master chocolatier Robert, who runs the store with his wife Ashley. Following the examples of Robert and Ashley, the team greets each customer as they’d greet any family member or friend: with honesty. If a customer asks how the day’s work has been, Robert might reply (in a lighthearted way) that the day’s been hectic and absolutely insane. To me, the people at Fleurir make up the ultimate retail team, because Fleurir’s staff genuinely enjoys authentic conversation with customers. There’s no fake smiles, higher-pitched voices, or excessive politeness–everything about the conversation is real and comfortable.

Boxing holiday special truffle boxes.

Boxing holiday special truffle boxes.

Matt, an ex restaurant chef, works the dipping machine.  The intricate designs on top of each truffle are done in buttercream. The designs are meticulously placed on each truffle while the surface chocolate is still hot.

Matt, an ex restaurant chef, works the dipping machine. The intricate designs on top of each truffle are done in buttercream. The designs are meticulously placed on each truffle while the surface chocolate is still hot.

Salted Caramel – These are what Fleurir is known for. They were rated one of the best in the country by the New York Times.

Salted Caramel – These are what Fleurir is known for. They were rated one of the best in the country by the New York Times.

And it’s the conversation that keeps Nancy coming back. After asking Robert to make a dark chocolate bar of almonds and sea salt after each visit, Robert finally put one on the menu and named it the Nancy Bar. Nancy orders 30 every month.

This was my workstation when I was measuring ingredients to make specialty bars. Fleurir uses really fine single-sourced chocolate baking chips from all over the world. The Ecuadorian white chocolate was incredible–you could taste the fresh green grass that was fed to the cows.

This was my workstation when I was measuring ingredients to make specialty bars. Fleurir uses really fine single-sourced chocolate baking chips from all over the world. The Ecuadorian white chocolate was incredible–you could taste the fresh green grass that was fed to the cows.

I cupped truffles often.

I cupped truffles often.

I work on cutting the honeycomb candy, which is a mixture of fats and honey brought to a boil and puffed up using baking soda. This was a difficult task, because cutting the hardened candy is like cutting glass.

I work on cutting the honeycomb candy, which is a mixture of fats and honey brought to a boil and puffed up using baking soda. This was a difficult task, because cutting the hardened candy is like cutting glass.

Ready to be coated in dark chocolate.

Ready to be coated in dark chocolate.

My yield, as you can see by the size of my trash pile, was not very high,

My yield, as you can see by the size of my trash pile, was not very high,

Dipping

Dipping

A wattleseed ganache is carefully placed on each square of toffee. I did this by placing a dollop of liquid chocolate on each square to glue the ganache on top.

A wattleseed ganache is carefully placed on each square of toffee. I did this by placing a dollop of liquid chocolate on each square to glue the ganache on top.

Ginger Rogers truffles. The heavy cream used in making the interior ganache is steeped with fresh ginger for a few days.

Ginger Rogers truffles. The heavy cream used in making the interior ganache is steeped with fresh ginger for a few days.

Peanut Butter Banana

Peanut Butter Banana

The festive winter view from our store.

The festive winter view from our store.

4 responses on “Fleurir’s Secrets to Putting Love in Chocolate

  1. Seems like no matter where you are in the world, Ben, you find a way to create/learn something new! Nice to know that you will be “closer
    to home” this time…Alexandria!!!

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