We love any excuse to enjoy good chocolate, but we thought Valentine’s Day would be an especially good time of year to sit down with Tim Gearhart, owner of Gearharts Fine Chocolates to learn more about Gearharts and the chocolate they offer.
A pastry chef by trade, Tim Gearhart started Gearharts back in 2001 — and he hasn’t looked back since. Gearharts has two locations, one in Richmond and one in Charlottesville. Both locations serve as retail locations, but Charlottesville is also the home to Gearharts’ production kitchen and a chocolate cafe. We’re hoping to check out that location soon — because who can resist a chocolate cafe? — but on this visit we stayed in Richmond and visited the shop at Libbie and Grove.
Valentine’s Day is one of the single busiest days of the year for Gearharts, if not the busiest day, and in years past they’ve made 60,000 pieces of chocolate for just one day. Gearhart’s offers a number of gift options that would be good for Valentine’s Day, from wrapped assortments to specialty treats like Peanut Butter Pups, Whisky Truffles or Malt Caramels (which we love). They even have handmade caramels for those who don’t love chocolate.
One of the most popular things that Gearharts offers, though, is the single pieces of chocolate that customers can use to create their own personalized assortment. According to Gearhart, the single pieces fly out the door all day long. He calls the individual pieces ($1.90 a pop) an affordable luxury, something that customers can enjoy without feeling overly indulgent.
In case you’re looking to make your own box of chocolates from the glass case at Gearharts this Valentine’s Day, we’ve listed some of our favorite chocolates that we tried on our visit to Gearharts below. And if you don’t live in Richmond or Charlottesville, you can shop online and Gearharts will ship your order directly to you!
Semi-sweet chocolate ganache with raspberry-zinfandel conserves, dipped in dark chocolate.
This selection was one of the simpler chocolates we tried, but I appreciated how much the raspberry flavor was able to shine through. I usually prefer milk chocolate over dark chocolate, but the semi-sweet chocolate ganache provided the perfect balance alongside the dark chocolate in the Raspberry-Zin.
Milk chocolate ganache with dried apricots soaked in French cognac, finished in both white and milk chocolates.
The first thing I noticed about this chocolate was its smell, which is very fresh and sweet. The apricot flavor really comes through in this chocolate and it was probably my very favorite of all the chocolates we had a chance to taste. I’ll be honest, this isn’t one I would have tried from the description alone so I encourage you to try it, even if it at first look you don’t feel like it would be up your alley.
Rich, bittersweet chocolate ganache flavored with cinnamon, Ancho chili and orange, dusted with cocoa.
Have you ever had candied orange peels dipped in chocolate? It makes sense that the flavors would be similar given the ingredients that are a part of the Maya chocolate, but that’s the first thing I thought of when I bit into this one. You can really taste the orange zest, and as someone who enjoys fruit flavors, I really liked that about this chocolate.
Espresso ganache and marzipan with a whole roasted almond, glazed with milk chocolate.
Call me a lady who loves marzipan, it’s an ingredient I’m always drawn to, no matter the dish. This chocolate was super creamy and the whole roasted almond added the perfect element of crunch to it. The espresso flavor throughout was subtle but definitely present, which was perfect for my taste buds.
Creamy milk chocolate ganache infused with fresh mint, spiked with aged Kentucky bourbon and dipped in milk chocolate.
Mint and chocolate can be wonderful when paired together, it can also taste like chocolatey toothpaste. Thankfully, Gearharts’ Mint Julep does not fit the latter description. This smooth chocolate has just a hint of bourbon and the subtle mint flavor compliments the creamy milk chocolate.
Vanilla Bean Brulee
White chocolate ganache with vanilla bean and “torched” sugar caramel dipped in white chocolate.
The name of this chocolate alone had me intrigued, and the presentation was just beautiful. I was a little confused as to how a piece of chocolate would end up tasting like creme brulee, but Gearharts has made magic happen. And I really liked the texture from the crispy torched sugar caramel.
Brown Butter Caramel
Classic rich caramel made with browned butter, fresh cream and a hint of sea salt, encased in milk chocolate.
I’m a sucker for a good caramel, and when you mix caramel and chocolate you’ve got a winning combination. I was worried that the caramel might stick to my teeth, but was pleasantly surprised when it didn’t. The caramel did have a very deep, rich flavor and the hint of sea salt balanced out the very sweet treat.
Malted Milk Hazelnut
Whipped Gianduja, malted milk and toasted hazelnuts, dipped in creamy milk chocolate.
Gianduja is a chocolate spread that contains hazelnut paste (think Nutella). This chocolate instantly reminded me of a Ferrero Rocher, in the best kind of way, like a fancier version of it. The toasted hazelnuts gave each bite a bit of a crunch, something I appreciated after tasting what seemed like dozens of soft, creamy chocolates. This option would be perfect for someone who doesn’t like any bitterness in their chocolate.
P.S. Stop by both Gearharts locations today between 4 – 6 p.m. for Chocolate Happy Hour. Single priced chocolates are half priced (limit 4 per person) and select beverages and pastry items will also be half off at the Charlottesville location.