During my recent visit home to Wisconsin, I had the opportunity to visit Tabal Chocolate, a business owned by my high school friend, Dan Bieser. For nearly five years, I’ve followed Dan’s journey of sourcing cacao beans from Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, Peru and Nicaragua for use in making his own custom chocolate all the way to the opening his first shop in our hometown of Wauwatosa earlier this year. All through the miracle of our Facebook friendship! He told me that when searching for a name for his business, he discovered the Mayan word “tabal” meaning relationship. He thought it perfectly expressed what he was trying to do with his business. Eager to check out the new store, I googled the shop and called to see if I could sign up for one of the classes. Making Truffles was top of the list! As it turned out, the classes were full but Dan offered to give me a private tour!
The moment I walked in the door of Tabal Chocolate, my senses where overwhelmed by the aroma of rich chocolate. Closing my eyes, I took a deep breath and remembered the days of my youth when we were treated to the same rich aroma driving past the Ambrosia Chocolate Factory in downtown Milwaukee. If one could taste chocolate from merely inhaling it, Tabal Chocolate is the place. Located in the charmingly intimate and walkable village of Wauwatosa Wisconsin, this new shop is a great place to buy locally made chocolate bars, chocolate nibs — the new superfood, gelato, cocoa shell mulch for the garden and delicious desserts created with chocolate made on the premises.
Dan greeted me at the door and introduced me to several of his friendly employees. I was impressed with the warm inviting decor of the shop. The space was framed by a marble counter displaying a selection of gelato, pocket candies, warm chocolate churning in a circular dispenser, wooden shelves displaying a variety of chocolate bars, bags of nibs, samples, and comfortable tables both inside and out. The aromatic space was complemented by the warm employees and awash in sunlight from two floor to ceiling windows looking out on Harwood Avenue. I was particularly interested in the operation going on behind the glass window at the back of the store. Dan invited me into this production room, showed me how the cacao beans were ground and spooned out a sample of chocolate from each machine. Sweet!
We then headed down to the basement where Dave showed me how the chocolate was tempered and later, poured into molds. At a counter nearby, a young employee was busy wrapping finished bars in gold foil and then, affixing an outer layer of paper labels. It was a thrill to peek into the storage room which smelled more heavenly than the threshold above. Imagine being accidentally locked in this room? A sweet debacle!! Stacks of large chocolate bars lined the shelves and Dan let me select a few discounted seconds to buy.
Back upstairs, I selected a few more items to buy and accepted Dan’s invitation to sample their signature dessert — the Affrogato. He told me that the parents of a friend from Italy created this dessert for their business years ago and it was very popular. Their daughter now makes the gelato featured in the shop. I selected hazelnut gelato which Dan topped with fresh brewed espresso, warm melted dark chocolate and fresh whipped cream. Heavenly doesn’t even begin to touch how uniquely delicious the affrogato was. What could be better than a mix a cold, warm, chocolate, and cool whipped cream?! A dessert for a celebration, made to impress a date or revive difficult day?
During my visit, I visited Tabal Chocolate twice and told everyone I encountered to put it on their list. From my mother’s hospital bed, she asked if I could bring her some cards for her to share with her friends. Once she’s better, I am sure she will be visiting as I will be when I return to Wisconsin. Next time, I’ll be sure to sign up for a class in advance so I don’t miss out. Great job Dan — Tabal Chocolate is the best!
Savoring my salted dark chocolate Bolivian bar one square at a time.