Archive for September, 2008

The Pumpkin Pie Candy Bar is Now Available

Monday, September 29th, 2008

Pumpkin Pie Candy Bar: Spiced Pumpkin Caramel and Graham Cracker enrobed in Dark Chocolate.

It’s now for sale on my BonBonBar website. It will start shipping next Monday (October 6), and it will be available until the end of December.

And I really appreciate all of the thoughtful and clever feedback to my naming issue! I gave it a lot of thought. Ultimately, I realized that I was aiming for a bar that tastes like a slice of chocolate-covered pumpkin pie, and I think that’s what it tastes like and that’s what I want people to expect — and not enough people have butternut squash pie as a reference point. I don’t think that it could live up to a butternut squash name or even just a “pumpkin” name because the squash flavor is the most subtle — spices and chocolate are just more potent. When I offered my taste tests to others, everyone except one person loved the bar and didn’t have any changes to suggest. The lone dissident thought that the pumpkin flavor was too weak. And that’s when I truly decided that I wasn’t going for the squash flavor, per se, but the pie flavor. That person agreed that it tasted like pumpkin pie.

I don’t want to be dishonest about my ingredients, though, especially when allergies can be involved — the caramel does contain both butternut squash and pumpkin. So, I say that in the product description on the website, and since I tend to rattle off ingredient info to my customers at the farmers market anyway, I’ll make sure that they know, too. And frankly, selling it will be just a little easier — even my other bars seem to require so much explanation and that’s already exhausting enough, over and over again. It’ll be easier to introduce it as a pumpkin pie bar, and then say that it contains butternut squash, too, rather than introducing it as a butternut squash pie bar and then explaining that it tastes like pumpkin pie. In the first case, people will get an idea of it right away and immediately have good associations with it (hopefully).

In other candy bar news, since my gift boxes fit 3 candy bars, and I now have 5 bars, including 4 bars that are roughly the same size, I edited the gift box assortment options to allow for options to choose which 3 bars you want in the box — even if that means 2 of the same bar. I hope that makes sense, too!

BonBonBar Shipping Policy Update

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

I’m going to try allowing BonBonBars to ship Priority Mail nationwide again, now that the weather is generally cooling down.  It usually takes 2 days, just like 2nd-Day Air, and sometimes 3 days, usually to rural areas and, oddly, the Chicago area.  Most packages will still be lined with styrofoam for at least a few weeks, though.  And if a region looks particularly hot, I may have to notify the customer and hold the package until it cools down.

I’m grateful that most of my bars survived the Summer, and that it’s now the Fall… but I can’t wait until Winter.  I’m so used to putting gel packs in my packages that I’m frankly a little scared to think that they’ll ever survive on their own again — trucks can get hot any time of the year! — but it’ll be so much easier and less expensive to ship.

“Candy Bars, Hot Dogs… Nevermind”

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

I really shouldn’t call out my products to customers at the Farmers Market when I’m tired and hungry… and spy someone eating a hot dog…

I Kind Of Get a Kick Out of Buying My Gel Packs

Saturday, September 20th, 2008

Earlier this year, in preparation for the hot season, I combed the internet for sources of gel packs to put in my shipped packages. It was a little tricky because a lot of companies make them around the country, but they’re expensive to ship b/c they’re so heavy. I was thrilled when I found a company in LA that sold them at a very reasonable rate, and even more thrilled when I called and asked them if I could pick up a case to buy instead of having it shipped, and they said yes.

So, periodically, I drive over to an industrial part of southeastern LA full of factories and warehouses, and pull into the company’s huge, partially concealed parking lot. The parking lot has spaces that go perpendicular to the buildings flanking it, and a lot of empty space in the middle, presumably for large shipping trucks to maneuver around. It’s like a wide-open asphalt prairie for my silver VW New Beetle. I park and walk across the expanse and up the loading dock ramp to the inside of the facility. The office is in the foreground. All around are pallets and tall piles of huge bundles of packaging goods. There are some men with braces around their torsoes walking around or driving vehicles to move the pallets.

So far, because I wasn’t sure of my shipping volume this summer, I’ve bought one case at a time. I usually get a case of 72 8-oz gel packs (which would mean shipping at least a 36 pound box). For me, this is a good number of gel packs; for them, of course, it’s practically nothing. BUT they’re always so nice and helpful to this small-time chocolatier. They answered a ton of questions my first time and gave me samples, and ever since, always ask how business is going and treat me like a normal customer, no matter how eccentric and bemused. I get a charged a little less each time, or might be upgraded to a slightly larger size. I pay in cash. If I don’t have the exact amount, they’ll likely round down the total to what I have, because they don’t have change — there is no register.

And no matter how much I insist that I can carry the case to my car, one of the men always transports it for me, either carrying it on his shoulder or wheeling it on a dolly, chatting or smiling along the way. This case of gel packs — roughly the size of a gym bag — is then gently placed into the trunk of my car, which, conveniently enough, was practically designed to have just enough room for a gym bag.

I thank them, and ride off, retracing my route to the 10 Freeway or stopping for a pupusa.

California Tart Company – Los Angeles

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

Ok… even just writing the title of this post has given me a tart craving.

I have the fantastic fortune to sell BonBonBars next to the California Tart Company at the Brentwood Farmers Market on Sunday mornings. Right now, it’s a two-person company: Evelyn heads up the baking side more while Roberto heads up the sales side more.

Their products are savory tarts — most modeled after the Italian torta pasqualina — as well as sweet tarts. And the tarts are just my style: lots of delicious filling encased by a thin layer of rather lean dough. There are 2.5 cups of vegetables in every tart. The vegetables are allowed to shine as the often farmers market-fresh stars that they are; unlike so many prepared vegetables available for sale in stores and restaurants, they are not drenched in oil or smothered in a rich filling. These tarts are really about feeling good — you feel good when you buy them (b/c Roberto and Evelyn are wonderful to chat with and b/c they’re fairly priced at $6.50), while you’re eating them because they’re delicious… and afterwards because you feel nourished, not stuffed…

Here’s a sampling…

Spinach & Pea Tart, “a taste of Liguria”

Leek & Brie Tart, more of a French-style

Oh, and there’s this landscape of porcini and assorted mushrooms, over caramelized shallots, sprinkled with thyme….

There’s also an amazing Zucchini, Basil, & Parmesan Tart, “with the feel of Positano.”

Although I should know better, I still work under the delusion that I can last through the whole Brentwood market without eating, but it is a 6 hr market and I often end up scoffing a cold tart down at some point, which gets earlier and earlier every time, because it’s too good to put off. But if I wait (or act brilliantly and buy multiple tarts), their full flavors are really unleashed after being heated up in the oven for a few minutes… Add a salad and a glass of wine, and it’s an even more perfect meal…

Especially since you can keep the party going with one of their dessert tarts…

This is their Pear & Chocolate Tart… DO YOU SEE ALL THAT CHOCOLATE???

This post may overflow with dithering admiration, but you see, I barely buy pre-made food anymore — it’s so rarely good and so often over-priced and needlessly fatty. I’m so grateful to have access to their tarts because they’re exactly what I would want to make for myself at home. They focus on the good stuff.

For now, they’re selling to the lucky customers at the Brentwood Market and the Manhattan Beach Market on Tuesdays… but the word “store” has come up. And in the meantime, they do catering, too.