He built Colonial Williamsburg’s most successful restaurant, The Trellis, where he turned out contemporary Southern cuisine for almost 30 years but executed his chocolate hobby by building a pastry kitchen that starred in chocolate, turning the Death by Chocolate expression into a rapturous dessert. He also wrote a number of chocolate cookbooks (and for those who think he’s obsessed, relax; he also wrote one on salads.)
Desaulniers sold the Trellis two years ago and began a comfy retirement of restaurant consulting, but he got restless and last year began planning an encore, MAD About Chocolate, a chocolate cafe located three blocks from his old restaurant. It formally opens Saturday but we happened to pass through town today, when it opened to Facebook friends.
It was amazing.
MAD About Chocolate is a glorified bakery, although one that may very well do everything right — premium chocolate, all-natural ingredients, Culinary Institute of America pedigrees and everything done in front of you; the kitchen is right behind the counter.
We settled into a trio of desserts that were comfortable and familiar, between the restaurant and his cookbooks. Chocolate temptation — which marries a chocolate torte with heavenly ganache and a nutty layer that brightly rings with the sharp note of raspberries — and a rich carrot cake were generously portioned and reasonably priced, about $5 per slice. A smaller brownie featured deep chocolate flavor and a stiff wavy chocolate icing.
We loaded up on goodies for later before we left, including large cookies similar to what you’d have found at the Trellis bar, a half-dozen Polly Wolly Doodles (a peanut-butter filled chocolate cookie) for some relatives and a quarter-pound of peanut brittle that looked divine. Hopefully, it can hold up a few days and fuel the trip home on Saturday.
MAD About Chocolate also has a light lunch menu, including a savory cheesecake — smoked salmon and scallion today — and “Marcel’s hot pot,” a slow-cooked dish, which will change constantly. No doubt it will become popular with students at the College of William & Mary two blocks away.
Desaulniers runs the show with his wife, Connie, an accomplished artist whose works line the walls and whose imagination was turned loose on the space’s appearance. It features limited seating, but it’s open, airy, curvy and colorful, with subtle design touches that evoke chocolate everywhere you look.
It officially opens Saturday, at which point, it officially will become my favorite food destination in town.