Event - Michelle haut Chocolat Grand Opening

Smooth music wafted through the area and peeking around the corner from Seventh Tea Bar, we spotted where all the chocolate addicts of Orange County had congregated at the OC Mart Mix at the SoCo Collection. We were among the invited to taste of the jewels at the Michelle haut Chocolat boutique opening - chocolate, paparazzi, and Prosecco warmly filled the space for the company's first retail location's launch event. The boutique features once-hard-to-obtain artisan chocolates (basically only found at celebrity functions including the Oscars) from the highly acclaimed and followed Michelle Pontius. The chocolates themselves range from truffles to bars and so forth and consist of a proprietary blend which is based on 73% bittersweet Belgian chocolate. It was time to get taste testing!

These handcrafted chocolates were given the star treatment with a live band performing light music in the corner while larger boxes of confections and chocolates sat under glass bell jars, begging to be stared at. It was easy to get lost in the crowd as bodies maneuvered themselves around each other in such a tight corner, eager for more decadence. Outside stood a backdrop against which guests could snap shots of themselves at this opening and inside, well there was chocolate.

Plenty was sampled that evening which gave a larger overview to the individual of the most popular types. The bars were broken up and laid out on rectangular serving plates waiting for the overzealous guest to grab an entire handful (though I'm sure everyone was composed enough to watch themselves). The sheer volume of samples could have been intimidating but considering the full range of flavor profiles, many may have stayed in their comfort zones when tasting. I, on the other hand, embraced the variety and tried everything. One of the most gorgeous is their Crystallized Rose Petal chocolate bar, and it was apparent that floral notes were a favorite to make. The Rose Sea Salt bar contained just a smidgen of the floral flavor but more of the fun dichotomy between salt and chocolate. Glacé fruits dipped in chocolate were nestled in gold foil-lined holders and provided fruit lovers with concentrated fruit sugars. In my top three choices for the evening of those sampled, I enjoyed the Exotic Chile Cardamom for its spiciness both in the "hot and spicy" sense and the "spiced" aspect.

They claimed that the most sold bar was their French Lavender and after trying it, I could truly understand why it is a favorite. I myself already love lavender so this was right up my alley. There were also pieces for nut lovers such as the Almond and Pistachio bars. Truffles of Tahitian Vanilla Bean and Blood Orange were also enjoyed along with bars of Espresso Bean, another of my favorites that evening due to its gritty crunchiness. One feature of note that I, and most likely everyone, appreciated was the integration of a lot of the chocolates with other OC Mix vendors such as the espresso bean's origins in Portola Coffee Lab. Overall, the chocolates (made daily in Laguna Beach) are prided for being free of artificial ingredients, additives, and preservatives; Michelle focuses on using fresh and pure ingredients from around the world. This philosophy pours over into their packaging as well which many commented on due to their beauty. The bars are wrapped in Nepalese fine paper while the truffles are packaged in custom-made boxes from Italy.

It was quite the bustling grand opening but enjoyable with all of the familiar faces we saw that night. We even had the briefest of moments with Michelle herself, a graduate from the International Culinary School Art Institute and the master chocolatier of the company. Our congratulations go out to her for the opening of their retail location and for a successful grand opening event! The OC Mart Mix seems just about the perfect place to position a unique chocolatier such as this. Their truffles and domes are $2 individually but come in larger count boxes. Bars will run you $9 apiece and come in at 100 grams each. Take a look yourself to see what you'd like from them!

Photography by Duc Duong. More photos available on Facebook here.