Restaurant Review: Chocolate Cartel/Van Rixel Bros. Gelato & Sorbet

Chocolate Cartel/Van Rixel Bros. Gelato & Sorbet

Hosho McCreesh
5 min read
Prepare To Be Complimented
Various chocolates (Eric Williams Photography)
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The holiday season is back again—or maybe it already has you by the scruff of the neck, depending on your perspective. There are parties with family and friends, potlucks at work, and somehow we’re supposed to shoehorn finding time to buy gifts into our regular work week. How can we do it all without losing that joyous holiday spirit along the way? I opt for streamlining—pulling off one of those three-birds-with-one-stone kind of deals—and man oh man have the Van Rixel Bros. got me covered. Located just south of I-40’s Juan Tabo exit, the small, sheet-metaled exterior belies a world of wonders within. Pop in and maybe you’ll catch Kelvin behind the counter, a friendly face who was happy to let me sample a few of his personal favorites.

First are the gelatos ($5.50 a pint/$2.50 for 4-oz “liddles”). Expect some wildly inventive flavor combinations that make for a smooth, balanced end to festivities. Fair warning: you’ll have a helluva hard time deciding on one or even just two flavors to take. The good news is that you really can’t pick a bad one. There’s the Venetian tiramisu with its slight notes of ladyfinger and caramel silk and the blueberry lavender—a sumptuous fruit and flowery collaboration with the Farm Shop at Los Poblanos. Maybe you’re after something crazier? Try the red chile chocolate chunk. It’s that familiar spice and dust of powdered red chile that hits the throat, with crunchy bits of frozen dark chocolate sweetened with cane sugar and agave. There’s the lavender lemon chiffon which balances the citrus against the herbaceous must of lavender, and the smoked sea salt and honey caramel has just enough salt to offset the cream and velvet of the caramel. The Sri Lanka cinnamon was subtle on spice while clean and sweet. But if you want your mind blown, get the strawberry habanero. It’s a fireworks display in your mouth: Just when you think the fresh strawberry is done, the habanero lands like a sucker-punch.

For vegans or those just looking to cleanse the palate between courses, they offer up some silky sorbets as well. The Mayan spiced chocolate sorbet has no dairy and no gluten, and delivers enough chocolate flavor to help the conscientious eater forget about ice cream. The peach and champagne sorbet is a bright stone-fruit dream—which is saying something for a peach dessert connoisseur like me. And if you’re in the mood to experiment, I suggest using the gelatos or sorbets in your holiday cocktails. The Thai coconut sorbet, with its chunks of shredded coconut, and luscious “milk” is right at home in a piña colada, and my wife has already come up with a filthy, unprintable name for a tequila-based concoction made with pomegranate seeds and the mango passionfruit sorbet.

If it’s a box of chocolates you’re after, you can pick from their truffles, nut giandujas, caramels and a couple cordial-like liqueurs. I took a 12-piece ($23)—highly recommended, as it gives you a decent pass over many of the flavors on offer. For truffles, I first tried the deep, dark cocoa of the pomegranate. The espresso truffle was rich and smooth—so smooth that it misses the texture of the bits of espresso bean that the espresso bar had. The blood orange truffle has the perfect hint of grapefruit-sour, roiling in a creamy center. The blueberry port masterfully blends both notes—quite a trick when the berry can be so subtle, and ort so powerful. The caramels were all great, so choose (milk vs. dark, salt, chile, etc.) based on what (if anything) you’re pairing them with. The nut giandujas were, like everything else, pretty as a picture and executed with precision. The pine nut and salt has a piñon bite that is instantly recognizable, and the almond is butter-smooth and earthy. The toffee and mixed nut has bits of each gone chewy in the sugar and toffee veneer. In the liqueur department, I had the orange (made with Cointreau), the Patron XO coffee, and the cherry brandy. Each is a small chocolate cup blend of booze and sugary fondant, so expect the burst when you bite them. There are chocolate bars ($1.80) and chocolate covered snacks that will have you picking between milk or dark chocolate, and topped with things like toffee, bee pollen or espresso bits—the perfect addition to a stocking or gift basket.

So whether you’re shopping for a work potluck, family dinners or you’re just looking for some Albuquerque-specific gifts, the Chocolate Cartel/Van Rixel Bros. Gelato & Sorbet deliver insane flavor combinations, and tremendous quality with their wide range of inventive confections. Plus, you’ll be doing your part to support the local economy over the faceless mega-corporations of holiday industry—and that always feels right. But be warned: Wherever you bring these artisanal treats—you better prepare to be complimented!

Chocolate Cartel/Van Rixel Bros. Gelato & Sorbet

315 Juan Tabo Blvd. NE Ste. A


Mon-Fri: 11am-6pm, Sat: noon-4pm

Alibi Recommends: Strawberry habanero gelato, mango passionfruit sorbet (with or without booze), and sharing a box of hand-chosen truffles, nut giandujas, caramels and liqueurs with holiday revelers.

Vibe: A world of pure imagination … near the foothills.

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