We’ve long rhapsodized about chocolate being a life-changing experience, but we never expected to find someone whose life has literally been transformed by chocolate. Enter Doria Pollinger, a New York City painter and Berkshire transplant, and maker of the exquisitely decadent H.R. Zeppelin chocolates.
Doria came by her gourmet gift in a, well, unusual way. One winter night while out walking her dog, she was hit by a car. She woke up a few weeks later in the hospital, with a seemingly impossible number of broken bones and other injuries. After being, as she describes it, “put back together like Humpty-Dumpty,” Doria embarked on a winding road to recovery. Her occupational therapist recommended baking to help her re-learn simple motor functions like holding a bowl and stirring, and how to follow a step-by-step sequence. Doria, who was “never a kitchen person,” donated hundreds of pounds’ worth of her experiments to her daughter’s school, where they became an instant hit. One smart cookie on the staff then asked her to try making chocolates for Teacher Appreciation Week . . . and the rest is the stuff of fiction.
Fast forward three years and several sell-out artisan-festival appearances later. Doria now makes—by hand, approaching chocolate, which she refers to as her “medium,” like an art—a dreamy collection of dark, milk, and white chocolate truffles, as well ooey-gooey turtles and crunchy barks (we’re addicted to the Dark Chocolate Macadamia Cashew and the White Chocolate Peppermint). While each confection is different, all share Doria’s signature silky-textured organic chocolate and top-quality, hand-picked local ingredients. “Organic chocolate is sustainable chocolate,” she says. “I’m not an out-there politically active person, but I try to do what I can in my daily life to support what I believe in. That’s also why I use local flowers, fruits, and liqueurs. If communities can truly help to sustain themselves, then that sustains everything else. We don’t have to think so big.”
That’s a good thing, because when we treat ourselves to H.R. Zeppelin chocolates, there’s not a whole lot of thinking going on. We’ll let Doria explain it: “Chocolate is a sensory experience. Especially these days, as our senses become overridden by technology. It’s like taking a walk on a cold and blustery day. It’s like kissing somebody. It’s like loving somebody. It’s a moment. And everything is a moment.”