Yelp’s Jan. 25 announcement of the top five foodie destinations in the U.S. had Ashevillians, area food lovers and French Broad Chocolates staff jumping for joy. The announcement was made on Good Morning America by Tara Lewis, Yelp’s trend expert.

Asheville was named the #1 U.S. destination for food lovers, besting Charleston, South Carolina; Portland, Oregon; Maui and Honolulu, Hawaii; and New Orleans, Louisiana. Complete with a drum roll sound effect — Asheville’s home-grown artisanal chocolate maker, French Broad Chocolate, was revealed as the “must have” food when visiting Asheville.

How it came about

Yelp blogger Flora Theden explained the process for naming the 2020 winners in her blog.

“To name this year’s top U.S. destinations for food lovers, our Data Science team looked for the cities that had the highest restaurant ratings from out-of-towners and then took a look at what visitors were loving on Yelp,” wrote Theden.

“Asheville is a regional-food powerhouse, filled with restaurants, breweries and food businesses powered by generations-old family farms and menus filled with time-tested recipes,” continued Theden.

“French Broad Chocolates specializes in hand-crafted, artisanal chocolate truffles, using local ingredients like fresh berries, lavender and wildflower honey,” Theden wrote. “Some fan favorite menu items include the Maple and Smoked Salt Liquid Truffle sipping chocolate, and the Truffle Torte.”

High honor

It’s quite an honor for a home-grown Asheville company to be featured in national media, and the honor is not lost on French Broad Chocolate’s co-founder and CEO Jael Rattigan.

“Being featured in such a dramatic way on the Yelp and GMA segment is a really big honor,” Rattigan said. “We are super proud to represent Asheville.”

An email from Yelp a few days before the announcement told Rattigan that Yelp would mention French Broad Chocolate on TV. But, Rattigan had no idea her company would receive the top honor.

“I didn’t see the segment live, but a customer did, and told one of our employees, who found the link,” Rattigan said. “When I watched it, I was jumping up and down, I was so excited.”

Since the GMA segment, support for French Broad Chocolate’s honor has been pouring in from the community, Rattigan said.

“We’ve gotten 3,000 likes and hundreds of shares and comments on our Face Book and Instagram postings of the Yelp GMA announcement,” said Rattigan. “Our team is so excited.”

The amazing part is that French Broad Chocolate has climbed to national attention on the basis of its products, without having a marketing or public relations firm.

“It’s an earned honor that feels really great,” Rattigan said. “We love to share the experience of Asheville.”

While the best-selling French Broad Chocolate truffle Signature Collection was highlighted on Good Morning America, Lewis also mentioned FBC’s liquid truffle, which she described as, “decadent — it’s like hot chocolate, but the next level.”

Yelp accolades

It’s no wonder French Broad Chocolate was named “must have food” in Asheville. Reading Yelp highlights demonstrates how much people love the company’s products.

“A must try is the liquid truffle, which is served in a small espresso like cup, as it is very decadent and rich.” — Jennifer C., Newnan, Georgia.

“The chocolate lounge is the spot I cherish and absolutely must visit whenever in Asheville. “I dream about their delightful, soul-lifting sipping chocolate. It’s astounding. It’s a symphony for your taste buds.” — Amy W., Durham.

“Dear French Broad Chocolate Lounge, this is a love letter. When I am not near you, I dream of you. Your delectable truffles, your honey lavender hot chocolate, your ooey-gooey brownies, your Oaxaca (Sip). My husband and I have been visiting Asheville for years and you are one of the reasons we keep coming back. You continue to bring us joy and flavor ecstasy.” — Amy M. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Not resting

The crew at French Broad Chocolate continues to develop new chocolate products.

“We keep trying to be creative, surprise and delight people,” Rattigan said. “We brainstormed new ideas for Valentine’s Day, and came up with FBC’s version of the classic Italian confection — chocolate salami.”

It’s a meatless sweet product made with chocolate ganache, dried fruit, biscotti and toasted nuts, in two flavors: Orange Walnut and Cherry Pistachio.

“The flavor is chewy, crunchy and smooth,” Rattigan said.

The two flavor profiles were developed by Jael and Dan Rattigan, co-founder and “chief of innovation.” Dan developed the recipes for the chocolate salamis, which are available in Valentine’s gift boxes.

Also coming soon will be a limited edition collection of chocolate leap frogs, in celebration of leap year, and new Easter chicks and eggs.

Share the love

Valentine’s Day is here, and what better gift than the gift of luscious chocolate.

“Chocolate is a way to share love and bring joy,” Jael said.

The company is hosting a special event — “Cosmic Love: Date Night at the Chocolate Factory” — with two seatings (6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.) Valentine’s night, Feb. 14, at the factory on Riverside Dr. in Asheville. It’s described as “the ultimate Valentine’s Day experience,” with wine, cheese, chocolate pairing, candlelight FBC factory tour and artisan desserts. The event is for ages 21 and over. Tickets are $40; visit www.facebook.com/events/2277723469194229/.

FBC has Valentine’s gift boxes at the FBC Asheville locations, ranging from the Cosmic Love Collection (with “love-inducing ingredients”), the Chocolate ‘Salami’ gift box (also with maple bourbon pecans), the Be My Valentine gift box (with chocolate and tea), to Deluxe gift boxes.

“Valentine’s Day is about love,” Jael said. “And chocolate is about love.”

The French Broad Chocolate Lounge is at 10 S. Pack Square, Asheville, with the FBC Boutique next door (handy for skipping any lines at the Lounge). The FBC Factory and Café, 821 Riverside Drive, Ste. 199, has the full line of products, plus offers tours of the chocolate factory. To book a tour, call 828-348-5169 or email tours@frenchboradchocolates.com.

For information on French Broad Chocolate, visit www.frenchbroadchocolates.com.

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