Confession time: I have a chocolate stash in a kitchen cupboard. And while it's in the back of a cupboard - a lame attempt to keep me from actually dipping into it - I still take a bite every few days.
I don't gobble it down. I savor these small little morsels. While the kids are screaming around me (and that's usually when the craving hits), I reach for a piece, sit down and enjoy it. That stash now includes the dark chocolate from Videri Chocolate Factory, a downtown Raleigh chocolate shop which, I'll also confess, is a new obsession.
Husband-and-wife team Starr Sink and Sam Ratto opened the store and factory in late 2011, just about the time they learned that Sink was pregnant with their first child, a little boy. Both had worked at another chocolate shop - Escazu Artisan Chocolates in Raleigh. Ratto thought he could do it on his own.
"Sam makes the best chocolate I've ever tasted," Sink tells me. "The whole thing is his dream."
While Ratto runs the back of the house, Sink is up front, happily giving away samples. Videri makes four kinds of chocolate - dark, milk, salt and pepper. They also sell a variety of confections. The salted caramel and marshmallow candies are out of this world.
But there's more to Videri than just the shop. Visitors are welcome to take a self-guided tour of the small chocolate factory. This is a bean-to-bar chocolate factory where you can see how chocolate is made from the actual cocoa beans to the bar where you can buy it. At Videri, they hand sort the cocoa beans, grind it, roast it and go through all the other steps for the public to see.
In March, the couple added a coffee bar with hot chocolate and mochas made from Videri chocolate. They also sell the highly rated Stumptown coffee. And the shop just recently opened its outdoor patio for the season.
This is a great stop for families. Kids can learn all about how chocolate is made before testing the samples. Young kids, in particular, will enjoy seeing the roaster, which looks a bit like a train engine, and running up and down the ramp around it.
With the new coffee bar and open patio, it would make for a great spot for playgroups, family time and moms' night outs. Videri is open until 9 p.m. on First Fridays, the first Friday of each month.
And those samples that Sink hands out are a pretty nice perk too.
"It's kind of like being a flower delivery person," Starr tells me. "Everybody is happy to see you always. It makes me really happy."
Hear more from Starr and see the shop in the video. Videri Chocolate Factory is at 327 W. Davie St. in downtown Raleigh (across from The Pit). For the latest from Videri, check their Facebook page. They are offering a cute Father's Day gift right now.