I love farmers’ markets and craft fairs. I always find such wonderful goodies when I go. I’ve always wanted to be crafty. I’ve dabbled in craftiness here and there. When I was a kid, I begged my parents for latch hook kits. They were fun, they were easy and they made great Christmas gifts (or at least I hope they did, because I’m pretty sure everyone in my family got one at some point in their lives).
As a teen, I invested my allowance money in skein upon skein of thread for friendship bracelets. What I lacked in cool designs, I made up in overwhelming quantity. Sure, I actually made some with special meaning for my friends, but for the most part, I just liked making them, so I always had extras in stock. I sold them at school and at garage sales. Considering how much I spent on thread, I doubt I ever turned a profit.
In my late teens and early twenties I took up cross-stitch. My mom always used to joke that I was 13 going on 30, I guess what she really meant was 17 going on 60. But, it was calming and I like the latch-hook kits, it was something I could do while watching TV or listening to music. Also, like my time latch-hooking, pretty much every member of my family got some sort of cross-stitched gift over the years. I prided myself on these pieces though because they were really tailored to each family member: ornaments, hand towels, samplers, mugs, t-shirts, etc.
Now my time crafting is spent in the kitchen. About a dozen years ago, a wonderful family friend taught me how to make chocolates and we spent a glorious day making truffles and all sorts of other molded treats. Not only was it amazing to hang out with her for the day and learn to make chocolates, she also helped me package them to give out as Christmas gifts, which all of my friends and family loved. Since that year, I have always included a homemade box of chocolates or some other confection as part of my Christmas offerings to those I love.
So, this year when I went to the Handicraft Exchange, I was thrilled to find a booth for Chocolate for the Spirit. When I stepped up to oogle the display case, I met the owner, Julie, who was a lovely woman. We got to talking a bit about her chocolate and her company. She’s got a neat back story. She worked in the corporate world until her company downsized and she lost her job. Instead of wallowing, she decided to turn her hobby into her full time love and started her very own line of chocolates. She is a bit of a dynamo and to quote her “wears all those hats” of her business (marketing, recipe creation, purchasing, making and selling the chocolates, etc). She has a shop but also attends events like the Handicraft Exchange to spread the word because she doesn’t have any corporate backers.
I decided to try one of each flavor Julie had to offer at the event, however, it didn’t get me out of making choices as there were multiple options for each treat. I could have some of them in milk or dark, some in milk or white and some in white or dark. Even though a part of me wanted them all in milk chocolate (since that admittedly is my favorite kind of chocolate), I got a variety so I could give a more honest assessment.
The first piece I tried was her chocolate Buddha, and yes, it is shaped just like the spiritual leader, even “painted” in a lovely metallic gold. She only had dark chocolates with her at the show, although this piece does come in milk as well. His head was a rather bitter dark chocolate. Not so bitter that I couldn’t eat it, but basically solid dark chocolate. The caramel ganache inside it was sweet and creamy, but could have used a bit more salt in my opinion. Since it’s advertised as a pink Himalayan sea salt, I wanted just a bit more tang to it, but it was a tasty piece. I’d really like to try the milk variety.
My next indulgence was a pistachio truffle and it definitely brought the salty taste! Inside this little gem is a creamy truffle center, but on the first bite, all I got was a burst of nuts. Not that I’m complaining. I love pistachios and this was undeniably a pistachio piece. There was no hint of artificiality to it. The interior was much creamier, with a buttery, velvety nutty goodness. Like actual pistachios, this candy was not overly sweet, but rather had a delicate, slightly smokey, slightly salty taste to it. The center reminded me of a pistachio butter. I liked it so much, I didn’t even give my husband a nibble (or mention I had it to him), because I wanted it all to myself.
After this piece I tried a molded piece shaped like a rose and painted with metallic purple. It was slightly sweet with a definite with a rose fragrance. I think fragrance is a good word because the scent reminded me a bit of rose perfume. The bitter dark chocolate overpowered the filling a bit and on the third nibble, it almost seemed to have a soapy aftertaste, which surprised me. One thing I noticed about the molded pieces is that they are definitely heavy on the chocolate and lighter on the filling. While the filling add life, I can tell her chocolate is her pride and joy.
After finishing off the rose piece, I tried a really pretty looking swirly chocolate. This piece was done in milk chocolate, so the chocolate was more delicate and made my taste buds happier. The center was very creamy with hints of caramel. It was quite tasty and lovely to look at, although aside from the caramel, I didn’t really get any other flavors from it. Along with this morsel, I also tried a white chocolate piece which had actual specks of vanilla bean in it. Ever since my grandmother bought Bryer’s Vanilla Bean ice cream as a kid, I have been a HUGE sucker for anything with actual specks of vanilla bean in it. This one was no exception. It was creamy with slight flower hints. It was Tasty with a capital T!
My final piece was shaped as a fleur-de-lis. Although it’s hard to tell from the picture, it also has an edible metallic paint on it. The filling was very sweet, but I couldn’t quite place the flavor. Once again, since it was a dark chocolate piece, it definitely had that bitter kick to it. Also, since it is a molded chocolate, which means it needs a thick layer of chocolate (and it had several areas where the filling couldn’t really get to), it ended up being a piece where the chocolate overshadowed the filling.
While the chocolates are definitely appealing to the eye, on close inspection, there are tiny flaws in them, such as small bubbles from the chocolate molds. I know to some, that might be off putting. I thought it was cool because I’ve made plenty of chocolates and I know how hard it can be to get all those darn bubbles out, so it definitely reminded me that these were handmade with a lot of love and care. These chocolates didn’t come off an assembly line and I think that’s cool. I like my chocolate to have a lot of personality and that means a flaw or two here and there.
Value: 8 (I bought them directly from her without any fancy packaging, so it was $10 for all 6 pieces. If you buy them on line, the value goes down a bit as it’s about $2.75 a piece. However, it’s handmade chocolate and she’s a small business owner who uses quality chocolate, so totally worth it).