Berkeley pastry chef Diane Beaty's chocolate-centered universe is inspired by natural colors and flavors, including those of 18th century French royal courts. Her's is a bountiful world of hand-painted chocolate rabbits, exotic flavored milk and dark chocolate bars, and clever chocolate interpretations of classical french pastries. Wonka analogies may be trite, but her passion for experimentation and consistency in branding certainly bring them to mind.
Maison Bouche chocolate bars are wrapped in colorful and often illustrated paper and pastel-colored foil. The five standard collections of bars—Fleurs (flowers), Épices (spices), Diversités (diversities), Croquants (crunchy), and Fruits—feature more than 30 bars. This is supplemented by seasonal collections (Summer 2011 includes Tequila, Lime and Sea Salt, Piñ Colada, Papaya, Melon Basil, Strawberry Balsamic and Watermelon Mint) and several special collections (Liquers, Botanicals, Marriage à la Mode, Patisserie, Couture and Confections). In all, dozens and dozens of bars with flavorful and considered combinations.
We sampled several of the bars and confections, which start with a blend of various high quality chocolates, and they consistently held their own. We particularly enjoyed the hint of cookie and satisfying crunch of the Sablés Croquants noir bar and the one-two olfactory and taste punch of the not too sweet milk chocolate Geranium Bourbon bar. And though we didn't get to taste the dark chocolate Licorice Macarons, we're intrigued.
Maison Bouche (which translates to "the mouth's home") chocolates and candies are made by hand in-house in small batches. "We are inspired by the old world candy houses of France and Italy," Beaty explains, "many of which have sadly gone out of business. But we like to feel that we mimic them in some way."