According to a recent posting on Yahoo's news blog, The Lookout, there's a new sheriff in town when it comes to the hottest chili pepper in the world. Developed by Gerald Fowler of the Chili Pepper Company in Cumbria, England, it's said that the Naga Viper chili pepper is so hot, its effects can be felt for "an hour after taking a bite, and you just don't want to talk to anyone or do anything." Aptly put, given that the Naga Viper clocks in at 1,359,000 heat units on the Scoville scale and outdistances the previous champ, the noted Ghost Chili (a.k.a. Bhut Jolokia), by more than 400,000 heat units. To put it another way, eating one Naga Viper is equal to eating 440 jalapeno peppers. That, my friend, is HOT!!!
So, why am I bringing up heat units and spicy peppers? Well, during a recent trip to Southern Oregon, we had the pleasure (and pain) of being introduced to a very unique chocolate bar with the ominous-sounding name, Do Not Eat This! That should have been enough to keep us away, but the little devil inside urged us to break off a piece.
Now, eating the Do Not Eat This! bar starts out simple enough as the sweetness of milk and dark chocolates coats your tongue. But that euphoric feeling fades in a hurry as the heat from three chilies -- the Aji Amarillo Chili, the Arbole Chili, and the Ghost Chili -- kicks into gear and doesn't let up. I tried to put on a brave face, but I was soon begging for a tall glass of anything to put out the fire that reached all the way down to my core.
The megamind behind this inventive confection is Jeff Shepard, a self-trained chocolatier who created his own company, Lillie Belle Chocolates, as a way of making "people happy with my creations. To brighten their day, even if it's for only a moment, with something I made with my hands."
Jeff got his start six years ago making chocolates and other organic products out of his home. Then, as business starting booming via word of mouth at various farmers' markets and specialty stores, he and his wife, Belle, began renting commercial kitchen space at local restaurants to keep up with the demand. But even that wasn't enough, especially after they began to attract attention beyond their Applegate Valley location.
Soon, Lillie Belle Chocolates was opened in December 2007, and what began with just four truffle flavors turned into an award-winning operation. They now offer countless varieties of flavor-packed fare such as bons bons, ganaches, and specialty bars. Even more exciting is when convention is uniquely twisted with imagination. Your choices quickly expand to include chocolate-covered pears, cayenne caramels, chocolate-covered bacon, smokey blue cheese truffles, and red velvet almonds which hits you with a bit of heat on their own.
Jeff once said, "Making chocolates is a lot of fun. I treat it like an art form. I do everything by hand, including the chocolate paintings." That's right, when visiting Lillie Belle Chocolates, take more than just a look around. Their "gallery" showcases a variety of paintings and sculptures that are not only made entirely of chocolate, but they are completely edible too.
Lillie Belle Chocolates is located in Central Point, Oregon, and is open daily to visitors whether you live in the area or just passing through. And when you do stop in, be sure to ask about their organic berry farm. It's not regularly open for visits, but should you happen to catch either Jeff or Belle behind the counter, they won't mince words or stories about their modest 2-acre establishment, especially since it provides most of the ingredients that go into their confections.
But that's another blog for another time ...
Lillie Belle Chocolates
211 North Front Street
Central Point, OR 97502