|Katherine Clapner, owner of Dude Sweet Chocolate in Dallas, works on creating foie gras chocolates.|
Dude, Sweet Chocolate
408 W. 8th St., “Sweet” 102, Dallas
Dude, Sweet Chocolate is the kind of place that makes you feel like one of the cool kids just for walking through the doors.
The staff sport tattoos, dread locks and sneakers; the candies have names like Crack in a Box and Fungus Amongus;and owner Katherine Clapner spends a sunny February day working on her latest concoction — foie gras chocolates — right in the shop’s open kitchen.
Aside from the extensive collection of ingredients — Clapner claims they come up with an average of three recipes a week — the shop stands out for using exclusively dark chocolate.
“The association for so long was that dark chocolate had to be bitter,” she laments. “To me, the coolest part about all this, is what people think they like and what they end up leaving with. We set out to be a non-pretentious chocolate shop,” she says. “So it’s not about ribbons and bow and pretty display cases, it’s about turning people on to things they wouldn’t normally try.”
And by the looks of her shop, she’s succeeded.
Among the creations is Crack in a Box: “Whole hazelnuts, almonds, macadamia and soy tossed in egg whites, powdered sugar and sea salt and candied in the oven, then enrobed in 72% South American chocolate with raw cocoa nibs and poured into slabs, which are then cut.”
There’s also Fungus Amongus: “A very buttery and creamy toffee made with local cream, local butter, porcini mushroom powder and toasted pumpkin seeds” and Yerba Mate: “A tea truffle [made with] Yerba Mate, a Brazilian and South American tea with very smoky green tea notes, Texas honey, and fresh lemon.”
“There doesn’t always have to be a why,” explains Clapner. “I am a very simple person. I just look at stuff, like it’s just what I do... I purchase anything I haven’t seen before and then it comes in and we figure out what we’re going to do with it. Aand that’s really how we do it.”
She opened her shop Dec. 5, 2009, after selling her candies at Farmer’s Markets, and never looked back. Last year, they did over a $1 million in sales by selling chocolates made in the 350-sq.-ft. open air kitchen within the shop.
Now, they’re looking to expand, with plans to keep the shop’s kitchen for testing and then doing the heavy chocolate making out of a new facility.
“We always wanted to have it so people will know and see what’s being done, but you can’t continue in this capacity if you want to continue to make money,” Clapner says.
The trick is to keep it artisan as they expand, but Clapner says even that’s not necessarily her top priority.
“We’ve really got to find a new name for ‘artisan,’” she says. “I think once Domino’s and Olive Garden start calling things artisan, it’s time to jump that ship. But there’s a lot of ways to maintain the integrity, because it’s really about the flavors and the mixes... I want to pull artisan off and just say, ‘We make chocolate.’”
How cool is that?