Photos: Andre Elliott

Puur Chocolat – Chocolate in Sacramento

Chocolate is something we tend to associate with love – either as a token of love on a date, or as a surrogate for love after a break-up. Chocolatier Ramon Perez said the word “love” five times in reference to his craft during our visit. This is a man who loves chocolate. And when you love something, you nurture it, you wax poetic about it, you invest in it. Enter: Puur Chocolat.

Ramon and Nicole Perez opened Puur Chocolat in late 2013 in a business park in the Village Green area of Sacramento (just across 80 from Haggin Oaks Golf Course). Unlikely as it may seem to find a haven of all things chocolate under an awning that reads All Phase Welding, find it you will. And it will be worth it.

A Wonka-esque paradise it is not, but the small workshop manages to marry precision and playfulness all the same. Ramon and his wife Nicole joke that their only employee is Selmi. Short and stout, Selmi – a chocolate tempering machine that hypnotizingly stirs chocolate at 46 degrees – is the closest thing you’ll get to an oompa loompa.
With shelves lined with the likes of absinthe, red Sichuan peppers, licorice root, coriander sugar, freeze-dried pineapple and sesame oil, the mind-opening possibilities are endless. As Ramon looks forward to Sacramento’s summer bounty, he has heirloom tomatoes and corn in his sights.

Though the term “artisan” gets thrown a lot, Ramon unquestionably fits the definition: “someone who has both the skill and the creativity to create a product.” Not only can you taste the skill and creativity in the flavors and in the process, but in the look of the chocolates alone. Through an incredibly labor-intensive process, Ramon creates dome-shaped chocolates you could practically see your reflection in. Then blasted with a paint-gun style tool filled with vividly colored cocoa butter, the term “feast for the eyes” comes to mind. While the pair offers more unfamiliar combinations like nori jam with white-chocolate coconut ganache, or charred pardon peppers with olive oil and sea salt, they plan to streamline the line into 12 consistent flavors with 6 seasonally rotating, more unique options for adventurous palates.

Ramon’s impressive culinary experience belies his youthful looks. We joked that he resembles the chef in the animated hit Ratatouille. After checking his hair for a little helper, we found nothing, but underneath that sandy blonde hair is a visionary mind that celebrates curiosity and experimentation.

His father’s experience at Michelin-star rated restaurants in Europe and later at Auberge du Soleil in Napa and Citronee in Nevada City thrust Ramon into the culinary world at an early age, hitting the books to learn the intricacies of crème brulee and tiramisu, meticulously testing recipes into the wee hours of the morning. After his time spent at David Myers Group as the Executive Pastry Chef, making chocolates and macaroons for Boule Patisserie, and “modern, hip, edgy desserts” at Sona, he “completely fell in love with” the chocolate side, which afforded him the opportunity to experiment with flavor combinations that were really different – like English Pea and Mint, “flavors that nobody else was really doing with chocolate.” After Boule closed, he knew he wanted to do chocolates again; he was hooked.

Naming his business Puur Chocolat is a nod to being born in The Netherlands, and the purity evidenced in the natural elements he champions. The flavors offered speak to the experiences and extensive travels Ramon and Nicole have shared, so when you bite into, say, the Honeycomb creation – irregular shaped chunks of ethereally crunchy honey topped with dark chocolate and a dusting of Togarashi (a Japanese chili spice blend) – you know that you’re embarking on a memory-rich journey Perez has curated for you.

That Perez uses words like “terroir,” “balance” and “seasonal” to refer to his “grand cru”-sourced chocolates mirrors the pride many local chefs take in their ingredients, which is why he chose Sacramento as the incubator for his project: “It was the right time for us to come back to Sacramento, we’re so excited.
We’ve always had really great chefs here in Sacramento, but now it seems like people are being so much more receptive to creativity in food; people now actually support it.”

When you find yourself craving chocolates and want to try some of Ramon’s creations, you have some options:
  • Find a selection offered at Andy’s Candy or Taylor’s Market
  • Call the workshop at 530.277.0139 to schedule a visit. Ramon & Nicole make for such gracious and generous (and informative!) hosts
  • Order online and have them shipped

The Perez’s are working on finding a brick-and-mortar location that will someday house a full-on patisserie offering a full bread line and Viennoiserie alongside their chocolate line.

Photos | Andre Elliott