Carol Freedman isn’t your typical chocolatier, but Carol’s Creative Chocolatez on Division Street in Somerville isn’t your typical chocolate shop. Freedman worked for her father, a machinist, for roughly 30 years, “in a whole variety of different areas, human resources, purchasing—nothing in food,” she says. Her first foray into professional sweets started with her mom’s 1960s-era cookie recipe, “filled with margarine and trans fats.” And before she and business partner Tony Brokenborough had a chocolate shop, they had a short-lived motorcycle safety website (Freedman’s motorcycle-shaped chocolates were the lasting success).
After some years tempering in rented space, Carol’s Creative Chocolatez finally opened its doors in 2013. It’s a tidy storefront teeming with single origin truffles, botanical infused bars, and 100 percent edible (“frame and all”) chocolate paintings. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, we caught up with Freedman to talk about chocolate, her current lineup, and how she learned to convert Van Gogh to cacao.
Table Hopping: Almost everybody likes chocolate. How do you get to the next level of tasting?
Carol Freedman: High quality chocolates made from top quality beans and processed carefully contain nuances that are often missing from poor quality chocolates. If you let chocolate melt between the tongue and the palate, as the chocolate melts, you detect subtleties and nuances.
TH: Your store showcases “single origin” chocolates—from a particular country, region, or even grower. What makes them special?
CF: Origins are a lot more fragile. In some cases, it’s like a fine wine where a grape has a better growing year than another, [there are] better or worse growing years in the world of cacao as well. Flavor profiles vary just slightly. I find when they’re good, the beans are phenomenal. The flavor profiles are second to none.
As for choosing the single origin regions, we taste new chocolates whenever we discover ones we think might work in our shop. Since we opened, I’d estimate that Tony and I have sampled well over 100 different chocolates.
TH: Do you have a favorite at the moment?
CF: A French-style dark chocolate made from cacao from the Criollo cacao trees in Madagascar. This chocolate, to my palate, has the most amazing array of floral and fruity overtones.
[It’s] unique not only because it’s single origin cacao from Madagascar, but because, unlike many other chocolates, this one is made from only one type of bean and that one type of bean is, by some standards, the most difficult to produce.
TH: What are the other types of cacao beans?
CF: The other, more common cacao beans are the Forastero, the most common, and the Trinitario, a hybrid of the Criollo and the Forastero. We are often asked by customers ‘What do you recommend?’ I never recommend what I like. Rather, I ask questions to try to help pinpoint the best chocolate for that particular customer based on their preferences.
TH: How do you decide on fillings for truffles and candies?
CF: We choose fillings/usages for each chocolate we work with based upon the flavor profile of the chocolate itself. For example, we will never make a wine ganache in a milk chocolate; flavor-wise, it just doesn’t work. The bourbon ganache I make is also only made with dark chocolate. But the flavor profile of the individual chocolate is what helps us decide exactly which inclusions—fruits, nuts, etc.—to use in that chocolate.
TH: Where did the idea for your line of “botanical-infused” chocolate bars come from?
CF: Tony found some incredible food-grade botanical oils and figured out a way to infuse them into our chocolate. Like other inclusions, we pick and choose the chocolate/botanical oil combinations based on flavor profiles. Rose, lavender, orange blossom, [and] chamomile are some we use.
TH: Your chocolate paintings won you the “President’s Choice Award” at the Retail Confectioner’s International convention in 2011. Do you consider yourself an artist?
CF: I do not, but many of my customers disagree with me. So far, I have not had any customers come back to complain about a painting.
TH: Can a customer commission anything? How do you actually paint in chocolate?
CF: The paintings are solid blocks of chocolate, and I make my own paint from part of the chocolate as well. I do not accept all requests for paintings because I know my limitations. For example, I will not do paintings of people. I tend to do well with impressionistic/abstract styles of painting. I evaluate each photograph or painting being requested, take a careful look at the style, the color palette, etc., and I mix my paints and go for it! Painting with chocolate is not unlike painting with oils or acrylics; if I don’t like what I have, I just paint right over it until I get the result I’m looking for.
TH: Valentine’s Day is obviously just around the corner—what do you guys have on offer?
CF: Valentine’s Day is the number one chocolate holiday! We have special truffle and solid molds, various heart shapes. We also do heart and flower-shaped meltaways and, for people who order ahead of time, chocolate-dipped strawberries.
Carol’s Creative Chocolatez is located at 24 Division Street in Somerville; 908-725-5500Click here to leave a comment