The Chocolate Garden, Coloma, Mich.,
For most of these trips, every detail is carefully planned as far as restaurants go. After all, there’s nothing worse than getting to a city and finding its famous restaurant has closed, or that it’s not in the location that you thought it was going to be. But sometimes, you have to adjust a plan on the fly, and that’s exactly what Amy and I decided we needed to do when we saw signs for the Chocolate Garden in southern Michigan.
Once we arrived at our hotel in Detroit, we discovered that the Chocolate Garden was more than your typical roadside attraction. The place has actually been on Food Network and is famous for its truffles, which come in a wide range of flavors and utilize multiple kinds of chocolates. Well, that certainly fit the criteria of what a place needs to be to show up on this blog, so off we went to the small town of Coloma, which exists just off Interstate 94 in Michigan.
When you step in, it’s clear that this place focuses on one thing only: truffles. This is how they’ve built their business, and they’ve done so with a unique secretive process that results in a texture unlike anything that shows up on most truffles. If you’re familiar with the truffles that show up in chocolate boxes (and really, who isn’t, especially if you’re female and have ever had a boyfriend worth a darn), you know that most truffles tend to have a hard shell before you get to the good stuff inside.
Not so here. These truffles are all about creaminess, which means that there is only the softest shell. The shell looks like it’s covered in chocolate shavings, and it disappears instantly when you bite into it. The result is that the shell, rather than being an obstacle in the way of the good stuff, becomes part of the good stuff. That alone makes this place worth the trip.
But what really makes the Chocolate Garden worth the drive is the fact that if you make the visit, you can actually sample their famous truffles. For a price of $2.50, you can sample any three truffles of your choosing from their substantial list. That means that you need to come prepared, and the way you do that is by bringing the person who means the most to you. I love having Amy with me on every single visit, but this time, having her with me was an even bigger bonus.
That’s because of how the Chocolate Garden’s samples work. Normally, each person is given three samples of about a quarter of a truffle. However, for couples, if both of you pay for the samples, the Chocolate Garden will allow you to try even more by splitting each sample size in half, giving you six flavors each for a total of $5 for the two of you. In case you’re not one to do the math, that’s a pretty solid deal.
With that figured out, the question is which truffles to actually sample, because you have 23 to choose from. Four are white chocolate, eight are milk chocolate and the rest are dark chocolate. This might be the only place where dark chocolate is the majority, which is my own personal heaven. As usual, no blog would be complete without the ones that we didn’t choose, which included the caramel and cinnamon flavored Sticky Bun, the Dark Chocolate Raspberry, which would probably be my mom’s favorite, and the White Chocolate Latte, which will probably be appearing at your local Starbucks before too much longer.
For my three, I knew that at least two of my choices would be dark chocolate flavors, and I had to go with a couple of my favorites. When I saw the Dark Chocolate Mint, I knew that was an easy choice. I never say no to mint chocolate, and this one was an excellent pick. Peppermint oil gives it a cool mint flavor, and the smooth chocolate is a perfect complement.
My second choice was another that I felt strongly about, Dark Chocolate Cherry. I love cherry season in the summer, and this one hits you right away with an intense cherry flavor. Chocolate and cherries are a perfect match, and I loved this truffle.
My third choice was a bit of a dark horse, given that it wasn’t a dark chocolate flavor. Instead, I opted for a milk chocolate one, choosing the Milk Chocolate Hazelnut. This one has an incredibly strong roasted nut flavor, and I could not have been happier with this selection. I didn’t know what to expect with this one, but it easily scored higher than I thought possible. I was very pleased with my three choices, and Amy also enjoyed each one.
Her selections were across the spectrum, as she picked one from each type of chocolate. First was the most simple and one of the most delicious, the white chocolate. This is exactly what it sounds like, pure white chocolate. Even though it’s not really a chocolate in the technical sense, technicalities are overrated. This was amazing, creamy and smooth. Chocolate or not, it’s outstanding.
Amy’s second choice proved to be her favorite, which was hardly a surprise, because milk chocolates are her favorite. She picked Vanilla Rose, which makes for a very unique taste. It uses pure vanilla and rose petals, paired with sweet milk chocolate for something that is truly wonderful. The vanilla is smooth, and the rich flavor of the chocolate is a taste sensation that has to be experienced to be believed.
Finally, Amy opted for the Cinnamon Love, a dark chocolate truffle infused with cinnamon flavor. This one comes with a red heart on it when you get the full truffle, but for the sample, it’s a straight rich dark chocolate with a hint of the cinnamon flavor. It’s not as intense as some cinnamon flavors can be, and that’s a good thing, because too much cinnamon can overwhelm a dish, especially in the world of desserts. But not here, as it’s just enough to complement the chocolate without overpowering it.
Coloma isn’t a place that one sets out to find. It’s a town of less than 1,500 people, and if it wasn’t next to Interstate 94, almost nobody would ever visit it. But when you see the signs for it on your way between Detroit and Chicago, the truffles are absolutely worth the short detour. If ever there was a reason to make a side trip off the interstate, this is the one.
Time to go: Anytime, but it is only open until 6 p.m. before the summer. Between Memorial Day and Halloween, it’s open until 8 p.m.
Wait during my visit: None. It’s a small location that sells chocolates, so you won’t have to wait.
Location: The Chocolate Garden is at 2691 Friday Road in Coloma, Mich., just off I-94 in western Michigan.
Cost: The samples are $2.50, while the truffles can get pricey. If you want to take some home with you, you’ll pay about $3 per truffle. They come in pairs, boxes of four, boxes of nine and larger.
Parking: Easy. This place never comes close to filling up its ample parking lot.
Seating arrangement: None. This is a small chocolate shop.
Website: The Chocolate Garden
Specialty items: Truffles