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Artisan chocolate 'making a comeback' in central Arkansas

There's store bought bonbons and the classic Hershey bar - but there's something special about small-batch artisan chocolate - and more and more craft chocolatiers are setting up shop in central Arkansas.

Izard Chocolate started in 2014 and recently opened up its own retail location on Beechwood in Little Rock's Hillcrest neighborhood. Owner and chocolate maker, Nathaniel Izard got the idea to launch his own chocolate business after a trip to Italy. Izard says he was inspired by the multitude of "mom & pop" stores in Rome - he said he had always wanted to learn how to make chocolate - so he decided to combine the two.

At Izard, the focus is on making the chocolate from scratch. It involves cocoa beans being roasted and ground down, eventually mixed with sugar and then tempered to be cast into chocolate bars. All of the chocolate at Izard Chocolate is dark chocolate, 70% cocoa.

Cocoa Rouge is a spinoff of Arkansas Fresh Bakery in Bryant. Ashton Woodward, head chocolatier, was trained at Kendall College in Chicago in the culinary arts. He brought wholesale specialty bread to an underserved central Arkansas market to begin with, but last year started making truffles - Belgian truffles to be exact.

Woodward boasts more than 30 varieties of truffle fillings - always open to new ideas as well. The handmade bonbons are available for purchase by the piece at Arkansas Fresh Café in Bryant or for sale in assortments at various retailers around Arkansas.

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