The More Responsible Easter Basket

By Eileen Weber

Lake Champlain Organic Bunnies, photo c/o Lake Champlain

If you’re anything like me, you will realize before the end of this sentence that yet once again you forgot to pick up the candy for the Easter baskets. What’s a multi-tasking Easter Bunny to do?

We’ve made a quick list of some of the places in the area to get good chocolate—organic, Fair Trade, and all-natural ingredients, of course. No neon yellow marshmallow Peeps here, my friends. Only the good stuff!

Let’s start at Whole Foods Market. While they always have organic and Fair Trade chocolate bars available, they carry Vermont’s Lake Champlain handcrafted milk chocolate bunnies for the holiday. But hurry, they only have about a dozen left. (They also have little Easter gift baskets, too. But unfortunately, they are not organic.)

Fairfield Cheese Company makes a point of carrying local fare, regardless of the food category.  For the adults who may want a little something this holiday, the shop is offering Easter cheese baskets with some local cheeses from Vermont and New York.  But when it comes to chocolate, they carry the Askinosie brand as well as Mast Brothers. They have “quite a bit in stock,” so you’re in luck.

While Askinosie is made and shipped from Springfield, Mo., they use cacao beans grown sustainably using Fair Trade practices from farms in Honduras, Ecuador, the Philippines, and Tanzania. Even better, they share 10% of the net profit with the farmers who grow those beans.

Mast Brothers is a Brooklyn chocolatier run by Rick and Michael Mast, two chocolate-loving brothers. They make all their chocolates by hand using the primary source of their cacao from a small, organic co-op in the Dominican Republic.

“The chocolate itself represents more than just a candy bar. It represents a new way of handcrafting food in an old way,” Rick Mast said of how they make chocolate in a marketing video on their site. “That’s now new again…I think it’s spreading like wildfire.”

Handcrafted chocolate is spreading like wildfire. Increasingly, people are becoming more aware of what they eat and where it comes from. Chocolate is no exception.

For some of those handcrafted masterpieces, Fairfield County is home to some of the yummiest. And, many of them are in the Belgian style.

Knipschildt Petite Chocolate Eggs Sampler, photo c/0 Knipschildt

Take Knipschildt in Norwalk, for instance.  Easter is upon us and they are ready for it with a variety of chocolate eggs in white, dark and milk chocolate. They come in different sizes—quail eggs, robin eggs, and five-pound dinosaur eggs for those with a big appetite. They have up to 10 different styles of eggs offered with as many as 18 pieces to as little as four in their Petite Sampler. The larger variety comes in little egg cartons wrapped neatly with a bow. Who knew handmade chocolates could look so cute? And if all else fails, you can always pick up a box of Knipschildt chocolates at The Pantry in Fairfield. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Belgique in New Canaan is a great little shop. Originally conceived in Kent, it is a homey, inviting little spot and it smells just divine. There is simply no way to get out of there alive without buying something. For Easter, they have three-foot high Belgian chocolate rabbits (smaller ones are also available) and chocolate nests with chocolate eggs. They also have chocolate chicks and hens for those with a yen for the barnyard scene. All their chocolates are handmade at their Kent location and delivered by “chocomobile” to the New Canaan shop. How fun is that?

The Little Chocolate Company in Greenwich is another Belgian wonder. They have Easter baskets galore in different sizes. In fact, you can stop by, wait an hour, and have one made for you. They offer white, dark, and milk chocolate bunnies as little as one and a half inches to nine inches tall. They have solid eggs painted a variety of colors or you can get eggs filled with peanut butter or chocolate ganache. They also have dipped pretzels. Believe it or not, these go like hotcakes for Easter!

While not necessarily Belgian, Sweet Pierre’s with locations in Ridgefield and Wilton is a chocolate shop that specifically carries organic, Fair Trade, and eco-conscious chocolate. They have peanut butter and caramel eggs from Vosges, bunnies from Lillie Belle Farms, and Brookfield’s Bridgewater Chocolate floppy ear bunnies. They offer a mix of white, milk and chocolate. None of the brands have any artificial flavors or ingredients and, in the case of Lillie Belle Farms, they use ingredients they grow themselves.

They also carry Poco Dolce chocolate bars, handmade chocolates from San Francisco that use local products like almonds and pumpkin seeds. Their focus is on simple ingredients; their sea salt toffee, for example, has only three ingredients: sugar, butter, and sea salt. All the cacao beans they use in their products are Rainforest Alliance certified.

So instead of those neon yellow Peeps this Paschal season, spend some time perusing the many options in natural, organic, and Fair Trade chocolate. It’s well worth the trip!

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