Mar 09, 2021| Local Shopping
You don’t just taste an Aurora Chocolate.
You admire it for its beauty.
Then, rather than just taste one, you experience it.
Aurora Chocolates are billed as "the prettiest chocolate in Alaska,” but it wouldn’t be hyperbole to say they’re the prettiest in the world.
"It doesn’t look like food, people say they’re too pretty to eat,” said Jay Shim, co-owner of Aurora Chocolate. "But it’s not like I can ask my wife Ingrid (who makes the chocolates) to make them uglier."
Their looks, beautiful and unique as they may be, are just half of the story.
Pass around a box of Aurora Chocolates and the reaction from chocolate lovers is always the same. It is a brief moment of stunned silence followed by a glorious, "mmmm,” as eyes pop and taste buds celebrate.
The only hard part is getting yourself to consume the gorgeous chocolate.
To look at an Aurora chocolate is to look at a work of art, a hand-mixed design by Ingrid Shim, a chocolatier who has studied her craft in France as well as some of the finest restaurants from New York to San Francisco.
"A lot of people won’t do what she does because it’s a lot of work and there is a high risk of failure,” Jay Shim said. "She is an exceptional chocolatier. A lot of people don’t know how to do this, how to use excellent chocolate and paint it the way she does. In fact, nobody in the world wants to do what we do. It’s too hard.”
Failure in the world of chocolatiers can be disastrous. The cost of the highest quality chocolate that Ingrid Shim uses is no small sum, Jay Shim said. The hazards of making a good batch are many, and Ingrid Shim has learned through extensive experience to avoid all of the possible pitfalls in the delicate art-making Aurora Chocolates.
"Sometimes when you’re using three or four colors, one might fade because the temperature wasn’t right,” Jay Shim said. "Different colors have different feelings. You have to get a sense of temperature with your finger, and if the temperature isn’t right, you have trouble. And if the chocolate isn’t shiny, it can be very ugly. Then we can’t save it.
"Many chocolatiers have failure rates of 30 percent or more. In the past eight years, we’ve learned to cut the failure rate almost to zero. It’s not ideal when you have to throw any batch away. It’s like throwing away $100 or $200.”
Shim said visitors to Anchorage, where Aurora Chocolate is located, are overwhelmed by the carefully made chocolates. He said that most people don’t expect to see such high-quality chocolates in Alaska.
The multi-colored chocolates were inspired by the Northern Lights, which the couple saw for the first time when they moved to Anchorage roughly eight years ago.
"She’s very sensitive to color,” Jay Shim said. "She was so impressed with the Northern Lights and I asked her, ‘Can you make a design like that?’ and she said, ‘yeah, I think I can.’”
Thusly was born Aurora Chocolate. The chocolates are not just a labor of love, they are an expression of Ingrid Shim’s ability to reflect the entire color palette of the Northern Lights.
Not that it’s easy to make chocolate works of art.
"Making good chocolates is very labor-intensive,” Jay Shim said. "But Ingrid loves to do it. She’s like a conductor in an orchestra. Only a person who is very attentive, who is a perfectionist like Ingrid, can do this, and you have to have a good attitude. It’s not the same as working with other types of food. Chocolate is much harder.”
Behind the painstaking work of making perfect chocolates is the recipe. Ingrid Shim uses cocoa butter in the recipe, but no eggs and Jay Shim said "100 percent of people like it better with cocoa butter.”
Reviews of Aurora Chocolates have been stellar. PBS said they are "edible art,” while the French Le Figaro Magazine called them "magnificent.”
Jay Shim is not involved in chocolate-making himself.
"As long as I stay away from the kitchen, she’s happy,” he said. "My job is to stay away so she can do her job. It works out fine.”
Aurora Chocolate is located at Anchorage’s Hotel Captain Cook, 300 E. Diamond Blvd., Suite 202, Anchorage, Alaska, 99515, and the Anchorage Downtown Log Cabin.
Prices range from $7 for a two-piece box to $13 for a four-piece and $135 for a 45-piece box. A 12-piece heart-shaped box is $46.
Aurora Chocolate can be shipped anywhere in the United States and are available here. Shim said that summertime shipments are only made to cooler areas in the Anchorage area. But Shim urges chocolate lovers to check their local forecasts. If the temperature will be over 65 degrees, "please wait till it’s cooler.”
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