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.
Sometimes my job as a chocolatier is difficult. And then there are days where my research includes a bourbon tasting! And then I’m so lucky as to be invited by a local hotspot of good spirits for a tasting of their special edition and hard-to-find bourbons! You guys, you may want to consider becoming a chocolatier…
For the first tasting, I went to one of my favorite whiskey bars in town: Ceol Irish Pub. It was here that several years ago I fell in love with the darker spirit. I had been a wine and beer lady for some time and had not ventured into drinking anything on the rocks, let alone neat, before hanging out here regularly with friends. I found out that I prefer scotch, and it appears that anything with Glen is a safe bet for me: Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, and Glenmorangie are all high on my list of go-tos.
It was also here that I learned the difference between scotch, bourbon and whisk(e)ys. The general group of spirits is called whiskey which means a spirit made from grains and then aged in a barrel. Scotches are, yes originally from Scotland, but also means that they can be treated with the peat from the bogs of valleys and deltas to achieve a smoky flavor. A good example of something “very peaty” is the Laphroiag scotch which is what we use in our Scotch truffle (available year-round). Bourbons, while originally from Kentucky, do not need to be made within the state and their main difference is that producers add corn to the grains and needs to be at least 51% of the grain mixture. Corn, high in natural sugars, produces an often sweeter tasting spirit.
Because my tastes seem to run toward savory over sweet, I gravitated to the scotches with their complex flavors though sometimes I’m a bit thrown by the peat-ier stuff – good gracious! As such, I knew very little about bourbons and the varying flavors that you can find. Time to get educated!
At Ceol, I told the friendly bartender my intentions: to find an interesting bourbon that people would know of or be excited by. He poured the first four spirits as seen in this picture knowing that they were popular choices and a bit more complex in flavor.
Other patrons were now asking questions too, what better way to learn than from a purveyor or enthusiast? I eliminated two that were not interesting enough for me, one in particular because it tasted very hot of alcohol but then faded instantly. As I sat there, other people came up and said, “You know what you need to try…” and suddenly I had about seven bourbons surrounding me! Luckily all small pours and with a big glass of water!
Finally, I narrowed it down to what I thought was my favorite: Blanton’s Bourbon. It was drinkable and distinctive – have you seen their bottles? I loved that it felt like the sweet bourbon I was expecting at first, notes of vanilla and caramel and then the finish is closer to a floral rye whiskey which I like. Though I had picked a favorite, I decided not to make the ultimate decision until another day because by this time they were all tasting pretty good!
The next day, Chapel Tavern reached out and asked if I’d like to try some of their select bourbons. I don’t know if you’ve been in Chapel lately, but dang – that wall of spirits is an impressive sight! It turns out that the owners of Chapel have purchased an entire barrel from Russell’s Reserve and it is now exclusive to them. And they wanted to know if I’d like to try it? WOULD I!?
Another day of bourbon tasting was in the works! This time I brought a friend to bounce ideas off, especially since he’s the big fan of bourbon. And we kept the tasting limited to four – the three that Chapel recommended to try and another of the Blanton’s to see if I liked it as much as I thought I did.
And boy – this is where my job gets difficult – I couldn’t decide between the Russell’s Reserve for Chapel and the Blanton’s. Both were amazing in different ways. In particular, the Russell’s Reserve had peppery spice and the Blanton’s had the smoother almost caramel taste.
What’s a chocolatier to do? As a big advocate of local business and a fan girl of limited edition flavors, it became obvious that the choice should be Chapel Tavern’s Russell’s Reserve bourbon. So try this limited edition flavor before the bottle is done. And I swear, I won’t do any more tastings – it’s just for the chocolate!
Last spring, I stumbled upon a cocktail recipe for a French Tart. It's a simple drink to make with wonderfully complex flavors. Since then, I've been obsessed with making it into a confection. And I think I've done it!
The drink recipe (found here) has fresh grapefruit juice, simple syrup made with fresh rosemary, a splash of fresh lemon juice, vodka and St Germain. When you make the rosemary simple syrup in advance (and it really is very simple to do), throwing together this drink in a shaker is easy and will still be impressive to your friends and family. And what better drink to wish for warmer temperatures (c'mon Reno and/or winter weather)?
So while the drink recipe is surprisingly easy to throw together, the recipe for this confection took me a long time to create. The biggest issue was controlling the amount of water that is naturally in fresh squeezed grapefruit juice. Because you are creating a confection that must be shelf stable for a minimum of three weeks, even with dairy products present, the chemistry of the interior is very important. And water is easily the biggest enemy in creating a wonderful chocolate. I toyed with the idea of using a grapefruit essential oil, but that just isn't my style. I like using the ingredients as they're found in nature whenever possible.
This lead me to create something other than my usual truffle made of a ganache base. Instead, this month I present the French Tart jelly. This jelly is made with fresh grapefruit juice, rosemary, lemon juice, vodka, St Germain and pectin, not gelatin. One reason being the natural source of gelatin, but the real reason is the texture. The texture of a pectin jelly is so addictive. You can thank French pâte de fruits for my addiction to that texture!
Right off the bat, let me apologize for the tardiness of this update! 2017 has threw me for a real loop (flooding of my house three times, grandma in/out/in the hospital, temporary second location opened and failed, etc etc). But I've also had loads of good news too!
The biggest one is that the manufacturer is back from holiday in China and so we're moving forward with the final design touches of the 2 piece boxes and they'll be underway soon! This was the work of our Kickstarter campaign that we ran in December. These two piece boxes will allow us to serve the corporate and wedding market better. And I can't wait to get my hands on them!
Our expansion plans are moving along as well. The expansion is into a our own kitchen that will be larger and allow for more types of goodies (drinking chocolate anyone?). And of course, pretty new pieces of equipment as well like this one I've been drooling over for months now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7qgCiDNauvI Isn't that pretty? No one else seems to drool as much as me... haha
Did you know that February marks two years in business for Sugar Love? Where does the time go?? Also, when do I get paid? haha
xo Krysta Bea
We're so excited the holiday season that I couldn't just create one flavor for the holidays. And these are traditional favorites with a modern look.
The Peppermint truffle takes a dark chocolate ganache made with our French 56% dark chocolate and we fold in a natural peppermint oil. It may be the perfect ending for too much holiday food since peppermint is known to settle tummies. Or at least that's what heard in the kitchen!
The second flavor is our Eggnog truffle. It's a local eggnog, brandy and a splash of cinnamon. While the peppermint may be a cooling flavor, this one will certainly warm you up! Just in time since it's snowing as I'm writing this.
I'm keeping this short - 'tis the season for me to be working like crazy. And so off I go!
For our next Sugar Love University course, we're exploring New World (Latin) flavors since that's where our chocolate obsession began and that's where some interesting things are now happening in the food world. The jungles of the Central America and the deep forests of the Amazons are beginning to shine again for their interesting ingredients and flavor profiles. Let's discover a small portion of those together at our event that we're pairing with Branded Hearts Distillery (click here for tickets).
So what spices have we chosen for the Spiced Truffle this month? A wonderful and dark, almost raisin-like, sweet and very-long tasting heat. There is a reason why this pepper is often paired with duck, mushrooms and lamb. Then, because most people are expecting a kick from something called a Spiced Truffle, a dash of cayenne pepper is added for that necessary punch.
This is a long flavor profile in your mouth. If you purchase several flavors - make sure to have this last. Not necessarily because it will over-power the others, but because the full flavor takes quite a while to develop on your palate. This is a flavor that rewards, and rewards slowly for those that will wait patiently. Oh and it goes perfectly with a black coffee or a highlands Scotch. Yum!
Oh my goodness!
Fantasies in Chocolate was amazing! This annual chocolate-worshipping event in Reno, Nevada was actually our debut in 2015. So to return was an amazing feeling!
This year’s theme for Fantasies in Chocolate was Diamonds and Pearls, like old Hollywood glitz and glam. As soon as I heard the theme, I immediately knew our booth should be themed as Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Not only are diamonds and pearls involved, but a retro sense of style and high-fashion pervade the movie and what I wanted our booth to be.
And how do you create flavor for an event of this description? While diamonds and pearls are beautiful decorations, they certainly are not an inspiration for confections. Hard, yet beautiful gems? I was stumped.
But if my inspiration was Holly Golightly, what would she do? Well while she drank bourbon in the movie at her lowest point, she was fabulously in love with the city and borough of Manhattan. What’s also known as a Manhattan? The drink of course!
So I ended up making a dark, sweet cherry jam with orange bitters for the top layer and then made a layer of dark chocolate ganache with Dickel rye whiskey. A Manhattan in a chocolate!
Why the polka dot decorations? Because Holly Golightly said that diamonds only look good on a woman over forty. And well, Sugar Love just turned one - so pearls (or dots) it is!
Pears are one of my favorite fruits, and they are just coming into season! Is there a better time to celebrate them?
Pears come into season in the fall and are available almost all winter. And while the Barlett pear is probably the most common in the produce aisle, there is a wonderful variety of pears available this time of year. But which one to use in our truffle? Time for a tasting!
Did I mention how hard being a chocolatier is?? haha
So which pear was the winner? The tiny little Seckel pear packs the perfect sweet punch with a firm but not grainy texture. Read more about the seckel variety from the Pear Bureau Northwest.
So I pair this fresh pureed pear with a great Spiced Pear Liqueur from St George Spirits in Alameda, California (see a review of the spirit here) within a Belgian milk chocolate ganache. Soft texture, sweet pear and a slight heat from the cinnamon and clove to finish. This truffle makes me ready for fall!
Our flavor of the month is an exploration of texture in chocolate for our upcoming Sugar Love University course: Seminar in Textures. Crème brûlée is traditionally topped with a hard sugar shell that is too fun to crack with your spoon. And then the soft creaminess of the custard below is amazing. So how to recreate it?
I think we've gotten pretty close with this! A white chocolate and Madagascar vanilla make for a creamy ganache center. Then separately, I've torched a vanilla bean sugar for the topping. It gives a wonderful crunch to an otherwise smooth truffle experience. And because a flame melts the sugars for the topping, you get that flavor that a crème brûlée has from the same process.
Being the ever-critic of my own work, I would have liked to get that eggy, custard-like flavor for the center but I couldn't figure out a way to get that without needing to worry about refrigeration. Real crème brûlées are stored in the fridge until they are coated with sugar, torched and served. While my chocolates need to be kept at roughly room temperature (they're happiest from about 55-70 degrees) and need to last for 2-3 weeks from the time you purchase. Hrm... a problem I hope to solve one day! If you have any suggestions on how to potentially make these more custard-like in taste - shoot me an email at krysta (a) sugarlovechocolates.com
Oh and as always - here's a photo of my "research" - this is a crème brûlée from Wild River Grill which is right across the street in downtown Reno, Nevada. Also, they serve some of the best dry-aged steaks in town.
This month’s special flavor is the Rosemary Olive Oil truffle in a dark chocolate ganache made from our French dark chocolate. I’ve enjoyed the reactions that people have had as I told them I’m working on this recipe. There’s a mixture of confusion, distrust but mostly pure excitement at trying something so out-of-the-ordinary.
And in my eyes, this is such a natural flavor combination. The savory oil adds a wonderful balance to the slightly fruit-forward French dark chocolate that I use in most of my confections. To match the sensory expectation when someone hears of oil, I tried out a new (and somewhat old) technique called slab ganache. It’s very similar to my piped ganache recipes, however, because you are not agitating the ganache constantly with your hands as you work, the fat emulsion is allowed to form very long chains. This gives a longer, silkier mouthfeel to the recipe.
The oil that I use is from Calivirgin which exclusively uses olives grown on their own land in Lodi, California. The rosemary is added during the pressing of the olives for oil with bright and consistent rosemary flavor throughout.
This flavor, like all of our monthly special flavors of chocolates, is only available during the calendar month of August 2016. You can ask for it specifically in any box size, just leave a note for us on the order screen. And of course, you can come by and try it out. It will change how you think about chocolates!
Oh and here's a bonus inspiration photo which was of a wonderful organic vanilla soft serve ice cream with olive oil and large flaked sea salt that I had from Old Town Tap in Truckee, California after a long hike about a month ago.