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Chocolates in a Family Way

Kingsbury Chocolates, open in time for Christmas, now prepares for Valentine’s

Forget Hershey Kisses. Forget Whitman’s Sampler. Forget Sees, and Nestles, and Russell Stover. Remember “Kingsbury Chocolates.”

There is no need to travel to Switzerland or Belgium, or even Pennsylvania’s chocolate capital. Some of the most sinful chocolate creations any palate could possibly lust after can be found in Old Town Alexandria.

They are just up a flight of stairs, on the second floor of 1017 King St., where decadent dreams of chocolate connoisseurs will burst into reality. It’s where chocolatier Robert Kingsbury and his partner Damien Jackson opened Kingsbury Chocolates on Dec. 6.

Some chocolate it is. “Our featured specialty is truffles,” said Kingsbury. “We use Belgian chocolate and everything is hand made. We are always trying new things.”

Listed in their brochure, under Truffles, are delectables like Hazelnut Toffee Crunch, Raspberry White Chocolate, Champagne, French Vanilla Butternut, Irish Cream, and Amaretto Marzipan. Some other specialties include Triple Nut Turtles, Bittersweet Orange Glace, and Double-Dipped Mediterranean Apricots.

Starting this week, Kingsbury Chocolates is expanding its offerings, adding baked goods prepared by a Baltimore baker. “He’s a baker that will not make cakes. But, he will be supplying us with Hungarian apple strudel, chocolate raspberry twirl, maple walnut cinnamon twist, biscotti, and chocolate macaroons,” Jackson and Kingsbury said.

KINGSBURY COMES BY his skills naturally as a third-generation chocolatier.

“I was just born with cooking abilities. There are a lot of food people in my family. My grandmother had a restaurant in my home town of Springfield, Vt.,” he said. “We made sugar candies when I was a kid. My grandmother was famous in that area for her maple syrup and chocolate popcorn balls.”

There was a drop box on the front porch of her restaurant, he said, “where people would put in their money and take as many of the popcorn balls as they wanted. She used to tell me that was my college money. And it was.

As a tribute, he offers Grandma’s Vermont Maple Popcorn Balls in the store. They are “tossed with peanuts, drizzled with chocolate, and topped with toffee.”

Jackson, a native of New York City who grew up in Atlanta, also has cooking in his background. “My grandmother and mother had a bake shop. But, I went to the College of Applied Arts in Atlanta, and graduated from their Fashion School. Then I was in Crate and Barrel’s furniture department. Now I’m making chocolate,” he mused.

After serving in the U.S. Army, Jackson was working for Crate and Barrel. Kingsbury, after graduating from University of Florida with a degree in Management Information Systems, spent several years with AT&T.

“But I decided the corporate world was really not my bag,” said Kingsbury. “So I started doing some sweets. Then a friend offered to sell them in his gift store.”

IN OCTOBER 2001, Crate and Barrel asked Kingsbury and Jackson to contribute some creations to a company fundraiser for local non-profit “Food and Friends,” which delivers meals to AIDS patients, the homeless and the elderly.

Expecting about 600 people, the two thought they had plenty with 950 different chocolate creations. “We were overwhelmed,” Jackson said. “More than 1,000 people showed up and they cleaned us out in less than 45 minutes. But, we sure gained a lot of customers.”

The goodies for that affair were created in the kitchen of their home in Southeast D.C. At their King Street store there is a kitchen, display area and seating for six at three small, ice cream parlor-style tables.

“We have been doing this by telephone, the Internet, and word of mouth. But this is our first actual store,” Jackson said. “We started in Atlanta where we were both working. Then I got transferred to this area.”

The display cases came from the gift shop in Atlanta that first offered Kingsbury’s creations to the public. Wall decorations, hand painted by Kingsbury, attest to the fact his creative talents are not limited to confections.

AFTER OPENING at the start of the holiday season, Jackson said, “we have been doing really well. We had a great Christmas. And, the second floor location doesn’t seem to have been a hindrance.”

Just after opening, the two did a walking tour of all nearby merchants to introduce themselves. “We had a terrific response,” Kingsbury said. “Many of our neighbors came in to try our hot chocolate. It’s great against the cold weather. We make it ourselves – it has a rich dark flavor, not sweet.”

As he dipped apricot slices in white chocolate, Kingsbury explained away a contradiction in terms. “White Chocolate is really the fat of the cocoa bean. It is not chocolate in the sense that it comes from the bean itself,” he said. “But it’s the same consistency and it’s a lot easier to just call it white chocolate.”

In addition to gifts for loved ones or oneself, Kingsbury Chocolates also provides a wide assortment of business offerings like edible gift box assortments, specially designed molds, and every occasion gift baskets. They will ship anywhere or make personal deliveries throughout the metropolitan area.

“One of our customers is a linguist and he sends gifts all over the world. Another is a realtor. So, we make chocolate boxes in the form of a house. We also do a lot of weddings,” Kingsbury said.

If chocolates are a must on Valentine’s Day – remember “Kingsbury Chocolates.” Definitely try the dark chocolate bourbon cherries.