In the Chef’s Kitchen > The Finest Ingredients for Fine Food

Take it from this chocoholic who can hardly wait for each February because clearly Valentine’s Day and chocolate are a match made in heaven: Nowhere are the chocolates more heavenly than those made by Larry Burdick and the company he runs with his wife Paula, L.A. Burdick Chocolate. Not only is the taste divine—imagine bonbons flavored with freshly squeezed orange juice or cherry liquor, filled with the flavor of fig and port wine, or caramelized honey or champagne—but the presentation is exquisite (red velvet boxes for February 14,wooden boxes tied with chocolate-brown ribbon and sealed with golden wax for other days).

Thankfully, the Burdicks have expanded their delicious repertoire and now chocolates aren’t the only food to die for at their Walpole-based establishment. “Larry always thought chocolate shouldn’t be considered just a treat but rather part of a meal,” says Paula. So in 2000, the Burdicks and their partner and neighbor, filmmaker Ken Burns, opened the Restaurant at L.A. Burdick Chocolate. Paula says the restaurant has been a success since day one.

One reason is that “we take food very seriously,” says chef Wesley Babb, who chooses his menu based on what he can get from small, local purveyors.In winter, he depends on the potatoes,root vegetables and apples they have in storage, while in warmer months,fresh produce is abundant. “We have three local farms that plant specifically for us in the summer,” Babb says, “and we buy most of our meat locally, from cooperatives. Our vegetables are all organic and grown within twenty miles of the restaurant, while the meat is all antibiotic- and hormone-free.” Even the restaurant’s oysters come from a farm near Wiscasset, Maine, where Babb grew up. Inspired by the tradition of French bistros, Babb aims to please a community of patrons who are conscious about well-prepared, local food.

Burdick’s Heavenly Treats

To make it easy for customers to enjoy their sweets at home, the shop next to the restaurant sells Burdick’s luscious chocolates along with other European style goodies like linzer torte with a heart cut-out to reveal its raspberry filling, a chocolate and walnut cake,a lemon cake glazed with dark chocolate,a layered chocolate birthday cake with chocolate ganache filling, a flourless hazelnut-orange cake coated with chocolate, and luxumbourgers (macaroons filled with flavored buttercreams).A second Burdick’s café and chocolate shop, which Larry was busy renovating last fall, is right off Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Larry learned to make chocolate at family-run confiseries in Switzerland,and realized early on that no one inthe United States was making small batches of “really good chocolate using really good ingredients and selling them to people on an everyday basis.”He and Paula, who were high-school sweethearts, left New York City when the mail-order aspect of their chocolate-making business took off;Walpole’s beauty beckoned them to settle down, and the rest is history.

Gone are the days when the Burdicks did everything themselves.The company now employs more than one hundred people, many of whom do the labor-intensive work necessary to create handmade chocolates. Consider that during December, the company gets orders via the Internet at the rate of one hundred per minute.

Four years ago, the Burdicks lured Michael Klug from New York City—where he’d worked at Chanterelle and the Mark Hotel—to Walpole to headup their chocolate-making operation.“It’s very rewarding when you’re able to make a product that is so beautiful and so high in quality,” Klug says.“Even though it is mass produced, our chocolates are still handmade from scratch, with no food colorings or preservatives.”Fresh cream comes from New Hampshire dairies, while a variety of ten to twelve chocolates comes from all over the world. For Valentne’s Day, Klug prepares heart-shaped chocolates with a rum-raisin hazelnut ganache, champagne truffles and chocolate covered caramels.

Fortunately you don’t have to wait until Valentine’s Day to enjoy Burdick’s chocolates or other fine fare—see chef Babb’s Valentine’s Day menu on page 41−43 or visit Burdick’s restaurant and shops (see Resources to the right for locations). You will be in for a big treat!

A Valentine’s Day Menu Item from Burdick’s Restaurant

Oysters on the Half Shell With Papaya and Mango Mignonotte

8 oysters
1 tablespoon papaya, finely diced
1 tablespoon mango, finely diced
½ cup apricot vinegar (available at most cooking specialty shops)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons lemon juice

1. Scrub the oysters with a nailbrush until they’re clean. Use a shucking knife to carefully pop the shells open, then free the oyster from its internal muscle, taking care not to damage the oyster. At this point, the oyster is edible.
2. Mix the next five ingredients in a bowl to create the mignonette. Garnish the oysters with the mignonette and lemon juice and eat.

L.A. Burdick Stores and Locations

The Restaurant at L.A. Burdick Chocolate

47 Main Street
Walpole, NH 03608

Monday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Tuesday-Saturday, 5:30-9 p.m.
Sunday brunch: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

L.A. Burdick Chocolate Shops and Cafes
47 Main Street
Walpole, NH 03608
Monday, 7 a.m.-6 p.m.
Tuesday-Saturday, 7 a.m.-9 p.m.
Sunday, 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m.

52D Brattle Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
(617) 491-4340
Monday, 8 a.m.-9 p.m.
Tuesday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-10 p.m.
Sunday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.