Hot New Chocolatier in Town

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Dark chocolate bark with chipotle and almonds marked the beginning of a romantic Valentine's Day season at my house. My wife is wild about chocolate and chile pepper confections, so I try to buy her some every year at this time. I used to mail-order the wonderful chocolate-and-chile pepper bark with pumpkin seeds from Sahagun Chocolate Shop in Portland, Oregon.

But the Sahagun website didn't offer the chile pepper chocolates this year. I tried the Chocolate Bar, but the counterman told me that the owner hated chocolate and chile peppers and refused to carry it. Then I remembered Valerie Gamble. Gamble is a French-style chocolatier who moved here from Austin last fall. I loved her handmade truffles, so I went looking for her shop, Expressions Fine Chocolates.

I finally found the store out on a deserted stretch of Wilcrest between Richmond and Westpark. It was the first retail business to open in a brand-new and otherwise empty shopping center. (Call them at 281-894-7290 if you get lost.) The Valentine's Day special was a four-tier display box filled with Gamble's handmade truffles -- regularly 70-something, now on sale for 50-something.

I was deliriously happy to find a big box of hot-and-spicy dark chocolate bark with almonds for only $15 a pound. Gamble isn't shy with the chiles either.

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