A Visit to John Kelly Chocolates in Hollywood

John Kelly Chocolates

Co-Owners John Kelson and Kelly Green at John Kelly Chocolates shop and factory in Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA

John Kelly Chocolates
Hollywood
1508 N. Sierra Bonita Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90046
(323) 851-3269
Hours: Mon-Fri 9 am – 5:30 pm, Sat 10 am – 5:30 pm

Santa Monica
1111 1/2 Montana Ave
Sana Monica, CA 90403
(310) 899-0900
Hours: Mon-Fri 10 am – 6 pm, Sat 10 am – 7 pm, Sun 12 – 5 pm

Also at:
www.johnkellychocolates.com
service@johnkelleychocolates.com
(800) 609-4243 toll free
(323) 851-1789 fax

I am a chocoholic. I admit it.

But I’m just as picky about chocolate as I am about other kinds of food. I don’t like my chocolate bitter or waxy or too sugary. At the LA Chocolate Salon I find far more chocolates that I don’t like, compared to the ones I do. This is why I’m sometimes reluctant to do a tasting at a boutique chocolatier. It’s really hard to look at someone who has put a lot of effort and love into creating THEIR perfect version of chocolate and have to say “sorry, not my cup of tea.”

So I was very relieved when I accepted the offer to visit the John Kelly Chocolates factory in Hollywood, to discover that not only is it very much “my cup of tea,” it’s just about my new favorite thing. Co-Owners John Kelson and Kelly Green opened their Hollywood chocolate factory in 2005, supplying upscale outlets like Nieman Marcus and the Ritz Carlton hotels. The smell of chocolate brought passersby knocking on the door looking for the source of that heavenly scent, so in 2010 they opened a shop at the little factory just off Sunset Boulevard and in 2012, they opened another retail store in Santa Monica.

Kelson had a background in luxury sales and Green in marketing. Neither one was an expert in chocolate. They started with a recipe created by a friend that they really enjoyed. “We had the good fortune of having Vickie Delgado who knew chocolate and taught us, and we adjusted the recipe until we had something unique.” says Green.

Unlike the typical chocolate truffle, the offerings at John Kelly have their origins in fudge, but what they call fudge is much creamier and less sugary than any fudge I’ve ever tasted. The pieces or bars are coated in semi-sweet chocolate, which is also something you don’t usually find with fudge. You can get your 1 oz truffle fudge bites plain or with walnuts, as caramel nut clusters or peanut butter fudge. The 2 spicy dark chocolate bars come in the milder chipotle and ancho chile or the fiery habanero and jalapeno variety.

There are almost as many flavors of exotic salts that top the chocolates as there are filling, from Hawaiian Red Alaea sea salt to Himalayan pink salt. The dark chocolate with French grey sea salt won the sofi Gold Award from NASFT for Outstanding Chocolate in 2009 and it’s easy to taste why. Everything I tasted was wonderful, but the rich pure cacao goodness of this one just tastes like more.

Other favorites for me were both of the spicy varieties, the peanut butter/chocolate duo, the chocolate and caramel with Hawaiian red sea salt and the orange chocolate and…really each one was my favorite while I was eating it.

All the truffle fudge flavors are extremely rich and dense and just a small taste can be very satisfying, allowing a 1 oz piece to be enjoyed over a couple days – or an 8 oz bar all in one sitting if you’re not careful. In addition to the shareable 8 oz bar, a 3 lb party slab that serves 48-64 people can be ordered in any flavor.

At $3 for a one ounce piece, $3.50 for 2 oz, and $13 for a half pound bar, it’s not your supermarket candy bar, but it’s a relative bargain for luxury chocolate.

You can stop in either of the retail shops in Hollywood or Santa Monica or visit the Hollywood shop and factory on a Tourific Escapes tour.

If you’re like me and drool over everything chocolate, enjoy the photos from John Kelly Chocolates below.

A Vat of Gooey Chocolate

John Kelly Chocolates Factory in Hollywood - Photo © 2012 Kayte Deioma
Photo Credit: © Kayte Deioma
A vat of gooey, melty chocolate being mixed at John Kelly Chocolates in Hollywood, CA

Dipping Fudge Truffles

Dipping Fudge Truffles at John Kelly Chocolates - Photo © 2012 Kayte Deioma
Dipping Fudge Truffles at John Kelly Chocolates in Hollywood.
Photo Credit: © Kayte Deioma
Fudge Truffles being dipped in chocolate coating at John Kelly Chocolates in Hollywood, CA

Chocolate Line at John Kelly Chocolates

Chocolate line at John Kelly Chocolates - Photo © 2012 Kayte Deioma
Chocolate line at John Kelly Chocolates.
Photo Credit: © Kayte Deioma
Fudge truffles coming out of their chocolate coating bath.

Chocolate-Covered Truffle Fudge

Chocolate-covered truffle fudge - Photo © 2012 Kayte Deioma
Photo Credit: © Kayte Deioma
Chocolate-covered truffle fudge coming off the conveyor belt at John Kelly Chocolates in Hollywood, CA

Handmade Walnut Caramels

Making walnut caramel truffles at John Kelly Chocolates - Photo © 2012 Kayte Deioma, used with permission
Photo Credit: © Kayte Deioma
Making walnut caramels that will be covered in chocolate at John Kelly Chocolates in Hollywood, CA

Walnut Caramels at John Kelly Chocolates

Walnut Caramels at John Kelly Chocolates - Photo © 2012 Kayte Deioma
Photo Credit: © Kayte Deioma
Hand-made walnut caramels waiting to be covered in chocolate at John Kelly Chocolates in Hollywood, CA

A 3 Pound Bar of Chocolate

3 Pound Bar of Chocolate - Photo © 2012 Kayte Deioma

Photo Credit: © Kayte Deioma

The three-pound slab of chocolate coated truffle fudge at John Kelly Chocolates is designed to serve about 50 people or me and another 10 chocoholics.

Salting Chocolates

John Kelly Chocolate Factory - Photo © 2012 Kayte Deioma, used with permission
Photo Credit: © Kayte Deioma
Salting chocolates with French gray sea salt and Hawaiian red sea salt at John Kelly Chocolates in Hollywood, CA

Sampling the Chocolates

A Tour Group at John Kelly Chocolates - Photo © 2012 Kayte Deioma
Photo Credit: © Kayte Deioma
Tour group members get samples of chocolates to taste at John Kelly Chocolates in Hollywood, CA

Golden Wrappers

Golden Wrapping at John Kelly Chocolates - Photo © 2012 Kayte Deioma
Photo Credit: © Kayte Deioma
Like Willie Wonka, John Kelly Chocolates wraps some of their precious cargo in golden wrappers.

Tourific Escapes at John Kelly Chocolates

Tourific Escapes Tour at John Kelly Chocolates - Photo © 2012 Kayte Deioma
Photo Credit: © Kayte Deioma
Tourific Escapes has a couple different tours that stop at John Kelly Chocolates.

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Dreaming of Raspberry Pie

The Best Raspberry Pie Ever

The Best Raspberry Pie Ever at the Town House Bookstore and Cafe in St. Charles, IL

Story and photos by Kayte Deioma

Raspberry pie. An exquisite rarity, but even more elusive, the perfect buttery, flaky crust. Once tasted, it evokes spontaneous cravings at the oddest of times, transporting me back to relive the experience in my mind, salivating taste buds and all. Oh, for another piece of that raspberry pie!

Town House Bookstore and Cafe

Town House Bookstore and Cafe in St. Charles, IL

I came upon this culinary wonder at the Town House Bookstore and Cafe in St. Charles, Illinois, about an hour east of Chicago, where I was visiting my friend Cindy. It’s a charming, historic town on the Fox River, among a cluster of Victorian middle-American towns including Batavia and Geneva.

It’s worth a drive out of Chicago just to cruise the lanes of historic homes and mansions and take a stroll along the river. In summer all manner of water activities from riverboat cruises to canoes add just that perfect pastoral Sunday in the Park feel to any day.

The Fox River in St. Charles, IL

A view of Pottawatomie Park under the railroad bridge from the Fox River Trail in St. Charles, IL

There are things to DO in St. Charles, like take in a show at the Arcada or Steel Beam Theatre, shop for antiques or drive out to the Fine Line Creative Arts Center, located in a converted barn. But the best thing to do in St. Charles is nothing in particular.

Fine Line Creative Art Center

Fine Line Creative Art Center in St. Charles, IL

A walk along the river, an amble down Main Street, a coffee here, an ice cream there, a beer on the patio of the Filling Station Pub or Alley 64, a family dinner at Francesca’s by the River or fine dining at Rox City Grill in the historic Baker Hotel. Just hanging out is a pleasure.

Main Street, St. Charles, IL

Main Street, St. Charles, IL

And if you’re fortunate enough to arrive at just the right time, on just the right day, in just the right season – you might find a memorable slice of raspberry pie in the Town House Cafe. If not, the blueberry cobbler is pretty yummy too.

Blueberry Cobbler at the Town House Bookstore Cafe

Blueberry Cobbler at the Town House Bookstore and Cafe in St. Charles, IL

Braving Chicago’s Culinary Quirks

Story and photos by Kayte Deioma

I’m a picky eater. I’ll admit it. I eat a wide diversity of cuisines, but there are a lot of particular flavors I don’t like. Nevertheless, I still enjoy trying all kinds of different things, just in case I discover something new and wonderful to eat. It’s also hard to discuss the merits of a particular food if I haven’t tried it. This is what motivated me to join the Tastebud Tours “Flavors” Tour of Chicago this week with my friend and fellow travel writer, Lanora Mueller.

Owner Lynn Jaynes doesn’t go out on every tour (several are simultaneous, so that would be impossible), but he came out to give us a little extra background and history of Tastbud Tours, which he started with his wife Karon after finding himself out of a job. The Chicago offerings have expanded to 4 different tasting tours, and the company now also offers tours in New Orleans.

Owner Lynn Jaynes talks to guests on a Tastebuds Tour of Chicago in the back room at Pizano’s Pizza

Our meeting spot was Pizano’s on State Street, not to be confused with the other Pizano’s on East Madison where another tour was departing. Although both restaurants are owned by the Malnati family, this Pizano’s, Rudi’s place, is where Mama comes in every morning and makes the crust and where Oprah has a favorite table in the back room where she can see who’s coming in the front door.

Tastebud Tours

Our guide, Annalynn in front of Pizano’s Pizza on the Tastebud Tours food tour of Chicago, IL

Our first tastes of the day are samples of deep dish and thin crust pizza, one with sausage and one with cheese. It’s my first taste of authentic Chicago deep dish pizza. Guess what. I didn’t like pizza when I came through the door. I still don’t like pizza. But I’m glad I had a chance to try it without risking a meal on it. It’s a great room, with cool wall murals and traditional red checked table cloths, and there’s a good chance I would like some other things on the menu. By the way, the pizza-loving tour guests seemed to enjoy the pizza just fine.

Pizano's Pizza on the Tastebud Tours food tour of Chicago, IL

Pizano’s Pizza on the Tastebud Tours food tour of Chicago, IL

Our guide for the day, Annalynn, led us off down the street following her pizza-paddle Tastebud Tours sign. A zig-zag path down Delaware, Rush and Oak street landed us at Sarah’s Bakery, where we sampled her gooey chocolate fudge brownies, and birthday-girl Debbie received a customized cupcake to go.

Fudge brownie at Sarah’s Pastries on the Tastebud Tours food tour of Chicago, IL

Our third culinary experience was one I was looking forward to with both anticipation and trepidation. Downtown Dogs was our destination for the famed Chicago hot dog. We settled in next door at the owner’s other establishment, the Pippin’s pub, and Annalynn distributed our dogs. Since the idea is to taste it the traditional Chicago way, you don’t get a choice of condiments. This hound comes with mustard, onions, colored green relish, hot peppers, a long slice of dill pickle and celery salt on a poppy seed bun.

A Chicago Hot Dog on the Tastebud Tours food tour of Chicago, ILA Chicago Hot Dog on the Tastebud Tours food tour of Chicago, IL

I dislike mustard intensely, and a dill pickle can ruin just about anything. For that matter, I consider hot dogs a food of last resort. So you might wonder why I even bothered to bring this monstrosity to my lips. But you never know. Sometimes combining a bunch of things I don’t like actually creates something edible. In this case, the hot peppers numbed my taste buds enough that I could actually eat several bites (OK, I ditched the pickle after the first bite), and sort of enjoy the combination of flavors, if only as a novelty. The celery salt is an ingenious touch.

With the primary Chicago food icons behind us, we headed to Heaven on Seven, a bit of New Orleans with Chicago roots. I’ll choose gumbo or jambalaya over a hot dog or pizza every time, so this one was a pretty safe bet for me, and I was not disappointed. There are three outlets for this establishment, created by Chef Jimmy Bannos, a Windy City native who went to culinary school in NOLA and brought his love of Cajun cooking home.

Guests check out some of the hundreds of hot sauce varieties at Heaven on Seven on the Tastebud Tours food tour of Chicago, IL

We made our way to the lower level of Michigan Avenue, where there were no trolls under the bridge guarding the landmark Billy Goat Tavern. It was a goat that fell off a truck and wandered in, not a Grimm fairytale that led to the name.

A tour guide talks to guests in front of the Billy Goat Tavern on a Tastebud Tours food tour of Chicago, IL

The 1964 reincarnation of the original diner with it’s fluorescent-lit bar still serves coffee for 50 cents in addition to its famous “cheezborgers.” There’s nothing too special about the burger, (although the bun is better than average)  but the place is a classic step back in time, and the 50 cent coffee is pretty good.

The final stop on the “Flavors” tour is the historic Allerton Hotel, where the pastry chef creates an original desert for every tour, so you never know what to expect. Our sweet treat was a chocolate/white chocolate mousse, enjoyed in the comfy lounge, where we lingered to rest our feet after an upstairs visit to the Tip Top Tap room which hosted many a famed singer and comedian in an early radio show.

Chocolate/White Chocolate Mousse at the Allerton Hotel during the Tastebud Tours food tour of Chicago, IL

Between the varied tastes, Annalynn regaled us with tales of the landmarks we passed, sharing stories of the Chicago Fire and its few surviving buildings.  We also took a peek at the Tea Room and the Gold Coast ballroom at the Drake Hotel.

Tour guide leads guests on a Tastebud Tours food tour of Chicago, IL

Fortunately, my pleasure in trying new things trumps my picky taste buds, and I enjoyed all the new experiences and learning the history of Chicago and some of its traditional flavors along the way. It was a great way to get to try a lot of foods I wouldn’t normally order and step outside my taste comfort zone. The rain even held off until we wrapped up the tour, although it came down so suddenly, that Lanora and I ducked back in to Pippins on the way back to the car to escape the deluge.

Tastebuds Tours offers several daytime and evening food tours of Chicago with different themes. For more information and to book a tour, go to tastebudtours.com.