BEST CHOCOLATE Minneapolis 2002 - BT McElrath Chocolatier
The B.T. McElrath chocolate factory is located below ground, at an unassuming Minneapolis industrial complex that was once the site of research labs for General Mills. Development for such favorites as Wheaties and Cheerios originated here, explains Brian McElrath, chocolatier and co-owner of the company, along with wife Christine Walthour. The B.T. McElrath workspace is equally innovative. Here McElrath and his small staff of eight painstakingly craft 10,000 pieces of premium-quality, highly creative, immensely tasty chocolate each week. Every single piece--whether enrobed (i.e., the fillings are laid out, then covered in a coat of chocolate) or shell-molded (i.e., an ice cube-style tray of shapes, such as McElrath's signature butterflies, is carefully coated with layers of chocolate, filled, then sealed with another layer of chocolate)--is created by hand, aided by advances in technology that speed up some of the processes while remaining true to old-world techniques. McElrath, who was trained as a chef at the California Culinary Academy, pays close attention to details, from the ingredients he uses to the balance of flavors (consider his combinations of red wine and balsamic vinegar, lavender and black pepper) and textures in his confections to their fine design and decoration. Though the occasional fan will appear at the factory door, B.T. McElrath remains a wholesale-only operation (the company will, however, sell direct to customers for weddings and other large celebrations). But it's easy to find the chocolates, which are sold all around the Twin Cities and, increasingly, across the nation.