By Jess Watsky
Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka may have kept a factory in foggy London, but Fritz Knipschildt’s Chocopologie, in Norwalk, is sure indication that he summered in Connecticut. Perhaps you’ve seen his confections dotting boutiques and stores on the shoreline or visited his chocolate factory during the holiday season to watch his team of dedicated chocolatiers create baubles and sculptures out of mere sugar, but what many are unaware of is the cafe and chocolate shop run inside the factory amidst an atmospheric backdrop of coffeehouse fare and Edith Piaf, Chocopologie Cafe, a sweet treat for young and old.
Cafe Chocopologie reveals the savory side of Knipschildt, a side tempering not chocolate, but French bistro specialties, and trading couverture for chickpeas. Here, visitors can while away an afternoon watching the chocolatiers hard at work while chomping on any of the cafe’s delicacies, inventive options that span multiple continents and preferences. Feeling like something hot and sweet to take the edge off the winter chill? Try the cumin-rubbed grilled shrimp. While the juicy crustaceans are a staple at most upscale restaurants, Chocopologie brings the Caribbean to your plate by pairing it with pineapple and cherry tomato salsa and housemade fried banana chips. And regularly decadent lobster ravioli is topped with granola for a sweet and unexpected crunch. This is just the start of a beautiful meal at the restaurant where the delight is in the details. A crowd pleaser, roasted duck, is given the “star” treatment with a toasted almond, fig, and star anise sauce, rendering the savory duck breast sweet with a spicy, rich sauce hinting at the dessert to come. With its intimate scale and range of prices, diners can enjoy a light lunch or a fancy dinner and leave satiated and satisfied.
It seems as though the chefs leave no stone unturned when it comes to pleasing any palate. Daily quiches, classic French specialties like coq au vin and steak au poivre, and breakfast items are prepared with ease and finesse, all carrying an unexpected surprise. If you try the croque madame, a crispy and moist savory treat unto its own, you’ll be delighted to see the side of sriracha smiley eggs accompanying it. Their barbecue chicken buckwheat crepe opens to deliver a sweet, simmered onion marmalade coating its inside. Even a basic kitchen staple, poached eggs, is given the royal treatment, with a sweet corn relish and cornbread accompaniment to elicit a host of textures on the palate. And the traditionally double fried Belgian frites are enough to make a meal all on their own with freshly made chipotle lime and truffle oil mayonnaise as dipping sauces.
Of course, no meal at Chocopologie is complete without a dalliance in dessert. After watching the chocolatiers at work, it’s surprising that many don’t simply start with chocolate! But the end is worth the wait. The desserts range from the simple in a deceptively minimal sweet crepe with a strawberry and green peppercorn sauce, sweet and zingy and sopped up by the beautiful, lacy pancake, to the elaborate, an all-out Knipschildt symphony of sweets in the Chocolate Love sampler. What Chocopologie describes as a “variation of four chocolate experiences” truly is that, as diners seamlessly transition from chocolate mousse to molten chocolate cake garnished with small florentines to a housemade Napoleon making it both shareable and unique.
If your sweet tooth is aching to be satisfied but you’re not up to the extravagance of a big dessert, the humble ubiquity of the coffee is elevated to supremacy with fancy additions like lavender foam and chipotle mocha. And if you’re too stuffed to bear the thought of dessert, there’s a plethora of truffles to take home, including the infamous winner of the world’s most expensive piece of chocolate, Knipschildt’s own Madeleine, a truffle ganache with vanilla beans and truffle oil wrapped around a French Perigold truffle rolled in cocoa powder for a mere $250. Extravagant? Perhaps. But there’s no better way to treat yourself.
12 South Main St.
South Norwalk, CT, 06854
Hours: Sun 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m; Mon – Tue 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m; Wed 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m; Thurs 11:30 a.m to 11 p.m.; Fri 11:30 a.m. to 12 a.m.; Sat 10:30 a.m to 12 a.m.