Chocolatier Katherine Clapner’s Dude, Sweet Chocolate offers creative and sweet treats for that special someone in your life.
I don’t remember how or when I met Katherine Clapner, the chocolatier and owner of Dude, Sweet Chocolate in Dallas, Texas. We’ve just been friends. I do remember my wife, Jessica, telling me about the shop in the Bishop Arts District section of our neighborhood, though. It hadn’t been long since we moved to the missus’ native Texas and we had barely settled into our century-old craftsman house with a big and beautiful pecan tree shading the front porch. It was our first house, and, frankly, a couple’s first house, no matter what it looks like, is romantic.
The missus was gaga over Dude, Sweet’s adventurous selection of chocolate. She was especially smitten with the Hanoi Fudge, made with caramelized sweetened condensed milk and Ethiopian dark-roast coffee. She was also keen on Fruity Crack, candy bars that flirt with a chocolate bark-like density, rife with fruits like currants and cherries, and just right for sharing with your sweetheart.
To hear Clapner tell it, though, Dude, Sweet wasn’t part of “the plan.” As a professional pastry chef, chocolate was an ingredient she worked with, but until she took on a project with the person who would become her business partner, she hadn’t given it much thought. “I am a complete accidental chocolatier,” Clapner says. “I did pastry for a couple of decades and chocolate was always a part of that, but it was not until I did a project for my business partner while he was at Merrill Lynch that it became a focus. It was at that moment that my only focus was chocolate, and my palate and ideas had changed so drastically that I became enamored. It had so many nuances, and the sheer number of choices drew me in. Chocolate is powerful and can take many ingredients thrown at it. I loved that.”
Clapner opened her small shop a block off Bishop Avenue in December 2009. Inside, industrial shelves and tabletop displays show off Clapner’s creative chocolate concoctions: Chubby Nuts (assorted chocolate- and powdered-sugar-covered nuts); caramel corn toffees utilizing popcorn; Red Hot Thinnamon bars, chocolate bars brimming with fiery cinnamon; and more of Dude, Sweet’s offerings. The signature chocolate salami is displayed in a vintage supermarket scale. None of it packaged is with audaciouness—just brown butcher’s paper, simple brown, yellow, and red labels. Fine chocolate doesn't need a splashy label.
I’m a fan of the Black MMMole Toffee, small blocks of chocolate infused with house-made mole negro that balances spice and earthy notes. I have difficulty resisting Ready to Rumble truffles, balls of Valrhona 55 percent Equatorial chocolate, Balcones Rumble whiskey, hibiscus, ginger, and grapefruit.
Perfect for Valentine’s Day are the shop’s potions. Among them is the One Night Stand Potion, made, as all Dude, Sweet’s potions are, with an agave nectar base. Added to that is tequila, a rendition of Mexican coffee with 72% mixed-origin South American dark chocolate and Valrhona cocoa powder. It’s great in a chocolate martini (recipe below).
Clapner describes her products, including the One Night Stand Potion, results of curiosity and play. The potion was born out of a trip to Mexico. Valentine’s Day is much the same. “It brings back the old school versus new school chocolate hearts,” she says. Clapner isn’t getting rhetorical here. For her, it’s not theory. She and her team will actually be producing traditional truffle-filled chocolate hearts (see image above) and anatomically correct chocolate hearts. “These will be very limited in number, as they are labor intensive.”
Fret not if you miss out on buying your sweetheart an edible chocolate heart. Clapner will be offering plenty other specials. There are also the occasional soft-serve ice cream sundaes available at the shop, the pastry pop-ups, and Clapner’s tea party series of events. Pick up a gift box to cover all your bases—and a sundae too!—and taste why our hearts belong to Dude, Sweet Chocolate.
3 ounces vodka
1 ounce One Night Stand Potion
Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker, shake, and pour into a martini glass.
Dude, Sweet Chocolate, 408 W. Eighth St., Suite 102, Dallas, TX 75208, 214.943.5943. For more information, visit the chocolatier’s website. Photography: Manny Rodriguez/Courtesy Katherine Clapner/Dude, Sweet Chocolate
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