PORTLAND, Maine — When you arrive at Chocolats Passion on Brackett Street in Portland, you are met with an irresistible tray of samples. Shop owner and chocolatier Catherine Wiersema wants everyone to indulge in her beautiful creations and is eager to have you try one of her many new combinations. Combinations that you might not think would go together with chocolate – that is, until you try them.

She loves seeing the expression of surprise and pleasure on people’s faces.

Bringing together pistachio and raspberry, or almond and grapefruit – and combining flavors into beautiful bites of chocolate – that is what inspires her passion.

“The creativity really comes in from using flavors I really like. And just making sure that they are in balance because that is what really characterizes French Chocolate,” says Wiersema.

Always trying new combinations, whether strawberries from Maxwell’s farm in Cape Elizabeth, or Yuzu, citrus from Japan, she looks for the balance between acidity and bitterness – with sweetness.

During the holidays, a new flavor was Mango Earl Grey – a surprising combination to most, but very popular with her customers.

Growing up in France, Catherine and her three siblings were taught to cook, but at an early age, she discovered that making confections was much more appealing to her. Opening a store in Portland came after years of selling her confections online and in markets in the Boston area.

She specializes in molded chocolates and brought in an assistant, Darcy Poor, who starts the process by hand painting each mold. Darcy is a fine art major and a pastry chef, the perfect combination to complement Catherine.

At this time of year, Catherine and Darcy are preparing for what might be the biggest chocolate holiday of them all – Valentine’s Day.  

They see the gift of chocolate, whether to a partner, or parent, or friend, as a universal … and delicious … symbol of love.

“I think it’s just enduring because It does something to your brain!  I think…I’m really convinced of that! I think it makes people happy ... and it’s just a moment of happiness when you have a piece of really good chocolate.”  To learn more about Chocolats Passion you can visit their website at https://chocolatspassion.com/.