Dude, Sweet Chocolate
Katherine Clapner's incredible chocolate confections mix sweet and savory ingredients in unexpected flavor combinations
Reviewed by Claudia Alarcón, Fri., Feb. 12, 2010
408 W. Eighth, Dallas, 214/943-5943
Katherine Clapner has always had a reputation of fearlessness in the kitchen, forged by her work as an international pastry chef in New Orleans, Venice, and London and her work with American überchefs such as Charlie Trotter, Kevin Graham, and Stephan Pyles. In Austin, she fulfilled sweet-tooth dreams at the Mansion at Judges' Hill, Ranch 616, and the Hilton Downtown before being lured back to Dallas when Pyles opened his eponymous restaurant.
In a bold new step befitting her independent and creative personality, Clapner founded her own chocolate line, Dude, Sweet Chocolate, last spring. Her incredible chocolate confections are created and sold from her permanent location in Dallas as well as online and are available in Austin now at Central Market and soon at Whole Foods. There are three main lines of truffle chocolates – "Dude," "Sweet," and "Other" – combining sweet and savory ingredients in unexpected flavor combinations, decorated individually with whimsical identifying designs. No ingredient overwhelms the palate; they each subtly complement one another and the flavor profile of the high-quality chocolate used in all her products. "I am all over the place," she states of her choices and influences, drawing from a palette of salts, fruits, and spices from around the globe.
My favorite Dudes are the Maker's Mark Mint Julep, Provencal (basil-pear jam and rosemary salt), and Marakesh (fresh dates and ras el hanout, a Moroccan spice). Sweets favorites include Tahitian (passion fruit and citrus salt), Apple Jack (made with her grandma Molly's apple butter recipe and Jack Daniels), and Hill Country (local lavender and Zip Code Honey). Others such as Inca (tamarind and leche quemada), and Black and Blue (Young's stout and black currants) are also tantalizing. Clapner also makes Chubby Nuts and Crack in a Box, clumps of caramelized nuts tossed with French sea salt, covered in a double layer of white chocolate then dark chocolate (Chubby Nuts) or just dark (Crack). With every bite, there's a taste of hazelnut, macadamia, or almond followed by a salty hint, then crunchy caramel and, oh, the chocolate! But my absolute favorites are the dark chocolate-covered marzipan-filled dates. I've had plenty of chocolate in my fortysomething years, and I can safely say this is one of my most favorite ever. Lady, you are one awesome dude, indeed.