The Underground Chocolatier - The Beaches Visitors Guide

“After eating chocolate you feel godlike, as though you can conquer enemies, lead armies, entice lovers.” –Emily Luchetti, pastry chef

By Kimberly Rebman

Photos by Steven Kovich

When asked if I wanted to interview a chocolatier and sample his delectable, handmade confections, without surprise it took approximately a thousandth of a second for me to answer with a resounding yes.

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Chocolatier Roy Greenhalgh

So, I made sure my sweet tooth was intact and shook the skillful hand responsible for making the most decadent of delights. Roy Greenhalgh has been a chocolatier for Howling Moon Chocolates for nearly five years.  Originally from New Jersey and now residing in Gulfport, Florida, Greenhalgh wanted a life reset of sorts.  When looking for a change in 2010, Greenhalgh began simply enough with a search on Craig’s List for chocolate party favor molds.  It was then that he met Joe Higgins, a fellow chocolatier, and soon after took on an apprenticeship under him, learning flavors and the fine process of making chocolate.

Howling Moon Chocolates soon came into fruition.

The company name originally started as Harvest Moon, but Greenhalgh’s affinity for wolves changed that to its current title.  With its Victorian Gothic vibe, Howling Moon Chocolates prides itself on sinfully indulgent and darkly decadent confections that sell out quickly at sci-fi and horror conventions, including the Steampunk World Fair in New Jersey and Florida’s Necronomicon.  Hosted in Tampa during the bewitching month of October, the convention is one of the state’s best and Howling Moon Chocolates is a crowd favorite there.  Terrifyingly tasty treats such as Grave Diggers, Mayan Crunch and the ever popular Pumpkin Truffles don’t last long at Howling Moon’s table.

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An assortment of delectable delish!

And it’s no surprise that Greenhalgh’s creations are so loved, and not just during the Halloween season. In fact, his busiest time of year for chocolate making falls just after the costumes and ceramic Jack O’ Lanterns are put away. From November to February Greenhalgh is hard at work, doing what he does best and loves most.  “When it comes to making chocolate, there is a fine line between passion and obsession,” the chocolatier says with a smile.  For Greenhalgh this is far more than just a job or a pastime; creating chocolate is part of his soul.  “It makes me feel so happy to see people enjoy what I make,” emotes a slightly teary-eyed Greenhalgh.  “The sounds they make when tasting my chocolate, their facial expressions. It’s like therapy.”
There was some definite good healing going on when I got to sample Howling Moon’s world class, lovingly handmade chocolates.  The melt-in-your-mouth creaminess of each bite was heaven in its purest form.  There was absolutely no throaty residue or phlegmy aftertaste as often experienced with most “ordinary” store bought chocolate.  Greenhalgh prepares his European style confections in small batches fresh to order, and rather than place Howling Moon’s capital into extravagant packaging or use fancy advertising tactics, the money is put into the chocolates quality, which is apparent in each bite.  In addition, the confections can then be priced 30% lower than their top competitors.

Greenhalgh makes his chocolate all natural, preservative free and uses only the finest, but most basic of ingredients.  “I believe less is more,” explains the chocolate maker.  As I tried the truffles, I was amazed at how pure and authentic the flavors were.  For instance, the espresso truffle truly tasted like the most divine coffee served up in a dark chocolate mug.  Creamy milk chocolate enveloped a rich peanut butter core on the next truffle; far different than your standard store bought Reese’s cup.  The raspberry truffle coated in white chocolate was sweet, fruity bliss.  And just because this was white chocolate did not make it any less sinful than its dark chocolate cousin.

Though each truffle was delightfully unique with its own flavorful filling, one of my personal favorites was the simplest of all- a dark chocolate truffle with no frills attached.  A truffle of this sort is perhaps looked over in a box with so many other intriguing choices, and may be seen by some as unexciting or even predictable, but Howling Moon’s dark chocolate is far from ordinary.  Smooth, indulgent and so utterly impressive it can stand alone without any added help.  And when paired with red wine, the  experience becomes even more intense.  The dark chocolate in this truffle is so pleasurable to the palate it should be forbidden.

Howling Moon’s top seller is the black raspberry truffle, which Greenhalgh tells me is made with his own puree. “It swings off the uvula,” the chocolatier says excitedly.  And if you’re looking for something more exotic, Greenhalgh can make it.  “I have made Cajun spice truffles, rose flavored truffles and even chocolate covered wasabi truffles.  I’m always experimenting with flavors.”

Though truffles are Howling Moon’s staple, the chocolate company also makes caramels, toasted coconut chocolates and peppermint filled chocolates.

My arm was twisted (okay, not really) into trying the toasted coconut and peppermint chocolates.  Again, impressive quality and I could easily taste the fresh ingredients used.  Howling Moon insists on only using Callebaut Belgian chocolate because of its pure cocoa butter, the only fat that can be added to chocolate and still be considered chocolate. Callebaut’s quality is far superior over its more commercialized competitors, including Godiva.  “Once you try our chocolate you will never go back to your old favorites,” confidently states Greenhalgh.

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Pairs nicely with wine.

The ingredients are certainly key components in fine chocolate, but it’s also all about my least favorite subject in school…. chemistry.  For Greenhalgh, that’s no problem. Not only does he have a refined palate and a fierce passion for his craft, but he knows his formulas.  Prior to chocolate making, Greenhalgh worked in a perfume lab.  Now, as a chocolatier, Greenhalgh uses his mad scientist skills once more, but in a less olfactory way.  “It’s all about timing and formulas,” explains Greenhalgh. “It’s a balancing act when making chocolate; you don’t want any one ingredient to overwhelm.”  As a chocolate maker, it can take years to create just the right formulas, and for Greenhalgh that’s just all part of the extraordinary process.  “This is my passion; it’s what I love doing.”

Just before saying goodbye to Greenhalgh that morning, I couldn’t help but think how difficult it must be to be around such sweet confections all day and not overindulge.  After all, I can just look at a morsel of chocolate and instantly gain five pounds.  The smells, the intense flavors…it’s just too easy to be gluttonous.  Not the case for Greenhalgh.

He’s allergic to chocolate.

For more information on how to order Howling Moon’s chocolates, visit their website at www.howlingmoonchocolates.com or call/send an email to Roy Greenhalgh at 727-871-1210, roy@howlingmoonchocolates.com
You can also visit their Facebook page.