Valentine’s Day is approaching, love is in the air and Roger Rodriguez is ready to help you celebrate.
Rodriguez is the co-owner of Vesta Chocolate in Montclair, which he runs with his wife, Julia. Their treats feature organic cacao from the Dominican Republic, where Rodriquez spent precious time on his grandfather’s cacao plantation as a child. Together, the two would pick fresh passion fruit and enjoy it with raw sugar sprinkled on top.
When Rodriguez learned that Chinola Passion Fruit Liqueur uses fresh passion fruit from the Dominican Republic to make the spirit, he was inspired to partner with the company. The result? Special bonbons for Valentine’s Day, infused with a subtle passion-fruit ganache, that are reminiscent of Rodriguez’s childhood.
“Creating a confection that represents my Dominican roots is something that is so dear to my heart,” he says.
Vesta’s Chinola Passion Fruit Bonbons can be ordered online for delivery or pickup, and are also available at Vesta’s shop in Upper Montclair.
Had you worked with passion fruit before?
Roger Rodriguez: The flavor of passion fruit [has always drawn] me in. It adds a range of flavors no other fruit can. We really let the flavors guide us! We used a recipe that best showcases the aromatics of Chinola and the subtle spices of Vesta chocolate.
What sparked the collaboration with Chinola?
We use organic cacao beans from the Dominican Republic, and organic sugar cane. Chinola follows a similar vine-to-bottle approach and only uses fresh passion fruit from the D.R. Once we found that out, we thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to create something so uniquely [singular] in origin.
The Chinola bonbons are packaged beautifully. Is presentation equally important to taste?
Absolutely. Chocolate bonbons are traditionally a special gift you give someone, and packaging is half that ritual. We eat with our eyes first, so the way the bonbons shine and the way they’re perfectly packaged matter almost as much as how they taste.
What is your Valentine’s prep like?
It is the second busiest time for us after the holiday season, so we try our best to prepare. But somehow our chocolates and sweets always end up selling out faster than we anticipate. We love helping our clients celebrate Valentine’s Day because love is always at the core of everything we do!
What do you love most about people enjoying your confections on Valentine’s Day?
Without a doubt, love is the most important element in life, and being able to help my clients celebrate the most important thing in life is rewarding.