For the Love of Chocolate
The taste, the look, the feel of an obsession
Miles Compton: On the Road
Austin chocolatier Miles Compton says, "I live in the land of chocolate and raspberries," but it seems like he pretty much lives in his truck. Upon first hearing about Miles of Chocolate a couple of years ago, I had this goofy vision of a sweet brown river stretching into the horizon. What I didn't realize was Miles of Chocolate really means that Compton is perpetually driving truckloads of his signature confection all over the state.
Recently, I rode along on one of his semiweekly trips to San Antonio. Accompanied by cool jazz and a ringing cell phone, Compton, a born raconteur, told stories about his Vietnam-era stint in the Marines, how he learned to cook as an adolescent after his mother took a job, and his days as a caterer and hunting-camp cook in South Texas and South Dakota. But what he mostly talks about is chocolate. I've learned that chocolate people are often obsessed, and Compton is no exception. He expounded upon how the Midwest consumes more chocolate than any region in the country, and how various chocolate beans, like wine grapes, produce subtly different flavors.
Compton began making his product commercially in 2002 from a recipe he has had for 25 years. The business has thrived, and it's now available in 10 states. Dana Cowin, editor of Food & Wine magazine, extolled its virtues on CBS last September, and it'll be the Neiman Marcus catalog's chocolate-of-the-month in July.
Sans preservatives or stabilizers (thus requiring refrigeration), Miles of Chocolate is hard to pigeonhole. Chronicle Food Editor Virginia Wood calls it a cross between a brownie and a truffle, and I can't describe it better. It's palpably rich with butter and eggs, but the formula is top-secret. "When people ask me for the recipe," Compton smiles, "I tell them, 'I'll be glad to give it to you you go get the recipe for Coke, and we'll trade!'"
With two helpers, Compton spends half of each week getting up at 4am to make his chocolate. The rest of his time is spent marketing, shipping out of state, delivering orders, and doing demos in the various Texas stores that carry Miles of Chocolate. Every other weekend, he drives to Dallas, Plano, and Fort Worth; alternate weekends, he goes to Houston, San Antonio, and Austin. "This is what you gotta do to sell your product," he says. "Right now, my business is my wife and this truck is my office."
As grueling as it sounds, Compton clearly enjoys the personal contact with his clients. When we visit Central Market and Whole Foods in San Antonio, everyone in both stores seems glad to see him, and (wit and charm aside, of course) it's not too surprising why. "I pass out samples to people who work here, and believe me, women who run departments always understand how to display my chocolate."
He warms to the theme. "The chocolate business is a good way to meet women 'Hi, you want some chocolate?'
"Starting with my mother, I figured out that women like chocolate a lot. ... I tell women, 'If you've got four ounces of my chocolate, a good movie, and a box of Kleenex, you won't care if he calls or not.'"
And what about men and chocolate, I inquire. "Well," Compton reflects, "I don't smoke anything, I don't drink anything, but I do eat a little sliver of my chocolate every night. I still like it."
Miles of Chocolate is available locally at Central Market, Grape Vine Market, Whole Foods, Boggy Creek Farm Stand, and People's Pharmacy Westlake. For a complete list of retailers and restaurants and for online ordering, go to www.milesofchocolate.com.
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