With Valentine’s Day rapidly approaching, the scent of chocolate is in the air. Did you know the first Valentine’s box of candy appeared in 1861 (1). 20 billion dollars are spent on Valentine’s Day (2). Chocolate was tagged a drink for royalty during Aztec times according to Montezuma (3). Known as the “food of the Gods” and then an aphrodisiac chocolate contains phenyl ethylamine, causing excitement, attraction and pleasure (3). Early explorers brought chocolate back to Europe (2).
The history of Valentine’s Day stems around a few stories. One theory is believe it or not that the first Valentine was sent from prison (3). Legend has it, Valentine assisted people to escape from a Roman prison ( 3). A second theory, is that the priest declared marriage illegal as single men made better soldiers ( 3).As often happens, the church began to capitalize off the otherwise known Pagan festival in an effort to Christianize the holiday (3). The origins stem back to Italy with the Lupercalia Festival (3) ( the festival of fertility). Anyhow, this is the day we rejoice and eat chocolate!!!
Nestled deep in the plaza, in Irondequoit just across the bridge is this amazing, hidden treasure where you can customize your chocolate order just in time for your sweetheart. Chocolate covered strawberries are a girl’s delight. Encore chocolates, prides itself as having a large enough supply of them to tickle your fancy but suggests you order soon to get your order in. Founded in 1987, from Nancy Stiebitz’s kitchen, Encore Chocolates began as a small operation supplying chocolate only to Rochester General Hospital. Working part-time supplementing her income she earned as a nurse practitioner, Nancy turned her hobby of making chocolates into a viable business.
A neighbor approached Nancy after she brought home-made chocolates for a heart-warming gesture and asked her if she made the chocolate as a business. The rest is history. Beginning first with the neighbor as a partner and later taking on the business of her own (25 years ago). After locating a chocolatier who was going out of business, Nancy acquired a variety of chocolate molds. This person also held the account at Rochester General Hospital’s gift shop.
Arguments were made against Nancy cooking in the community challenging whether she could legally make the candy in her home based on zoning laws. Since this time, the business has evolved and moved several times finally settling at 147 Pattonwood Drive. Nancy indicates this is their best location yet.
Chocolate is made focusing on the sweetness, flavor, creaminess and texture. Encore prides itself as being known for “imaginative and innovative chocolate gifts and creations”. The special varieties of chocolate include milk chocolate (33% cocoa); dark semi-sweet chocolate (47% cocoa); bittersweet chocolate ( 72% cocoa); and white chocolate. Also featured are 6 flavors of gourmet cotton candy!
Encore has some specialized items which make the chocolatier stand out above the rest. The most interesting and personal item available is the “chocolate painting”. Son, Aaron Stiebetz attended the Art Institute of Pittsburg. Aaron uses chocolate to create sculptures and paints chocolate. The chocolate is his canvas! He melts cocoa butter and adds food coloring. He then airbrushes the items. He created replicas of famous art pieces such as a Van Gogh, “Starry Night”. He also free-hand paints some items and can do custom jobs such as portraits.
Another specialty item is the lotus bowl and chocolate platters. These are one of the store’s biggest sellers and are a hit everywhere. The bowls are made by melting chocolate and pouring over a balloon. Once the chocolate cools they pop the balloon and there is a bowl. The company prepares beautiful platters for special events such as weddings, holiday parties and corporate events. Nancy added a valued member to their team, the former owner of “Simply Irresistible Confections” Joanne Marowski.
After doing this, Encore began using a special printer with food coloring as the ink. This allowed the company to create specialized logos . Using sugar paper the logos are created and put directly in the chocolate molds. Corporate partners also enjoy the specialized pistachio bark confections. The U of R recently used this item to thank their donors . Encore indicates these specialty products have made the company a year-round viable business.
July marks thirty years of business for Encore. Of interest were any special stories Nancy wanted to share about her memories providing quality chocolate to our community for the past three decades. Nancy recalls a hockey coach. He told a story of his kids, an otherwise losing hokey team. The kids saw a he chocolate rabbit at a tournament. They played their hearts out and won their only game of the season because they thought the prize was the rabbit. He was in search of a replica chocolate bunny because his team worked so hard to win. Encore provided the bunny.
She further recalled a kindergarten teacher coming in in need of a special gift. She was going to a pajama stiletto party. She grabbed a stiletto chocolate filled piece. The shoe is a great gift for ladies night, a bachelorette or wedding gift. Anther consumer enjoyed buying the shoes as he preferred to give gifts on lent to random people like the clerk at the post office etc. He also ordered one to donate to the Epilepsy Foundation’s Chocolate Ball.
Nancy has found her career as a chocolatier very rewarding. She is content with the joy her creations give people in the community. She really loves that she is able to provide unique, imaginative gifts to make others happy. You’ll be asking for more…Encore!!!
History Channel ( 2016). The History of Chocolate, Retrieved January 11, 2 017 from www.history.com/topics/valentines-day/videos/modernmarvels-valentines-day-history-of-chocolate
History Channel ( 2016) The History of Valentine’s Day. Retrieved January 11, 2017 from www.history.com/topics/valentines-day/history/ -of-valentines-day
McMahon P. (2016) So Why do we give chocolate for Valentine’s Day.