Sweet Dream

Sweet DreamSweet DreamSweet Dream

D arrell Nurse opened his Westville confectionary, Chip in a Bottle, last November, right down the street from a dentist’s office. Over the course of the last few months, more and more dental employees have been showing up on their lunch hour, looking for something sweet. When I stopped in to interview him, the mother of a hygienist was trying the shop’s gelato for the first time. “I figure if I’m getting dentists to eat desserts, I’m doing something right,” Nurse says.

Five things, actually. Chip focuses on gelato, chocolates, macarons, cheesecakes and cookies—a list of desserts inspired by a lifelong love of baking. But the two most challenging treats, macarons and chocolates, were the ones with which Nurse had had the least experience.

“I started off with Wilton Candy Melts from Jo-Ann Fabric,” he says. “Because in the beginning of this process, that’s what I thought chocolate was.” He moved up the chocolate ladder, experimenting with Hershey’s, Ghirardelli, Lindt and Godiva before settling on Couverture chocolate, a cocoa butter-rich variety that explains the high gloss on his chocolates. Molded into architectural swoops and many-petaled roses, they’re almost too pretty to eat.

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I still managed to try three varieties, the first of which was the recipe that gives Nurse the most pride: his award-winning Strawberry Sumac Milk Chocolate. The truffle, molded and painted to look like a red rose, contained a jammy mixture of strawberry pulp and smooth white chocolate ganache lifted by the lemony sumac. I also tried the Caramelia Croquantes—decorated with gold paint, shaped like a ziggurat and filled with a sweet, milky caramel sauce anchored by the crunch of puffed rice—and the Vanilla Caramel Chai White Chocolate, my favorite of the three, whose super sweet white chocolate shell was tempered by the earthy spice of chai ganache. Though the caramel was hard to detect, the chocolate was rounded out by a layer of mellow fruitiness like ripe apricots.

If you couldn’t tell, Nurse has a weakness for lengthy, dramatic names. He recently held a contest to rename this mouthful of a gelato flavor: Valrhona Dulcey Caramel with a Shortbread Cookie Caramel and Callebaut Milk Chocolate. The winner? Caramel Shorty.

I was most curious about Nurse’s macarons, the famously finicky French frippery. Nurse admits the process is stressful, saying the key to a great macaron is to be “super precise” in your work. “You have to be right on top of the entire process. If you’re whipping the meringues and it becomes too stiff you can’t fold the mixture properly, and the macarons become too fluffy,” he says. Too much water in the sugar mixture, and you have the opposite problem—“you’ll end up with a flat macaron that turns into a little pancake. It still tastes good at the end, but it’s not right.”

I tried the Lavender. Playfully purple, with the subtle, aromatic flavor of its namesake, the outer layer had a slight brittleness to it, like spun sugar, before giving way to a custardy interior.

Since Chip makes so many different items, Nurse tries to get a lot of mileage from his ingredients. Some of the ganaches he makes to fill the chocolates also go in-between some of the macarons, while some of the macarons themselves get crushed up and added to a vanilla base to make Spring Fling gelato, a pastel-colored offering that tastes of toasted almonds. He’s also willing to entertain special requests, saying the Pistachio gelato on offer that day was crafted on the spot for a customer who came in craving the flavor.

As a play on words, Nurse says the name of the store, Chip in a Bottle, is still evolving. He hopes to one day pair desserts (represented by chocolate “chips”) with wine (“bottle”) pairings, but for now, he’s focusing on something a little more fundamental, and entirely out of his control. “I just need 10 more degrees,” he says, standing in front of his gelato and gesturing to the rainy, chilly spring afternoon outside his windows. “Then it’ll really get going.”

Chip in a Bottle
837 Whalley Ave, New Haven (map)
Mon-Fri 2-8pm, Sat-Sun noon-8pm
(203) 460-0665
www.chipinabottle.com

Written and photographed by Sorrel Westbrook.

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Sorrel is a California transplant to New Haven. She studied English at Harvard and fiction at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She spends her free time among her house rabbits and houseplants, looking at maps of Death Valley. She loves New England for its red brick and rainstorms and will travel great distances in pursuit of lighthouses and loud music.

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