Chocolat Vitale is an unassuming little chocolate shop. It sits on a corner of Third Avenue NW at the base of that wicked hill that takes you from far-east Ballard up to Phinney Ridge. Because of that hill, it's not a shop you'll likely just walk by--the only neighbors are a trailer selling vintage boots and multicolored petticoats, a violin repair shop, and a charming antique store--but it's worth a visit, if for no other reason than the availability of Velton's Coffee. (Note: that's not the only reason).
Courtesy of Chocolat Vitale's Facebook page.
Last week when I talked to barista extraordinaire Cole McBride, he lauded Velton Ross, owner of the eponymous small-batch roaster, as a mentor and friend. Velton's again came up in conversation, as Justin Marx (of the new Marx Foods specialty shop on Western) was discussing the sort of local roasters that may be suitable for his store. I clearly needed to try this coffee.Velton's award-winning Bonsai Blend is the espresso served at Chocolat, and you can try it straight--in all its smooth, distinctive perfection--or have it with milk in a latte or hot water in an Americano. But you'd be doing yourself a disservice to not at least try the mocha on your first visit, since Chocolat Vitale's specialty is a house-blended drinking chocolate that pairs beautifully with Velton's thick, caramel-like espresso. You can have your mocha made with the sweeter, milkier European Classic chocolate or the Venezuelan Black, a 65-percent dark chocolate that truly lets the espresso sing. Ask them to go easy on the chocolate so it doesn't overwhelm the enjoyable essence of coffee in the drink.
If that mocha doesn't do enough to squelch your chocolate cravings, the shop carries dozens of varieties, from gold-dusted truffles to unusually flavored bars from all over the world. I skipped the chocolates and plethora of gift items (though there really is an interesting variety) and instead left with a bag of Velton's Holiday Blend: a gift I'm giving to myself.
(The kind woman behind the counter at Chocolat Vitale told me she wants Velton Ross to do a coffee talk and cupping soon; I eagerly added my name to the list of people to contact when a date is set, and you can too, by calling the shop at 297-0863.)