Smoked poblano pepper, locally grown spice berry, rosemary plucked right from the stem — it’s not the hottest new salad, although I wouldn’t necessarily say no to any of that on a nice bed of greens. No, these are all ingredients chocolatier Shalini Latour incorporates into her Chocolats Latour brand bars, truffles, brittles, and caramels.
Housed in the Chocolate Bee in Northside, Chocolats Latour has gone from a home experiment to a line of fair-trade chocolates sold in specialty stores and coffee shops in Cincinnati, Dayton, Pittsburgh, and Davis (West Virginia).
Latour began her journey as a cottage industry producer, making treats from ingredients she found at farmers markets and in her own backyard. Her journey to Cincinnati is even more interesting. Born in Montreal, Latour lived in Canada, Belgium, and France before moving to upstate New York to work as a pastry chef at a center where she studied yoga and meditation practices. After 10 years, she found her way to Cincinnati where she worked at the BonBonerie and had her own wedding cake business before starting Chocolats Latour.
Locally sourced ingredients are a staple in Latour’s treats. “I get all my herbs from local farmers, either fresh or dried,” she says. “I love freezing the herbs and pulling them out in the winter because they have that fresh summer taste, which is great.” Fruits, beers and wines, and even honey come from a local producer whenever possible.
And honey plays a big role in Latour’s creations. The Chocolate Bee also houses another business, Bee Haven Honey. Bee Haven sells candles, hand salves, and of course, honey. In the spirit of collaboration, one of Latour’s favorite truffles is a dark chocolate bee, hand painted like all her truffles, with a shot of honey inside. Other favorites include skulls with ghost pepper and caramel and a rosemary, sea salt, and almond dark chocolate bar.
Latour maintains that artistry is a big part of why she loves the chocolate game. “Sometimes I’ll just see a mold I love and want to try that and see where I go from there,” she says. “Sometimes the colors will be there and I’ll find an ingredient to go with that. And a lot of the time, seasonal ingredients and colors are the inspiration.”
With a rotating list of confections and an ever-present smell of chocolate in her shop, it’s easy to see how Latour fell in love with her craft. In fact, she says, “I do love the decorating, but eating it — that’s probably my favorite part.”
- - -
Chocolats Latour is located inside The Chocolate Bee at 4037 Hamilton Avenue (45223). Hours are Wednesday through Friday 12 pm to 7 pm, Saturday 11 am to 7 pm, and Sunday 11 am to 5 pm.