He doesn’t have a culinary-school degree. Or any fancy training in chocolate-ology. But doesn’t growing up on a Vermont maple-sugar farm count for something? Self-trained chocolatier Rob Kingsbury embraced the sweets trade after a childhood surrounded by maple-syrup jugs. His great-grandparents sold popcorn balls drenched in maple syrup at a roadside stand, which Kingsbury received in college care packages and as birthday gifts. Flash forward to five years ago, when he opened Kingsbury Chocolates in Old Town Alexandria. Starting with his family’s heirloom recipes, Kingsbury doctored up the confections with finer butters, creams, and nuts. Today, his modern-day popcorn ball recipe involves homemade toffee and peanut hunks—a bit more elaborate than the farm’s version.
In late October Kingsbury will open a second chocolate shop with Alexandria artist Eric Nelson, located in the Matrix condo complex in DC’s Logan Circle. Besides selling Kingsbury’s signature chocolates and floral-infused truffles, the store will double as an art gallery and cocoa cafe. The neighborhood is already home to eight other galleries, but, for the record, none serve hot cocoa.
Kingsbury took time out from business meetings and toffee-fiddling to divulge his culinary favorites. Find out which iconic chocolate film he prefers, and which nonchocolate dessert (Yes, Rob, they actually exist)—if he had to pick—would be his favorite.
Favorite grocery store candy bar: The Chunky. I’ve loved them my whole life. The little chocolate squares with peanuts and raisins in the silver wrapper. They’re not around much anymore, but whenever I see one, I pick it up.
Favorite type of milk—skim, whole, or soy? One-percent. Growing up, we went through a gallon of milk every day, but it was the fatty whole-milk kind. I like the lighter one-percent now, and I’ve always been big on washing down chocolate with it.
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory or the more recent Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Ooh, that’s a good question. It’d have to be the classic Willy Wonka with Gene Wilder.
Favorite fruit to cover in chocolate: Turkish apricots. I just ate three, actually. Citrus-peel and grapefruit are also really, really good.
Almonds or cashews? Cashew, cashew, cashew. Love ’em. Eat ’em everyday by the handful.
Favorite nonchocolate dessert: Wow. Geez Louise. Oh, man—I guess a warm slice of apple pie with Vermont extra-sharp cheddar melted on top. Growing up in Vermont, cheese is one of the four major food groups, and we ate it on pie all the time. It’s such a New England tradition, and you just don’t see it here.
Chipotles or jalapeño peppers? Chipotle. I do a chipotle-and-cinnamon truffle. Back in the day, the Mayans and Aztecs cut the bitterness of chocolate with chipotle instead of using sugar. That combo is nothing new. I like the chipotle because it has heat but not the biting, lingering heat of the jalapeño. Of the two, it’s a much friendlier pepper.
Favorite imported chocolate: A 72-percent dark chocolate from Ecuador. With a glass of Champagne.
Haagen-Dazs or Ben & Jerry’s? Are you serious? That was the easiest question ever. Ben & Jerry’s. I would get banned from my home state of Vermont if I didn’t say that. I remember visiting the very first store. It used to be a gas station and they had giant churns where gas pumps used to be. My favorite flavor was, and still is, Vanilla Heath Bar Crunch.