"If you're gonna put something in your mouth, it's gotta be special," says Elizabeth Flores, the decorative painter-turned-chocolatier behind Sahagun Handmade Chocolates. Now that's a sweet cliché the Bite Club believes.

After all, by the time we toast New Year's Eve, our sweet spot hasn't just been hit--it has been pummeled. Incapable of saying no to office-party cookies and family dessert buffets, we officially join the sugar-sick fairies each year. Now, who can stomach the season's most special sweet--chocolate--in such a state?

That's why we've executed our own pre-emptive sugar strike this year. Not to shun chocolate--no, not that--but instead to rush in and seize all its dark and milky glory. We targeted, gobbled and even toasted the wares of a few local chocolate makers, before it got too late. Before the sugar-shock season set in.

Way back in 1999, our inspiration, Flores, started painting jewel designs on the tops of quarter-sized chocolates, which led to the creation of Sahagun Chocolates (pronounced saw-goon). After she moved from New York to Portland in 2001, Flores set up shop at the Portland Farmers Market and quickly earned a following for her heady, 60 to 70 percent cocoa truffles, mendicants and palets (short cylinders filled with ganache).

"When you have higher cocoa content, you get a real strong, earthy blast of chocolate flavor," says Flores, who took a "Chocolate Technology Course" last year at Richardson Researches in Hayward, California. "You eat one chocolate and it's enough."

But one chocolate isn't enough, because Flores offers such an interesting variety of pungent flavors culled from Valencia oranges, jasmine tea, cardamom, chilies and Grosso lavender. Find her palets at PastaWorks (3735 SE Hawthorne Ave., 232-1010), or order an individually crafted holiday package online (sahagunchocolates@earthlink.net).

After all that sweet talk, Bite Club was inspired to seek out chocolates filled with our other favorite holiday ingredient: alcohol. But it wasn't just chocolatiers who answered our call.

Sure, Portland's own Moonstruck Chocolate infuses its gorgeous handcrafted truffles with Bailey's Irish Cream and Clear Creek Apple Brandy. But consider Sokol Blosser Winery (5000 Sokol Blosser Lane, Dundee, 864-2282, www.sokolblosser.com), which spikes dark chocolate truffles from the Roseburg-based company Fog Mountain Chocolate, with its own 2000 Willamette Valley pinot noir. This year, Sokol Blosser also commissioned the Noir Bar, a specially blended sharp, dark chocolate from Oregon organic chocolatier, Dagoba, to pair with its pinots.

Wine, brandy, chocolate--it sounds like it's time to launch this season's sugar rush. Right now.

Create your own chocolate wonderland at

Pix Patisserie

when the sugary spot hosts its monthly

Concoct Yo' Own Dessert

event (3402 SE Division St., 232-4407. 7 pm Friday-Saturday, Dec. 12-13. $7).