That three years ago, at age 39, chocolatier Christopher Curtin would open a jewel of a chocolate shop - Éclat, by name - offering “free weekend parking above the shop” in the villagelike heart of West Chester does not seem immediately logical, given the nomadic history he is recounting. In his production room - enrobers flowing and depositors depositing and cooling tunnels cooling - he shows me photos of the grand cakes he helped prepare for the royal wedding in Brussels, and of the noodle shops of Osaka he frequented with his girlfriend while working at Poire, the chocolate shop there (“Osaka is the Lyon of Japan!”), and from his adventures among journeymen pastry chefs across Europe where, in Cologne, he was certified as a master German chocolatier. He talks of growing up in Madison, Wis., where his father, historian Philip D. Curtin, was a renowned scholar of the African slave trade. His resumé includes pit stops in Vermont, New York and, briefly, Switzerland. I had run into him a few days before at the 10th anniversary party for Fork, the handsome Old City bistro. Fork’s adjoining specialty shop is his only retail outlet outside West Chester, and for the event he’d made 3,000 custom chocolates - buttery ganache coated with a beefed-up 73 percent Tanzanian cacao, fruity and dark and sharp and, in a word, awesome.
Recommended: The mendiant - a French chocolate waer topped with raisins, hazelnuts, dried figs and almonds.