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Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2010

Indulgence Chocolatiers

Local, Handcrafted Treats

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It was while backpacking through Ireland, England, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Portugal and Italy on her honeymoon that Julie Waterman fell in love with Europe’s quaint chocolate boutiques. The focus on high-quality ingredients and the artful presentation of tiny chocolate masterpieces were an inspiration to her, a nice departure from the chocolate-as-sugar-fix found in the grocery checkout line.

“I’d always wonder if I didn’t try,” Waterman says of opening her own chocolate boutique, and so she took the leap into free enterprise.

In November 2007, a month before graduating from UW-Milwaukee with a degree in music education, she founded Indulgence Chocolatiers in Waukesha, bringing to market a signature line of hand-rolled truffles with traditional flavors such as mint, hazelnut, peanut butter and dark chocolate. To avoid high overhead, Waterman decided not to sell from a storefront; instead she fostered relationships with owners of local markets and wine shops to have them sell Indulgence chocolates at their locations.

Waterman isn’t a classically trained chocolatier, but educates herself by studying the masters. On a recent trip to Tuscany’s Chocolate Valley, she saw world-renowned chocolatier Andrea Bianchini, owner of La Bottega del Cioccolato, a chocolate boutique in Florence.

“He has this small kitchen, and it’s incredible what comes out of his facility,” Waterman explains. “It was really beautiful and inspiring what you can do with so little.”

Back in the United States, Waterman hosted chocolate tastings where, in the same vein as a wine tasting, she guided people on how to study the quality of the chocolate. Soon, Indulgence Chocolatiers was gaining a reputation for its velvety, rich, sweet-but-not-cloying creations. Waterman found that the public really responded to chocolate’s finer points, so she launched the Chocolatier’s Selection, a line of handcrafted truffles that combines compelling flavors. Think 45% cacao dark milk chocolate with Thai spices and savory peanut butter topped with candied ginger; 54% cacao semisweet dark chocolate infused with organic coconut oil, honey, yellow curry and habañero peppers; and 54% cacao semisweet dark chocolate mixed with handmade caramel, rum, natural banana oil and cinnamon and topped with toasted banana and a few flakes of sea salt—each with its own unique shape.

Where Indulgence Chocolatiers hits the mark is the perfect balance of each piece of chocolate—never too much or too little of any flavor. “We use an amazing assortment of chocolates here,” Waterman says. “I really try to strike a balance between flavoring something and having an appreciation for the chocolate.”

Indulgence Chocolatiers typically uses a blended bean, which means the cocoa beans are from all over the world, but recently has been working with single-origin chocolate from South America and Africa. In addition to visiting the Swiss and Austrian Alps next year, a chocolate region that prides itself on centuries-old artisanal traditions, Waterman has a long-term vision of visiting cocoa bean farms to develop her knowledge of chocolate from the ground level.

With the debut of this year’s line of fine chocolate bars—tastefully packaged in a thin, dark brown paper box with the company’s name written in pale blue on a cream-colored background—Indulgence Chocolatiers has seen significant growth. The company’s chocolate can be found in stores all over the Milwaukee area, and can be purchased online as well. With the exception of the bars, all other chocolate treats are made to order. After customers call ahead with their orders, Waterman invites them to stop by her company’s Waukesha kitchen to witness chocolatiers handcraft each delectable piece of chocolate.

For more information, call (262) 510-9980 or visit www.indulgencechocolatiers.com.

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