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BonBonBar 2010 Holiday Newsletter… Blogged

Saturday, February 6th, 2010
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Hello,

Happy Holidays!  Even though I have been quiet on the newsletter front, it has been busy at BonBonBar.

The most exciting news is that I have been hard at work writing a cookbook! It is called Beautiful Candymaking, and it is due out in the Fall of 2011 through Sterling Publishing.  The book will feature my take on a wide range of candy recipes — from toffee to fudge to caramel corn — along with candymaking tips/techniques and gorgeous photography courtesy of The White on Rice Couple.

After developing so many recipes for the book, I thought that it would be a good idea to recharge and seek new inspiration for the company’s confections.  So, BonBonBar will be closed from December 23 to February 1 as I eat my way around France, Italy, Brazil, and California.  I am looking forward to returning with refreshed ideas for new products, but it most likely also means that, unfortunately, some candies will be rotated out in the new year.

As always, thank you so much for your support and enthusiasm.  Happy customers have always been my favorite part of this BonBonBar adventure, and you have given me the amazing opportunity to run a truly artisan food company that will be going into its fourth year. I am grateful, and lucky.

All the best for a happy and sweet holiday season, and I hope that BonBonBar treats will be a part of it!

Thank  you!

Nina

Founder & Chief Chocolatier,BonBonBar

MORE BONBONBAR NEWS

So far, our candy bars are being featured in Fine Cooking, DailyCandy, and The Huffington Post’s 2010 holiday gift guides.

If you would like to place your holiday orders in advance of when you would like them to ship, please let us know in the comments of the order.

All orders placed during the break will ship after February 1.

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.

Mora Iced Creamery – Bainbridge, WA

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

The Blueberry Ice Cream was phenomenal, so full of flavor, at Mora. I lasered in on blackberry dishes while in WA, but the blackberry ice cream I sampled was a little subdued. The blueberry was intense while still being creamy. I finished the whole thing, which is rare.

The 30-minute ferry to Bainbridge island was only about $6.75 roundtrip — a small price to pay for access to ice cream excellence.

BonBonBar Weekly Photo: The Weekly Inspiration… and Six Word Memoir

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

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I didn’t make the food in this picture… And it doesn’t even contain chocolate…. But it symbolizes an important part of BonBonBar’s development… not to mention ritual, and I think that it qualifies as part of my work.

As I never fail to mention, the business keeps me either busy or tired almost all week long. During the weekends especially, which are filled with sprints of production, and Mondays, when I package, I barely have time to eat, so after I go to the post office and UPS as late possible in order to protect the packages from heat for as long as possible, I’m usually very hungry and tired.

I usually go to California Chicken Cafe (CCC; which is mercifully near UPS) to get a Low-Cal Chicken Caesar Salad to take home, eat, and then digest while taking an evening nap. I happen to like that salad a lot, and in a good way, it always reminds me of the weekend that I got overwhelmed preparing orders for Valentine’s Day.

I was extremely tired and hungry after that difficult weekend, and I went to Urth Caffe for a green salad with grilled chicken. As I sat there, alone at a sidewalk table, I remember feeling hyper-aware — in a comatose-sort-of-a-way — of every sensation that I experienced… the feeling of the most wonderful fresh air against my face… the initially-cold metal chair that was in contact with as much of my back and legs as I could manage in order to support them… the lacing sunshine and shadows covering the tables and sidewalk… the varied voices of the patrons around me, discussing business and pleasure… and most of all, the way that the lettuce in the salad snapped, so refreshingly and satisfyingly. I found myself eating the pieces of lettuce one by one, savoring the cool crunch of each bite. A bite with chicken meant a little chewiness, a new flavor, a welcome occasional addition.

I knew I must have been quite a sight — tired, probably disheveled, and marveling at each bite with a stupefied smile — but I didn’t care — and don’t care how weird it may seem to write about it now — I can still feel that sense of relief and goodness that I knew that early February evening, eating that salad.

Salad can easily get short shrift. Some people see it as the go-to healthy option, but it’s often not — because it’s often drenched with dressing. But if dressed lightly or not at all, it really is a way to savor fresh ingredients; or if you like a ton of dressing, like I sometimes do, that’s great, but not healthy. I think of Suzanne Goin as the master of salads. In her cookbook, you can see how salads become a way to combine fresh, individual ingredients so that they can be appreciated for their flavor, texture, and color individually and in combination with each other. Part of her genius method is to arrange salads on plates, instead of bowls. I think it makes a huge difference. A bowl of food is something like an inverted pile… and I tend to plow through those without much thought (they are, in fact, my own staple, fast meals). But a salad of fresh ingredients laid out on a plate — again, not as a pile — has a striking poetry to it. You can’t help but taste it.

The beauty of the CCC Low-Cal Chicken Caesar Salad is that it has squares of toasted pita in addition to the lettuce and chicken. The dry crunch of the delicate pita, the bursting wet crunch of the lettuce, the cushion of chicken, the “sauce” of dressing… really, it’s quite luxurious. I always thought that cubes of croutons were too harsh to put in a salad, so the thin pieces of toasted pita are just brilliant to me. Oh, and the low-cal caesar dressing is salty… wonderfully salty. Others have railed against the mediocrity of the chicken caesar salad, but when done right like this, I love it — with layers of so many textures and flavors.

Anyway, since that V-Day weekend, I usually have a half-size Low-Cal Chicken Caesar Salad as my meal on Monday, and I’ve also made it a point to try something new — a pastry or variety of fruit, usually — every week as a way to be inspired. I haven’t really taken pictures or blogged about it, but it’s something that I take seriously. A year ago, I would have thought that only one inspiration a week is… well… weak… but when you’re busy, it’s just enough to avoid overload — and non-blog-posting guilt.

So… this week, I got a bad CCC salad — overdressed with NON-low-cal dressing (ie, regular Caesar dressing). Despite some popular sentiment, I don’t think that fat equals flavor. It can maintain heat and carry some flavoring, but often, I think it mutes flavor… and makes me feel greasy besides. Plus, the dressing wasn’t as salty as I liked. It was just a bland, limp, fatty salad.

When I woke up the next morning, I felt that my weekly inspiration shouldn’t just be a pastry, it should be a meal. So, I drove out to Square One Dining… and had just the most perfect experience ever. I was tired and wasn’t planning on taking a picture, but after I took a bite of the grits with cheddar and bacon — and experienced the slight pop of the cheese-inflected grits surrounding a piece of perfectly crunchy, smoky bacon — I just had to capture the memory.

And then there was the French Toast with Butter and Maple Syrup. Amazing… the airy brioche, with a curiously light and flavorful eggy batter as a coating. Again, I was in my signature hyper-aware-yet-slightly-comatose state, and I tried to figure out how they did it without asking (though the staff was super-friendly; I just felt like solving a puzzle, and as a backup, had a vague memory that someone asked for the recipe in the LATimes).

And you know how I’m not a big fan of sweet, eggy dishes… but this french toast didn’t taste like eggs… It tasted like heaven; it didn’t at all need maple syrup or butter, except as occasional novelty. I saw little black flecks, and deduced that maybe they infused the cream/milk for the french toast with vanilla beans before adding the eggs to the batter. The result was a combination that was a balance of eggs and vanilla that produced almost a new flavor — not quite one or the other. And incidently, they use local/organic whenever they can, and they use same eggs that I do for my pecan nougat — Mike & Sons.

When I got home, I found that the LATimes had indeed posted the recipe… and that the eggy batter was actually a creme anglaise! In culinary school, we were taught that eggs shouldn’t be cooked twice, so I’m a bit impressed at how Square One so flagrantly QUADRUPLE cooks its eggs in this dish — technically, the eggs in the anglaise are cooked twice and the eggs in the brioche are cooked twice.

It was also the first time that I’ve asked to take home leftovers from a breakfast-based meal, because I couldn’t imagine letting it go to waste. I thought that the leftovers would pale in comparison to the fresh version, but amazingly, they were delicious — cold, and then heated for under a minute in the microwave. Quintuple-cooked eggs… yum…(!)

And what does this have to do with candy bars and marshmallows? Well, I should mention — I’ve come a long way since that V-Day weekend, three months ago. I’ve sent out orders much larger than that weekend, still all by myself, with much greater ease, but I still feel humbled — and in a way, appreciative — of that experience… Even though now, frankly, I’m feeling a little fierce, or at the very least, more able. The new summer-related challenge is to make sure that they don’t melt after they leave me, but with fingers crossed, I’m feeling up to it.

And the inspiration of new food is so important. I taste my confections constantly because the process of making them has so many variables, but I’m always aiming for each to taste like one thing… and that can be a little confining, no matter how delicious. There are so many flavors and textures — that is, products — that I still want to explore and make. Consistent inspiration and quality is vital to me… and my company.

And Tommy, if you’ve read this far, I’ve finally thought of my Six Word Memoir:

She Tried To Do Things Right.

(with full awareness that “right” is subjective… after all, I’m not tagging anyone with this, b/c I just tend not to :))

Weekly BonBonBar Photo: The In-Store Demo

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

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As I walked towards the Market Gourmet in Venice on Friday to hand out samples of my BonBonBar products for the first time in a store, I worried about my karma. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d bought a new product after being given a sample by a company’s rep in a store. Granted, I haven’t come across those types of samples much recently in stores and I buy very little prepared foods, but still… If I used myself as a barometer, the forecast was bleak… I inwardly copped to buying mostly out of habit, taking samples and running, and/or averting my eyes… and was willing to forgive anyone who did the same.

When I got into the store, I saw that only a few candy bars out of the 36 that I’d delivered on Monday had sold, and the marshmallows were still well-stocked, too. I’ve learned that introducing a new product with a relatively short shelf, small size, and high price in a store is tricky — how can you make it stand out from ALL the other products? how can you make it sell? how can people know that it’s good and worth it when they’ve never heard of it before? Customers whose eyes skim along the shelves — often in search of something that they know they want — don’t know about my products or me or my blog or website. Talking and tasting is really key in introducing new products.

Now when I go shopping in stores, I consider the hope behind each and every product sitting on the shelves… Behind each of them is a team of people — large or small — that hopes that all of the hard work of design, production, salesmanship, shipping, and so much more will have been worth it and you will want to pick it up, carry it to the register, take out your wallet, and give money in order to own their product.

I also wonder if the products are part of an order that came in months ago or that week — not out of spoilage concerns, but as a measure of how well it sells.

So, I set up a couple cutting boards with my candy bars and marshmallows on a table near the store’s chocolate display, and across from the side of the register. There were samples of the store’s guacamole, pico de gallo, and chips on the table next to mine. The first few customers had eyes only for the chips and dip, which admittedly, were excellent, but this unexpected competition was a little awkward. Sure, my confections could be the “dessert samples” of the table, but most people took a sample and walked away, or if they lingered, I had to time my own “Would you like to sample some candy bars and marshmallows?” in a perky yet unassuming tone just as they seemed to finish chewing.

But then things looked up. Customers came along who wanted my samples. I found that asking “Would you like to try some candy bars and marshmallows?” got a generally positive response, but adding “I make them myself” got an overwhelmingly positive response. People lit up immediately.

And from what I could tell, people generally loved them. And that’s when it’s really fun. That’s when you’re in it together with people — not as seller and customers — but as fellow appreciators, casually conversing. I’ve been very lucky with my products — people often get very excited about them and want to savor them and tell others about them. It reminds me of when I started this blog to tell others about culinary school and the good food that I was sampling, and it completely amazes me that now people are talking and thinking about my own candy bars and marshmallows in the same way.

One office nearby was especially abuzz about the lady giving out samples at the store — you can read Angie’s post about her take on the bars and marshmallows here (written the very same day! and be sure to check out her hair clips and artwork, too). Also, two different people left the store and returned with others to have them try samples.

When I left, my shelf space was proudly barer. And incidentally, when I delivered more bars two days ago, a customer called to have 8 of them put aside for her to pick up this week.

Of course, I’m happy that they sold, but I’m really happy about giving people food that I consider to be good and seeing them enjoy it. I just loved being in the store — I didn’t want the demo to end and I’m looking forward to going back.

And I really didn’t mind if someone sampled them and didn’t buy it, or didn’t want to try a sample, or didn’t like them (I was happy to give as many diff’t samples as people wanted, b/c it’s rare to love a company’s whole product line). It’s awkward for a second, but I know that everyone has their own palate… and they’re new products…. and they’re expensive (honestly, I was afraid that people who sampled and immediately took one, all happy and excited, would return it once they looked at the price on the bottom, but no one did). Maybe they’ll come back and buy another time, or tell someone about it, or fondly remember one nice bite… or not at all. I know what it’s like to sample food in stores, munching and walking away, sometimes remembering and sometimes forgetting about the product.

I did some eye-averting of my own, though. It didn’t seem right to stare and smile at people as they ate the samples. It’s awkward, and I think it affects how they taste. I want them to taste it fully before reacting, and I don’t want to rush that. I’m actually a little wary of people who immediately start praising them once it hits their tongue — how could they process all the flavors so quickly? Maybe the marshmallows can hold up to that — their flavors are quite up front — but chocolates work more on a time-release of taste principle, I think.

And my sales-speak usually focuses on the origin of the ingredients and a bit about technique. I need to focus more on what interests each individual person. I don’t want to chatter away, but I do want to talk about what matters to them.

And the most dangerous part of doing a demo? Having hours to discover new products myself in the store that looked so good. I got a buttermilk blue cheese from Wisconsin that was amazing on whole wheat bread.