A Passion for Chocolate

Petit Philippe. A wine and chocolate shop on Selwyn Avenue.

Pink.  Champagne.  Chocolate.

Valentine’s Day, right? The trifecta is also at work in a small chocolate and wine shop off Selwyn called Petit Philippe. Case in point – pink champagne truffles (pictured).

Erin Sutton and I got to take a behind-the-scenes look into their chocolate making process with Casey Hickey – Chocolatier, business owner, mother of two and the woman who just might make a chocolate lover out of me. What we discovered was a woman very passionate about her work and some seriously tasty confections.   Casey, a Greensboro native and Chapel Hill alum, majored in journalism and briefly considered a career in dentistry (no, the irony was not lost on us).  In 2003, she earned her Diplome de Patisserie from Le Cordon Bleu Paris and she’s been crafting chocolates ever since.

Casey Hickey

The Perfect Pairing

Casey and her husband/business partner, Mark Meissner, moved to Charlotte in June and set to work on opening Petit Philippe.  They combine their passions for chocolate and wine, and on any given day you can find them both at the shop ready to share their expertise with you.  With Casey’s knack for matching personal palettes with chocolate flavorings and Mark’s talent for wine-food pairings, you might call them the perfect pair.  Throwing a dinner party and have no idea what red might go best with your braised short ribs? Mark is your man (he’s personally tasted every bottle of wine in the store).

The Art of Chocolate Making

Artisanal chocolate making, we learned, requires several things: lots of time (it takes anywhere from 24 hours to 3 days to complete a batch), the proper room temperature and humidity (the kitchen temp is never higher than 67), a steady hand, and patience, more patience, and a lot more patience.  It also doesn’t hurt if, like Casey, you have a strong working knowledge of the chemistry of chocolate.

Erin and I watched as Casey dipped each caramel into the carefully tempered chocolate.  Within minutes, the coating had dried to a glassy sheen, which makes for that pleasant snap when biting into a chocolate.  Casey also gilds each little square with a modern design using transfer sheets (you can buy your own transfer sheets here).  The end product is a stunning little gem of distinctive, hand-crafted flavor.

Designed cocoa butter transfer sheets cooling onto mojito truffles

The time and technique that is required to make one little chocolate is intense.  But this isn’t to say you can’t make artisanal chocolates at home.  Casey assures us that you can.  Her advice is to buy the highest quality chocolate you can afford (couveture chocolate is recommended) and don’t rush the process.  So, if you’re planning to make your special someone chocolates for Valentine’s Day spend some time sourcing high-quality ingredients, clear off space on your countertop, throw on some tunes, and dive right in.

If, on the other hand, you prefer to leave the work to someone else, Petit Philippe offers a wide variety of handmade chocolates in a variety of flavors – Earl Grey, Basil-Orange, Ginger Bread, Strawberry Balsamic, just to name a few.  My personal favorite is the mojito truffle flavored with fresh mint, fresh lime, and rum.  It completely bewitched me, and I have thought of very little since.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all of our foodie friends!

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4 Comments

Filed under Food, Holidays, Restaurants

4 responses to “A Passion for Chocolate

  1. Yum! These look delicious! After spending the week attempting to mold and shape chocolate I can firmly attest that she is one talented woman. Working with chocolate is a true art!

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  3. Amy Rogers

    I’d rather have ONE of these gorgeous creations than and entire bag of any other kind of candy! Good story.

  4. i adore petit philippe. and the chocolate is only half of it (a delicious, perfect half, mind you.) their wine flights are an incredible deal (usually $10-$14 for 3-4 samples), and dylan the wine guy will tell you all there is to know about what you’re drinking. love it.

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