Chocre Blue!

Blue Brothers bring fine chocolates to Lincoln

When Chris Blue decided to pursue a career in the culinary field, his mother told him to focus on what he liked most to eat. We should all be thankful that it’s chocolate. After graduating from the French Pastry School in Chicago and working at the Windy City’s Charlie Trotter’s as chocolatier for several years, and as a pastry chef in Florida, Blue opened his first Chocolatier Blue in Utah. Soon after, he and his wife relocated to the Bay area and have opened two shops in Berkeley, Calif., with two more California locations on the way in 2011. In August 2010, Blue’s brother, Sean Blue, opened a Chocolatier Blue location in their hometown of Lincoln, at 41st and Pioneer Woods Drive. Chris also says he and his brother are looking to open a store in Omaha sometime in 2011, although he doesn’t have details yet on where or when. The Lincoln store sells fine chocolates that Chris makes at his kitchen in Berkeley and ships overnight to Lincoln, all of them looking like edible pieces of art. Chocolatier Blue keeps 10-12 popular chocolates, such as caramel, espresso and hazelnut always in stock but rotates offerings seasonally. He sells up to 150 flavor combinations every year including such concoctions such as grapefruit with rosemary, pear bay leaf and eggnog or holiday spice for the Christmas season. “He (Chris) plays around with different flavors,” says Sean. “One time he had ants on a log. It did not sell for anything. He said he wouldn’t do that again. It’s hard to get people to try new stuff,” continues Sean. “People think ‘bay leaf, I put that in my soup.’” One of Sean’s favorite flavors is summer’s banana split, but caramel and other more traditional flavors such as pistachio and hazelnut are the biggest sellers. Sean Blue opened Chocolatier Blue after he was laid off from his job at an organic food certification company in Lincoln. He says, “I got laid off and put all my retirement in (opening Chocolatier Blue). I put it all on the table.” Business was good over the holidays. Chris reports that Sean would call him begging for more chocolate. With a newly expanded kitchen, Chris can turn out 5,000 chocolates in two days, just enough to keep the shelves at his three current stores stocked during the holidays. My sister and I trekked to Lincoln to seek out the chocolate morsels, which sell for $1 each with discounts for bulk orders. Blue uses Amedei Chocolate from Tuscany as a base for his sweets, a fine (and expensive) chocolate. The butter comes from Five Star Butter Co., which makes arguably the best butter in the world. Many fruits are sourced locally, an easier feat when you live in California. “A lot of my focus is on getting great ingredients. The pistachios are from Sicily, the hazelnuts are from Washington state. I’m not concerned with where it comes from, just that it’s the best,” says Chris Blue. “We pay an extraordinary amount for butter and chocolate.” In the south Lincoln strip mall, Chocolatier Blue occupies a clean space next to The Oven. The store’s walls are light blue with charming photos by Chris Blue’s wife Jess Steeve. My sister and I went a bit gaga over the beautiful display of chocolates laid out on the marble countertop. Little squares, spheres and rounded hearts of multi-colored chocolates tempted shoppers. We eventually decided on six chocolates (chili, passion fruit caramel, pear bay leaf, sunflower butter with orange marmalade, espresso and grapefruit with rosemary) and nibbled at them slowly. Sunflower butter with orange marmalade was our favorite. It was nicely nutty and faintly salty with a tangy layer of marmalade for a finish. The dark chocolate crunched under the bite. Sage honey, creamy and not too sweet, came encased in a heart-shaped cocoon of chocolate carefully painted yellow and white. Grapefruit with rosemary was clean and reminiscent of the forest. Espresso, another favorite, was rich with bitter low notes. We left the store with a box of 10 for our grandma, who is probably the world’s biggest lover of chocolate treats of any sort. Chocolatier Blue, 4101 Pioneer Woods Dr., is open daily from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Visit chocolatierblue.com or call 402.488.0048. Omaha residents can place orders online.

posted at 07:03 pm
on Wednesday, January 05th, 2011

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