Posts filed under ‘candy resource’

Vosges Haut Chocolat Truffles

The Vosges Haut Chocolat boutique was at the top of my list of candy places to hit up in Vegas (though it was a short list; Ethel’s Chocolate Lounge was the only other place on there). The flagship Whole Foods in Austin carries several Vosges bars (BUY!) and small prepicked boxes of their truffles, but I wanted to see an actual Vosges boutique in all of its chocolate glory. I visited the one in Caesar’s Palace’s Forum Shops with my mother on Christmas day, and she generously offered to buy me whatever I wanted as my Christmas gift.

The boutique was prettily laid out, with lots of clean spaces, glass shelving, and accented displays. There’s also a chocolate bar in the back, where you can buy sipping chocolate and giant cookies the size of my outstretched hand. I chose the assortment of mini-bars seen above in the top right corner (I’d known I wanted to buy those since I started planning my trip to the boutique) and picked out two of their truffles, the Tlan Nacu (below photo, left) and the Lion (below photo, right), for my Christmas present. The Vosges employee helping me put them in a pretty white box that he then tied with a purple satin ribbon (like the ones in this photo). I appreciated the decorative touch, as later chocolatiers I visited put my individually purchased truffles in paper or cellophane bags, which were far less pretty.

The Tlan Nacu, described by Vosges as Mexican vanilla bean + dark chocolate, had an incredibly creamy ganache with a sweet tinge to its aftertaste. Otherwise, though, it pretty much tasted like a softened dark chocolate, which is basically what you get when you add vanilla to chocolate.

I couldn’t remember what was in the Lion truffle, so the ingredient list couldn’t influence my tasting notes. I got a very slight chili heat that reminded me of a chocolate chipotle gelato I had a Viva Chocolato. In the truffle, it’s more of a suggestion of that peppery, spicy heat without any actual fire. I also got some slight fruity notes in the aftertaste. Revisiting my photos reveals that the Lion is allspice berry, calabaza, dark chocolate, and pumpkin seed. The pumpkin seed didn’t add much in the way of taste, probably because I picked it off and ate it on its own. Whoops. The allspice berry was probably the source of the chili almost-heat I couldn’t describe while the calabaza, a type of lightly sweet squash, accounted for the slight sweetness in the finish.

These truffles have the smoothest ganache I have ever had the pleasure to experience, and their spherical shapes are gorgeous in a minimalist manner. I wish I’d picked something more adventurous than the Tlan Nacu, which turned out to be pretty tame, but the most of the other interesting truffles overlapped with the mini chocolate bars. At $3 a pop, the Vosges truffles tie with the imported truffles at Viva Chocolato for the most expensive truffles I’ve ever bought. I’d give them a hearty ZOMG! for being decadent, interesting, and well made, but I’m demoting them to an OMG because of the exorbitant price. I probably wouldn’t buy them again for myself, but I wouldn’t turn them down if I got a chance to pick out more next Christmas.

You can also check out Cybele’s take on the Vosges brand at her site.

January 30, 2008 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

Jelly Belly Factory Tour

I have been wanting to take a tour of the Jelly Belly (BUY!) factory for years. I remember back when I was in middle school you could go to their website and, if your timing was right, get a free sample bag of jelly beans mailed to you. Now that they’re a beloved and well-established candy company, they no longer need to mail out free samples to drum up business.

The people at the Jelly Belly Factory were so nice! We arrived at 3:15 to find a huge line winding out of the factory through those gates. I was worried that we wouldn’t make it in for a tour that day (the website said that tours are offered until 4:00, and we were dozens of people past the hour-long wait marker), but they reassured us that, if we were already in line, we would get a tour. We made it in at about 4:20, and there was at least one more tour that went in after our group.

To make the wait easier, Jelly Belly employees constantly walked up and down the line handing out Jelly Belly samples. They had a special scooper that doled out exactly one jelly bean at a time. We got to taste a Very Cherry, a Kiwi, and a Pomegranate. I also visited the Jelly Belly sample bar (hooray for my parents, who held my place in line for me), where you can try everything they sell. Basically, you’re only limited by your shame. I tried a dark chocolate Jelly Belly (a sort of new flavor), a chocolate covered Sunkist fruit gem (not worth buying; the plain fruit gems are way better), an orange Jelly Slug (also not that great), and a lemon-lime Sport bean (super juicy!). And because I’m not a horrible daughter, I bought a little bag of buttered popcorn flavored Jelly Bellies for my patiently waiting parents, as that’s their favorite flavor.

Alas, photography was not allowed on the tour, so you’ll have to be content with their painted representation of the Jelly Belly making process. The tour basically walks you through the factory (you’re overhead on a walkway that has window cutouts at adult and kid-friendly heights) as you watch the Jelly Belly employees work. Each stop has featured video that’s introduced by your tour guide. When we visited, the panning room smelled strongly of buttered popcorn Jelly Bellys with a faintly fruity undertone (Tutti Frutti, perhaps?). I asked our guide, Desmond, if it always smelled like that, and he said the smells vary from day to day as they change the flavors of beans that they’re manufacturing.

At the end of the tour, we all got free mini bags of Jelly Bellys. My family also walked out with 3 bags of Jelly Belly Belly Flops (they were buy 2 get 1 free) in addition to the Bertie Bott’s and on sale Christmas candies I picked out for myself. If you’re ever in the San Francisco area, you should definitely make the Jelly Belly pilgrimage. It’s fun, and you get free Jelly Bellys out of it!

January 29, 2008 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

Candy Find – Viva Chocolato in Austin, TX

I have a new candy find for when I’m home in Austin! Viva Chocolato, founded by Mark Adams and Nino DeFalcis, is a locally owned high-end chocolate shop that recently opened in The Domain shopping center. In addition to truffles, chocolate bars, and boxed chocolates from all over the world, they also serve gelato, chocolate-covered waffles and crepes, fine wines for truffle pairings, single-origin fondue, and more. I popped in to check out their truffle selection and chatted with Melissa Adams, one of the owners, about Viva Chocolato and its chocolate philosophy. I ended up buying a cup of their gelato, which arrived generously overflowing with creamy chipotle chocolate deliciousness, and the following truffles:

From left to right, they are a Michel Cluizel Renne Champignon (caramel and nougatine), a TexCru Jack Daniels, a Grand Sumatra (dark hazelnut), a Michel Cluizel 99% Marseille Cacaoforte, and what I believe is some sort of Italian tri-layered mocha truffle. I don’t know exactly what the last one is because my fifth truffle was originally a Grand Champagne until my dear friend Cassie accidentally dropped my bag of truffles, broke the champagne one, and slipped one of her own into my bag as a replacement when I wasn’t looking. Wasn’t that sweet of her? As Melissa told me, the only thing better than a good friend is a good friend with chocolate. Truffle reviews will come later.

Believe me, it was hard limiting myself to just five truffles from Viva Chocolato’s huge selection (at $2-3 apiece, they’re a bit of a decadent splurge). On the domestic end, they carry handmade truffles made by a local Austin chocolatier, a Texan chocolatier, and a truffle maker in New York. On the international end, there are handmade truffles from Italy, France, Belgium, Switzerland, and probably more countries that I missed. All of the truffles were carefully selected by the Adams and DeFalcis couples over the course of over a year through weekly taste tests that often lasted until the wee hours of the morning. I could think of worse ways to spend a Saturday night. If you’re not lucky enough to live in or visit Austin, Melissa tells me that they plan to add a mail-order component to the business, so just be patient.

My favorite part of Viva Chocolato was their wholehearted promotion of connecting and bonding over chocolate. The seating in the shop is cute and cozy, and there’s even a semi-private Chocolate Party Pod for, you guessed it, chocolate parties that include a guided chocolate tasting, chocolate pairings with wine or champagne, the aforementioned single-origin fondue, and dessert in the form of a handmade European chocolate truffle torte with coffee and tea. I think my girlfriends and I need to treat ourselves to a chocolate party next year to celebrate our college graduations.

Melissa was incredibly gracious in taking the time to chat with me and show me around Viva Chocolato. Her love of chocolate and the shop that she helped develop was easily apparent in the little details she pointed out (like the cacao pods on the gorgeous glass light fixtures and the custom made clock below) and in the way she spoke of Viva Chocolato’s development from idea to reality. As far as I’m concerned, Viva Chocolato will handily replace the coffeehouses, the cafes, and the gelato place where my friends and I used to gather for our Thanksgiving, winter, and summer break reunions. Clearly, this place deserves a ZOMG!, and I’ll definitely be back every time I’m back in Austin.

(I’m so mad that this picture turned out so fuzzy. I want a clock like that. Except mine would say ZOMG, Candy!, of course.)

January 15, 2008 at 8:00 am Leave a comment


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