Thursday, August 13, 2009
Last year I made a trip up interstate 101 from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Yes, it’s actually longer than taking I5, but I thought it would be interesting to stop at a few candy shops along the way. One that I was interested in was Sweet Earth Chocolate at about the halfway point of San Luis Obispo.
At that time they were operating out of a space in Splash Cafe in SLO. A few months ago they moved into their own candy kitchen and cafe space just down the street. (More about that here.) I was eager to see the expanded offerings from this unique confectioner that uses organic and fair trade chocolate.
Their new storefront is charming and inviting ... and large! You can get coffee drinks, sit and enjoy your purchases but I was there for the chocolate to take on my vacation.
Their candy cases had a nice mix of both comfort candies (chocolate dipped pretzels, house-made jellies, chocolate covered cookies, turtles and marshmallows) and truffles. What sets them apart from many chocolatiers is their line of vegan items. (Here’s the in store menu.)
The store is more than just chocolate though, there’s also information about how fair trade directly affects the communities that participate and some other fun and unique gifts.
Bakers will also enjoy access to fair trade baking chips & cocoa. For those in a hurry who don’t want to select their own box, there are also packages of pre-packed candy cups, chocolate covered goodies and of course their line of chocolate bars.
I picked up quite a bit of stuff. First, I selected a few items from the “comfort candies” section for me to munch on while on vacation. This included their chocolate dipped pretzels, toffee & chocolate dipped pretzels and some turtles. Since those weren’t for review I also got a box of nine truffles.
The truffles are well priced at 1.50 each though I found them a tad on the small size but mercifully free of the “too hot for the box” styles that chocolatiers have been using lately with artificial colors & cocoa butter ink transfers.
The Espresso truffle was one of those rare modern truffles that actually looks like a truffle. The small sphere smelled woodsy and sweet. The bittersweet chocolate shell gave way to a smooth center with a good pop of espresso flavor. A little acidic but a crisp finish with a little fruity twang. There were a few fibery bits of the coffee beans though at the end.
This dark chocolate triangular piece holds a sweet if slightly grainy cream with a light touch of ginger.
I liked the texture and the woodsy flavor of the ginger. It didn’t have a warming burn, but a pleasant note of the root mixed with a not-too-sweet fondant-like cream. The dark chocolate shell was thick enough that there was no leakage and also provided a bittersweet background to the earthy flavors.
It was a good sized piece as well.
This was definitely one I was looking forward to. I love the combination of cardamom and chocolate.
The center of this truffle also had a bit of a graininess to it, I think, because of the crystallized ginger.
The cardamom was quite overwhelmed by the chocolate & ginger flavors at first, but emerged later and gave me a fresh & lingering aftertaste.
I admit that I was confused by this one. I couldn’t for the life of me remember what it was when I got home. I don’t think it did well on the trip either, something about the central coast being very humid this time of year made the outside tacky.
So when I took it out to photograph it, I was puzzled. So I bit into it and yes, the flavor did remind me a bit of a Milky Way, but I still didn’t put it together until days later when I was trying to write this up and looked at the Sweet Earth Chocolates website.
Anyway, it was sweet and milky and yes, it did have a little malty hit to it. But the outside was like the sticky, stale inside of a seafoam candy so the whole thing was a bit chewy. Not unpleasant, but not “truffle-like.” I’ll give it another go though, as I’m always game for some malt.
Sweet & slightly grassy tasting center with little bits of hazelnuts. Milky and entirely addictive.
This would make an excellent chocolate cup too, I would love a bigger bite ... or more of them. And maybe some in dark chocolate. Yes, a true winner. (I’m wondering if you can make a dark chocolate gianduia that’s vegan.)
Finally, I got two of the classic dark chocolate truffles. They come in a full cream version and a vegan version.
The Vegan Dark Chocolate truffle is cute, a small hand rolled sphere with a flurry of zigzags of chocolate for decoration. The aroma is dark and woodsy chocolate. The bite is soft and the center is smooth. It’s barely sweet and has a strong woodsy & tangy flavor that comes through ... then a note of coconut and a rather bitter & dry finish.
The dairy Dark Chocolate truffle has a similar look, with its decoration mostly parallel stripes. The center seemed just a bit softer but also a bit smoother. The tangy bite wasn’t there at all. The chocolate flavors seemed more pronounced, though the chocolate shell still participated with quite a bitter chocolate bite & dry finish.
On the whole, I find the Sweet Earth Chocolates 65% dark chocolate a bit on the astringent side. The dairy cream centers worked well with this and some of the flavors combined well to tip it more towards woodsy or berry/raisin.
What’s so refreshing about the shop & the chocolates is that they’re so approachable and fresh-tasting. I didn’t feel assaulted by political messages about fair trade and organics - for the most part the shop is about the wholesome enjoyment of freshly made chocolates ... that happen to be organic and fair trade.
If you’re in San Luis Obispo or passing through during business hours, give it a try:
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Sweet Offerings is a quaint and well designed shop. It’s on Burton Drive in the eastern section of town, just down from the famous glass shop called Seekers.
The simple interior is classic & clean. A black and white theme with a brick red painted floor, it’s crisp and inviting and allows the chaos of colors of the different candies to pop.
Most of the candy offered is prepackaged. There’s a wide variety of mass-manufactured and hard to find favorites like Sky Bar, Mallo Cups, Chuckles and Fizzies but also higher end items like Marich panned nuts, Vosges & Lake Champlain chocolate bars.
For the most part the candy collection appears aimed at adults. Sure they have some kid-appealing items like some novelties and of course candies for all ages. But many of the items look like they’re just for grown ups, like a collections of caramels, licorice, Jelly Belly confections, Brix chocolate designed to pair with wine or fruit pate and even some honey.
The bulk candy wall was devoted almost entirely to Koppers items - their gourmet Malted Milk Balls and Cordials were prominently featured. The bulk wall was priced at $2.95 per quarter pound, which isn’t too bad for chocolate these days.
They also had a large glass enclosed counter with two cases where they featured several different brands of fine chocolates. Roger’s Chocolates took up one full case and the other had a mix of classic candy items like chocolate dipped orange peels, dipped pretzels, truffles and some novelty shaped candies.
The prices were higher than a drug store, but less than some other tourist traps I’ve been in. The candy I got there was all fresh (I bought my Victoria Creams, a Pecan Divinity Bar and a package of Marich Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Cashews) and in good condition.
While they don’t have everything I could possibly be looking for, the collection of products was well curated - there was something there to satisfy just about every craving, whether it was for sizzling cinnamon, root beer, chocolate, salty sweets, super sours, chewy, nutty, gummi, cracklin’, gum, a lollipop or just something new.
It’s definitely a shop that I’ll make a point to come back to when I’m in the area.
UPDATE 9/13/2011 - I stopped by the shop again last week while vacationing in the area. The first time I stopped by in the middle of the afternoon, they were inexplicably closed, with just a note on the door saying that they would be open the following day. I returned later in the week and they were indeed open. The offerings in the store have changed since my last visit. The inventory did not seem quite as lush or diverse, but they still had the bulk items and lots of nostalgic classics. My biggest disappointment was the fact that they no longer carry Roger’s Creams. Their chocolate counter is now populated with some unbranded chocolates. I purchased some chocolate covered candied orange peels and a couple of pieces of honeycomb. Both were good and at $19.99 a pound I thought they were well priced. I still missed picking up the Roger’s Creams though.
Monday, August 10, 2009
I’ve been meaning to hit Robitaille’s Fine Candies in Carpenteria, CA for a few years now. They’re in a cute little seaside town just south of Santa Barbara known for its excellent beach. Of course no seaside town is complete without a candy shop. Robitaille’s makes their own fudge and some chocolates along with what they consider themselves most famous for, their Inaugural Mints.
The shop is much larger than I expected, perhaps because I thought that their 400 square foot candy kitchen included the store floor ... instead it’s a large open space that houses three full aisles of pre-packaged bulk candies.
I made a beeline for the mints and had several versions to chose from.
They sell two different sized packages of the mints, eight ounces and four ounces ... all standing on end like little record albums. I chose a box of the classic red, white and blue ones in the smaller four ounce size.
I wasn’t quite sure what they were, since the honor of an official mint for an inauguration made them sound exotic or perhaps even unique.
It turns out they’re not. It says on the website Do not let the colors fool you. These are all made from white chocolate. Sadly that’s not quite true. Maybe it was at one time, but the ones I picked up are sugar, partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil and then some cocoa butter followed by some milk products and other things like sorbitan monostearate that sound like they don’t need to be in there. So at least there’s some white chocolate in there. (And a heavy heaping of food coloring, as you might imagine.)
I admit, I was still enchanted with them. They look like glossy, patriotic tiddlywinks
Though they boast about being handmade, they’re really just little puddles of peppermint flavored white confection (see Smooth n Melty Mints) which probably taste just as good spewed out of a machine.
That said, I liked them! They’re smooth, they’ve very sweet and minty and have a good silky melt on the tongue. I appreciated that they weren’t covered with little nonpariels so at least there was something unique about them.
They come in a few different color variations - pastels, harvest colors and red, white & green for Christmas. I would probably prefer just plain white ones if I could.
The store itself has a huge selection of other candies, something for everyone. There is a whole display of items between the fresh fudge and the house-made candy case of sugar free candies. Then there are many aisles filled with shelf after shelf of items. There’s a good selection of licorice including salted from Europe and Australian style along with German (Haribo wheels) and American version of allsorts. There were flavors and flavors of salt water taffy, lollipops the size of your head. All colors of M&Ms (in single color packages), rock candy in all colors, compressed dextrose candies (Runts, pacifiers, little stars, little daisies) and then jelly beans and all sorts of chocolate coated things like pretzels, honeycomb, marshmallows & graham crackers.
The prices of the candies varied and were by and large decent. Some chocolate candies were $12.95 a pound and the sugar candies were usually about $5.95 a pound with others somewhere in between. Most prepacked items were 4-8 ounces, so the choice of sizes wasn’t that great.
There were also shelves and shelves of candy favorites especially hard to find independent companies like Annabelle’s, Necco and Tootsie. No vacation destination is complete without a selection of a few dozen candy sticks, which are right up by the check out counter.
One of the other items I picked up in the candy case was something I saw on their website and was even more impressed with in person. The Dark Chocolate Turtle (they also come in milk and white chocolate).
This sizable patty is 3.5 inches across and exquisitely formed in layers. A dark chocolate disk as a base, glossy caramel, then a few pecans then another dollop of dark chocolate.
The caramel had a nice pull, good chew and excellent burnt sugar & butter flavors. The dark chocolate was semisweet with good fruity & toasted flavors to go with the woodsy pecans. Some spots seemed to be mostly chocolate but the whole effect was a satisfying candy. The price was pretty decent as well, each piece was about $1.50 each and might I say they were just slightly too big for me. (I cut most of them in half and shared.)
Robitaille’s Fine Candies
Monday, June 15, 2009
On Friday I took a little trip up to Universal CityWalk at Universal Studios to see what the state of candy is there.
This wasn’t the first time I was there, I visited with Sera from The Candy Enthusiast last summer, but this time it was during the day and I had more time to browse around and take notes (instead of just buying candy).
There are three main shops that have candy and each offers a bit of a different menu.
This shop is quite bold and colorful. The inventory is also pretty wide. It includes many fine chocolate bars from local companies like Chuao to brands like Santander, Ritter Sport, Valor, Cadbury, Green & Blacks, Lindt & Ghirardelli and packaged chocolate candies from Turin & Marich plus some generic chocolate blocks.
But what is most interesting about this shop, especially for those who are travelers and want to experience something different, is the candy case.
On my first visit there I picked up some fun items like candied pumpkin and candied sweet potato. This time around all these seemed to have were tamarind balls (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) and only two varieties of a version of dulce de leche that’s like a Mexican style Penuche. Then there were the mango & chili items plus other traditional tamarind confections.
The prices were decent, especially for the fudge. For the prepackaged chocolate bars it’s quite a bit steeper. For the Ritter Bars they were $3, the Valor were $5 ... a stop a the Target or Cost Plus World Market within a stone’s through would be about a third off.
Then there’s the stuff in the barrels. Real Mexican candy like Pulparindo, Pelon Pelo Rico, de la Rosa Mazapan & ChiliBonchas. All for the low, low price of $11.90 per pound. Go to just about any grocery store in Los Angeles and the same stuff is about $2 or $3. But hey, that’s what vacation is all about - overpaying for most of the things you don’t allow yourself to buy at home.
The nice thing is that theming isn’t like everything else. It’s not sterile, it’s not overly precious ... it’s just a candy shop that acts like a candy shop. The counter help seemed rather knowledgeable about their candy offerings and seemed partial to the flavors of the Mexican & Latin American items. They also serve hot chocolate.
Sparky’s is more than a candy store, think of it as a gift store with a collector’s bent. They have Pez, lots and lots of Pez. Plus other little items in licensed lines Hello Kitty, Betty Boop and Hot Wheels.
They have the standard bulk candies like Jelly Belly and a rather large selection of specialty flavored taffy. But mostly they have packaged candy with the theme of classics & nostalgic offerings. Theater size boxes of all the standards (that are usually on sale for a dollar at the drug store are $3 here). Hard to find candy bars like Sky Bar, every flavor of Charleston Chew, all of the Annnabelle’s bars, Clark Bars, Idaho Spuds and Bottlecaps. Those felt a little more reasonable at $1.50 (my local 7-11 is charging $1.29 for candy bars now).
The staff here also seemed to really know their candy, I witnessed as they were able to direct a customer to a bar based only on the description of it (turned out to be a Sky Bar).
This completely tricked out and themed candy store is the largest by far. The spartan white walls & displays include some amazing original art direction.
Instead of going for childish renditions of candy & rainbows, they’ve done some really nice work here to set themselves apart. It’s part Sephora and part Juicy Couture. (Definitely geared towards women.) Glam candy. Pre-sexualized for your fetish-ization.
I know it sounds like I’m critical of it, but I rather enjoyed the imaginative photos gracing the walls - women swimming with Swedish Fish. Gummi Worms eaten with chopsticks by a stylized Geisha. A full on 18th Century French pouf wig made of red licorice on a starkly powdered face with bright lips to match (image here).
The bulk bins go for $11.60 a pound and feature mostly sugar candy. They have a nice selection of dextrose candy like Cry Baby Tears and more generic items in different shapes & colors like Runts & bananas. There are plenty of gummis, from single flavor bears from Albanese to some of their more spectacular creations like the Gummy Butterflies. Gummi cherries & Peach Rings as well as the various sour belts. Then there are standards like Good n Plenty, licorice twists, Lemonheads, Cinnamon bears, Hot Tamales and so on. There is a small selection of chocolate items in bulk, just chocolate covered nuts, a few gourmet malt balls and mini Butterfinger type bars.
In the candy bar area, they are similarly stocked & priced as Sparky’s, though they carry a few more of the penny candy style items like paper dots and wax lips.
Then at the very back of the store is the M&Ms Color Wall. Every color of M&MS you could want, make your own custom mix. (Same with Jelly Belly.)
I found the Wazoo bars there (very hard to come by these days) so I picked up the Wild Berriez I hadn’t tried yet and some pretty looking dextrose candies, a crazy set of gumballs plus a few other munchables. I got out of there for less than $5 and my parking validated.
The biggest selling point, besides just a fun place to gawk at candy is the merchandising of candy brands. You can get ear buds branded with Sugar Babies, lip balm or gloss in a gajillion different candy flavors, coffee mugs, crazy tee shirts, a Twizzlers messenger bag, pillows shaped like your favorite candies ... there’s a lot of non-edible stuff in there.
IT’SUGAR is a small chain with stores in all the hot tourist spots: Atlantic City, Myrtle Beach plus smaller outposts in Miami, Long Island, San Diego, London, Manchester, New York City, Las Vegas and Ft. Lauderdale.
There’s definitely something to satisfy your sweet tooth if you’re at Universal CityWalk. (The insiders trick is to valet park for 2 hours for free with validation on weekday afternoons, see their current rules.)
Universal Sudios CityWalk (Hollywood)
Monday, December 22, 2008
Menu for Hope is back for its fifth year and is as big as ever. The multi-blog effort is headed by Chez Pim and raises money for the United Nations World Food Programme.
It’s a raffle where various bloggers, individuals and companies have donated food-related items.
Here’s my annual roundup of confectionery goodies up for grabs this year. (You can see the complete list of goodies here.)
Each raffle ticket is $10. Please be sure to read the complete listings about any geographical or timing limitations before you buy your tickets.
Item Number: EU04
Description: 2 boxes of Parisan style macarons from Petites Bouches
A pair of sligtly crisp nut-flecked cookies sandwich the most luxurious buttercreams and the creamiest ganache made from premium Valrhona Chocolate. Made from raw organic almonds and organic brown eggs. (US only.)
Item Number: EU02
Description: A stack of hand-chosen, just for you, real Swiss chocolate bars. This was one of the prizes I really wanted last year.
You get to pick your preference for nuts or not, milk or dark ... an awesome opportunity to get a different taste every week.
Item Number: UE05
Description: Small Box of LA Burdick Chocolate Mice
I tried these earlier this year, they’re simply too cute - little truffle mice with almond slice ears ... everything is edible except for the tails.
Item Number: UE11
Description: La Maison du Chocolat’s Shimmering Snowflake Coffret
Over a half a pound (about 29 pieces) of delicate chocolate creations. Includes the holiday flavors: chestnut, orange confit stick, dark ganache with banana, milk ganache with ros? Champagne, milk pralin? feuillet? with hazelnuts and almonds, almond paste with citrus zest, and dark plain ganache. (U.S. only)
Item Number: UE12
Description: Five boxes of Garrison Confectioners handcrafted chocolates inspired by PAMA Liqueur
The PAMA Tart is a heavenly layered chocolate ganache and graham cracker crust treat laced with pomegranate flavor. The PAMA Cosmo, a great twist on the classic drink, delivers a flavor explosion by coupling premium vodka with fresh, invigorating lime juice. But the true test of a cordial is its ability to stand to toasted nuts, and PAMA passed with flying colors with Garrison"s Nutty PAMA creation. It combines a perfected blend of roasted nut and pomegranate for a truly indulgent experience.
Item Number: UE17
Description: The ‘Studio Collection’ Box by Chocolatier Oliver Kita
A retail value of $40, this box 16 deliciously creative sweets.
Item Number: UW23
Description: BonBonBar Tower of handmade candy bars, caramels, and marshmallows.
3 Caramel Nut Candy Bars, 3 Malt Candy Bars, 3 Orange Candy Bars, 3 Single Malt Scotch Candy Bars, 12 Vanilla Marshmallows, 12 Passionfruit Marshmallows 1 Container of Hot Chocolate Mix
Item Number: UW24
Description: Scharffen Berger Chocolate Gift Package
5 pounds of petit baking squares, The Essence of Chocolate cookbook plus an (extra) bitter t-shirt.
Item Number: EU03
Description: US$50 gift certificate from bento supplier J-List.com PLUS 3 bento books
JList is an awesome place to find all sorts of Japanse treats like Mentos, limited edition KitKat and HiCHEW.
Item Number: EU06
Description: Damian Allsopp chocolates
Christmas chocolates from Fortnum & Mason . Damian is unique in his use of water-based ganaches. This creates fabulously intense flavours such as pear and anise, salty liquorice and “Christmas.”
Item Number: CA08
Description: Gift box from Kerstin’s Chocolates
12 high quality, Edmonton-made chocolate bars from Kerstin’s Chocolates. (Canada only.)
Raffle ends on December 24th. Winners will be announced in January.
See this page for the complete list and directions for how to purchase the tickets from Firstgiving.
Friday, May 09, 2008
Since the temperatures were back in the nineties in Los Angeles and I just returned from a long road trip, I thought I’d discuss chocolate storage for cocoa butter hostile climates.
Freezing or even refrigerating chocolate can encourage sweating (condensation) and transfer of odors from other foods. I simply don’t use my fridge for my candy. It’s never worked out very well, it’s too cold. Also, if you do end up freezing your chocolate, it’s important to bring it back to room temperature slowly - first in the fridge, then into a cool room. (Too much work & planning! I want my chocolate now!)
If you have a nice cool cupboard (preferably on an inside wall away from appliances that get warm), just keeping your chocolate sequestered should be fine. I have a set of Pyrex containers that won’t transfer odors and seem to give a bit of insulative protection. It also helps to have a climate controlled house. I don’t have central air and Los Angeles can experience some wide swings, temperatures inside my house go from the low sixties to over 100. (I’ve taken clothes out of my dresser that feel like they just came out of the hot dryer.)
These glass containers at the moment reside in my Chocolate Fridge. Technically it’s a wine fridge (meant to hold a dozen bottles). I’ve repurposed it to hold chocolate by amping up the temperature to 65 (instead of 55, which is where you’d probably keep your wine). Because wine fridges don’t dehumidify, the glass is also good for protecting against moisture. It also helps to prevent transfer of flavors and odors. Mint and Coffee items are additionally wrapped in ziploc bags and kept in separate containers from other non-flavored chocolates.
That’s what things looked like about a month ago. I ended up taking out two of the shelves and just stacking some of the glass containers because I have so much stuff. Yes, be sure to stagger things to encourage circulation, but also remember that a full fridge is more efficient than an empty one because the stuff inside insulates itself.
I bought a little thermometer to keep on the inside as well to monitor the temperature. There wasn’t anything on the settings, just low-med-high, so I wasn’t sure what I was getting, right now I have it set on low and the temps have been 62-65 ... well within the ideal range. (That little white thing at the bottom is a container of baking soda, also to absorb odors.) Some folks also love to use charcoal briquettes to absorb odors and control humidity - just be sure to get ones without lighter fluid in them, which will result in an unpalatable flavor.
While this is elegant and all that, it’s also expensive to buy and of course requires electricity (no good for brown outs in the summer heat). However, if you’re the type of person who is spending $8 a piece on bars, or place orders online for quanties far larger than can be consumed in a week, it may make sense in the long run.
Not only that, it doesn’t hold that much (well, not enough for me). So my second line of defense is a series of Insulated Coolers (ice chests) in my closet. This closet happens to be in the north-west corner of the house which is naturally shaded in the late afternoon by my neighbor’s house. Inside the cooler I layer my candies ... full boxes on the bottom (I still have some Snickers Rockin’ Nut Road bars left), then a layer of cold packs. At the moment my cooler isn’t really that good, I’m planning to upgrade to a better insulated ones (called 5 day coolers by Igoo).
I don’t actually freeze the cold packs I use, but sometimes I toss them in the fridge overnight. I don’t want to freeze anything or shock it, I just want to keep the climate consistently under 70 degrees. When I put them back in, I usually wrap them in a paper towel, just in case they cause a bit of condensation. (I’m thinking of making sleeves for them out of old fabric napkins. Cold pack cozies, anyone?)
Then if I don’t have any other candies that must be kept cold I fill in with other candy, just for insulation value. If I don’t have any candy sitting around sometimes I use throw pillows or bubble wrap. A full cooler will stay cool better than one with a large gap of air in the top. When returning from San Francisco, because I took more candy up there than I brought back, I ended up stuffing two wool sweaters on the top of the cooler as insulation from the glaring sun from my hatchback window. I also placed a windshield reflector over the cooler to give an added measure of protection against heat.
Another solution is water bottles. I have quite a collection of sport bottles that I just fill with tap water. The large mass of room temperature water provides yet another layer of insulation. I could also put them in the fridge for a while should the temps rise (this is a great solution if you don’t have access to those cold packs - but again, if it’s humid they will sweat, so put them in a clean cotton sock or something).
I also have an old styrofoam cooler box that I got a gift of cheese in once. For the most part, I just put stuff in there as a storage space for things I pick up on sale (my Hershey’s Eggs in this case), but as it’s been getting warmer I’ve tossed a few cool packs on top.
For shorter trips around town, remember that your car is a portable solar oven. Leaving stuff in the trunk or back seat is asking for moltency. Again, a cooler is a wise choice, and those insulate lunch bags can be rather helpful as well. If you have no choices, put lots of layers around the chocolate and water bottles or any large volume of liquid is your friend.
I have a couple of other smaller options as well. Inside my purse I carry this little anodized aluminum sunglass case. It doesn’t have much insulation value, just a little fuzzy lining, but the fact that it’s durable metal helps to minimize direct transfer of heat to a precious candy bar that might pick up at a deli such as this valuable BonBonBar from Joan’s on Third.
Finally, for carrying to parties or a special picnic, why not consider this wide mouth Soup Thermos:
As I found out, it doesn’t do much to protect candies from changes in air pressure.
Here are some other resouces about how to store your chocolate goodies:
Do you have any solutions, or words of warning?
Sunday, April 27, 2008
My Saturday schedule in the Bay Area was focused on the East Bay (Oakland, Emeryville and Berkeley). I had a meeting in the morning and a dinner planned, so my mid-day hours were devoted to the further amassing of sweets.
I didn’t buy as much, mostly because I already have so much stuff from my previous days, these were kind of informational, not acquisitional.
Michael Mischer Chocolates
12 piece Chocolate Assortment @ $55.00 a lb. $13.05
3 bar single origin sampler - $12.95
Sampled: raspberry truffle
Lovely shop that is at once spare and comfortable without feeling sterile. There are even some sugar-free selections. Michael Mischer himself was there, I asked him about the salted peanut butter cup that I tried the day before at Fog City, alas, he didn’t have any more of them. So I got a plain peanut butter and a salted caramel ... I can put them in my mouth together.
2 - Meyer Lemon Marmalade (this stuff is too darn good not to stock up, even at $11 a jar) - $22.00
9 piece assortment of chocolates @ $54 a pound - $9.72
1 small tub of Chocolate Covered Matzah $20.80
Sampled: chocolate covered matzah, triple chocolate hazelnut
I stopped into this old fashioned candy shop & gift store. I didn’t buy anything there, not because it’s not a good store, but much of the inventory is stuff that I’ve already reviewed. They have a nice selection of class bulk candies (sour balls, mary janes, imported hard candies, Koppers cordials, etc.), some chocolate candies in the case and the usual fun candy novelties.
1 - Pralus Sao Tome Bar - $8.95
1 - Poco Dolce Toffee Tile Collection - $22.95
No samples. I asked about the Pralus bars, the fellow said that the best was the Sao Tome, but beyond that, I couldn’t seem to get much interaction going about the chocolate. (Two of the folks were eating and the manager was chatting with some regular customers.) It was probably one of the loudest cafes I’ve been in for quite a long time. I’ve been in the shop before, so I think I just caught them at that bad moment after the lunch rush while everyone needs a little break. They have an amazing selection of chocolate bars on display, like some cafes will have poetry books.
Total for the day: $110.42
I’m packing up my car this morning to get ready for the drive back to Los Angeles. This time I’ll be taking the 5 South, which goes through the intensely-agricultural San Joaquin Valley. Not really much to stop for candy-wise. That’s fine, I have plenty.
You can look forward to the inventory from my three day adventure to be photographed copiously and reviewed here.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
I’ve been to San Francisco quite a lot, I love the city, mostly because I know so many great people here. But also because it has such a wonderful confectionery tradition. San Francisco is a candy town. I spent my first night after driving up at the Ocean Park Motel, way over by the ocean (a part of San Francisco I’ve never explored before). After checking in I took a walk, got some eggs at a diner and then walked down to the beach where I spotted a whale and watched it for about ten minutes as it made its way north to its feeding grounds (kinda like me!).
In the past three years I’ve visited Miette Confiserie, Ricchiuti Chocolates, Jelly Belly’s factory, Scharffen Berger, Charles Chocolates (in both their old & new location), CocoaBella, Fog City News and The Candy Store.
On Friday morning I packed up my car (my destination was Oakland for a meeting at 4PM at the National Novel Writing Month headquarters, but there were many zags and zigs along the way) with a nicely chilled cooler ready to be filled. Well, it actually held three boxes of candy bars and another six or seven pounds of other stuff for the staff to munch on.
Here’s how the day went:
Stainer 65% Cacao - Peru (Intenso & Fruttato)
Stainer Cicoccolato Bianco - Peperoncino e Vaniglia Bourbon
MarieBelle Mayan Chocolate Bar 70% Milk Chocolate - Unsweetened
Almond Rosemary Chocolate (I’m afraid I don’t remember who made this!)
Caffarel Flower Buds $4.00
CacaoAnasa - Lemon, Ginger & Cayenne “Afrodesiac” 72%
Lillie Belle Farms - Smokey Blue Cheese Truffles
Lillie Belle Farms - Rum & Fig Truffles
Lillie Belle Farms Lavender Fleur du Sel Caramels
Lillie Belle Farms Cayenne Caramels
Michel Cluizel 99% Cacao Forte
Sampled: Caffarel flower bud, Domori Porcelana?, Vegan/Raw chocolate from Marin and something else that I’ve spaced on completely.
I had an absolutely awesome talk with Jack who runs the place. He’s tasted everything there and is really committed to his inventory. He tries to carry the best bars that each company has to offer (so you won’t find all of the Domori ... or anyone’s line). He also does a lot of repacking, so you can just buy a package of two Lillie Belle truffles, and then two Cluizel Champignon ... it’s the best thing for candy lovers who are still searching for the most amazing experiences. (And if it’s not an amazing experience, then you’re only out a couple of bucks!)
Fleur de Sel Turtle $3.00
5 Spice Turtle $3.00
Bon Bon assortment ($2 each) - $10.00
Chinese 5 Spice Hot Chocolate $4.50
Chocolate Bar with Pop Rocks - $7.00
Sampled: Ecuadoran single origin bonbon.
An interesting new space. Rather clinical and spare, it reminds me more of Los Angeles than San Francisco. The selection is immense and includes Elbow’s bonbons and prepackaged items (bars, chocolate covered nuts & gift packages) as well as a brief menu of cafe selections. I made my chocolate selections (picking some of the items that I’ve tried before like the Strawberry Balsamic that used to be in white chocolate and is now in dark) and picked out a hot chocolate. I had it prepared to go, but did sit for a moment in the lounge area. The woman who prepared my chocolate that morning (it was about 11 AM) said that things would usually get very busy in the evening, as it was a popular after dinner spot for people to come on Friday and Saturday nights. (This is exactly the thing I want in walking distance from my house!)
After making some notes for myself I walked over to:
1/4 lb of Griotten - $12 per pound
6 - Bergamot French Hard Candies (20 cents each)
6 - Napoleon Lemon BonBons (hard candy) 15 cents each
1/4 lb Licorice Koppers Lentils (can’t remember)
4 - Babbelaar (Butterscotch) (15 cents each)
1 - Caffarel Puro Fondente Cacao 57% (can’t remember)
Sampled: Haribo Smurf (actually a raspberry jelly candy, not a gummi)
Again, a lovely experience as I got to chat with Caitlin (one of the owners) about Napoleon bonbons & the little tins they come in, licorice and the lack of similar candy shopping in Los Angeles. (Though we’re coming along.)
Assortment of Scottish Fudge Pieces ($18 per pound)
3 Cubes of Rose Turkish Delight
Fry’s Peppermint Creme - $2.29 (this is a ludicrous price to pay unless it’s one of the fundraising kids coming to your door when you have the munchies)
I found out about the shop on SFGate.com. It wasn’t quite as impressive as the story (and comments) made it sound. It was very small, I didn’t feel like I could look at everything and I was rushed (and didn’t get to finish ordering my items before my card was swiped and I ended up paying cash for my Turkish Delight). I actually meant to try a couple of other things, but didn’t see them until after that ... sigh, there’s always next time. The cool thing is that it’s walking distance to Fog City & not far at all from the Ferry Terminal.
Fog City News
CocoAroma Magazine - $9.95
Askinosie Soconusco 75% - $7.95
E. Guittard Orinoco Milk Chocolate - $3.50
6 - Michel Cluizel BonBons - -$.95 each
Patric Chocolate - Madagascar - $5.70
Total: $27.92 (Discount! 20%)
Sampled: Michael Mischer Salted Peanut Butter Cup (awesome but really salty) & Amano Ocumare. Had an excellent talk with Adam, who runs Fog City. (He recognized my name when I signed up for the newsletter so I could get some discounts on my bars. I don’t necessarily hide my identity but I don’t go up to the counter and say, “I blog about candy, now gimme some!”) They have an awesome sale on Amano right now (25% off) if you’re in the neighborhood. My favorite is definitely the Ocumare.
1 BruCo Anise Bar - $6.49
6 - Fiat (Pasticceria Majani of Bologna) Chocolate Square ($.85 each) - $5.10
I stopped as I was walking down the street because I spied some La Florentine Torrones, but was so pleased to find the BruCo Anise bar.
.2 lbs - White Chocolate Covered Gummi Bears (Koppers) - $2.79
.2 lbs - Chocolate Covered Gummi Bears (Koppers) - $2.22
1 - Delicieaux Milk Chocolate Nougat - $2.35
2 - Sally Williams Almond Nougat ($1.20 each) - $2.40
I read about this shop on Chowhound and definitely wanted to see how it measured up to the grand San Francisco tradition. It has a very young vibe to it, it feels much more “accessible” to children. They have a great selection of gummis, traditional favorites (candy jewelry) and some crazy hard to find items like C.Howards, UK import Cadbury bars, a really good selection of Koppers ... I could go on and on. The prices per pound are specific to the candy (instead of just pricing the whole shop at one point which makes things like Smarties crazy expensive and chocolate malt balls kind of reasonable), so you get what you pay for.
I had other places on my list, like Z Cicciolato and XoX Truffles but I really needed to balance out my purchases of perishable items, so they’ll have to wait until I return in the summer.
I’m kind of logging all this stuff so you’ll know what sort of items you can buy at these shops, and what they cost. (And also because I have a tendency to forget these things.)
Total spent today: $153.77 (yeah, I’m kind of feeling candy buyers remorse, mostly because I haven’t actually eaten any of it, I just get to look at it and tally up how much money I spent, not how much enjoyment I’m getting).
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.