By virtue of three generations of knowledge and craftsmanship dating to the beginning of the 20th century, Zoe’s, run by Greek-born George Tsoukatis, 62, and his three children, Pantelis, 32, Zoe, 30, and Petros, 22, turns out a line of delicious, beautifully made chocolates. (Their handmade candy canes are awesome as well.)
Especially noteworthy is a signature collection of Mediterranean-inspired chocolates that pays homage to the family’s roots, such as ones filled with honey, ground roasted walnuts, baklava spices and salt, dipped in 74 percent cacao couverture and then rolled in chopped walnuts and vibrantly green Sicilian pistachios. Couverture is chocolate that contains a higher percentage of cocoa butter than regular chocolate.
After working with his wife’s brother as a self-taught chocolatier for more than 30 years, George decided to strike out on his own, going into business with his children in 2007 and opening a chocolate factory and retail boutique on Waynesboro’s Main Street.
“It was a new beginning, so we named it after Zoe, which means ‘life’ in Greek,” says Pantelis, who left a marketing career to join the concern and now handles the business finances. Zoe, who was a government consultant, oversees marketing and day-to-day operations. Petros, having learned candymaking from his father and at Chicago’s French Pastry School, is a chocolatier alongside George.
The business’s slogan is, “Where time-honored tradition meets modern sophistication.”
“We take things passed down to us for generations and tweak them for today’s palate, especially using ingredients from our heritage, like honey, sesame and pomegranate,” Zoe says. They also have wholeheartedly embraced the current trend of pairing the chocolates with esoteric salts, especially fleur de sel and Himalayan.
Standouts include a square of tahini, milk chocolate and sesame brittle covered with dark chocolate; the Black Daphne, composed of ganache (chocolate blended with cream) imbued with portlike Mavrodaphne wine; a liquid caramel sprinkled with pinot noir salt; and a line of textured bars.
Zoe’s sources as many ingredients locally as it can: honey from the company’s own hives, cream from Harrisburg Dairies, herbs from Willow Pond Farm in nearby Fairfield. Jams that they don’t make themselves, from fruit and berries grown in the Blue Ridge Mountains around Waynesboro, they buy from McCutcheon’s Apple Products in Frederick, where they have a second shop.
They obtain their high-quality couverture, made from a blend of South American and African beans, from Albert Uster Imports in Gaithersburg.