I intentionally waited until after the Valentine’s Day chocolate grab was over to write this. I think Kansas City has some amazing chocolatiers, and I wanted to give a few of them some love when many of their other lovers had abandoned them.
Today I’ll focus on three of Kansas City’s longest running chocolate purveyors with nearly 110 collective years of serving up sweets to the locals.
I’ll start my chocolate immersion at Panache Chocolatier, which has been at the epicenter of KC’s chocolate scene on the Country Club Plaza since 1979. I knew the original owner of Panache during my first stint in town as an anchor and reporter at KMBC-TV. I’m pleased to say I’ve become acquainted with the new owner, Julie House, over the last several years.
I stopped by Panache right before Valentine’s Day and they were dipping house-made caramel in the highest quality milk and dark chocolate like crazy. With about a week to go before the big day, House said they were just starting to get busy.
“We can’t do, and don’t want to do, anything in advance, so we’re making as many chocolates as we can every day now to get us through the rush,” House said.
Panache is known for its truffles, including newer versions like Champagne Rose, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon, the latter three made in conjunction with Le French Frog wines in the south of France.
Panache also recently created wine-infused truffles using the wines of local favorite, Amigoni. House told me she’s looking for more local collaborations to help spread Panache’s brand and season. “We really want to expand our offerings from a food and also a cocktail perspective. We want to find ways to have more people think of Panache outside the traditional chocolate-buying holidays,” House said.
No more than five minutes from Panache, you’ll find Annedore’s Fine Chocolates. Annedore’s has been catering to the West Plaza crowd with hand-made creations for nearly 30 years. Like Panache, Annedore’s truffles are amazing. And like Panache, there’s a second owner at Annedore’s, Sheri Weedman, who bought the business from the original owners about 10 years ago.
Beyond the truffles, hand-made on site, are the macarons, hand-crafted French-inspired cookies that are to die for.
I had a pistachio and a chocolate flavored macaron, my first experience with Annedore’s versions, and they were terrific.
“They are a new addition for us. We added them about two years ago, and they are very popular,” Mia Diethelm, Annedore’s retail manager told me. “We also now do chocolate-dipped pretzels. And the chocolate box is really neat. It’s a chocolate box with truffles inside, so you can eat the truffles and then the box!”
I got a chocolate box, but haven’t dived into it yet. I’ll tell you this, if it’s anywhere near as delicious as it is beautiful, devouring this is going to be a real treat!
Laura Little’s Candies has been a presence on 75th Street in Prairie Village for more than four and a half decades.
“I opened up Laura Little’s Candies in 1970. At first, we had just part of the location, but eventually, we expanded and took over the whole space,” founder Erwin Little said.
From the beginning, Little’s has been focused on hand-crafting its offerings. Best known for its candies, fudge (26 varieties), and fudge hearts, which can carry hand-written messages and names at the consumer’s behest, Laura Little’s is well into its third generation of customers.
Erwin Little lives in San Diego but comes back to Kansas City frequently, especially around the busy chocolate-centric holidays. “I had a shop out here in La Jolla, and at one point, we had four other stores in Colorado, but now, we’re just down to one in Colorado and the original in Kansas City,” Little said.
Little says they still do things the old-fashioned way, and he has resisted shortcuts through the years.
“We start with the freshest ingredients and cook them to perfection using traditional copper kettles and wooden paddles,” Little said.
I, for one, hope that never changes, and I’d love to see these three local chocolatiers, along with others I didn’t get the chance to write about continue to be a part of Kansas City’s sweet scene for as long as they desire!
Dave Eckert is a partner with Flavor Trade, a Kansas City-based gourmet food incubator and co-packer. Before that, Eckert was the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS and AWE for 12 seasons.