I t’s threatening rain on a warm afternoon as Christian Wilke whips butterscotch sauce into cupcake batter, folding ingredients into a dusty pink kitchen mixer. All is quiet on Chapel Street: Yale undergraduates have gone home for the summer. But customers wander in lazily, a pair at a time, and gaze longingly at the shelves and plates and glass cases of precious confections.
A counter clerk rings them up as Wilke tends to his cupcakes. “It’s just a basic recipe,” he says. “But I’m adding things as I go. Today it’s butterscotch. We experiment everyday, we try to make something new.”
The 24-year-old, professionally trained savory chef made his way to the United States from Denmark in 2010, coaxed to America—and to chocolate—by the now-famed chocolatier and fellow Dane Fritz Knipschildt. Knipschildt’s main Chocopologie branch is in South Norwalk, and his Knipschildt brand chocolates are carried in nearly 1500 chains and shops across the country (Dean & Deluca and Whole Foods, for example, and New Haven’s Wave Gallery on Chapel). Luckily for us, the world renowned chocolatier has found a comfortable home in the Elm City. New Haven’s Chocopologie is a slender, romantic spot on High Street, bright in the day and candlelit each evening. It’s draped in boxes of chocolate, trays of truffles and menus painted on mirrored walls. A few small cafe tables and cozy stuffed chairs line the edges, recalling a Parisian treat shop.
What started as a “pop-up” shop to test New Haven’s chocolate-craving waters ended up attracting enough customers and buzz in its first few months to warrant a permanent location. The chocolates and cakes are made in the larger South Norwalk kitchen, where Wilke starts each morning. He bakes, mixes, experiments and glazes before loading his car with goods bound for the New Haven shop. The plated desserts—brownies a la mode, cupcakes, cookies—and decadent coffees, shakes and hot chocolates are made on High Street.
Peruse a glass case of richly flavored gelatos and sorbets or settle your eyes on a truffle wonderland: dozens of unexpectedly flavored bon bons in contrasting tastes. Sweet tangerine is mixed with chili and lovingly called Patricia. (Knipschildt names his creations after important women in his life: friends, family, loved ones.) Patricia is the tallest truffle of them all, a 2-inch, thin pyramid with a kick of spice and a sweet center. Each truffle has a personality to match its namesake, Wilke says. Charlotte is apricot basil, Amanda is represented in lemon and verbena. Try the lavender with ginger ganache, port wine with dark chocolate, passion fruit ginger, or green tea. More conventional but no less wondrous ingredients include caramel, pecans, dark chocolate. Worth mentioning is a not-so-surprisingly delicious all-star: a to-die-for caramel and Hawaiian sea salt truffle called Hannah.
Coffee beans are sourced from Peru and the all-important cocoa comes from South and Central America, Wilke says. “We buy the best quality we can find—we don’t want to do anything halfway here,” he says. “We don’t want to be one of those shops that’s just in it for the profit.”
Patrons are invited to share the space and the expertise in Wilke’s truffle classes. For $49 per person (for groups of 10 to 25) he’ll close down the store and lead a hands on workshop on the art and craft of conceiving, rolling, and cutting Chocopologie’s little wonders. That includes wine, a lesson on ganache, and your own handcrafted truffles to take along with you. “I like doing the classes—it’s two hours of pure fun,” Wilke says. Catering is also available: birthdays to bachelorettes.
Wilke finds challenge in chocolate, a different sort from the world of savory food where he was first groomed. “It’s a delicate process, and a quick one,” Wilke says. Working with high-quality chocolate means moving and thinking quickly, introducing ingredients and flavors in just the right amounts before the chocolate sets, when it’s too late to make changes. And so the young wonder chef—the only student in the history of Denmark’s Kold College with a secured head chef position before graduation—is happy with his new medium, and his new post. “I love New Haven. There’s a lot going on here, life and energy and action all the time.” So we can expect chocolate heaven for some time to come.
“We just want to make people happy. That’s what Chocopologie is for,” he says. “To give someone a perfectly constructed truffle and watch their reaction, it’s just a joyful experience.”
47 High St, New Haven (map)
Sun-Mon 12-8pm, Tues-Wed 12-10pm, Thurs 12-11pm, Fri-Sat 12pm-12am
(203) 786-5000 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Written and photographed by Uma Ramiah.