Food Destinations #3: My Favorite Chocolate Shop

“Come with me, and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination…”


I’ve raved about Pure Imagination chocolates many times before on this blog, but I don’t every think I’ve gone into detail about *why* it’s so great. For this edition of  Food Destinations, we’re asked to talk about our favorite chocolate shop. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to talk about a place that plays a huge part in my life – I get by there at least once a week for a chocolate fix. And it’s a combination of things (location, quality of the ingredients, and the man behind the chocolate) that makes it a destination instead of just a shop.

Pure Imagiation - Daniel Cooper

Located in the historic North Market in the Short North area in Columbus, Pure Imagination has been a Columbus institution since 2001. The opening of the shop was the culimination of a dream for its owner, Daniel Cooper, who worked three jobs to save enough money to do so. In his free time, he experimented in his basement chocolate lab for over 10 years in order to perfect his self-taught chocolate-making skills. Armed with top quality ingredients and some acquired information from others in the chocolate industry, he entered the basement a novice and emerged as the artisan he is today.

Anyone who has ever met Daniel is familiar with his amiable persona – he always greets his customers with a smile, a few minutes of chit chat, and the passion for chocolate making that is apparent in everything that he does. He is truly one of the nicest and most unique individuals I have ever met, and my life is better for knowing him. Over the years, I’ve come to consider him a friend as well.

Fueled on Red Bull (his breakfast of choice), he agreed to meet with me down at his shop this morning so we could talk chocolate. And talk about chocolate we did! We discussed everything from his chocolate preferences (his favorite of his own line to make and eat is the Midnight Extra Dark truffle, because he likes the look, taste, and purity of it) to where he’d go for chocolate in Paris (he’d find the oldest shop in town, non-chain, and spend the entire amount there).

Pure Imagination Chocolate Display

One of the reasons that his confections are so high-quality is because he’s a firm believer that the quality of the chocolate depends on the ingredients you start with. His commitment to quality means that he uses the best cocoa beans that he can get his hands on, along with the best fresh ingredients that are available. Along with the high quality of his chocolates, his innovation also comes through in spades – his signature chocolate, Pearls of Pure Imagination, which is a dark chocolate cup filled with dark ganache and topped with crunchy “pearls”, is not something that can be found anywhere else.

Pure Imagination Theobroma

He owes his much of his success to his love of his customers and his 86-year old grandmother, who has been his mentor, inspiration, and has worked tirelessly with him in his shop until recently. And the book that has inspired him the most? “Swiss Confiseur” by the Richemont Craft School, which he considers his “chocolate bible”.

Daniel has big plans for Pure Imagination. If the chocolate fairy suddenly left $25,000 under his pillow, he’d spend it all on new displays and packaging. He recently opened a production facility in Hilliard to keep up with the high demand, and is working on launching his Elevation line. In five years, he hopes to be one of the innovative leaders in the chocolate industry, and in ten years, he’d like to see his shop be a reason people come to Columbus. He has hopes that Pure Imagination will pass down to the next generation – but his nearly two year old son Skyler hasn’t developed a taste for chocolate quite yet. Like Willy Wonka (his favorite chocolate-related movie, natch), he hopes that Skyler will want that Golden Ticket himself when he gets older.

With impressive credits on his resume like providing the chocolates for the Oscar gift bags last year, I think that his goals are well within reach. He adds that he thanks the residents of Columbus for making him who he is today. His obvious love for his customers is what keeps him going.

I’d like to share the goodness with you guys, because I believe his chocolates really are the best I’ve ever tasted, and the proof of that is *in* the tasting. In honor of this event, I want to pony up and send one person at random a selection of nine Pure Imagination assorted truffles. Just comment on this entry in my blog to enter, and I’ll draw a winner on November 15th. You don’t need to be local to enter, I’ll ship to wherever the winner resides (or get a gift card if you’re local and want to visit the shop yourself).

If you don’t want to take your chances, and want to try his chocolate for yourself, head on down to the North Market in Columbus, Whole Foods in Columbus (and soon in Cleveland, I hear!), or order on the web from the Pure Imagination web site. You won’t be sorry!

ETA: It’s now November 16th, and the round-up for this event still hasn’t been posted, so I’m extending the deadline for entering the drawing until 2 weeks after the round-up is posted. I’ll update this entry with a final date for the drawing when I have it. Thanks for understanding!

ETA2: The round-up has finally been posted, so the drawing will be held on December 1st, with the winner announced in the Friday Roundup and also e-mailed. 

10 thoughts on “Food Destinations #3: My Favorite Chocolate Shop

  1. Nicole

    That store sounds amazing. I’m going to have to sign up for your draw, please, because I don’t expect to be in Columbus anytime soon (if ever).

  2. Sam Madell

    What a great post: your enthusiasm for Daniel Cooper and his chocolates is contagious … does your draw for a free sample extend to Australia??

    Also, when you say that Daniel “uses the best cocoa beans that he can get his hands on” – are you actually saying that he makes his own CHOCOLATE from scratch (i.e. from the raw beans)? If so, that is truly remarkable. Good on him!

  3. Ineluctable Moe

    I know some pretty wonderful chocolate shops on the West Coast . . . a head-to-head taste test would be fun.

  4. shelly

    Thanks for this introduction to such a dedicated artisan. You mentioned that he selects his own cacao beans. Does he actually produce his own chocolate, rather than buying it from Valrhona, Callebaut, etc.? Just curious. Hmm, his truffles look really good. I may have to do some online ordering :).

  5. Lisa

    Your description of his chocolates sound amazing. I especially like the sound of his favorite Midnight Extra Dark Truffle, as I love the dark stuff too – the darker the better! hee! You say his confections are coming to Cleveland? How do you mean? An actual shop? or his line will be sold in other stores? I look forward to finding out!

    There are a couple local chocolate shops in my area (Mentor) and there is always Malley’s – but they don’t thrill me.. there is nothing exciting about their chocolates. Do you think I’m a chocolate snob? haha!

    I’m especially amazed at how he self taught himself in his basement.. I’m just in awe over that!

  6. Jessica

    Hello –
    I really have enjoyed reading about this man’s shop for two reasons. First, I have been surprised! I moved from the midwest (indiana) to Switzerland. Now I live in the chocolate capital of the world, and yet who knew there were such good things so close to home before I left. I wish I had known!! I’m sad I cannot try them.
    If you are ever in South Bend (though they’ve spread to toll road plazas too) you should visit the original South Bend Chocolate Cafe. Their walnut fudge and chocolate dipped spoons for hot chocolate are to die for!

    Second, I’m impressed. You wrote that you met with the owner and I commend you for that. I love seeing someone else get out there and really interact, not just visit and comment. I don’t know if you’re a journalist or just curious…but kudos.

  7. Liosliath

    I stopped by his shop on my latest visit to the North Market (today!), and I have to tell you, thank you thank you thank you! It’s the best chocolate I’ve ever had ANYWHERE in the world.

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