While vacationing in Italy this summer, Dawn Vo visited a small café and chanced upon a chocolate drink unlike any hot chocolate she'd ever tasted. This European Sipping Chocolate so tantalized the taste buds of Vo, herself a chocolate specialist, that she decided to research the concept in hopes of offering it in Lafayette.

"It was one of those, 'I've got to get some of this' moments," says Vo, who runs Lafayette's only chocolatier, Dawn's Maison de Chocolat. "It's like drinking a chocolate bar."

It's now several months after her first European sip, and Vo has just begun offering the delectable concoction at her shop. Typically served in a demitasse cup, the oh-so-rich drink is made with a special machine that slowly heats and constantly mixes tiny chocolate chips and whole milk until they create a smooth, fluid chocolate. The only flavor currently available is triple chocolate, but Vo will introduce both caramel and dark chocolate flavors this holiday season. Once the desired consistency is achieved, the chocolate is poured into the small cup ($3 for a demitasse and $5 for a 6-ounce) and topped with a swirl of marshmallow cream.

Like a fine martini, the drink is intended to be sipped very slowly. And while the warm chocolate may taste better on a cold winter day, time actually enhances the flavor and consistency of European Sipping Chocolate. "The longer you let it sit, the thicker it gets. It's not like coffee when it gets cold," says Vo, who is adding more seating in her shop so that customers will linger while enjoying the sweet drink. "But if you absolutely have to have it to go, I have go cups," she says.

The locally-owned chocolatier has been in business for a decade. It was previously housed in a strip center on Johnston Street, across from Top's Woodwork & Supply, but Dawn's has been located in River Ranch next to CC's Coffeehouse for the past two years.

While the shop specializes in hand-dipped chocolates (including a large sugar-free selection), it also offers a new line of chocolate scented body lotions and lip balms. For the first time this year, those products can be added to the customized Christmas gift baskets, mostly corporate gifts, that keep the independent shop owner bustling during the holidays. "We are able to take big orders," Vo says.


For more info, call Dawn's Maison de Chocolat (1042 Camellia Blvd.) at 984-5158.

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