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I FOODIE spotlight

  Enter the colorful candy shop, and here you will find one of the largest and most diverse chocolate selections in San Joaquin, from caramel apples covered with an array of different toppings, to candy clusters, chocolate-dipped pretzels and marshmallows, and freshly-dipped chocolate strawberries.   Each of the over 300 different types of chocolate candy is made on-site at the shop (other than a few of the fine truffles) with fresh produce—locally-grown whenever possible—and gourmet white, milk, and dark chocolates.    “Our store is such a beautiful addition to Manteca,” says Jayne Panigada, who has been the store manager since Rocky Mountain opened Labor Day weekend of 2008. “Oftentimes people come in and are amazed that we have something like this here. You really have to see it to believe it.”    Rocky Mountain Chocolate factory is actually a franchise business, started in 1981 in Durango, Colorado. The first shop was opened by chocolate-lover Frank Krail, and more than 300 stores are now open worldwide, with other San Joaquin locations in Lodi and Modesto. The Rocky Mountain recipes are tried-and-true, but Panigada and the Manteca Rocky Mountain staff put love

into each item they make at the shop.    “It’s like that movie, Chocolat,” says Panigada. “We cook the chocolate in a big copper kettle. The first thing we do every morning is temper the chocolate so that it will be silky and smooth for dipping. That’s become one of my favorite movies since I’ve been working here. Plus, I love helping someone that comes in not knowing what to pick out, and giving them ideas which chocolates might be their favorite.”    Panigada loves the daily fresh-dipped strawberries, but says that one of Rocky Mountain’s biggest claims to fame is the over twenty varieties of caramel apples. Always made with market-fresh Granny Smith apples, flavors include apple pie, cheesecake, rocky road, English toffee, pecan, M&M, smores, and more. Rocky Mountain even carries the hard-to-find, old-fashioned, red candy apple.    The chocolate barks are another standout here, a blending of flavors and textures: pretzel, mint, peanut butter, dark chocolate, light chocolate, Oreo, nuts. Dipped-chocolate treats like strawberries, marshmallows, graham crackers, and pretzels are melt-in-your-mouth good, as are truffles with different fillings and chocolates. Try the chewy fudge for

something traditional, or even browse the sugar-free chocolate selection.    “We get anyone from someone looking for a gift, to someone having a bad day, someone needing a chocolate fix, or kids that have been good and get a trip to the candy shop,” says Panigada. “The most rewarding part is probably having a customer come in not such a great mood, and leaving happy because they had a good time at the candy shop.” It can’t hurt that each person through Rocky Mountain’s doors is rewarded with a sample of the shop’s chocolate.    Panigada also points out that visitors can watch the chocolate being made. “We don’t have a set cooking schedule, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you came in and saw us cooking a big batch of fudge, or spinning caramel apples.”    Rocky Mountain can also gather together and wrap any chocolates or candy in the store to create a gift of any size. The shop creates wedding favors, baskets, platters, anything you can imagine—hand-picked to your design.    So the big question: Working at Rocky Mountain, is it tough to not eat every fresh chocolate that hits the shelf?   A one-word answer from Jayne Panigada: “Yes!”

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