Meet Your Merchant: The Truffle Shop keeps pleasing palates
Senior Staff Writer
All but the independently wealthy have made sacrifices during the economic recession, but the principals for The Truffle Shop in Nevada City have survived partially because people just won’t give up the chocolate they’ve purchased there for 24 years.
“We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for our customers wanting our product,” said Rudy Udarbe, who owns the shop that sells the truffles of longtime friend and chef Willem “Bill” De Groot.
“It must satisfy something people want,” DeGroot said last week while making up a huge bunch of truffles for Valentines Day weekend.
“It’s more of an emotional food,” Udarbe said of chocolate. “People say there are chemicals in chocolate that are similar to the phermones you feel when you’re in love.”
DeGroot sells his candies to Udarbe and runs his DeGroot Desserts as a separate business, catering to a variety of stores and restaurants in the area.
The pair met in Nevada County in the mid-’80s and decided to open the shop because there was nothing like it in Nevada County.
“At the time, truffles were the rage,” Udarbe said.
Udarbe had worked in restaurants in Los Angeles before moving here. DeGroot learned about making chocolate during his 13 years in a Franciscan monastery in Maryland.
He got further training as a chef in Toronto, “where I excelled in baked goods and desserts.”
DeGroot, Udarbe and several employees now make the truffles, candies and other desserts at a special kitchen in Grass Valley with several employees, some of whom work at the shop as well.
“There are so many chocolates out there that aren’t very good,” said employee Shayna Christie. “After working here, I’ve become a little snobby about my chocolate.”
The truffles are not for the monetarily challenged at $2.50 for a small one and $4 for a large, but ingredients are a main reason and demand remains high.
“All the chocolate is from Belgium and the liqeurs we use are all from France,” DeGroot said. He insists on the Belgian chocolate because “it has a very clean flavor to the palate. We don’t want to end a sweet taste with a chemical after-taste.”
“We’re still a ma and pa business, we’re intentionally small because we want to control the quality,” Udarbe said. “We’ve seen companies start out small, get big and lost a lot of their quality because they have to use machines for mass production.”
Last week, Udarbe, DeGroot and their workers were still making truffles by hand.
“The truffles are very work intensive, but people like them,” DeGroot said. “We paint them with chocolate, too – it is edible art.”
The Truffle Shop is located inside the New York Hotel building in downtown Nevada City at 408 Broad Street and is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day.
You can call 265-3539 for more information or see the Web site, TheTruffleShop.com.
DeGroot Desserts can sell you sweets via mail order or through its Web site at http://www.chocolategod.com. Call 800-366-3538 for more information.
To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4237.
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