There's no need to fly off to Paris or Brussels for a taste of the best handmade artisan chocolates money can buy — not when Chris Blue is working his magic right here in Berkeley at the eponymous Chocolatier Blue. The secret to Blue's exquisite seasonal chocolates is an alchemist's blend of raw Amadei chocolate from Tuscany (reputed to be among the best in the world), ultra-high-butter-fat California butter, and — more often than not — a dash of whimsy. Case in point, Blue's early spring collection included one standout, "ants on a log," that drew inspiration from that classic childhood snack of celery, peanut butter, and raisins. The current summer collection features a heart-shaped "smores" chocolate that's sure to awaken campfire nostalgia, and variations on the fruit cobbler theme, taking advantage of peak-season berries and pitted fruits from the local farmers' markets. Purists might stick with one of the store's signature chocolates, like the deceptively simple "palet d'or" — the pinnacle of pure-dark-chocolate-"I'll-have-what-she's-having"-moan-inducing goodness. Blue's confections are beautiful, like gleaming jewels or tiny modernist sculptures. At $1.50 apiece, these aren't cheap chocolates, but come into the shop and try a sample. You'll be convinced of their splurge-worthiness.
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