Take 12: for moms, other mentors or you


Mothers get their day this month, but maybe that should apply to other mentors too. And perhaps our kind words, deeds and gifts should extend beyond the annual, 24-hour holiday.

What works as a reward for a life well served that benefits you? Many things, including chocolate, and the state of chocolate in Wisconsin is divine. For example:

Gail Ambrosius, Madison: One of America’s best, the Food Network decided years ago. Buy gold-dusted buddhas or a tower of truffles. These single-origin chocolate profiles are complex and adventurous (think sweet curry with saffron, or cinnamon-cayenne). gailambrosius.com

Beerntsen’s Confectionary, Manitowoc: Around since 1932 and known for its molded novelty chocolates (miniature high heels in milk chocolate to all-chocolate sardines in a chocolate tin). Within the artisan product lineup: pretty lavender-honey and mocha versions of ganache. beerntsens.com

Confections for Any Occasion by Joel, Theresa: Candy maker Joel Bernhard’s tasty work (in a village with less than 1,300 population) is all the more amazing because he has been blind since age 4. His 500-plus candy molds make chocolate butterflies to tractors, but that is just one segment of the offerings. Berry Bogs – caramel, almonds, dried cherries and cranberries doused in chocolate – are a specialty. confectionsbyjoel.com

Hughes Home Maid Chocolates, Oshkosh: Business began in 1940, making oysters (chocolates with vanilla or chocolate filling, dipped in crushed peanuts) and lots of other candy from the basement of a house in an ordinary residential neighborhood. Waiting in line to buy a jumbled assortment in a simple, white box is a beloved, longstanding tradition – and an option that is temporarily suspended, although curbside pickup remains. mailmechocolates.com

James J. Chocolate Shop, Lake Mills: Candy has been made in small batches at affordable prices since 1982. In Jim’s Greatest Hits, a box of the chocolate maker’s specialties, are pecan turtles, peanut brittle, almond-dusted toffee and roasted nuts. jamesjchocolateshop.com

Kehr’s Kandy Kitchen, Milwaukee: The locals’ favorite began business in 1931, where the chocolate kitchen remains, but the bounty is sold at Milwaukee Public Market. Each turtle (caramel, pecans, chocolate) weighs at least one ounce. Or customize an assortment of nut clusters, caramels, meltaways and more. kehrs.com

Kohler Original Recipe Chocolates, Kohler: No Wisconsin community is more aligned with excellence than Kohler, which is building an empire of sweets that began with Terrapins (pecan-chocolate-caramel turtles) in 2007. Now a dozen edible works of art vie for attention. All are jewel-like in appearance. kohlerchocolates.com

Quality Candy, St. Francis: Make a reservation to tour the candy factory on a weekday, then shop at the attached store, near Mitchell International Airport. Candy making began in 1916 and now products are shipped throughout the nation. qcandy.com

Seroogy’s, DePere: They’ve been in business since 1899, for good reason. During a normal year, you could always find something to sample at this big and friendly factory store, and it’s easy to get hooked on meltaways. No matter what you buy, add a Seroogy’s candy bar or two. At $1.50 each and a dozen varieties, they are impossible to resist. seroogys.com

Sjolinds Chocolate House, Mt. Horeb: “House of chocolate” means chocolate in drinks and munchable treats, made in deliciously small batches. Count the locals in this cute town of trolls among the ardently loyal customers. Selling brewing chocolate to orange-habanero truffle bars. sjolinds.com

Ultimate Confections, Wauwatosa: A business that began with peanut brittle in 1992 has blossomed into a menagerie of sweet temptations. State Fair fans likely know of this business that has long sold treats in the Wisconsin Products Pavilion. Ship a Healthcare Hero Chocolate Goody Bag to a frontline shining star: The $10 investment carries a value of $15. chocolatesonline.com

Vande Walle’s Candies, Appleton: Popcorn balls were the first item for sale at this family business, now in its third generation, and inventory has grown to include around 100 variations of sweetness. Notice the Biltmore Delight, a caramel-peanut butter-milk chocolate candy topped with a chocolate pearl. vandewallescandies.com

Don’t want to settle for a single exercise in excellence?

The Chocolate Self Care Kit is a new offering from Milwaukee Food Tours, which recently repositioned the business to concentrate on “shelter-in-style kits.” Chocolate from Indulgence Chocolatiers, Ultimate Confections and The Chocolate Sommelier – all woman-owned businesses in Milwaukee – are included. The $35 cost includes shipping. milwaukeefoodtours.com

WiscoBoxes, Mt. Horeb, produces Badger-centric care packages too. Possibilities include two sizes of the curated Coffee, Wine, Chocolate box. Products are made in Wisconsin and packed in a Badger red box. Price is $88 or $135, not including shipping. wiscoboxes.com