a visit to dancing lion chocolate in manchester, new hampshire

Above, from center downward: Minarets, Bernal’s Tears, Belize

Last week I had the terrific fortune of visiting Manchester, New Hampshire, with the sole intent of stopping in to Dancing Lion Chocolate. A welcoming chocolate shop located in the downtown area, Dancing Lion is a sparkling gem that is run by the exuberant Master Chocolatier Richard Tango-Lowy and his team of friendly employees. The shop opened in November of last year, and has since received numerous media accolades.

I sat down (and stood up) with Richard, and talked shop over a hot bowl of Tikal drinking chocolate made from Vietnamese and Caribbean cacao beans, and flavored with vanilla and masa. Later, I took home some of his artisan creations – emphasis on art – and spent some time savoring their exquisite beauty, as well as their commendable taste.

In his shop, Tango-Lowy is the definition of enthusiastic. Whether describing his shop’s plans ten years down the line, explaining the poetry he creates for each piece of chocolate, demonstrating a giant air gun filled with cocoa butter that he witnessed while taking a master class in Tuscany, or expressing how his fascination with molecular chemistry guides product development, he is more energized by fine chocolate than anyone I have ever met.

Interestingly, Dancing Lion never makes the same bonbon twice. This begins to make sense to me as I listen to Tango-Lowy describe his shop’s constant innovation, and dedication to the product. It begins with the chocolate, of course: for example, Tango-Lowy has worked closely with Alan McClure of Patric Chocolate to create three custom blends, based on his desire for calculated flavor profiles. After choosing the chocolate, he chooses flavor pairings, bringing out subtle notes in the chocolate, whilst imbuing additional character.

Although reviews of his chocolate will serve to make readers jealous, given that these delicacies will never be made again, they will also offer insight into the style of chocolate art that is Dancing Lion.

Dancing Lion has a line of Signature Bars which are all as breathtaking as the one featured above. This particular bar, labeled 451, contains vanilla and cayenne, and is generously sprinkled with coarse sugar. The spice plays nicely with the dark chocolate, which is fudgy and bold, but still sweet.

This bar isn’t for the faint of heart, however, given its predominance of super spice. I am making the not-terribly drastic guess that this bar is named after Fahrenheit 451 – spicy burning mouth sensation, pretty fire-like color… burning of books, mechanical hounds, exiled book-lovers… you get the gist.

Minarets (shown above bottom left) are a combination of mango syrup, crystallized ginger and mango, almond paste, and ginger honey wine from Moonlight Meadery, all combined with 72% Vietnamese cacao and topped with Valrhona Tanariva 33% milk chocolate of Madagascar origin. They are sparkly and fudgy, and represent what I imagine ginger to be capable of accomplishing (but hitherto had never experienced). The chocolate is smoothly unctuous, with undertones of caramel highlighted by the almond paste.

Bernal’s Tears (spheres with colorful exteriors as shown above) are made with Los Ujuxtes 60% dark cacao from Danta Chocolate in Guatemala. The interior is a praliné of pecans and maple syrup that were cooked with jalapeños for added heat. Perhaps my interest in upping my spice tolerance has succeeded marvelously, for despite a noticeable burst of heat, I didn’t find this praliné to be as spicy as described. The interior, almost mousse-like in appearance, was a fantastic way to pair pecans and maple syrup with the soft but intense Danta chocolate.

Belize (square truffle with ganache interior as shown above) is the creation of Tango-Lowy’s apprentice chocolatier Laura, who recently returned from the country Belize and sought to recreate the flavors of Belize with the truffle Belize. Tanariva 33% is this time paired with rum, allspice, chilis and masa (corn), and enrobed in Vietnamese 72% dark. The dark chocolate flavor prevails, but is effectively balanced by the milky corn taste of the ganache. I would like to taste a bit more spice (either allspice or chili), as it is not overtly discernible.

Additional products available include chocolate lollies, marshmallows, biscotti, croissants, espresso, tea, and drinking chocolate. I sampled both the violet and Lebanese blackberry marshmallows, and while the blackberry marshmallows were understated and incredibly delicious, I found the violet marshmallows to be a trifle strong – after eating lunch, I could still taste the marshmallow I had eaten an hour previous. Perhaps the most surprising and impressive product I tasted were the biscotti, which at the time of my visit were flecked with the cheery exotic citrus fruit yuzu.

Finally, Dancing Lion creates seasonal products. For Easter, Tango-Lowy sculpted and painted unique chocolate eggs, each filled with small chocolate hearts. The woman in the photo above came into the shop to claim her egg during my visit, and was clearly quite pleased with its beauty.

In fact, everyone who visited seemed quite pleased; those I met left in good spirits, with smiles and fond pleasantries. “I was dreaming of this today,” customer S. declared over her cup of hot chocolate.

And now that I have experienced Dancing Lion, I can say with certainty that I am dreaming of it, too.

Dancing Lion Chocolate

917 Elm St
Manchester, NH 03101


Wednesday-Saturday 11h00-19h00

Follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

42 thoughts on “a visit to dancing lion chocolate in manchester, new hampshire

    1. I like the logo a lot too! I almost picture the cacao pods to be a boxing glove, but that would be a tad too violent:)

  1. What a beautiful, beautiful shop. I love that they never make the same thing twice – why do what everyone else is doing? And dang, Bernal’s Tears sounds delicious.

    1. They are delicious – half of one remains, but I doubt it would last in good condition for the duration of a transpacific voyage:)

      My thoughts exactly – why stick with the norms? It isn’t what true artists do!

  2. Wow, I am incredibly impressed by all of those chocolate offerings. They are all so beautiful and you can see and anticipate the texture of them just by looking at the cut bonbons. If I ever find myself in Manchester, I am so there.

    1. Aren’t they gorgeous? Since I’d been planning to visit Dancing Lion for nearly a year and a half (long before the official shopfront opened!), I’m so glad I jumped on my chance to stop by.

  3. This shop looks great!

    Btw… we tried to do our own macarons last Sunday, and they are great!

    1. Hey, congrats! It’s about time I make another batch of macarons, but I’m undecided on which direction to take my flavors in this time… what kind did you make?

      1. Just plain chocolate… we decided to start with something easy. But now that the strawberry season is close, I see some more macarons in the future!

  4. OH drinking chocolate. Starbucks sold what I imagine to be a bastard version of something absolutely amazing. I even liked the Starbucks version so I’m sure the real thing would be divine.
    My ears also perked to the “praliné of pecans and maple syrup that were cooked with jalapeños for added heat.” HUBBA HUBBA

    1. Hah, I like your Starbucks assessment;) Dancing Lion sells two types of drinking chocolate: brewed with water, or brewed with milk. I had the water-based (well, chocolate-based, really) version, and it was fantastic and plenty smooth. So delicious!

      Hehe, yep, I think you’d be a fan of the Bernal’s Tears.

  5. Oh my! I think I would have gone in for the name and logo alone but that chocolate … and everything else pictured and described … looks and sounds delicious. So beautiful though that I would initially have trouble biting into it.

    1. It was a very special and relaxing place, I absolutely adored it!

      I got to soak up the atmosphere for a few hours, so I didn’t have tooooo much trouble destroying the beauty I took home with me:)

  6. What a beautiful selection! It sounds like you got a lot out of your visit. Next time I’m in Manchester I may have to swing by!

    1. Definitely swing by! It took me long enough to get there, as I never found myself to be, perchance, in Manchester. It was well worth the detour, though!

      1. I almost always fly out of Manchester now when I’m going home. It’s a long drive, but now I can get some amazing chocolate out of it!

  7. These chocolates are so beautiful and artistic!

    I haven’t forgotten about our chocolate project Emma. It’s taking me time to get answers (why is the mailing system such a mystery?) but I am still looking into it! :)

    1. They are beautiful chocolates, agreed:)

      I haven’t forgotten either, but after seeing your comment this morning, I finally got around to making the purchases necessary to make the trade on my end! Now to find the right box size. I’ll be in touch;)

      1. Ooh that’s exciting!! OK, I’ll let you know when I’ve figured out how to mail those bad boys outta here.

  8. Oh, it all sounds too wonderful for words! And I almost can’t breathe, envying these people with the courage to create a career out of their dreams.

    1. Doesn’t it sound wonderful? What I didn’t mention in the article is that Rich puts in 60 hours per week here, while still working part time elsewhere. That’s a major labor of love!

      Oh, and don’t envy, appreciate. Or envy if you must, but that may lead to more wrinkles :P

  9. I had seen a feature about The Dancing Lion on Chronicle one evening while watching TV but I haven’t been to their shop as yet.

    1. I heard about that tv feature – what terrific publicity. If you manage to stop by, I guarantee it will be a lovely experience!

    1. Well, Rich told me that on his own, it took him ten years to learn to temper the chocolate properly for making bonbons. So even if you got the recipe, it might be awhile before you could recreate it;)

      I definitely understand your opinion on wanting to buy a favorite, but given Dancing Lion’s focus on art, I also understand the desire to continue changing and acting on new ideas and impulses.

    1. I live in the next state over, but Manchester is still a 6.5 hour drive for me! So I wish I lived a bit closer, too:)

  10. my gaaashh! Bar 451 certainely looks damn pretty! I bet I’m gonna dream about chocolate tonight because of your tasty post!

    Vietnamese and Caribbean cacao beans?! That drinking chocolate must have been real good.

    1. Hehe, and it is damn tasty to boot! I wish you the sweetest of chocolatey dreams:)

      The drinking chocolate was absolutely phenomenal – I’d love to try a milk-based version for comparison.

  11. His goods are just so…exquisite!!!! So arty and quirky yet classic. And yes, I’m so jealous!! that Minaret sounds super delicious and intriguing. But pray, what is that baby pink sugar cube-like thing?

    1. Exquisite they are, that’s a good word for them. But jealous, with all the capers you’ve been up to recently? Jealous, with your upcoming return stint to NYC? This is the only excitement I’ve had in months!! Okay, not quite true:D

      The baby pink sugar cube-like thing is a violet-flavored marshmallow! Very thin, very floofy. While these were a solid pink, the blackberry marshmallows (not pictured) were a bit darker and flecked with color.

  12. Wow, what a fantastic shop! I think I would love everything, given that I like some chocolate with my spice. It’s also so great that everything is always new. Basically, I want to go to there!

    1. It’s a sweet little gem of a place, and I agree, since products are always changing, it increases the desire to visit… often!

      Finally just finished the spicy bar last night – goodbye, beautiful work of art:)

And now I'd like to pass the mic / So you c'mon and do anything you like ...aka, Leave your reply.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s