34 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY march 7-13, 2024 www.montereycountyweekly.com It is widely known that Carmel has become a favorite for wine enthusiasts. The tasting rooms where you can sample the wines can be found all over downtown. What pairs better with some of these wines than an equally well-crafted chocolate? Peggy and Bob Whitted have been making chocolate since 1986. After years of honing their craft in various candy shops, they acquired Pieces of Heaven in The Barnyard in 1995, and they’ve been turning out their confections ever since. “Both of us have always had a sweet tooth,” Peggy says. “But once we started making them we realized we had a knack for it.” Making chocolate is a delicate process—one that requires time, patience and a deft touch. It’s like wine in that way. Bob long ago mastered the process of tempering. In order to produce a consistently smooth and glossy coat, chocolate is heated in a rotating kettle. Much like the kneading of dough, tempering is a hands-on process. And a lot can go wrong. Let the temperatures slip from a certain point, for example, and the chocolate will slump. Bob just celebrated his 84th birthday. But if you glance in the front window of the candy shop, most days you’ll still find him at the tempering table. And it’s not just chocolate that they’ve mastered. “I love what I do,” he says as he begins another batch of his legendary caramel. “Everything we make here is hand-crafted and made right here in the shop. You can’t get this stuff just anywhere.” The menu extends to toffees to clusters of roasted nuts, caramels, kettle corn, brittles and dairy creams. Yet for the Whitteds, it comes back to chocolate. It almost seems as if the couple has been dipped in the stuff. Peggy studied confectionery at RCI Candy School in Erie, Pennsylvania, and over the years she found her niche in truffle-making. “We offer about 26 different truffles,” Peggy says. “All are made from scratch with the highest-quality butter, cream and chocolate. It’s hard work, but we’ve always enjoyed it.” Despite online promises of the ease of truffle recipes, they can be quite fidgety to make. The couple offers classes in these and other treats, and have taught young students about the history of chocolate (think ancient Mesoamerica) and art. Both earned the title Master Confectioner, Emeritus. Yet for all it produces and stocks, for all the people it has engaged, Pieces of Heaven is a decidedly small shop. The 800-square-foot confectionery first opened by Katherine Hoshor in 1987 makes the most of its space. “Making our chocolates here in the store allows us to control the product that we offer our customers,” Bob says. “And I think our customers appreciate it.” On any given day there is a steady flow of traffic into the corner candy store. “Our customers are the most loyal we could ever hope for,” Peggy adds. “We’ve shipped our products to people all over the world.” Pieces of Heaven has endured the test of time in an area that seems to offer more candy per capita than any other county of small communities. There are sweets shops lining Cannery Row and Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey and there are outlets in malls. And many are known for longevity—and quality. The British-style shop Cottage of Sweets in Carmel, which both makes and imports treats, opened in 1959. Carousel Candies on Fisherman’s Wharf, long recognized for pulling taffy, has been around for 47 years. Lula’s Chocolates is a youthful operation, by comparison. But it has already matched its peers in reputation. Still, the decades of success at Pieces of Heaven is a remarkable achievement. And business is not tapering off. As the Whitteds approach their 30th anniversary in The Barnyard, it’s safe to say they were right about their particular knack. “Over 30 years in business here in Carmel—it kind of makes for a sweet story,” Bob says with a smile. Pieces of Heaven is located at 3686 The Barnyard, Carmel. 625-3368, pohchocolate.com. First course Bob and Peggy Whitted prepare candy apples at their shop in Carmel. The couple have been crafting treats at the location for almost 30 years. Pie in the Sky…Is there Heaven without pizza? I think not, and the Treehouse Cafe’s sister restaurant, Pizza Heaven, agrees. Carmel’s newest pizza place is open for business and they welcome all pizza faiths. They have a selection of classic and specialty pizzas, as well as Mediterranean pies, which are more like flatbreads, plus a variety of appetizers, salads and pastas. 8th Avenue between San Carlos and Mission, Carmel. 574-8529, pizzaheavencarmel.com. Cha-Ya We’re Still Open… Ariel Wolansky, owner of The Xocolatl Garden, is now also the owner of what was formerly Cha-Ya Tea & Things. She reached out to the original owner, Mitsuko Gammon, when she decided to close the store to retire and focus on life outside the shop. Cha-Ya Boutique and Tea House is now open so you can steep to your heart’s content. Find local teas from Garden of Universe and Zum Zum Tea, baked goods from their neighbors at Parker-Lusseau and an impressive variety of chocolates. 118 Webster St., Monterey. 646-5486, instagram.com/ chayamonterey. gold star…Congrats to The Sardine Factory, which won the Distinguished Restaurants of North America Gold Award of Excellence. The restaurant was one of the first to receive prestigious DiRoNA recognition back in 1993, and has won every year since. It’s now one of 16 restaurants nationwide to receive the Gold award, and the only one in California. We’ll toast with a glass from The Sardine Factory’s immense wine cellar. Uncommon Common…The food truck Wing Uncommon has updated its weekly schedule, so despite the name, you know just where they’ll be. They start the week on Wednesday at Alvarado Street Brewery’s Salinas Taproom location from 4-7:30pm. Fridays find them at La Cocina market in King City from 3:30-7:30pm, and on Sundays at the Marina Farmers Market from 10am-2pm. 737-8244, wingsuncommon.com. Giggles and Grigio…Comanche Cellars is hosting its first stand-up comedy night on Thursday, March 14. Doors open at 5pm so you can get the party started with wine, charcuterie and chocolate before the comedians Steph and Tom Clark bring the laughter. Be careful to sip before the punchlines. Tickets are $30. 412 Alvarado St., Monterey. 7472244, comanchecellars.com. By Jacqueline Weixel morsels Send a bite to eatanddrink@mcweekly.com “Both of us have always had a sweet tooth.” Eat + DrinK Daniel Dreifuss Something Sweet A Carmel couple approaches 30 years making craft chocolate and other candies. By Jeff Mendelsohn