Well, on Labor Day, my friend Carole (she of the bacon flavored chocolate and chocolate Peeps gift) and I went on a mini local ChocoTour. The first place we stopped was Chocolaterie Stam located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Now get this - Stam has 10 stores, 6 in Holland, 3 in Iowa (Iowa - can you believe that?), and one here in North Carolina. The owner, Bob Droog, is from Holland and missed the company's chocolate when he relocated to the US. So he contacted them to see if he could open his own shop. And thank God he did! This place is terrific!!
So far it is hands down the most gorgeous chocolate shop I've been in. (Yes, even more beautiful than the Voges Haut-Chocolat shop in NY.) The color scheme is deep wine and gold. There are crystal chandeliers hanging over the rows of chocolates. And these are some gorgeous chocolates:
I broke the dark chocolate peacock, but look at these! There's a milk chocolate windmill, a dark chocolate butterfly, a milk chocolate frog, a white chocolate ear of corn (Iowa?), and a dark chocolate accordion and a hedgehog!!! I tried to get better pictures of the windmill, the accordion and the hedgehog:
Look at that detail! How amazing are those? And there were many more gorgeous chocolates - cute chocolate mice, peanut butter filled hearts (yum!), and on and on. I can't wait to go back at Easter - Bob said they would have tons of new shapes then. Also the cases were clean and filled - some shops just have that "we used to give a damn" look. Chocolaterie Stam is like a chocolate art gallery - absolutely beautiful.
But here's the best part - the chocolates are to die for! Like the best European chocolates, they are so smooth and creamy, they just melt in your mouth. And the fillings are also delicious - the praline centers were almost fluffy and the caramel - wonderful - the perfect mix of creamy and chewy. The coconut wasn't heavy and grainy, but smotth and subtle. I haven't tried them all yet, but so far they have been fantastic. And I like the classic flavors - some of the chocolatiers these days are trying so hard to come up with new weird stuff that they lose sight of some of the best tried and true flavors. (Do you want squid ink or peanut butter in your chocolate? Give me tradition!)
Their web site is http://www.stamchocolate.com/ and you can order online.
The lesson is the same as in the motivational classic "Acres of Diamonds" - so many times what you're looking for is right in your own backyard. But we tend to overlook or take those things for granted. Looking for a great new friend? Maybe there's someone who works in the very same office as you who you just haven't taken the time to get to know. Looking to get out of debt? Maybe you need to have a yard sale and sell some of those things you never use. See the incredible things already around you - there might be a chocolate hedgehog just next door!