Skip to content

Gearharts Chocolates

May 11, 2012

Respect must be paid: Gearharts is one of Charlottesville’s finest institutions (and now with a shop in Richmond, I suppose it must be one of Richmond’s finest too). I have never had better chocolates, and cannot believe there are many chocolatiers in America who can match Tim Gearhart for quality. You might fault him for variety, as he has been making the same sixteen chocolates for a decade. But they are a superb sixteen.

I had a box last weekend and for a moment my faith wavered. The first five or six pieces were good, but they did not lift me to the plane of transcendence I have come to expect. Maybe it was because those pieces were lesser ones, and certainly they were among the less powerfully flavorful. But I suspect the real problem was in me. I was not at that time fully prepared in spirit to accept the gift the chocolates offered. The next day — for no reason that I could discern — I was, and each piece in its own way came as a revelation of flavor, reverberating in mouth, mind, body, and soul.

With family and friends I have often participated in the reverent ritual of dividing the chocolates up with a sharp knife, into halves or thirds or sometimes even fourths, so that no one will miss out on any of the varieties. Even in such reduced quantity the chocolates can overpower with pleasure. But I was content this last time to enjoy my chocolates with complete selfishness, undeserved but perhaps forgivable given the many sorrows of my life.

It would seem a sin to play favorites with these chocolates, so I won’t tell you which I think are best. Besides, my experience changes with the occasion. This time the Michigan Cherry shone more brightly for me than it ever has before, and leaving the Taj for last provided a perfect aromatic finish. The Maple Pecan might be the one I would  most willingly part with; I like maple, I like pecan, I like them in combination, but they do not seem suitable for the concentration of essence that is the telos of fine chocolates. Not long ago I overheard someone talking up the Brown Butter Caramel, and I felt a bit of disdain for him. Why pick out the simple common caramel when such more interesting and intense flavors  are on hand? But coming to the caramel this weekend I learned again the value of a humble thing done to perfection, particularly in the context of fancier fare. It is of such softness and delicacy as to make you rethink the nature of caramel.

Back in 2009 I ordered a box in advance for Christmas, to be picked up on December 19th. That day — well some called it a ‘geddon and some called it a ‘pocalypse, but whatever your nomenclatural preference it was the greatest December snowfall in our recorded history. The whole city of Charlottesville was pretty near shut down. Like many others, what I recall most fondly from that time was how, later that evening, The Drunk Tigers Saved Christmas. But I also remember trudging through the snow to Gearharts, hoping to pick up my chocolates. And yes, like a beacon of civilization and warm humanity in the overwhelming Melvillean whiteness of nature’s blanketing cold, they were open; they had the box waiting for me. I was deeply moved. For that, all props to them, and all blessings (and to the Main Street ABC store, which was also open to provide the people with their necessaries).

Gearharts — no apostrophe, no apologies.

From → Uncategorized

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: