WHAT Blame it on Norbert Wabnig. The proprietor of the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills tasted Marianne Manes’ homemade chocolate truffles (they were a gift) and asked if she had considered selling them. She thought for a minute. “Why the hell not?” recalls Manes, a Hollywood Hills resident originally from Bern, Switzerland. “I love being in the kitchen. I love making people happy with good food.”
Chocolate runs in Manes’s veins; she characterizes herself as a third-generation sweet-maker, following in the footsteps of her Swiss father and grandmother, who made candy for family and friends. After Wabnig’s encouragement, Manes drew on her Swiss contacts and within a month had a line of handmade chocolates for his shop. That was two years ago; this past summer she rebranded the line Coco Suisse to allude to the Swiss chocolate she uses.
Treats include Manes’s homage to American childhood, the PB & Gelée, containing handmade organic peanut butter and raspberry jelly, which evokes that lunchtime sweet-salty savor in a precisely layered confection enrobed in glossy dark chocolate. Croquantines are filled with almond-hazelnut gianduja and wafer crisps ground to an incredible fineness. There are dark chocolate nonpareils, which live up to their name. Then there is the truffle that wowed Wabnig, a blend of chocolate ganache made with organic cream, flavored with Swiss Kirsch and a swirl of gianduja and covered in dark chocolate.
So far, Nestlé executives aren’t losing sleep over the competition; Manes’s output is infinitesimal, although she has some pretty swanky retail customers. In addition to the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills, Coco Suisse chocolates are sold at the Cheese Store of Silver Lake, the Cheese Store of Pasadena, and Olive & Thyme in Toluca Lake (all are listed in EAT: Los Angeles, natch), as well as online at cocosuisse.com.