Kryszeks’ kosher chocolates unbeatable Hanukkah surprise

Joanne Kryszek, who co-owns Chocosphere with her husband, Jerry, never liked chocolate as a child. But when a friend brought her a Côte d’Or milk chocolate bar from Belgium, she had an epiphany: “This chocolate was different. It just changed my mind completely about chocolate.” After a while, Joanne’s friend stopped traveling to Europe, but her newfound craving for fine chocolate remained. Unfortunately, she discovered Côte d’Or and other fine chocolate brands were unavailable in Oregon.

Joanne said to Jerry, “There have to be other people looking for this chocolate; you can’t find it anywhere. We have to start a website.” The idea for Chocosphere was born. In 1998 the Kryszeks traveled to Europe and forged connections with major chocolatiers like Callebaut, Café Tasse, Jacali and Valrhona.

Chocosphere now operates a 6,000-square-foot warehouse in Tualatin from which it offers more than 50 brands of chocolate from all over the world. The company sells chocolate via its online store (chocosphere.com) and also provides bulk chocolate and cocoa powder to local chocolatiers. While Chocosphere has no plans to open a brick-and-mortar shop, local customers may schedule pickups at the warehouse.

Says Joanne, “Since I’m Jewish, I always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to provide chocolates for folks who keep kosher.”

When asked which Chocosphere products are suitable for those who observe kosher dietary laws, Jerry mentions several options: “The Valrhona bonbons have a kosher dairy certification. The Mozartkugeln is kosher – it’s a round ball with marzipan enrobed in milk and then dark chocolate. We just got Van Cortlandt kosher parve cocoa powder for Passover, and we have Callebaut milk and dark chocolate bits, cocoa powder from Valrhona and Dagoba, and Scharffenberger bars and baking chunks. We sell cocoa nibs and a lot of other products that kosher homemakers could use.”

Adds Joanne, “We also carry Bonnat; all the dark eating bars are kosher parve. The milk bars are kosher, and some of the fancy boxed chocolates are kosher too.” Customers who wish to purchase kosher Hanukkah gifts can request that Chocosphere customize a special gift basket.

One local chocolatier that sources ingredients from Chocosphere is Small Comfort Chocolates (smallcomfortchocolates.com), which is known for its chocolate bark. Owner Jonathan Edelson says, “These are thin pieces of chocolate with various inclusions such as toasted almond pieces, cocoa nibs or salted pistachios. I am also making something called ‘enrobed gianduja,’ which are small chocolate pieces filled with a hazelnut chocolate base.” Edelson purchases kosher parve semisweet and bitter chocolate, cocoa powder, cocoa nibs and cocoa butter from Chocosphere.

As members of Congregation Neveh Shalom, the Kryszeks have donated baskets to auctions that benefit the synagogue. They also support the efforts of the Oregon Holocaust Resource Center, as Jerry is the son of Holocaust survivors. However, the couple’s daily lives are mostly consumed by fine chocolates. With Chocosphere, the Kryszeks plan to continue pleasing their customers with a wide selection of chocolate that is both “difficult to source and delicious.”

Food and travel writer and jazz pianist Kerry Politzer is a recent transplant from New York. She greatly enjoys the Portland food scene. She has written for WhereTraveler, In New York and Dessert Professional.

 

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