In honor of National Chocolate Day, look back with us to our April 2015 profile on Willie Byrd Chocolate Sauce, the sweet treat born of a family's legacy.
Helen Hoppe, Ann Colby and Scottie Phillip sit with their family recipe. (Photo by Michael Grayson)
When chocolate sauce is so good that the whole container gets eaten before it has the chance to hit the ice cream bowl, it doesn’t stay secret for long. That’s how the story of Willie Byrd Chocolate Sauce begins: William Byrd Rawlings made the first batch of dark chocolate sauce, and his family loved it so much that they shared jars with neighbors, teachers and friends — who, in turn, acquired the same addiction that Willie Byrd himself had to the fudgy, deep flavor. He hid his own stash of the sauce with a little spoon beside it because it disappeared so quickly from the cupboard.
These days, the hobby-turned-company can’t be contained in the family kitchen; production happens at a small-batch operation in Virginia Beach, overseen by Byrd’s daughter, Ann, and her two daughters, Scottie and Helen. Ann realized the potential to make something of the business when her father passed down the recipe to her, after he passed away in 1994. She made it at home for years until going pro in 2013.
“Finally, my mom laughed that she wasn’t going to stand over her cauldron anymore, so at this point, this is her retirement,” says Scottie.
Part of the secret is the family’s commitment to pure, natural ingredients as opposed to using shortcuts like corn syrup, emulsifiers and preservatives. “We use a fair-trade Belgian chocolate; very pure and clean,” she adds. “That really matters to us — our kids are eating it, too.”
The original dark chocolate flavor has gained a few playmates over the years: espresso, sea salt caramel and seasonal peppermint sauce are now in the mix, and they’re all habit-forming. If you can get beyond eating it with a spoon, ice cream doesn’t have to be the final destination. “Try putting it on Taleggio [cheese], drizzled like honey,” Scottie recommends. It sounds like utter decadence — of the variety that sings out for a good wine pairing. The sauce is thick enough to layer between shortbread, too, for a sandwich cookie that would make an Oreo cry.
Convinced you need to get some? Find Willie Byrd Chocolate Sauce at Little House Green Grocery, Southern Season, Fresh Market, Whole Foods, Shields Market, Libbie Market, The Shops at 5807, For the Love of Chocolate, Taylor Made for You, Wine Lovers, Very Richmond Gallery & Gifts, The Virginia Shop at the Library of Virginia and more. (A complete list of sellers can be found at williebyrdsauce.com.)
Just be sure to pack a spoon for the trip home.