Culture

The Chocolatier Quietly Making the Most Exquisite Bonbons in Dallas

Maravilla Cacao Will Tailor Hand-Painted Chocolates to Any Theme or Recipient

BY // 01.23.20

There are chocolates hand-painted to resemble a nighttime sky, with passing clouds and golden stars. Others are covered in bright Pop Art dots, Takashi Murakami style, or have a surface as translucent as blown glass. Pick one up — a shiny, delicate object, about the size of a Champagne cork — and take a bite. The bonbon’s shell snaps and shatters, releasing a velvety ganache, or perhaps a rich liquid caramel or crisp cookie filling, tinged with passion fruit, chilies, or mezcal.

Maravilla Cacao is making some of the most exquisite chocolates in the city, in a tiny, under-the-radar operation in East Dallas. It is, to be specific, the work of a single talented chocolatier, Acenette (“Call me Ace!”) Gonzalez. Before starting Maravilla two years ago, Gonzalez made chocolates at The Joule hotel and for Mirador restaurant; worked with Keith Cedotal at Uchi and Matt McCallister at FT33; and polished her skills with Dallas’ star chocolate maker, Kate Weiser.

“I wanted to be a chef when I first started,” says Gonzalez, who at 27 also has a degree from the Culinary Institute of America. “But I find it fascinating that you can make something that’s so pretty and also edible. And chocolate lets me translate the culture I know into food. I grew up on the East Side, with Latin people and Latin cooking, and I worked at FT33 and Uchi, and why can’t all of that live in my chocolates?”

Maravilla Cacao chocolates (Photo by Maravilla Cacao )
In Dallas, Acenette Gonzalez delivers her made-to-order chocolates in beautiful, gold-stamped boxes. (Photo by Maravilla Cacao )

And, indeed, it does. Her experience in fine dining shows in her flawless technique and top-tier ingredients, such as chocolate from the French brands Cacao Barry and Valrhona, seasonal local fruit, and Bonton Farms goat’s milk (used in the fascinating and vaguely animal cajeta-and-cookie-butter bonbon). This summer, she plans to travel to Costa Rica and arrange a direct supply line of single-origin chocolate.

But the flavors are where Gonzalez’s artistry truly expresses itself. “My dad was a cook,” she says. “We grew up sipping chocolate abuelita, drinking tea de canela, eating cajeta with our toast in the morning. So I try really hard to transfer my experiences into my chocolates.”

A crescent-shaped bonbon is filled with blood-orange caramel and mezcal white-chocolate ganache, and an amazingly intense café de olla with Kahlúa caramel. Her most popular flavor, Mexican hot chocolate with a dark ganache spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ancho and pasilla chilies, is encased in a shell painted to look like the blue-enameled mug her grandmother served it in. She’s creating special Valentine’s Day flavors, too.

Maravilla Cacao chocolate bonbons
“Café de olla” bonbons by Maravilla Cacao.

Even more compelling: tell her about the person the chocolates are for, and Gonzalez will invent one specifically to match. The night-sky truffle, for example, was created for a baby shower. At the moment, she’s dreaming up bonbons for a Topgolf tournament, perhaps with “dad flavors” such as beer with peanut butter and pretzels shaped like golf balls.

All her chocolates are freshly made to order (priced at $4.50 for two pieces to $35 for 20—custom chocolates are $2.25 each). Choose what you like from a seasonal assortment posted on the Maravilla Cacao Instagram page, and they will be delivered in 10 days — by Gonzalez herself, only in the city of Dallas — in a beautiful gold stamped box. Or head to the Saturday farmers’ market in Richardson, where, starting this week, you’ll find Gonzalez and her bonbons at a new stand.

This article appears in the February issue of PaperCity Dallas. 

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