Chocolate Cartel – Albuquerque, New Mexico

The Chocolate Cartel, a chocoholic’s paradise on Juan Tabo

“Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands —
and then eat just one of the pieces.”

Judith Viorst, American Author & Journalist

“Betcha can’t eat just one.”  In the early 1960s, Lay’s Potato Chips made that slogan a household phrase, in the process increasing potato chip sales significantly and opening up new markets internationally.  Today, North Americans consume approximately 1.2 billion pounds of potato chips every year, making it the most consumed snack food in the entire continent.  There is no physiological basis, however, for Lay’s assertion that its salty snack favorite is so addictive it can’t be resisted.  The same can’t be said of chocolate

Chocolate most assuredly does have psychoactive properties.  Similar to turkey, chocolate is replete with tryptophan, amino acids in the human diet which assist in the production of serotonin, our mood-modulating neurotransmitter. It is also imbued with phenyl-ethylamine, a substance which stimulates the same bodily reaction as falling in love.

A chocolate menagerie under glass

Female humorists have often extolled the superiority of chocolate over sex, even comprising a list of twenty reasons chocolate is better than sex. Perhaps in retort, Italian researchers (mostly men) “discovered” that women who eat chocolate regularly have a better sex life than those who abstain from chocolate goodness. Women who consume chocolate frequently were shown to have higher levels of desire, arousal and satisfaction from sex than women who deny themselves chocolate.

Milton S. Hershey, John Cadbury, Frank C. Mars, Henri Nestle, Willy Wonka…all famous chocolatiers, all men.  Hmm.  Could it be they all got into the trade because they suspected chocolate could help them “get lucky?”  They wouldn’t be the first.  Mexico’s despotic emperor Montezuma drank as many as fifty goblets of chocolate (flavored with chili peppers, vanilla, wild bee honey and aromatic flowers) because he believed chocolate had stamina-enhancing properties which came in handy when “entertaining” concubines.

Dark chocolate turtles: macadamia nuts, pecan, cashews and almonds

Most men, it seems, also believe in the ability of chocolate to help us advance in the game of seduction (either that or we lack the imagination to buy our significant others anything else) because we buy some 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate each year for Valentine’s Day.  If the fact that tons of chocolate are left on shelves is any indication, maybe we’re not buying enough.  Maybe the chocolate we’re buying–Brach’s, Nestle’s, Dove–isn’t having our desired effect.

Since 2009, men and women throughout the Duke City have improved the quality of their chocolate purchases, ergo perhaps the quality of our trysts.  That’s because Scott and Tim Van Rixel relocated their nationally acclaimed Xocoatl Chocolates from Taos, renaming it The Chocolate Cartel.  In their 5,500 square-foot facility on Juan Tabo, which includes a retail shop, customers have discovered the difference truly great chocolates can make.

Sea salt and caramel gelatto (left) and Mayan Spiced Chocolate Sorbet

Truly great chocolate isn’t cheap like the stuff left on shelves the day after Valentine’s Day. Assortments of chocolate truffles, available in quantities of four, six or twelve, start at eight dollars for a four piece box.  No ordinary truffles are these: Ultra Dark, Espresso, Irish Cream, Honey & Pollen, Pomegranate, Smoked Chile, Raspberry & Rose, Almond Amaretto, Cinnamon, Blueberry Port and Blood Oranges.  The flavor profiles are so absolutely amazing, your eyes might just tear up in sheer awe.  The smoked chile, in particular, warrants a salute to Montezuma, especially when the deceptively piquant chile kicks in.  New flavors are periodically introduced.

The Chocolate Cartel obtains its beans, the criollo cacao, from a Venezuelan supplier renown for its organic farming.  Criollo cacao beans produce the highest quality chocolate though its yields are low because of their susceptibility to diseases.  In the hands of certified master chocolatier Scott Van Rixel, the very best in handcrafted chocolates are created from these most rare of cacao beans.  Chocolate Cartel chocolates are both smooth and intensely flavored, rich and mellow, decadent and delicious beyond any chocolate you’ll find in Albuquerque.

To say the Chocolate Cartel is a serious chocoholic’s paradise is an understatement.  Its offerings include chocolate covered almonds, assorted turtles, Mayan hot chocolate, dark chocolate flourless cake and chocolate bars. As popular as the chocolates are, the Cartel has earned almost as much acclaim for its gelatto and sorbet products, both of which are without peer in New Mexico.

The Mayan-spiced chocolate sorbet (cinnamon, red chile, almonds, cocoa powder) is smooth and creamy, devoid of the graininess found in inferior sorbet.   Unlike ice cream, sorbet isn’t made from cream, milk or egg yolks, but there’s absolutely no skimping on the rich chocolate goodness of this one.  It’s an adult chocolate kids of all ages can appreciate.

I was first introduced to what may be the Van Rixel’s magnus opus at Nicky V’s Neighborhood Pizzeria where the sea salt and caramel gelatto (local milk, agave, no corn syrup, gluten-free) stands out as Albuquerque’s best gelatto by far.  Made with a lower butterfat content than ice cream, but with many of the same ingredients, it is the essence of the best sea salt caramel candies in a frozen treat.

At the Chocolate Cartel, you definitely can’t eat just one.  This is the best chocolate in Albuquerque!

Chocolate Cartel
315 Juan Tabo Blvd, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505 797-1193
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 4 June 2011
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Sea Salt and Caramel Gelatto, Mayan Spiced Chocolate Sorbet, Pecan Chocolate Turtle

The Chocolate Cartel on Urbanspoon

3 thoughts on “Chocolate Cartel – Albuquerque, New Mexico

  1. my dad worked for some greek candy makers there in 1938 where he met and married my mother. would you have any information on what company that would be and if there are any family members who would give me more information? martin greer

    1. Hello Martin

      Can you be more specific as to the city or town in which your dad worked? From the 1920s onward, Greek families have owned and operated a number of restaurants throughout New Mexico, but not as many candy-making operations.

      The most famous Greek candy makers in New Mexico are the Pappas family which has been in business in Raton since 1923. That would fit the timeline you’re researching.


  2. 2nd Annual Southwest Chocolate & Coffee Fest Seeks Vendors
    Decadent treats and savory drinks set to tempt over 10,000 attendees

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – October 24, 2011

    Contact: Dean Strober, Blue River Productions
    505.510.1312 |

    Albuquerque, NM – The Southwest Chocolate & Coffee Fest will return to the Albuquerque Convention Center March 23-25, 2012 with delightful chocolate and coffee items to sample and purchase. Event organizers are seeking new vendors to fill over 85 booths. Past vendors have included the very best chocolatiers, coffee roasters, candy makers, coffee & tea shops, chefs, bakers, caterers, ice-cream parlors, breweries and wineries.

    The Southwest Chocolate & Coffee Fest is the region’s largest gathering of makers and manufacturers of all things coffee and chocolate. This year, event highlights will include the largest chocolate fountain in New Mexico, chocolate baking contests, chocolate eating contests, live music and professional cooking demonstrations by local chefs, which will be filmed and posted online by The Food Channel.

    “We had a very successful first year, with 9,000 attendees shopping and supporting nearly 40 local chocolate and coffee companies,” Fest producer Dean Strober said. “This year, to comfortably accommodate both attendees and vendors, two stages, numerous coffee lounges and a dedicated Kids Zone, we have increased the space to 60,000 square feet.”

    Early bird vendor booth prices start at just $350 for a single 10 foot by 10 foot space and $550 for a double booth space. Early bird pricing is available through November 15. Booths will be available for booking through early February, but Strober advises interested vendors to act soon as space is expected to sell out.

    The Southwest Chocolate & Coffee Fest takes places March 23-25, 2012 at the Albuquerque Convention Center. Tickets will be available online for $8 or at the door for $10. Children 12 and under are free. For more information and for vendor registration visit


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