Artisan Treats: Nevada City rocks the food world

Nevada City offers an idyllic lifestyle. Now, thanks to innovative entrepreneurs and laws such as the California Homemade Food Act, it is home to more artisan foods. Some examples:

From Beans to Bar

In 1997, Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker helped revolutionize our appreciation of fine chocolate. It changed chocolate from being seen as a mere sweet candy to the status of a complex, interesting food.

Julia Child proclaimed Scharffen Berger the best U.S. chocolate she had tasted. In 2005, Scharfen Berger was sold to Hershey’s.

Now a small group of U.S. chocolate makers, estimated at about 25, are buying, roasting and grinding cocoa beans into chocolate. (In contrast, there are hundreds of chocolatiers—the ones who make confections from the chocolate maker’s products).

One chocolate maker is right in our own backyard: Cello Chocolate is handcrafted from bean to bar in Nevada City. The beans—Certified Fair Trade whenever possible—come from Ecuador, Peru and other places. Cello keeps the ingredients simple: cocoa beans, sugar and cocoa butter.

Cello is a husband-and-wife team of Ned and Debi Russell. Ned has worked at Ghirardelli Chocolate. He also plays the cello; hence “Cello Chocolate tastes like music.”

We’ve tasted the artisan chocolate paired with beer, at a “beermaker’s dinner” at Matteo’s Public in Nevada City.

The chocolates also were paired with wine at the Grass Valley’s Foothills Celebration.

The bars can be bought online and at Harmony Ridge Market in Nevada City, as well as Flour Garden and Summer Thymes in Grass Valley, among other places.

SummerThymes uses the chocolate in their cooking.


In 1905, 11-year-old Frank Epperson created ice pops when he left a homemade soda mix with a stirring stick in it on the porch, and it froze overnight. “Epsicles” became world-famous “Popsicles” (a trademark held by Good Humor’s parent Unilever).

All-natural, organic ice pops are booming. Treats of Nevada City is rolling out a line of all-natural fresh fruit and veggie ice pops, or “Treatsicles.” Expect strawberry, rhubarb, citrus, coconut, cucumber and peach, some infused with herbs and spices for extra flavor.

Whenever possible, the ingredients will come from the Nevada City Farmers Market, held on Saturdays in the historic district.

Treats, owned by Bob and Peggy Wright, serves a unique blend of artisan ice creams, seasonal sorbets and vegan and sugar-free selections. It uses local, organic and seasonal ingredients.

(photos: Chocolate by Karl Lanquist; Treatsicles by Erin Thiem)

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