One of the best reasons to live in Reno is our annual, city-wide, month-long celebration of art called appropriately enough Artown. Every July since 1996, the city comes together to celebrate all things art including live music, visual arts, dancing and often movies in the park.
Spending most of my childhood in the Reno and Sparks area, I was unaware that the amount of art in our community is not common. When I moved to Alaska – I noticed the lack of art almost immediately. While not the only reason I moved away from Alaska, it certainly was a reason I wanted to come back to Reno.
Last year, I got the crazy idea to have artists design something for the tops of my chocolate and I would craft recipes based on their art or on the artists themselves. After an open call for submissions, I picked five artists that all created something truly unique and representative of their work. Then came the challenge: what flavor do you create for an adorable blue yeti? While quite challenging, I loved it!
This year, I reached out to the Artown organization and asked if we could do an official Artown box of chocolates. They were interested immediately which made this little chocolatier’s heart melt. Kate O’Hara, the 2017 Artown Poster Artist, then created the digital art for the chocolate based on elements she had created in the poster. And they are gorgeous!
Two of the designs immediately inspired flavors: the ballet shoes just seemed to be perfect for champagne and strawberries and I wanted something simple but spectacular for the Artown logo so why not showcase that beautiful Vietnamese 73% Dark Chocolate I had just tried a few months back? Especially since Artown is focusing more and more on global efforts in addition to our local roots.
The other three designs were more challenging. Eventually I settled on a key lime pie inspired recipe for the slightly groovy, retro feel of the musical design. Key lime pies seem a bit nostalgic for me and the colors kind of hint to a lime flavor, a good fit for the design.
The sky line of Reno with the mountains in the back made me think of late nights in the city with snow falling. If it’s late and snowing, you probably need a drink to help keep the cold away – so I knew I wanted to do an alcohol based truffle, but which one? I began digging through cocktail books and websites when I came across a 1920s drink called the Brainstorm. It’s an Irish whisky drink with Benedictine and dry vermouth, and it’s usually served with an orange peel. I asked the owners of the Stamp Social Club to make one and it was perfect! Slightly spicy, sweet and floral – perfect for a truffle! I named it the City Collaboration since it really takes the entire city to come together and brainstorm to put on this wonderful celebration every year.
The most difficult design for me was the bird design. I think it’s the fact that the bird almost labels the chocolate as being poultry. But luckily most would understand that it’s not a good idea to have poultry in chocolate! Where to go with that as inspiration? Well, what do birds eat? Or should I do something with blueberries since the bird is blue? Or maybe focus on the branches in the background – are they sagebrush, could I do something with sage?
Eventually, I chose to do something that birds eat – sunflower seeds. But how to best present them? I ended up creating a two-layered confection with the top layer being a roasted sunflower seed gianduja in milk chocolate and the bottom layer a dark chocolate and honey ganache. And while this was the hardest for me to create, I think it’s my favorite one!
If you’d like to try these limited-edition flavors, they’re for sale only during the month of Artown 2017. You can purchase them online and in our store. 10% of the sales will be going to continue supporting Artown. Also, check out the full calendar of events during July, including our own event at Sundance Books and Music on July 27th.