I found Lagusta's Luscious when I first started researching vegan restaurants for our trip to upstate New York, and the reviews got me so excited. A vegan chocolate shop that uses fair trade and organic ingredients and sells homemade croissants and frozen hot chocolate? Yes, please!
For a solid week I facebook stalked them to find out what was fresh and in season, and I hoped against all hope that their famous strawberry creams would be available when we visited. I also read all the incredible reviews they have and watched the video on their shop. I was prepared, to say the least.
Lagusta's itself is in a cutely painted freestanding building just on the edge of the town of New Paltz, NY. You walk in and can see the entire shop all in one quick blink, which we found overwhelming, in the best possible way. Everything is so pretty and organized, and it smells so wonderful, so we pretty much just wanted to stand in the doorway for a few minutes and take it all in.
Their homemade chocolate case is small, which provides proof everything is made in small batches and by hand. One of the coolest things about the vegan chocolate shop is that you can see the chocolatiers dipping chocolate right behind the counter, so you know everything is fresh off the mills.
All my life I've considered only sections of menus as possibilities, after immediately tossing aside things I hated or wouldn't eat, so when I happen upon entirely vegan restaurants, I have a horrible time deciding on what to eat. At Lagusta's Luscious, we didn't even bother trying to decide; we just went with one of everything. It worked out well because they had a large box of 24 chocolates for $45.
At first glance, I know this can seem somewhat expensive. But you have to remember you get what you pay for. Lagusta's Luscious uses fair trade organic chocolate, organic corn syrup, maple syrup, and sugar, and they try to source everything either locally or from small family-owned businesses. They use the best of the best ingredients, so you should expect that the end result is the best of the best. With that rationale, I think the prices are quite fair. Besides, it's great to splurge every once in a while, right?
Of all the chocolates we tried, our favorite was the strawberry cream. Perhaps the one good thing about having a warm winter was the fact that strawberries came earlier this year than typical. The Lagusta's Luscious strawberry creams are made with real strawberries from a local organic farmer, and I loved that you could see little bits of strawberry in the actual cream filling. If you're visiting during the eleven months of the year that don't feature fresh strawberry creams, don't despair; Lagusta's makes the creams with dried strawberries other times of the year.
They also have an English Egg chocolate that plays off the Cadbury cream egg. The Lagusta's Luscious version is much less sweet and without that iconic yellow "yolk," but it comes off as a much more high-end chocolate.
One of our favorites was the heathen toffee, but unfortunately we didn't order enough of it to really get into it. It has an amazing crunch and interesting layers of texture, and perfectly sweet flavor.
My sister is a peanut butter cup aficionado, so she was stoked to try their version. It's very different from any other vegan peanut butter cup I've had before-- it's almost as though it has a caramel texture. It's very smooth and creamy, and has a slight peanut butter flavor.
My husband loves peppermint and chocolate, so Lagusta's Luscious' peppermint patty was calling our name. I absolutely loved this particular chocolate. I liked that the inside texture stood up to the heat and wasn't liquidy, and it had just the right amount of mint flavor. Sometimes too much mint with chocolate gives me a stomachache, and Lagusta's version was nothing of the sort.
Lagusta's Luscious has a few larger pieces of chocolate, like their almond cats and crunchy frogs, as well as the coconut pyramids. We liked the almond cats the best though each was very good. The almond cats had a fresh almond flavor that didn't seem too heavy on the extract. If you like Nestle's crunch and other rice crispy chocolates, you'd love the frogs. The coconut pyramids are like a Mounds, but without the fake coconut flavor.
The lemon truffle was a big hit with all of us, as the inside was incredible smooth and soft in texture, and had a delightful bite of lemon. That truffle was topped with lavender, which is the perfect accompaniment to lemon.
We also tried the cayenne truffle, which my sister and I both liked. You get the spicy cayenne flavor in the very back of your throat after you swallow the chocolate, and I loved that yin and yang of spicy and sweet.
One of Lagusta's Luscious' most popular chocolates is the rosemary caramel with sea salt. The first flavor you taste and smell when you pop it in your mouth is the floral rosemary. Coupled with the creamy caramel, and then covered with their amazing milky chocolate, and the tiny dots of sea salt on top, it's an experience for your mouth.
What to wash it all down with? How about a frozen hot chocolate with caramel sauce and whipped cream? This drink was incredible- decadent and rich and intensely flavorful.
Lagusta's Luscious uses cute paper recycled straws, which if I reach far enough back into the memory bank I can just remember a time before plastic straws. I remember the reason we were delighted to switch to plastic too; the paper eventually turns to mush, which makes it hard to sip anything through the straw. I do applaud their choice to be more environmentally friendly though.