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Pure California Sunshine Dipped in Chocolate

Comparte's of California

Non-native Angelenos spend a lot of time griping about what they can't find here: the lack of real New York or Chicago-style pizza, Philly Cheesesteak or Maryland crab cakes. A barbecue discussion is likely to get nasty with St. Louis, Memphis, Texas and the Carolinas competing for highest honors. But, what about our superb year-round farmers markets and vibrant ethnic outposts in Monterey Park, on Sawtelle, and in Westminster, Cerritos and East L.A, to name a few?

Add Comparte's of California to the list of homegrown pleasures. This is a gourmet chocolatier and candy maker extraordinaire. Sure, you can trot off to Europe and come back righteous about chocolate, but Comparte's will convince you that there's plenty worth trying right here on the Westside. They've been in business since 1950: that's a long time, but I'm ashamed to admit I just found them a few weeks ago. Another well-kept secret, I suppose.

Comparte's is serious about what they do. Everything is fresh and obviously made with great care. While they sell everything from spectacular gift baskets to chocolate novelties, come here for the glacé fruits and small-batch chocolates. The fruits are pure California sunshine, distilled—and no sugar is added. We tasted pineapple slices, apricots and orange peel that had been hand-dipped in dark or milk chocolate. All were exquisite: chewy but tender and intensely flavored. Every home should keep a supply of the chocolate-dipped orange peel on hand.

In one sinful sitting, with the help of a 2002 Marquis Philip's Sarah's Blend, we devoured a toothsome sampler of assorted chocolates. It included the aforementioned fruits, an exquisite chocolate-covered Oreo, and an assortment of hand-dipped truffles and chocolates that we're still talking about. The hazelnut sticks were a perfect mix of salty, crunchy roasted nuts, and smooth chocolate. There were luscious, silky truffles of all sorts: orange, vin de glacier, hazelnut, and framboise. The walnut meltway was amazing.

Comparte's is a friendly neighborhood shop where you'll get professional assistance. It's the kind of place that has just turned out a batch of cocoa-dusted chocolate-covered almonds when you walk in. "No" is not an option when they offer a sample.

If you are not at all in a chocolate mood, visit Comparte's anyway and try their Stuffed Fruits. These are various combinations of dried apricots, prunes, dates and figs, with almonds and walnuts. But chances are that you will break when you see chocolate-dipped fresh fruits and those addictive chocolate-covered pretzels and graham crackers looming in front of you.

In addition to their Brentwood location, Comparte's sells a wide assortment on their website at www.compartes.com.

Comparte's of California
912 South Barrington Ave. (South of San Vicente)
Los Angeles, CA 90049
310-826-3380, 800-213-6485

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