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Sophisticated and Memorable: Byrne and Carlson Chocolates, Portsmouth N.H.

opinionatedchef | May 26, 201510:52 PM

http://www.byrneandcarlson.com/

I don't know how a place like this has slipped under the CH radar so thoroughly; they have been here 15 years! I live in Boston, and have only recently discovered them, thx to kimfair, an astute CH on the Boston board who shares my love of Burdick Chocolates.Portsmouth is certainly growing and growing on the culinary front, so I can only hope that more locals will discover and start posting on Chowhound, letting more of us know about places as good as B and C!

Onto the chocolates:I stopped in on Thursday afternoon, and bought and sampled a few before putting together an order.I was very impressed with a number of them. Their dark chocolate (I'm only talking about the filled pieces) is not as dark as i prefer but still it had weight and depth.The individual chocolates that I particularly liked were the:
grand marnier and kirsch truffle logs; cognac truffles; 3 layer gianduja squares; pecan turtles; dark choc covered fleur de sel caramels and dulce (tan colored) covered fleur de sel caramels, and the hazelnut nougatine sea shells.
Along that same line of thinking of salty and sweet, I was impressed with them doing a dark choc bark with tamari almonds. Clever! They do rotate flavors btw. I think the texture of their truffle fillings is quite sublime- very light and silky. And the flavorings they use are well balanced and very authentic tasting (not at all artificial.)
In the mini bars, I liked the Dulce with crispy buttons on top (big fan of crispies in chocolate ganache, which is why i went mad for Burdick's Polka Dot Eggs at Easter. I can't believe I really have to wait an entire year for them to make them again.Silly me, here i was thinking that my fortune could buy anything.... :-))

One caveat to my experience at B&C : I was prepared, after a number of Yelp reviews mentioned this, to encounter a non-friendly counter person. I entered the store as cheerful and positive as possible. There was no other customer, and the woman who helped me def gave off an odd awkward reserve. But I chose to push through that (ah what we do for excellent chocolate!)and came home with a large and satisfying purchase.( We can't expect all artists to be 'people persons'; maybe she is more comfortable with the creating and mail ordering sides of the business.)

You do need to take your time in that shop because the assortment and varieties can be a bit overwhelming. It's a good idea to give your helper an idea of a number of favorite things that you look for, so they can steer you with those in mind. And don't expect to be offered free samples (though if you are, consider it a sign that you did something very good in a previous life.)

As a big fan of Burdick's chocolates, and not a fan of the many other New England chocolates I have sampled, I am delighted to find Byrne and Carlson, a very good chocolatier (at half the price of Burdicks.) I hope you'll enjoy them too!

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