Fancy Food Show
Monday, January 18, 2010
Sunday was the first day of the annual Winter Fancy Food Show at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. It’s my fourth time attending. This year I have a list of 250 companies exhibiting with confectionery products. I hope to make it through the list ... though my first day was cut a little short as I had to drive all the way from Los Angeles at six in the morning.
I haven’t noticed any specific trends, which is great to be honest. Yeah, there’s a lot of sea salt, chili and exotic fruits in candy now, but sometimes it’s not so much about trends but just new availability of ingredients. When I’m at Fancy Food, I usually concentrate on candy, but that doesn’t mean that other foods and drinks catch my fancy.
Here are a few things I noticed:
I love hot chocolate, though of course I don’t write about it much here because it’s not actually candy. Still, when I’m at trade shows I love to try the stuff. One of my favorites is the Mexican-style which varies quite a bit. This version from Kekua is stone ground cocoa, a touch of sugar. The tablets are easy to crush up and dissolve in milk (or water) either hot or cold. It’s available with or without almonds. I tasted the almond-less version.
What I liked about it was how it had a hearty toasted flavor, kind of like malt-o-meal or the barley tea I drink from Japan. They also make them in little nuggets so you have the option of either making hot chocolate with them or just eating them. Since the sugar isn’t combined with the cacao completely, it’s grainy and more like a dry cookie dough. (Kekua website.)
Lake Champlain has introduced a new Five Star Bar: Five Star Granola Bar. It’s in the same shape as the rest of the line and features a ganache/cream center filled with crunchy oats, almonds and cranberries covered in dark chocolate. The variation in crunch is fun as is the cereal heartiness of the granola. Of course the chocolate is nice too!
They also said there will be two new Breakfast Egg versions for Easter - they’re a larger Five Star Bar in either the Granola version or a Peanut Butter Crisp.
The folks at How Do You Take Your Coffee who make Javaz, the expertly roasted coffee beans covered in chocolate and beautiful shell also have some over-caffeinated products. I reviewed their GoGo Beans before and saw that they’ll have GoGo Drops soon. They’re the size and format of M&Ms, except the coffee flavored chocolate in a candy shell is then hyper-caffeinated. Not something I should be eating, but definitely a find for students and folks who need an extra kickstart.
Just about anything with whole nuts attracts me. I stopped at Valor which is a Spanish chocolate company that I’ve never reviewed before. They make an incredible hot chocolate, for those who have had Churros y Chocolate, you’ll what kind I mean. They also have chocolate bars and I mentioned in a previous Candy Tease that they introduced single portion bars. Well now I’ve tasted them - whole Spanish almonds in silky chocolate ... quite satisfying.
The other whole nut stop was Lindt where they were showing off their new Grandeur bars which come in milk or dark chocolate and feature whole Hazelnuts. I’m a sucker for hazelnuts as well, and Lindt’s chocolate pairs excellently with it. I’ve already seen these in stores (Target) and plan to pick up a full bar (or both bars) for review in the future.
Things are beautiful. Food is beautiful. Pralus, whom I’ve already fallen for, had an amazing display of their beautifully packaged products at their booth. There’s so much attention to detail at the Fancy Food Show. There were several other companies that I got a similar vibe from (that I’ll be covering later) that understand that we feast first with our eyes, then with our mouth and then with our minds. It’s a whole experience and I think gives more to appreciate.
One of the other non-candy things I do is discover cheese. I love cheese, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve become lactose-sensitive. So I have to eat less and less. The cool thing is that goat and sheep milk cheeses are easier for us lactose-averse folks to digest. So at the show I made full use of the tastings to find new products. One of the new lines I found is from Marcelli Formaggi of Abruzzi, Italy. They use sheep’s milk to make an incredible array of ricottas. There was a cave aged ricotta that was like a blue on the outside and a firm creamy ricotta on the inside. Amazing. I fear I’m going to be putting in a few web orders soon if I can’t find them in stores. (Marcelli website.)
(All photos above by Emanuel Treeson)
Friday, February 13, 2009
I have more candy than I will ever be able to review at my pace of 5-7 products a week. Here are a few items I’ve tasted recently and some notes on them (most gratuitous photos). So here are some small bites of a whole week’s worth of candy. Get ready to scroll!
I visited with Anne Hickey and the Plush Puffs’ crew when I was at the Fancy Food Show. At closing time they gave me a box of their Vanilla Bean Marshmallows. It’s new packaging for them, which I really like. It’s still spare and highlights the product well.
But what I liked best is that they’ve made the marshmallows a bit smaller. Now they’re 1” cubes instead of the larger version I tried several years ago. This means that when toasted the center gets molten before the outside catches on fire. (There are important physical laws that even marshmallows must obey.)
The box has been sitting next to my stove top and some evenings I’ll toast up two or three for dessert on the gas burner. It makes the house smell wonderful.
I visited a few times with Seth Ellis Chocolatier while at the Fancy Food Show. They had a lovely array of samples, but for some reason I eschewed their truffles and became obsessed with their Candied Lemons.
Perhaps it’s because of this little nugget from their website, “We candy the freshest organic lemon slices slowly, over twenty-five days, using a traditional European method to preserve the intense lemon flavors.”
The box contains one full lemon slice plus and extra quarter. Special bonus, the packaging is made with wind power (well, that and some tree pulp).
The candying doesn’t make the peel as soft as some others, but then again, sometimes that makes them gummy and flavorless. This definitely has a bitter bite and because the pulp is also still there, it’s quite tangy. The dark chocolate is creamy and also has a woodsy bite to it.
I must have been obsessed with lemon and lemongrass at the Fancy Food Expo because the other item I knew I had to bring home was L’Estasi Dolce Sweet Ecstasy Lemongrass Ginger Truffles.
Lemongrass is a bit of a strange flavor. I love it in Thai cooking (hot & sour soup especially). It imparts the zesty notes of lemon peel, but it has a soft side to it as well, that I can only compare to bubble gum.
These nicely sized truffles are a real ganache made with lots of real cream.
The center is soft and silky with an immediate soft flavor of lemongrass. Then there’s the warming power of the ginger. The woodsy ginger flavors never come forward, it’s just that little burn in the background. This all combines well with the slight dairy flavor of the cream and the mellow dark chocolate.
One of the Fancy Food Show items I mentioned in my show notes was Rubicon Bakery.
They not only make all natural, wholesome products right here in the United States, their mission is to help people in need by giving job training, jobs placement assistance to work their way out of poverty.
The package pictured here is a mock up used for the distribution of the samples, the real thing is much nicer.
They’re little meringue kisses, a little larger than a Hershey’s Kiss. The center is a crunchy fluffed egg white made flavorful by the addition of gobs of real freeze dried strawberries. To seal in the crispness, they’re dipped in bittersweet Guittard chocolate.
The freaky part about the whole combination is that it’s so tasty & satisfying yet so low in calories. They say that a serving of five is only 90 calories (about 100 calories per ounce, amazing for a chocolate product). So even if you ate a whole box of 15 bites, you’re still under the 300 mark of most king sized candy bars.
SFGate wrote about them last week too, those lucky dogs, it’s a local company for them.
These candies have single-handedly caused me to swear off of all Andes products except for the original Creme de Menthe.
The Mocha Mint Indulgence is a freak product. I don’t even know what it is. The pieces are ugly (sorry, no photo of the interior, this is supposed to be a tantalizing post). Putty brown mockolate over a layer of mint green confection like the center of the regular Andes.
It smells like minted cardboard. The texture is like grainy wax. The flavor is like musty Christmas candles found in a drawer at an estate sale.
To close is something to restore our confidence in nuts: Ococoa Nut Butter Cups made right here in Los Angeles by Diana Malouf. I picked them up from her in person before Christmas but never go around to posting the review.
More than just gourmet peanut butter cups, these are tall cups filled with exotic nut butters & fruits. The flavor array is: Classic Peanut Butter, Pistachio Date, Sesame Fig, Hazelnut Chocolate, Almond Cherry, Cashew Apricot, Marzipan Truffle, Macadamia Guava, and Sunflower Honey.
The box is elegant and substantial.
The cups are about an inch high with a cute ruffle of chocolate around the collar and an inch in diameter at the top.
They were a bugger to photograph the interior, luckily their website has the fantastic and accurate cross sections that you can peruse. This one is Guava jam & macadamia nut butter. Probably the best experience I’ve had with macadamias & guava, which aren’t really my fave, but done very well here.
I was attracted most to the Sesame Fig, which I gobbled up after taking a photo. The sesame paste is combined with chocolate to create a sesame Nutella of sorts, though quite firm. Inside the center was a reservoir of fig jam. The toasted & grassy flavors of the sesame went well with the fresh & slightly tangy notes of the fig. Sunflower Honey was next on my hit list. Sunflower seeds have such a distinctive taste. This center was like a creamed honey with sunflower flavors.
Cashew Apricot was really decadent, as the apricot’s pine-notes were offset by the deep toasted butter flavors of the cashews. The hazelnut was also stellar, the freshness of the nut butter was so different from many other guianduias I have regularly. (I shared some others and didn’t take complete notes on the rest.)
Unlike many nut creations that rely on salt to bring the nut flavors forward, Ococoa lets the sweetness of the nuts come through. The only problem I had with these, if it could be called that, was the construction. The chocolate cap on the top was very thick, so biting the pieces in half wasn’t very easy. While I don’t think it’s imperative that all chocolates be dissected, it meant that there was always a larger reservoir of chocolate at the end when sometimes I really wanted to end on a nut note.
They’ll set you back $22 for a 9 piece box.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Each day on the floor is a cacophony of flavors, smells, colors and even sounds. There’s a sociability element to it and at certain times of the day some booths are jam packed while at other times it’s mystifying that they’re not. And as tempted as I am to grab people walking by to get them to try something that I’ve just discovered, I have to remember to focus on my own goal, which is to let you readers know what’s on the cusp of breaking out as a big new trend and what classic favorites are still out there to be experienced.
One item I tasted the first day and promptly forgot their name was Rubicon Bakery. So after searching for two days, I found them again and even got another sample for later review. They’re all-natural freeze-dried meringue kisses flavored with berries and dipped in Guittard’s dark chocolate. They’re called CocoaBerries and already have a great following with calorie-conscious folks. Low calories & oodles of antioxidants aside, I loved the Strawberry ones which aren’t at all sweet, but bursting with a fragrant & tangy crunch inside a dark chocolate shell.
On the second day my eyes glazed over part way through, just as I arrived in the California Pavilion (really just a corner where a lot of the California companies were concentrated). So I went back with an empty stomach and a renewed sense of adventure.
Coco-Luxe, which has amazingly beautiful packaging, has some new bars. I was smitten with the one called Monkeyin’ Around which is milk chocolate with banana chips & cocoa nibs. I got an array of all their cocoa nib bars (Happy Trails in Dark and Spumoni in White) for a more extensive try back at Candy Blog Studios.
After a few near misses, I finally found Brandini Toffee, which is made in Southern California and has won oodles of awards. The flavors are dark and woodsy, with strong butter and burnt sugar flavors. Then just a touch of chocolate to hold some crushed almond bits to the pieces. They package them in tins or boxes.
I also took a few minutes to check back in with companies that I’ve tried quite a few times. Plush Puffs was there, with the best kind of display, an interactive one. They had little set of burners for fresh-toasting your choice of marshmallows. (They’ve made them a bit smaller, which makes them one big bite or two small bites.) I had a vanilla bean one which smelled so wonderful as it toasted. I paired it with a fresh and wonderful Peerless Cappuccino (one of the other benefits of a mixed food show instead of a single focus one like All Candy Expo).
There were some other fun marshmallow goods at the show. I enjoyed a nice taste of Butter Baked Goods had a Matcha Tea Marshmallow. They were light and puffy, not too sweet with all the fragrant punch of green tea and none of the bitterness.
Though the combination of chocolate and coffee beans has been around for a while, I thought Javaz by How Do You Take Your Coffee brought a few new twists to the idea. They have both milk and dark chocolate covered coffee beans that are specially selected & roasted to be good tasting when eaten, using organic and fair trade beans. And then they’re also given a candy shell.
They also have a line of Java Rocks which are little coffee infused chocolate pieces that are covered in candy shells that look like little pebbles. I hope to get more info on them as they start appearing in markets.
I was so pleased though to get to spend at least a half an hour at an import company called Crossings French Food (website). They handle French confectionery products including some of my favorites such as Arnaud Soubeyran (Montelimar Nougat) and Chocolat Bonnat and never made fun of my pronunciations.
Everything is just so stunningly beautiful that I wanted hug it. (Okay, maybe I was high on sugar, caffeine & chocolate.) I don’t even know where to begin, but here are a few highlights:
Dragees Pecou is an old French company that takes their candy panning very seriously. The colors are bright and crisp, the palette fresh and appetizing and the ingredients sound fantastic. One of the appealing new developments is that they’re going to be selling them in small packages of about 4 ounces each (often you can only get them in bulk or repackaged by a third party).
I tried (pictured left to right):
Little meringue kisses dipped in milk, white and dark chocolate.
70% Dark Chocolate in heart shapes and pastel colors.
I also tried these crazy-divine Chocavenlines Hazelnut in Chocolate Candy Coated, White which were a hazelnut covered in chocolate and then a melt-in-your-mouth white coating.
To take home for review, I have some Paris Caramels made with goat’s milk. I tried some of the more traditional cow-based Fleur de Sel and they’re insanely buttery.
If you can’t tell, this one booth made the whole trip worth it. I want to repaint my house in these colors. I want to string these and wear them like pearls. I want to fill huge floor-to-ceiling glass cylinders with the dragees and just stare at them all day long. (And it all tasted good, too.)
Kraft had a nice booth that highlighted their chocolate brands: Cote D’Or, Terry’s Chocolate Orange, Milka and Toblerone.
Toblerone debuted a Fruit & Nut bar in Europe last year and it’s finally arrived on our shores now. In addition, Terry’s Chocolate Orange was explained to me. They have their standard Milk Chocolate and Dark Chocolate version. Then they add in a seasonal flavor each winter. This year it was Peppermint, the year before a White Chocolate. And next year we’ll get a Toffee Crunch Terry’s Orange. (But there’s still a larger selection in Europe.)
I try not to approach company’s with too many preconceived notions, whether I’ve had a bad experience at their booths before (after all, these trade shows are primarily for them to make sales, not explain their products to me) or just haven’t liked their products. But hey, I’m known for being capricious and carrying a grudge as much as being descriptive and exhaustive. And that tactic paid off on when I went to the Sweets company booth. They make taffy and fruit jelly sticks.
But this year they have something a bit more elegant. Dark Chocolate Wine Gels in Port, Cabernet and Champagne. The short sticks are elegantly packaged in half round “tubes” with a little cellophane sealed tray. The taste is subtle and not at all fake or like it’s trying to hard (like, frankly, salt water taffy can be). I’m looking forward to finding them in stores soon.
I’m packing up my car for the drive back to Los Angeles, it’s absurd how many samples I have. Many are old favorites that I’ve picked up for personal consumption, but I’m also planning a bit of a giveaway while it’s still cool enough to ship.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Seattle Chocolates has revamped their line of bars, with spiffy moderne designs in bright colors. I want them to make socks, scarves & ties to go with them. (They did actually have some promotional buttons to go with them that I did pick up.)
Picked up some ample samples of Figamajigs with Mint which are just lovely in a white and pale green candy coated lentil style and their Figamajigs Raspberry bar. Love their simple combination of real figs and cocoa with dark chocolate.
Lake Champlain has a lovely line of new organic truffles. I only got to try the fig and honey. It’s a true ganache center, with more of the dark berry tones and touch of caramel sweetness of the honey.
They also featured the return of their fabulous novelty foil treats for Easter.
Chuao looked colorful and spicy as usual. I mentioned that the Firecracker, introduced last year at the All Candy Expo, was a bit too spicy for me and they were happy to report they’ve cut the spice. Sure enough, it’s much easier on my throat, but still has a warm burn to it (plus the fun of the pop rocks).
Seth Ellis Chocolatier has really bold packaging, but what stopped me in my tracks was the Candied Lemons, it’s actually dark chocolate covered candied whole lemon slices. Tangy, zesty, sweet and creamy.
This photo is of their ginger truffle, which I didn’t try, but I did have their lemon truffle and thought that was tasty as well.
L’Estasi Dolce had the best truffle of the day. They do a line of wine infused truffles, but it was the was Lemongrass and Ginger in dark chocolate that was the real winner for me.
New Tree is kind of a sleeper for me, I like that they combine cool flavors, I think their naming is a little kooky and the chocolate a little chalky sometimes… but then again the packaging is pretty. But I was transfixed by their new line Alpha, which has omega 3 fatty acids, courtesy of flax seeds. The Thym bar also has the flavor of thyme in it, it was so fresh and bright and the dark chocolate set it off so well, it was a wonderful fresh taste in a crowded room.
Gifford was a nice find, great traditional wax paper wrapped caramels. Also a great story of a company with a great heritage brought back from bankruptcy.
Ferrara Pan, known for Lemonheads & Atomic Fireballs, has expanded into chocolate panned goodies recently. I tried some of their nuts, but was taken with their Dark Chocolate Covered Biscotti. It’s a mild, semisweet chocolate and a hard, crunchy biscotti bite. Very munchable.
On the non-candy front:
Q Tonic was really refreshing, all tonic & citrus and virtually no sweetness.
Dry Soda has a really nice array of soda flavors, no high fructose corn sweetener and a really great not-quite sweet flavor.
Rogue Creamery makes great Blue Cheese. But I think everyone already knows that.
Coach Farms from New York had some lovely goat cheeses, especially their triple cream.
(All photos by Emanuel Treeson, (c) All Rights Reserved)
Monday, January 19, 2009
The 2009 Winter Fancy Food Show is back in San Francisco and huge. It takes up both halls of the Moscone Center and on Sunday, the opening day, I got through about one half of the floor.
Here are some random notes:
The star for me was their bar called Salty Dog Salty Dog (Dark Chocolate, Toffee Chips & Salt). The others are a Passion Fruit, Tangerine & Chocolate bar, Chile Limon Chocolate Bar and a Dark Chocolate and Milk Chocolate (40% cacao).
The actual molding of the bars is nice. It’s segmented and each is a little dome, so it’s easy to break apart for portioning. They come in cellophane sleeves and then inside a paperboard box. The design of the box is quite nice, a bit of a changeup from the usual design for McElrath, each is coded with a different pattern at the top of the box and then a picture of the bar on the front. It’s a nice effect when you see them all together on a shelf.
Other new bars that caught my attention were:
Scharffen Berger has a super dark milk chocolate bar. It’s 68% cacao. Add in some milk and some crushed cacao nibs and there’s not much room for sugar. It’s very mellow and not quite as malty as the Milk Nibby bar I’m so fond of.
I found two places out on the floor that were sampling KShocolat (website), a wonderful chocolate company I’ve tried before but can’t find a good source for in the United States. I’ve been looking for their dark chocolate and cardamom bar and have previewed it and can say, I love the combination. I’ll have more on that in a few weeks.
I stopped by Melville’s, which is always fun. I love their honey spoons (though they’re kind of expensive) so I love to get samples. They have so many new items. One is a new line of the spoons for drinks that are made with real cinnamon sticks instead of wooden sticks, so it will really give your cocoa or tea a flavor pop. Other items were beautiful new molded lollipops (the bees were so cute), a line of big fruit & vegetable pops (yes, a buttered popcorn pop like an ear of corn).
My favorite new item of the show though is probably the unique one. Impressions Fine Foods Hot Chocolate Mochi Krunch - spicy brown rice crackers covered in dark chocolate. It might not sound like much, but I can see being angry that these aren’t sold in bigger packages.
It’s a little disk, about the size of a quater of puffed brown rice. A little salty, it has a natural sweet and nutty flavor and then it’s covered in chocolate. There are plain milk & dark and of course the spicy one.
Other notable non-candy nibbles (because I try other things):
Fabrique Delices Artisnal Charcuterie had an awesome duck procsciutto that I really have to find for my next cheese plate.
Guittard has a few things for bakers & home chocolatiers. One that I thought really fills a need is the Guittard Extra Dark (63%) Chocolate Chips (no extra cocoa butter). Not at all chalky or bitter, but much less sweet than their semi-sweet, the “less cocoa butter” part will help them keep their shape ... and they’d probably make really good hot chocolate.
(All photos by Emanuel Treeson, (c) All Rights Reserved)
Monday, January 21, 2008
Here’s the second half of my notes on the Fancy Food Show in San Diego last week.
The cool thing about Malie Kai is that they do more than just plain chocolate, they have some combination bars as well ... and as you might expect they include Hawaiian items like Kona coffee and macadamia nuts as well as citrus and almonds. Lovely two ounce bars and wonderful hospitality at their booth. I’m looking forward to tasting the full bar I picked up.
Jeff Shepherd is always a delight when I visit at his booth displaying his goodies from Lillie Belle Farms. I got to try the Smokey Blue Truffle again ... it’s growing on me. I like the crunchy almonds and the smooth creaminess of the chocolate ganache. The bite of the Rogue Creamery Smokey Blue Cheese is pretty interesting, it creates a little buzz on the tongue. It feels more like food than candy, but that’s not a bad thing either.
The other fascinating item he had that was brand new was a wild chocolate bar ... that is, chocolate made from cocoa beans harvested in the wild, not from plantation-raised trees. I wish I had a photo of it, it’s not on the website yet. As you can imagine, there can’t be a lot of these since wild cacao is exceptionally rare and hard to harvest. Of course it’s also a very limited edition.
Haribo was also there with a their same booth. I don’t really have anything to report on their product line. I know they have their new Root Beer Gummis and as much as I’m a fan of root beer as a flavor, these just don’t do it for me (they might be too citrusy). I did have a few of their spectacular Pink Grapefruit Slices though. You can just enjoy these close ups of their lightbox display:
Jo’s Candies based here on the Los Angeles area will have some new Vanilla Caramels available at all their usual outlets. They were soft and tasty, perhaps a bit more milky than buttery than I’m used to, but super-traditional in plain wax paper and sold in clear bags.
I also enjoy Elegant Gourmet’s booth every year. They have stunning handmade lollipops and hard candies that look like painted ponies on a carousel.
I’ve never pictured their candies as an everyday sort of sweet, but for special occasions like baby showers, weddings and gifts, they’re something to consider.
Acapella Gourmet has an awesome new line of “coffeelatte” called Caffe Acapella ... basically, it’s cocoa butter mixed with coffee solids (coffee beans) instead of cocoa solids. So it’s not coffee flavored, it’s coffee! I have a few samples of those for a full review later.
Vosges made their first appearance at a trade show I’ve attended. They had everything in their repertoir out for tasting. I had a little sip of their white chocolate/vanilla/lavender/lemon myrtle drink (even though I’ve had it before) and had a few tastes of some other their items I haven’t tried. (No, they wouldn’t send me home with any samples for later.)
I tried a few of the caramels, being especially careful to stay away from anything with walnuts and was definitely pleased. It’s a stiff caramel, not too chewy but soft and with good buttery notes. I think the next thing of theirs I’m going to plunk down some money for is their Volcano Island Honey Truffle collection.
The Fancy Food Show always has a good showing of companies with honey and maple syrup. I picked up a few samples from Canadian company, mopure. They’re just little transparent maple leaves made from maple syrup. (I’m sure their maple syrup is awesome too, but I’m not much of a syrup user ... but if they offered me that bottle as a sample, I’d be all over it.)
Other items I picked up samples of:
For the most part I zoomed through the show this year. I usually take all three days and spend a lot of time with each company. This year I had my priority hit list and made it to most of them. A few I didn’t get to I know I can probably visit with at ExpoWest in March down in Anaheim (like Theo’s new Phinney bars). Of course my speed meant a lot fewer take home samples (usually I have conversations to discuss what I might be interested in taking home for a full review) but the money I saved on not having to get a hotel room in San Diego can now go to buying that candy instead.
(All above photos by Emanuel Treeson.)
Monday, January 14, 2008
Yesterday I had the great fortune of attending the Fancy Food Show in San Diego and then sleeping in my own bed.
As with my usual style when attending a trade show with a lot of food, I rarely eat any of it on the floor, I take it home for sampling later. But here are some brief thoughts of what I did see (and wasn’t able to bring home for a full review). I also brought along a photographer! (My husband was so kind to record some important football game and come with me instead of sitting around the house all day.)
K. L. Keller Imports was showing a lot of stuff that I’ve already had before, like lavender honey from Spain and Suprem’ Nougat by G. Savin from France. They also had some new nougats from South Africa from Walters that are a little lighter and fluffier and feature pecans and macadamia nuts instead of the traditional almonds, hazelnuts and pistachios. They also had some great chocolate covered candied nuts called Cude Catanies from Spain. Fantastic. Crunchy, sweet, chocolaty, nutty ... everything you would want from those ingredients.
I spent a few minutes at Coco-Luxe which makes truffles and the candied almonds covered in chocolate and cocoa shown here called Block Party Almonds. Like so many chocolatiers that show off at the Fancy Food Show, Coco-Luxe is based in San Francisco and was founded by Stephanie Marcon.
The bulk of their products are truffles, made in the tile-style. In the case of Marcon’s, they little transfer design on top is usually a good indication of what’s inside. Her flavors are usually based on popular desserts such as Banana Split, Devil’s Food, Gingerbread and Mocha. However, I asked for something that was not out on display that I’d read about, which was their Rose for Valentine’s Day. It has a touch of honey and is made with rose water (instead of rose flavoring). It was fresh and light and not the slightest bit like eating soap. Their other two flavors for the Valentine’s box are Champagne and a plain dark chocolate they call Pure Devotion. Awwwww.
I was happy to see another west coast confectioner there called Cary’s of Oregon. They make excellent toffee and are featured at CocoaBella in San Francisco. I wanted to try more of their items though, so they were on my list as a must-stop.
Most of all I wanted to try their Milk Chocolate with Chai Tea Toffee. It’s a nice fluffy crunch that doesn’t become a tacky lump in your teeth. The flavor is buttery and of course the milk chocolate goes really well with the spice of chai. (They have another with Mango Tea and dark chocolate, but that wasn’t really up my alley)
Sweetfields isn’t quite a candy company, but I thought I should at least put them in my notes. They make candied flowers. They had a beautiful display right on a corner at the show that did stop me dead my tracks. They had piles and piles of sparkly, preserved violas.
They’re stiff but look velvety soft in their “crystal glaze”. They don’t taste like much, a little bit of raspberry essence is thrown in, which is a nice floral flavor. The sugar melts away and of course there’s a teensy bit of the flower petals left. They had larger displays of pansies with their dark throats and primary-bright petals. They’d be wonderful on desserts like petit fours or of course wedding cakes. I could also see them as a lovely garnish for a dessert plate or on top of a truffle.
They also had some lovely little kits for true vanilla obsessionalists that have beans from all over the world so you can do your own taste test. See their site for more.
One of the people at the top of my list (but who wasn’t on the official list of exhibitors) was Larry Slotnick, who was showing off his new stone ground chocolate from his company, Taza Chocolate. Stone ground, you say?
Yes, big plates of stone grind together to create a slurry of ground cocoa beans to make the cocoa liquor that is the basis of this food of the gods. He has an array of three bars so far in his repertoir 60%, 70% and 80% plus the Chocolate Mexicano which is a traditional style Mexican puck. I tasted this and I can say, as you might think, it’s very rustic. It also has a wonderfully different flavor profile and texture. First, it tastes like bananas and caramel, the texture is grainy but still smooth in that it dissolves pretty easily on the tongue (I’m guessing more available cocoa butter to melt and distribute the flavors on the tongue). I’ll have more on this later when I get a hold of an actual full-sized sample.
I had a lovely time visiting with the women at the Belgium’s Best Chocolates booth. First, the packaging and sheer quantity of chocolate bars on display was stunning. Galler has a great package design that always reminds me of art supplies - like they’re boxes of paints or oil pastels. They also carry Dolfin which I’ve reviewed before in their lovely large bars in “tobacco pouches”. The new mini bars I picked up are White Pepper & Cardamom and Lavender & Dark Chocolate. (I also have a super-dark bar sitting around that I need to review as well.)
Poco Dolce knocked my socks off with their Burnt Caramel Bittersweet Tiles. Not quite toffee, there was no butter getting in the way of this intense burnt sugar flavor along with a nice complement of salt and smooth dark chocolate. But the real reason I stopped at their booth was because I saw that Kathy Wiley, the creator of these San Francisco confections, was also introducing a line of nougats. Drat! She didn’t have them with her. Oh well, I get to San Francisco quite often and of course they have a web store.
Whew! I’m only about a third of the way through my notes, so more tomorrow. (You can peek at all the photos here.)
I’ll have more later. Here’s a tease ... stone ground chocolate ... all-American chocolate grown on Oahu ... chai tea toffee ... honey and lemon licorice ... new nougats.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.