In the Philly area, chef Chip Roman is known mostly for his savory exploits, notably pulling off a #1 ranking on the Philly Mag “Top 50 restaurants” list with the underdog BYOB Blackfish in 2011, scoring one of Food & Wine’s “Top 10 Dishes” at Mica, which was also named one of the “10 Best New Restaurants in America” by GQ magazine. He’s also co-owner of Ela, which gained national recognition through Top Chef bad boy and exec chef & co-owner Jason Cichonski.
Back when Roman was building his resume at Le Bec Fin, however – the legendary Philly temple of French haute cuisine – he would daydream with then-pastry chef Fred Ortega about candy and chocolatiering. (It’s been said that the dessert cart alone was worth the $100+ prix fixe cost of a seat at the Le Bec table.)
Fast-forward many years, after a successful stint for Ortega as exec pasty chef at Lacroix at The Rittenhouse, another French fine dining destination restaurant, and the two have recently rejoined forces to create Tradestone Confections, specializing in chocolates, candies, and other delectable sweets.
Tradestone offers a wide variety of options, from soft-centered pralines (Godiva-style chocolates), truffles, caramels, barks, bars, and other specialties.
I always thought of chocolate “turtles” as pecans coated with caramel and chocolate, but Tradestone’s salted turtles (pictured above) are simply caramel circles covered in dark chocolate with a sprinkling of sea salt. (There is also a pecan version.) They aren’t simple in flavor, however. The caramel is rich, dark in color, and deep and complex, lingering and intense to match the dark chocolate. The salt adds a lovely punch of umami flavor on the end. Phenomenal!
The seemingly simple yet surprisingly complex pattern continues with Tradestone’s toffee almond bark, a thin bar of bittersweet chocolate mixed with lightly toasted almonds and subtle wisps of sweet toffee. This stuff is dangerous; It doesn’t seem like much at first, yet I find myself needing to hide the bag as its addictive mix of savory and sweet calls out to me every time I pass anywhere nearby.
Always the purist, I must try one of Ortega’s straight up chocolate bars, in this case the Ghana 68% cacao. It is, as advertised, essentially pure, a clean chocolate flavor, totally unadulterated, and vastly superior to the chocolate one might purchase from the supermarket shelves.
Lastly, a special collaboration bar that’s filled with olive oil and Calabrian chile honey from Taste Artisanal Market, another local store. This is messy and sticky, very sweet up front, but then blasts a lingering heat on the back end that’s surprising and intriguing. A little odd and probably not for everyone, but definitely interesting.
Be sure to check out Tradestone’s website for online ordering options, including a wide variety of custom or pre-set gift options. For those in the Philly region, Tradestone also has a storefront and cafe in Conshohocken.