We just upgraded our blog to the latest version of WordPress, and a new template called “Fanwood”. Also added a lightbox feature for photos (just click on a photo and use the arrow keys to see all the pictures in a post). What do you think of the new features? Any requests?
Beginning Tuesday, March 13th, we will be discounting items throughout the shop by 15-40%. Stop by the shop to find out what’s on sale and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for daily specials. Our final day at the shop will be Saturday, April 14th. *Please note that discounts do not apply to Easter items.*
We have lots of gianduja hanging around the shop for the holidays, so we thought we’d better re-introduce this amazing treat so you can get to enjoying it.
Gianduja was first invented in Turin, Italy by Paul Caffarel in 1865. By grinding hazelnuts into a paste and then adding it to chocolate and sugar, he was able to produce a creamy, nutty treat. Originally this confection was shaped into gianduiotti (below) – almost like an upturned boat – then wrapped in foil. Today though, it comes in an array of forms, including bars and spreads.
Which gianduja do we love?
From Venchi, classic gianduiotti wrapped in gold, both in small and larger sizes. They also sent us holiday Nutcracker boxes, with 10 pieces of gianduja festively bound. And finally, jars of white gianduja spread (think Nutella), with a hint of vanilla.
Amedei boasts one of the best gianduja bars we’ve ever tried, combining beautiful hazelnuts with their amazing craft chocolate. They also produce a drinking chocolate that combines finely ground hazelnuts with their 63% dark chocolate – a serious treat to sip during the cooler months.
And finally from French maker François Pralus, Barre Infernales. These beauties come in a brick style shape, and feature a hazelnut gianduja paste, studded with whole hazelnuts, all enrobed with either milk or dark chocolate. We can never get enough of either.
So there you have it. Hopefully you’re able to sit down over the holidays to savour this Italian beauty. We promise you will be hooked forever.
We’ve been choosing our favourite bars over the past few months, and for December’s ‘Pick of the Month’, we’d like a little help.
Leave a comment below (or e-mail us at marianne [at] kerstinschocolates [dot] com) telling us why your favourite bar should be December’s feature. We’ll pick the most passionate response and give the winner their favourite bar on the house.
There are a couple caveats:
Firstly, no Porcelana.
Secondly, we like to use the monthly features to highlight some of our single origin/imported selections that people might not normally pick up. So no Chocophilia bars, please.
Other than that, any bar in the shop is game. We’ve now received all our Amedei, Amano, Madécasse, Askinosie, Bonnat, Michel Cluizel and François Pralus, so there’s lots to choose from. Happy tasting!
Edit: Here’s a list of bars currently at the shop. Madécasse has been left out since they were featured in our November pick.
Amano – Ocumare 70%, Ocumare 30%, Dos Rios, Guayas, Morobe, Cuyagua (Limited Edition), Montanya (Limited Edition)
Domori – Lattesal, Biancomenta, Cappuccino, Latteamaranth, Peperoncino, Biancoliquiriquia
Amedei – ‘9’, Chuao, Toscana Black 70%
Michel Cluizel – Los Anconès, Concepcion, Vila Gracinda
Bonnat – Madagascar 75%, Asfarth (dark milk), Surabaya (dark milk), Java (dark milk)
François Pralus – Indonesie, Tanzanie, Trinidad, Colombie
Askinosie – Del Tambo, Tenende Tanzania, Nibble-bar
TAZA – 60%, 70%, 80%
Patric – 75% Madagascar, PBJ OMG, Mint OMG, Mocha OMG, Cappuccino
While Portland may only have one bean-to-bar manufacturer (Woodblock), the flavours going on in Oregon are pretty exciting, with the likes of Cocanú, Shagùn, Alma and Xocolatl de Davíd all in the mix. I couldn’t resist filling my suitcase with “a few” bars for Rachel and I to sample back at the shop. Here’s how it went:
Cocanú – Sebastián Cisneros does his best to keep his chocolate ‘weird’. Right on his website it says, “We tinker with chocolate couvertures (from Felchlin) and give them an alternative portrait.” Things like Pop Rocks, Palo Santo wood from Ecuador and Saigon cinnamon can all be found in his beautifully wrapped collection of nine bars. My favourite (and Rachel’s) is easily his ‘Holy Wood’ bar – Felchlin’s 68% Bolivian chocolate infused with incredibly floral, fresh Palo Santo wood.
Sahagún – Two bars from this chocolatier made it back to Edmonton – Oregon Bark and Palomitapapá. The former featured a dark Madagascan base which held rich hazelnuts and fruity sour cherries, both from Oregon. Beautiful. The latter was a bit more complex – Ecuadorian chocolate, exploded corn, chile and fleur de sel. We loved the layers of flavours, though in the end we still weren’t sure about the crunchy ‘exploded corn’.
Xocolatl de Davíd – I wish now, that I would have picked up a few more treats from this company that seems to focus heavily on that glorious salt + chocolate combo with ingredients like bacon, foie gras and Parmesan cheese. I ended up with two bars – 68% Bolivia with olive oil and 72% Ecuador with Parmigiano-Reggiano – as well as his ‘bacon caramel’ Raleigh Bar. Everything was excellent, but by far my favourite is the olive oil. The olive oil gives the bar a great fruitiness, while some smoked salt in the background gives some unexpected texture and savouriness.
Alma – I tracked down Alma at the Portland Farmers’ Market at PSU, after hearing wonders about their confections. I sampled a rose caramel and brought back ginger-almond toffee and Habanero caramel in my suitcase. By far the star was the toffee, consumed by Rachel and I in just one afternoon. Sharp and gingery with perfectly executed, flavourful caramel and a deep, dark chocolate base. I should have bought more.
Woodblock – As far as I understand, this is the only company doing ‘bean-to-bar’ in the area (I think Moonstruck imports chocolate for their bars and confections). Rachel and I cracked their 70% Dominican salt and nibs bar at the shop. While we wished there were more salt and nibs, their chocolate is undoubtedly beautiful, with lots of fruity notes throughout.
Two great sources for chocolate in town are Cacao Drink Chocolate in the downtown area, and The Meadow, a shop in the NE that also carries copious amounts of finishing salts, Oregon wines and bitters.
Cacao features drinking chocolate flights, an amazing selection of bars, confections and other chocolate related items. Plus they have a beautiful, rustic space that everything can be enjoyed in. Walking into The Meadow is quite the experience, and thankfully friendly staff are there to help you choose a bar from their wall of single origin chocolates or fill your container with a new sea salt. And I immediately fell in love with their copious selection of bitters, something so rarely encountered in Edmonton.
I recently chatted with some customers at the shop who said they’ve also tried some of Xocolatl de Davíd’s items; they were amazed at the savoury items he was including in his bars and confections (as was I). What about you? Any combos from American chocolatiers that have blown you away?
After scooping up their salted caramels and Phinney bars in our shop, I was quite eager to make a stop over at Theo‘s factory whilst in Seattle.
Walking through Fremont towards their brick building is quite something. You think you can smell chocolate when you walk through our door? We could smell the acids being released through the conching process nearly two blocks away. If you get lost on the way to the place, you can easily follow your nose.
For $6 we were able to tour the the factory with about a dozen others, and a guide describing each step of the bean to bar process. Though I discuss the steps of ‘bean to bar’ in tastings and with customers all the time, it was quite lovely to see it all being done.
And so, I give you our tour of Theo Chocolate:
The Roaster: First the beans are washed and then they end up here. This is where the beans begin to take on their final flavour.
The Winnowing Machine: From the roaster the beans go into this machine, where the husk is removed and the beans become nibs.
After the Winnowing machine things got a bit more complicated as machines began work within their green casings. In these machines it seemed that the cocoa butter was being separated from the solids, and then added back together before heading over to the ‘mixer’ just behind us. This was where flavourings were added. From there the chocolate worked its way through the water-heated pipes to the Conche, just on the other side of the tour guide, where the particles were refined and some of the acids released. This was the smell that filled the factory and beyond.
From here we were taken to the confection kitchen, where all their caramels and ganaches are created. While we were visiting, they were prepping for Pear-Balsamic ganache while another person was creating the ‘jam’ part of PB&J truffles – the smell was amazing.
Finally, we took a peek at the bar makers before heading into the retail space again. The chocolate moves through the pipes and into bowls, where it is poured into the moulds. After that a machine vibrates the moulds to make sure no air bubbles make it into your bars.
And then back into their beautiful retail space.
Theo clearly has their bar and confection making down to a science, and they have become a well known chocolatier throughout the U.S. We saw their bars in grocery stores and in almost every chocolate shop we visited. Our tour guide said to keep up with the demand, they recently added a third shift to their lineup, which means they are making chocolate 24hrs. a day. Crazy, but it means more of their caramels and coconut curry bars for me… and you.
September 2011 Newsletter
We were going to start this month’s newsletter by wishing you all a happy fall, complete with scarves, jackets and copious amounts of chocolate. But instead we’d like to help everyone enjoy the summery weather (that has finally arrived in Edmonton) by continuing to offer our Valrhona chocolate ice cream. We’ve got pints ready to go in the shop, and Rachel will be creating milkshakes and her lovely ice cream sandwiches over the next couple weeks. Is there really any better way to cool down than with Valrhona’s 80% Coeur de Guanaja in ice cream form?
After years of planning and preparation, Kerstin and her family are departing this month for a one year trek around the world to explore the world of cacao production. The voyage will take them from the Salon Du Chocolat in Paris to the cacao fields of Madagascar and the ancient cacao cultures of Meso-America. A rough map of Kerstin’s path around the world shows her stops in Europe, Madagascar, Indonesia, Mexico, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic. Kerstin will be blogging and posting on our Facebook and Twitter pages, so stay tuned!
Your chocolate shop afficionados
While Kerstin tracks down chocolate in its raw form, Marianne Stover and Rachel Pereira will be heading up things at the Edmonton shop. Expect more great chocolate tastings, events and of course, great chocolate on the shelves. Marianne is off to Portland and Seattle over the next couple weeks, so keep an eye on the blog for details on her trips to Cacao Drink Chocolate in PDX, and to Theo and Marie and Frères in Seattle.
More shop news
After a quick summer break we’re back at the shop working on Christmas details and dreaming up new bark flavours. We’re still waiting on many of our European beauties, but bars from Cluizel are back in stock. On our side of the world, bars from Madécasse, Askinosie, Patric and Taza have arrived and the shelves are full. We are, however, anxiously awaiting new bars from Theo. Keep an eye on the blog, our Facebook page and Twitter for news on arrivals.
A new tasting has been scheduled for Thursday, September 29th. This is the original – an hour and a half of chocolate history, bean to bar discovery and sampling. The perfect intro to the world of fine chocolate. Tickets can be found here or can be purchased in shop or via phone.
As always, we will continue to offer private tasting events at the shop for up to twelve people. Feel free to call or e-mail us for available dates.
While Kerstin is away from the shop, we have decided to discontinue our in store truffle line. This will allow us to focus on our single origin and Chocophilia collections, as well as our tasting workshops and other events. We will still be offering Melt-a-ways, our Chocophilia line, coconut, dulce de leche and peanut butter cups in addition to monthly bark flavours all made in house. If only truffles will do, please contact us via e-mail or phone, and we will forward the request to our chocolatier.
Did you say Vosges?
Many of you have been calling and e-mailing us about Vosges chocolate and their incredible Mo’s Bacon Bars (Applewood bacon + alderwood salt). We’re happy to say we’ve placed an order and are keeping an eye out for their arrival. We’ll be sure to keep you all updated. Along with the much loved milk and dark bacon bars, expect Black Salt Caramel (black Hawaiian Sea salt + burnt caramel), Red Fire (Ancho + Chipotle chiles + Ceylon cinnamon) and Blood Orange Caramel (blood orange + campari + caramel + hibiscus flowers) along with minis of the Amalfi (white chocolate with lemon and pink peppercorn) and Creole bars.
Throughout September the shop will continue to operate Thursdays and Fridays from 10-6 and on Saturdays from 11-5. Look for new fall hours in October with extended hours in December.
See you soon for ice cream!
The Kerstin’s Chocolates Team
Many of you likely read David Lebovitz’s blog. He does a lot with chocolate – specifically sharing information on all the wonderful chocolate shops in Paris, along with tips for eating and baking with chocolate at home.
This past fall David paid a visit to the workshop and Paris retail shop of Patrick Roger. You might recognize the name from Kerstin’s tour of Paris’ chocolate shops last spring. He recorded the following video whilst exploring the shops and garden of Roger’s operation:
A study by Elizabeth Mostofsky and colleauges that was published in the Circulation: Heart Failure in August 2010 found that women who ate high quality dark chocolate once or twice a week were less likely to have heart failure. Another reason to keep eating chocolate! Read the study by clicking here.
Check out this cool video about Michel Cluizel, one of our favorite chocolate makers from France. Narration is in French, but the pictures are self explanatory!
(Click on the video to expand it.)
One thing (of many) that I find endlessly fascinating day in, day out at the shop is the relationship that our customers have with chocolate.
First, there is the frequency of the purchases. Some stop by once a week, like clockwork. Others come in a little less, but still regularly. Others still stop by only for special occasions.
Then, of course, there are the purchases themselves. There are those who stick to their old standby and others who are always determined to try something new. We’re quite liberal with the samples, trying as best we can to find the just the right bar or confection, so most people end up leaving with a little of both – something tried and true, and something a little different.
Lastly, there is the quantity – some buy just enough to last them until their next visit, deeming any excess too dangerous to peacefully co-exist with. Others need the reassurance that there is always some chocolate to be had, and stock up to save themselves from any potential panic attacks in the future.
I fall somewhere between the two, preferring only to keep a small stash on hand for ’emergencies’ (which may seem sensible, but be warned – the presence of ’emergency’ chocolate tends to increase the amount of ’emergencies’ you have).
So what are your chocolate-buying and -eating habits? What is too much (is there such a thing?) or too little? And do you crave the same things again and again, or do you want to try everything you can?
Claudio Corallo is a genius, and this video proves it! A British TV crew travel to Sao Tome and document how Claudio and his family grow and process the beans. I found this video fascinating, and I hope you do too.
As many of you know, we have been carrying Madecasse chocolate from Madagascar for a while. It is fantastic in many ways. Watch below to learn about where the chocolate is made, and get a peek inside the factory!
Kerstin brought back all sorts of treats from Paris for us to test at the Shop. My favourite quickly became the mint ganache by Patrick Roger – it was infused with a heavy concentration of mint, and the impact was amazing… it seemed as though I had just eaten a bunch of fresh mint leaves!
While the ganaches I sampled tasted lovely, after travelling halfway across the world, the shells looked a little worse for wear. So instead of taking pictures of the confections themselves, here are some shots of the jewelry box-esque packaging.
While I love the colour of the Patrick Roger, my favourite has come down to a tie between the luxurious, crocodile textured box by Jean-Charles Rochoux, and the cool, sleek, brushed stainless from Jacques Genin… I think the latter is beginning to take the lead however.
While the chocolate inside may truly be what matters, as Kerstin noted in her previous post on Patrick Roger, the gorgeous packaging is often what draws us in.
The results of the 2009 ACE awards were released today. Our packaging (designed by local Edmonton design superstars Vanguard Works) won two Awards of Distinction for the Cocoa Nib Caviar and the Drinking Chocolate.
Thanks to the Advertising Club of Edmonton for running a great contest!
The Edmonton Journal released an article last week on the City’s infatuation with all things bacon… Both the Zotter bars and the chocolate covered bacon, available at Kerstin’s, were referenced in the article, so we thought we’d better clarify the status of our bacon and chocolate treats.
We did get some Zotter Bacon Bits bars in a couple weeks ago, but alas, they are already sold out! We’ll be sure to order some as soon as possible and will let you know when they are in.
Secondly, the chocolate covered bacon, featured last year for Fathers’ Day will be back from June 1st to June 21st. You only have two more months to wait!
In the mean time, I will leave you with this interview from Global TV last year to get your taste buds going: