The Texas Hill Country has cheese shops, wine tours, old-fashioned outdoor peach stands, acres of herb gardens, dozens of cooking classes, swaggering cowboys who tip their hats when you walk by, and what I now consider a necessity when traveling — designer chocolate.
Lecia Duke, a part-Cherokee architect turned chocolatier and owner of Chocolat Quintessential Chocolates, makes hand-crafted liquor, coffee, and wine-filled dark chocolates in the charming, historic downtown Fredericksburg. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/jmtimages)
Using everything from Cutty Sark and Peach Schnapps to Texas Hill Country's own wines, Duke employs a 300-year-old Swiss process known as liquor praline that is, unfortunately, becoming a dying art. I can confirm that every bite of these delicacies is a life-changing experience.
For years, one of Duke's best customers was a 92-year-old from Tennessee who ordered her Jack Daniels-filled chocolates by the case. One a night, she claimed, helped her sleep. (Photo courtesy of Chocolat)
Duke, who first tasted liqueur praline at 15 while modeling in Italy, moved home to Texas in 1984, opening her unique confectionery on Fredericksburg's three and half mile Main Street, made up of century-old native limestone buildings, most of which are on the historic register. The only chains are on the bicycles of the many cyclists that come in for weekend jaunts from San Antonio and Austin, both about an hour (by car) away.
“To my knowledge, we’re the only ones in America doing this,” Duke says.