Category Archives: Candy

Wild Ophelia Chocolate

Katrina Markoff ‘s nickname, Wild Ophelia, was inspired by her childhood experiments with unusual ingredients and chocolate at her family’s fruit stand.  She carried her passion and creativity into her career, founding Vosges Haut-Chocolat, and she is recognized as a visionary chocolatier for her fusion of high-quality chocolate and exotic ingredients.  Katrina’s second company, Wild Ophelia, partners with other food artisans in developing upscale, distinctly American, chocolate candies.  Wild Ophelia chocolates are made with all-natural ingredients, are manufactured with 100% renewable energy, and are packaged in 100% recycled materials.  Along with the company’s commitment to producing high-quality chocolate in an environmentally responsible manner, Wild Ophelia’s mission is to educate Americans about their food sources and encourage them to really appreciate their food.

Because I’m crazy for sweet and savory combinations, we sampled Wild Ophelia All-Natural Smokehouse BBQ Potato Chips Dark Chocolate Bar, which pairs Wild Ophelia’s 70% cocoa content confection with Billy Goat Chip Company’s BBQ Chips for a warm, spicy, dark chocolate treat.

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Billy Goat BBQ Potato Chips were born in the first gastropub in St. Louis.  The restaurant’s chips became so popular that commercial production was practically demanded.  The handmade chips are made from thinly-sliced potatoes dusted with Billy Goat Chip Company’s Kicker seasoning.

We love Wild Ophelia’s mission to build cooperation among American food artisans, and the great-tasting result of the partnership with Billy Goat Chip Company.  The complex flavor combination of chocolate, potato chips, and BBQ spices makes the last bite as interesting as the first.  Join Wild Ophelia’s “American road trip through chocolate”!

Where to buy Wild Ophelia Chocolates

Where to buy Billy Goat Chip Company Smokehouse BBQ Chips

(Note:  “Find a Store” links to a list of retailers on the Company’s website, but stores may not carry all of the Company’s products.  Please check with your local store to be sure they have this specific product in stock.  If not, ask them to carry it!)

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Texas Toffee Queen Dark Chocolate Toffee

My mom visited last week and we went on a whirlwind tour of favorite markets — Whole Foods, Market Street, Trader Joe’s and finally, Central Market.  (Karen, you should have been here!)  The highlight of the outing was meeting the Texas Toffee Queen, Nancy Lalumia, offering samples of her handmade toffee at Central Market.  We had already tried Nancy’s Dark Chocolate Espresso Toffee, and I was anxious to try some other flavors.  The milk chocolate toffee was a traditional classic with smooth chocolate atop buttery toffee with a perfect consistency.  Dark Chocolate Salted Jalapeño was a winner in Zest Fest’s “Zesty Sweets, Candy & Chocolate” Category and we definitely agreed with the judges’ decision!  If you have followed our blog for long, you know I have a weakness for chocolate combined with salt or peppery heat.  Having all three combined knocked me out!  I knew I would probably be the only one in the house who would truly love the spicy treat, so I selected the decadent dark chocolate toffee to share.

Texas Toffee Queen Dk Chocolate

It was such a pleasure to meet Nancy and hear first-hand her passion for making toffee.  We shared a laugh at the thought of toffee being “healthy”, but Nancy has developed her recipes to be “healthier”.  Choosing all-natural ingredients, like real butter, is the first healthy step.  Rather than simply having a light dusting of finely chopped nuts sprinkled across the top of her toffee, Nancy balances a generous measure of freshly roasted almonds with sugar in the toffee base.  Corn syrup is the normal binding agent used in toffee, but Nancy uses the absolute minimum amount necessary.  The result is a delicious, nutty toffee base that avoids the “sugar bomb” effect of some toffees.  Finally, Nancy finishes her toffee with the finest quality chocolate, and additional chopped almonds.  Since dark chocolate has antioxidants that may prevent heart disease, and  may help lower blood pressure, it’s another healthy choice (in moderation, as I keep reminding myself).  Texas Toffee Queen’s candy is easy to love and hard to resist!

Where to buy Texas Toffee Queen Dark Chocolate Toffee

(Note:  “Find a Store” links to a list of retailers on the Company’s website, but stores may not carry all of the Company’s products.  Please check with your local store to be sure they have this specific product in stock.  If not, ask them to carry it!)

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The Original Bloomer Candy Company Chocolate Peanut Butter Logs

DSC01530We love this candy!  It brings dreamy chocolate together with the crispy, crunchy taste of vintage peanut butter logs.  The box we bought was empty before we knew it!  The Original Bloomer Candy Company has been operating in Zanesville, Ohio for more than 100 years.  The company’s products are literally a part of American history, and maybe part of your own personal history,too.  Orange slices, Bit-O-Honey and circus peanuts are just a few of the retro treats available on Bloomer’s website.  I wonder how many Dum Dums, Bloomer’s fruit-flavored pops, Karen and I received at the end of children’s choir practice at church!

The company prides itself not only on maintaining its history of producing quality candies, but also to its commitment to middle-class American values.  This video from Bloomer’s website expresses the company’s operating philosophy, and shows the level of mutual commitment between employer and employees that provides the foundation for its success.

Grab yourself a sweet taste of American candy history with some of The Original Bloomer Candy Company’s treats.

Update — November 14, 2016

A reader reached out to us to find Bloomer’s products, and sadly, it looks like The Original Bloomer Candy Company is no longer in business.  Please contact us if you have information about this great company.

 

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Texas Toffee Queen Dark Chocolate Espresso Toffee

Toffee Queen Dark ChocWe have had some really strange weather in the past few weeks, and have set several low temperature records.  In many ways, it hasn’t seemed much like spring, but cooler temperatures haven’t kept me from craving ice cream.  King Arthur’s website whetted my appetite with a recipe for Mocha Madness Ice Cream.  I pretty much became an instant lover of all things mocha when I finally decided to become a coffee drinker several years ago.  I eased myself into it by mixing a tablespoon of hot chocolate mix into my coffee, so now, any recipe with coffee and chocolate gets a second look.  There was one ingredient in the mocha ice cream recipe that didn’t wow me – a mix-in of Oreo cookies.  I set the recipe aside while I considered other mix-in options, and inspiration struck very soon when I saw Texas Toffee Queen Dark Chocolate Espresso toffee at Central Market.  Yeah, that would be about a 200% upgrade from Oreos!  The package label indicated the toffee needed to be refrigerated and could be frozen, so that sealed the deal.

Of course, taste-testing the toffee was the first order of business.  The rich, buttery toffee topped with creamy dark chocolate, and dusted with espresso powder was wonderful.  The toffee layer avoided the often fatal flaws of being extremely sticky or hard as granite.  It was full-speed ahead to ice cream!

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  • 1 cup cold whole milk
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons espresso powder
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder (Dutch processed preferred)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon Sonoma Syrup Co. Vanilla Bean Extract “Crush”
  • 1 cup Texas Toffee Queen Dark Chocolate Espresso Toffee, crushed into small pieces

Whisk together the milk, sugar, espresso power and cocoa until well blended.  Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla.  Freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions for your ice cream freezer.  Add toffee pieces during the last 5 minutes of processing.  Transfer the ice cream to an airtight freezer container and freeze for another 2-4 hours, or until it is the desired consistency.

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Nancy Lalumia, the Texas Toffee Queen, comes from a family well-experienced in the food service business, and she was involved in family restaurants for a number of years.  Nancy has always loved English toffee, and she made it for friends and family at Christmas.  Her sister-in-law suggested Nancy bring some of the toffee to the gourmet food shop she and her brother owned.  It quickly sold out and Nancy had a special order from Dallas Independent School District, so she made a very quick leap into the toffee business.  Her core flavors are dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and white chocolate cranberry, but she also has prize-winning spicy varieties:  white chocolate mango chili, dark chocolate salted jalapeño, and white chocolate peach ginger habanero.  Wow, those all sound amazing!  Now is certainly the time to order some of Nancy’s delicious toffee, because the Texas heat makes shipping a no-go from June through October.  Read more of Nancy’s story and check out all the delicious flavors on her website.

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Lake Champlain Chocolates Rum Caramel Dark Chocolate

I hope no one ever asks me to choose my favorite chocolate, because I just couldn’t.  If you have been following our quest for artisan and gourmet foods for any amount of time, it’s probably obvious that chocolate is my favorite dessert and we’ve enjoyed some really great chocolates. As we savored the flavors, we’ve come to love the artisans’ stories, too.  Lake Champlain Chocolates emerged from a thoughtful gift of chocolates that went a little south.  Jim Lampman owned a successful Burlington, Vermont restaurant on the Lake Champlain waterfront, and regularly gave his staff boxes of expensive chocolates.  His pastry chef finally broke the news to Jim that the chocolates weren’t good.  In fact, the word “terrible” came up.  Jim immediately challenged him to produce better chocolates, and Jim was soon serving truffles to his restaurant patrons.  After a very enthusiastic response, Jim founded Lake Champlain Chocolates to sell wholesale truffles.

Word quickly spread about the new business operating in a tiny alley location, and retail customers started knocking on the door to buy the chocolates directly.  Jim sold the restaurant and turned his full attention to producing small batch chocolates using natural ingredients, many from Vermont.  The chocolates contain no preservatives or shelf-life extenders, and all except the maple candies are Kosher-certified. The business has expanded from its small beginnings and now operates in a 24,000 foot facility with as many as one hundred employees at peak season.  Jim’s son and daughter have joined him in the venture, and the family continues to produce innovative flavors in small batches.

I found this Rum Caramel Dark Chocolate bar at Whole Foods, and I was intrigued right away.

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One of my all-time favorite pies contains chocolate and rum, so I had already bought into that combo.  The addition of caramel would have to take it over the top, wouldn’t it?  The chocolate bar was beautiful (although broken in transit, so I only photographed a portion of it).

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The taste was definitely one to slowly savor.  The dark chocolate was superb, and the caramel tucked inside was thick, creamy and delicious.  The dark rum flavor was the last to be noted, and the combination was even better than I had anticipated.  This chocolate bar is really something special!

The company’s website offers an amazing selection of gourmet chocolates.  Vogue Magazine called their Caramel Five Star Bar “the ultimate chocolate bar”.  The company partnered with a popular Vermont rock band to create their Grace Under Fire dark chocolate bar with an interesting flavor profile of red pepper and pistachio nuts.  Of course, the truffles that started this chocolate adventure are available, too.  We will be trying more of them soon.  Just don’t ask me to choose a favorite!

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Chocolove Cherries & Almonds In Dark Chocolate

I’ve recently been trying to decide whether artisan and gourmet foods are available in more places than ever before, or if my gourmet food radar is just improving.  Maybe it is some of both, but I’m continuously (and pleasantly) surprised to find fantastic gourmet foods where I least expect them.  Such was the case last week when I ate several meals at a hospital cafeteria.  My reason for lunching there involves a long story, but it had a happy ending.  Anyway, I was standing in line to pay for my pre-made, cellophane-bagged ham and cheese sandwich (á la 7-Eleven), when I spotted this beautifully wrapped chocolate bar.

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For a split second, I considered returning the sandwich to its bin and going straight to dessert!  However, I dutifully ate about half the sandwich, then unwrapped my special treat.  The chocolate inside was just as beautiful as its packaging.

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The sweet and chewy Michigan cherries, crunchy dry roasted almonds, and creamy, melt-in-your-mouth 55% cocoa Belgian dark chocolate were love at first bite.  That verdict was unanimous among the tasters, and the bar was gone in a flash.

Timothy Moley is the chocolate genius behind Boulder Colorado’s Chocolove, and describes his venture into gourmet food production as a classic entrepreneurial tale with a dream, a garage, and over extended credit cards.   The dream started when Timothy was in an Indonesian cocoa field.  His goal was to create premium chocolate with an aura of romance.   He studied the art and science of European chocolate-making and targeted American consumers who appreciated premium chocolate.  Chocolove’s packaging resembles a love letter postmarked in a faraway place, and each inside wrapper contains a love poem.  Chocolate lovers, rejoice, as Timothy’s dream included making his chocolate bars affordable enough to be a daily treat.  Timothy sets the example by enjoying 2 bars daily and with 24 flavors, boredom is not likely!

Fortunately, Chocolove is not just available in hospital cafeterias.  Order from the company’s website, or use their “Find a Store” function to locate some close to home.  You will love this decadent chocolate bar!

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Sconza Lemoncello Almonds

Here’s another “no way you can eat just one” Sconza Candy!    Sconza’s gourmet Dark Chocolate Raisins rocked our world and their Dark Chocolate Espresso Beans are just some kind of wonderful.  Lemoncello Almonds have been on my list to try for a couple of months now, and having tasted them, I’m sorry I waited so long.

DSC01517Almonds are my second favorite nut, after pecans; white chocolate is my second favorite chocolate, behind dark chocolate; and lemon is my second favorite citrus flavor, just a smidge lower than orange.  This candy is no second fiddle, though.  Toasted almonds are swathed in sweet, creamy white chocolate, then covered with a delicate lemon-flavored candy shell.   Yum!

Not only are Lemoncello Almonds tasty, they are also very pretty!  With their bright lemon shells, they would be perfect for spring luncheons, bridal or baby showers, or Easter celebrations.  The third generation of Sconza candy-makers created these treats to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their parents, so they would be right at home at your special occasions.  Don’t wait for a party to enjoy them, though!  The Sconza Family’s promise to craft only the highest quality candies has been fulfilled in every flavor we have tried.

P.S. to the Sconza Family – What do you think about a candy made with my absolute favorite flavors:  Dark Chocolate Orange Pecans?  I’m available for taste-testing!

Where to buy Sconza Lemoncello Almonds

 

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Sconza Dark Chocolate Espresso Beans

I didn’t drink coffee until I was well into my adult years.  There wasn’t a specific reason I didn’t drink it; it just never interested me very much.  Although the aroma of coffee was always so tempting, I couldn’t imagine the taste living up to the scent.  When I finally decided to become a coffee drinker, I had to ease into it.  Adding some hot chocolate mix to the coffee seemed like the ticket because it erased any hint of bitterness and added a touch of sweetness.  I eventually weaned myself off the hot chocolate blend by switching to more traditional cream and sugar, but by then, I was hooked on the flavor of mocha.

Sconza Dark Chocolate Raisins were a real wow find last year.  The plump, juicy raisins covered with smooth, dark chocolate border on addictive. Could Sconza Dark Chocolate Espresso Beans live up to that taste experience?  Oh yes, they could!  The 70% cacao qualifies the DSC01445chocolate for health food status, right?  The “international blend” beans are coffee made deliciously crunchy.  Together, they fall into the “betcha can’t eat just one” category.  Allen agreed, and we are competitively eating our way to the bottom of the bag!

Third generation members of the Sconza family are carrying on the proud tradition begun by Vincenzo and Maria Sconza in 1939.  The candies that started as a San Francisco neighborhood favorite now are widely available across the country.  The variety of fruits, nuts, and flavors could keep you tasting chocolate all year.  Groovy Candies is the online source for Sconza’s products.  Try these great candies and espresso yourself!

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Abdallah Pecan Grizzlies

You know those days when you just wish you hadn’t gotten out of bed?  Today was one of those days.  It started with the weather.  Snow and ice in Texas are problems — really big problems, especially when I have to get out and about.  As soon as the driveway was navigable, I was on my merry (or not) way.  I won’t bore you with the details, but nothing went as planned the entire day, and by the time I headed home, I was not in a happy place.    I had to make one final stop, and as I was paying for my purchases, I looked down and saw a yummy-looking pecan-covered caramel candy on the counter.  I picked it up, turned it over to find a dollop of chocolate in the center of the caramel, and I wondered if this sweet morsel would turn around my less than perfect day.  Although I usually have a healthy skepticism about merchandise positioned at the checkout counter, at that weak moment, it seemed worth a try.  When I read on the label the candy was made by a fourth generation family-owned business, it seemed like an even better bet.

Albert and Helen Abdallah opened their Minneapolis corner store in 1909, selling candy, flowers, cigars and fruit.  The company’s website chronicles the family business with vintage photographs of their locations during Prohibition and World War II, and their reopening after the Great Depression.  The family now operates their chocolate shoppe in Burnsville, Minnesota, and has a very nice online store.  Online shopping could be almost as exciting as standing in front of the candy counter because you can select from more than one hundred varieties in half-pound weights to fill your own custom box.  How much fun would it be to choose Grizzlies and Alligators for your box?

DSC01386 I would definitely choose Pecan Grizzlies any day.  They are basically inside-out turtles with pecans and caramel on the outside instead of being covered with chocolate as turtles are.  The pecans were fresh, the caramel was creamy, and the chocolate made it a classic candy.  I really, really loved them, and Allen did, too.  It would probably be a good idea to have an emergency box of Pecan Grizzlies on hand for the next challenging day!

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Chukar Cherries

During Seattle’s Microsoft and Boeing boom in the 1980’s Pam Montgomery was a real estate maven.  The birth of her daughter and approaching arrival of twins caused a reevaluation of her family’s lifestyle.  She and her husband, JT, sold their business and purchased an 8,000 tree cherry orchard in Yakima Valley, Washington in order to bring up their children in a small town.  After the harvest, Pam noticed that some cherries remained on the trees and on a whim, ate several shriveled cherries one day.  As the fruit dried on the trees, the natural sugar intensified, resulting in chewy, super-sweet, delicious fruit.  Pam converted window screens to a makeshift fruit dryer and a gourmet fruit and chocolate business was born.  Chukar Cherries now has three retail stores in Washington state and an online store.

Chukar Cherries

We picked out one of their holiday assortments so we could try a number of Chukar’s confections.  It would be difficult to pick a favorite, because everything in the sampler was oh so yummy.  Here’s a quick rundown of the different flavors:

  • Dark Chocolate Cabernet Cherries – This combo of tart cherries, smooth dark chocolate and wine essence is a decadent delight.  The intense tartness of the cherries is perfectly complemented by the dark chocolate, and the wine essence adds interesting complex notes.
  • Milk Chocolate Classic Cherries – We would say classic with a modern twist.  These are not your grandmother’s chocolate covered cherries with candied cherries drenched in sugar-laden creme.  The intensely sweet dried cherries covered with smooth artisan milk chocolate are irresistible.
  • Dark Chocolate Black Forest Cherries – Bing cherries enrobed in bitterweet cocoa equal yum!  Enough said.
  • Milk Chocolate Truffle Cherries – Sweet cocoa and bing cherries result in a lighter, sweeter bite than the Dark Chocolate Black Forest Cherries, but equally delicious in their own right.
  • Milk Chocolate Honey Pecans – Roasted pecan pieces provide a nice crunch with deep honey notes, and Chukar’s smooth milk chocolate covering makes these treats fall squarely in the “betcha can’t eat just one” category!

As if the chocolate cherry combinations were not enough, the Montgomery Family has sweet dessert sauces, savory grilling sauces, cherry and spicy pepper combos, and pie and cobbler fillings to tempt your tastebuds.  Check out their website and try not to drool over the delicious choices!

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