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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.

Sweet San Francisco

Friday, August 28th, 2009

In a few days, I’ll be driving up to take up my new residence in San Francisco, and relocating Sweet Napa for the second time.

So… why am I moving?   I think that the short answer is:  as much as I’ve tried, I can’t conceive of a future for myself in LA.  I think that BonBonBar as it is would best flourish as a storefront supplemented with web orders, but the thought of anchoring myself to a storefront in LA and driving through LA traffic to get there every day depressed me more than it excited me.  I was able to work practically non-stop on BonBonBar because there was little else I wanted to do in LA — or at least, little else I wanted to do that would justify so much time in traffic and smog.  And after Chad and I broke up in June, it seemed like a good time to call a hiatus and choose a new place to live.  It was tempting to stay through the holidays given that this year has been so busy so far, but then Valentine’s Day would be right around the corner, and then Easter, and then… and then… another year would go by in limbo.  Once I started to think about how nice — how pretty normal — it would be to reside in a place where I would think about living rather than leaving, it was hard to stop.

I kept telling people that “I just don’t want to live in a big city anymore.”  I went to Google Maps quite a few times just to zoom out on a map of the US.  I could live anywhere I wanted.  Anywhere!  I tried to imagine what life would be like here or there.  I considered new places and familiar places.  I thought a lot about Montana (Bozeman!).  And Wyoming. And giving in to my perpetual whim to live in a cabin in Maine. I thought about flying back up to Seattle for the second time ever to check it out more in depth.  Or maybe New York or New Jersey, to be closer to my family.

I actually flew to the Rockies to scout out Utah and Colorado ski areas.  I particularly loved the beauty of Aspen, but I thought that my wintertime ski antics would be cramped by the very real, very snowy winter… which would mean limited local, fresh food that I could work with.

That sunk in.  It’s somewhat arbitrary that California happens to be an enormous state with so many different climates so it’s easy for us claim such an awe-inspiring variety of “local” food year-round, but still… there’s a lot of good food grown around here that is best fresh — and can be used to great effect in sweets.

So, yes. Seriously.  I came to California for the film industry in 2002, and I stayed for the citrus in 2009.

I thought about Berkeley.  I drove up to check it out more, but the possibility of something happening in SF and having to commute made me start to think about SF more.  When I saw that there are apartments to rent in the Presidio in San Francisco, I felt like I’d found the perfect compromise between rural and urban life — I would get to live in national park while living in a city.  So… here goes!

Though don’t get me wrong — I know that that there’s so much great food across the country.  But the thought of turning 30 soon and moving to an entirely new — and possibly remote — place alone with a business based on fresh ingredients to think of was a slightly scary one.   So it made a difference that I already know Northern California and its people a bit.   SF seems so full of energy and fun, and it just thrills me to drive around Marin, Sonoma, and Napa.  And there’s also still so much that I don’t know about the area, and I get exciting just thinking about having the opportunity to explore more.  Of course, I am very familiar with the sometimes harsh realities of Bay Area traffic, but I don’t think that it’s as bad.

I really do hate to turn my back in LA because I think it’s often unfairly criticized.   When I moved back to LA in 2007 from Napa, I was ambivalent about the city.  I spent the better part of my first year in our apartment researching and testing recipes for BonBonBar, partially as a way to avoid the people and congestion that I’d left in 2005 after working in the film industry.  But as I experimented with different ingredients, I realized that the food and farmers markets here are fantastic.  I learned so much from the Santa Monica Farmers Market; it was like a second culinary school.  And when I launched the business and when I started selling at farmers markets myself, I met so many amazing people who have influenced me for the better and who I’ll never forget.  So, in a sad-but-happy way, I can say that when I leave LA this time, I’ll miss the people.

I honestly am not sure what will happen with BonBonBar yet.  I’ve been so touched by how many people have taken the company to heart and have gone so far out of their way to help it/me that I feel awful about putting it on hold; I can’t help feeling like I’ve let them down.  But I think I need to know more about conditions in SF before I make any decisions about restarting, and since I can’t know more until I move up there, I’ll have to wait and see.  I know I’m curious…

Annie the Baker – Napa

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

If you find yourself in the Napa Valley this season, you may find Annie Baker selling her Annie the Baker cookies at area farmers markets.  And then… you will find yourself addicted to these cookies that are “for those who love cookie dough more than the cookie.”

I met Annie in 2006 when she was the enthusiastic pastry chef of Mustards Grill, and I’m very excited that she’s moved on to start her own company that she’s passionate about and whose products are so delicious.  These cookies combine the puffy moistness of cookie dough and the depth of balanced flavor of a baked cookie.  You can get: Semi Sweet Chocolate Chunk, Toffee Milk Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter with Mini Peanut Butter Cups, and Oatmeal Double Chocolate Chip.

Annie adjusted the ratio of ingredients in her cookie recipes so that they spread and crisp less — and  so retain their doughy goodness.  I’d recommend them all, based on your personal tastes.  I almost want to say that the Toffee Milk Chocolate Chip is my favorite, but then, when lingering over the cookie jar, I proceed to break off a piece of the peanut butter, and then the choc chip, and then the oatmeal…. I feel like it’s a bit extreme to cast my lot with only one.  I don’t usually eat entire sweets at once, but I think I’m averaging more than one cookie at a time with these.

Look for her under the yellow and black Steelers tent at the St Helena and Napa farmers markets!

And check out Oxbow Market while you’re in Napa, which houses vendors such as The Fatted Calf (zomg!!!!!!!!!!), Hog Island Oyster Company, Kara’s Cupcakes, Three Twins Organic Ice Cream, Model Bakery, and Taylor’s Refresher, and wine, cheese, fish, and meat.  Sitting outside by the river with lunch, a glass of wine, and a bag of cookies is pretty fabulous…  For a valley with such a lovely landscape, it can be surprisingly hard to find a cozy place to relax and enjoy it outside.

Fatted Calf – Napa

Friday, November 14th, 2008

There are some names for which I have an instant affinity. I remember the first time that I read the word “Fatted” followed by the word “Calf” on Sam’s blog (edit: link fixed!) when I lived in Napa. I knew that somehow I would get to know this Fatted Calf myself. It took a while. They opened their charcuterie store in Napa’s Oxbow Market after I had moved back to LA, and it wasn’t until I took a mini-desperation-vacation to Napa in February of this year that I was finally able to purchase their goods and try it for myself (after driving it back to Southern California in a mini-cooler w/ ice brought along for exactly that purpose).

And it was phenomenal. The bacon and the sausage became legend in my mind.

When I took my more relaxed visit to Napa last week, I was prepared to buy more, and couldn’t help telling everyone I knew about them and offering to take orders to bring back some. So, this time, I brought a larger cooler for their meaty goods, and got a bag of dry goods besides.

Bacon… Greens Sausage… Sheep’s Milk Ricotta… Bierwurst… Sweet Italian Sausage… Those were my spectacular goods this time. There’s a certain kind of freshness and exuberance of flavor that informs every product. The texture is very important, too — being rather looser than usual in the sausage and salami, and slightly more substantial than usual in the bacon. In the best and most respectful way, you realize that the meat comes from real animals who were treated well. I’ve never had anything quite like it, and I’m quite addicted. I wish I had bought more and my next trip to Napa will probably be fueled in large part by an overpowering craving; only a few strips of bacon remain, preserved in my freezer, and they don’t ship. I am even saving the rendered bacon fat, something I’ve never done before and I don’t really know what I’ll do with it.

If I lived in Napa, I don’t know how I’d resist having something from them daily. Their offerings rotate some every week, so I wouldn’t really get bored of flavors… And one a day would be balanced by a healthy diet overall… And they also sell gorgeous fresh meat, sandwiches, Rancho Gordo Beans, and Bates & Schmitt’s apple products (I got the syrup last time), so yeah, complete meals all around… And… And… hmm, I’ve put a lot of thought into this.

I have not been completely bedazzled by the Kool-Aid, though — the Beef Jerky that I got is way too tough for me, and I don’t know what to do with the pieces that remain. And the Rabbit Pate was a bit too firm for me, though I remember getting some kind of wonderfully silky pate last time… and perhaps will again next time!

Ubuntu – Napa

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

For various reasons that deserve a separate post, I went up to Napa for a couple days earlier this week. After reading about Ubuntu in the NYTimes and various food blogs, I was dying to try it for myself. It’s a vegetarian restaurant, but it’s the most artistic and boldly flavored on that I’ve been to. I ate at Ubuntu both nights that I was in Napa, and if I was still a local, it would easily be my local standby. And I should mention that it’s reasonably priced, with dishes ranging from $10-$14 or so, and are perfect for sharing; they’re technically small-bites plates. Although wine is kind of pricey per glass, you can get “tasting size” 2oz servings for $3-5 or so.

And the staff? So friendly and helpful. I sat at the bar, and felt very comfortable, chatting and doing a little paperwork.

I love restaurants that you make look at food in a new way, and to appreciate new flavor combinations without being overwhelmed. In this case, the ingredients are so immaculately cared for and presented. You notice their vibrant colors and unique shapes, and experiencing their unique flavors and textures is a special treat. It’s like a spa for all parties involved, except that it feels a little more decadent, and a little more masculine. In his NYTimes writeup, Frank Bruni says to that the space calls to mind a ski lodge, with its high ceilings and stone walls, and I felt that, too. I couldn’t remember what used to be there, and a bartender reminded me that it was a furniture store.

The bowl of the Caramelized Sunchoke Soup arrived dotted with a slow-cooked egg yolk, a quenelle of caramelized sunchokes, a sage leaf (fried?), and apple puree (I believe) before the waiter poured the soup inside. At first taste, the soup was already something otherwordly, making me wonder how the caramelization of the sunchokes led to such an elegantly smoky flavor… until I remembered that it is infused with coffee. It’s not weird for the sake of it, but a perfect pairing that gets even more exciting when sampled with the garnishes at will.

The Cauliflower in a Cast Iron Pot – roast-puree-raw-“couscous”, our vadouvan spice, coriander, and toast lived up to the legend of its cauliflower trifecta – creamy, crunchy, roasted.

The Carrot Gnocchetti with, among other things, mimolette cheese, turning it into a macaroni and cheese with a twist of carrot. I loved the garnish of micro carrots on top, as if growing out of a patch on to of the pot. Um, the pic… is not so clear.

As far as plating goes, you can tell it’s rather modern. Dishes tend to come layered in surprising ways in one vessel or strewn along a plate with a light hand.

This Braised Fig dessert was the first dish that I just had to take a picture of, with its figs, lavender meringue, lemon cream, edible flowers, and yogurt ice cream. The sprightly slivers of candied lemon peel were just the right touch for spikes of flavor.

I also loved the Chocolate “Cheesecake” in a jar, with huckleberries, cacao nib crumble, and perhaps the best tuile that I’ve ever had – deeply chocolate and light and shattering. Incidentally, I played with the idea of a candy bar made with chocolate nougat, dried blueberries, and cacao nibs last year, and this makes me want to revisit it.

The Medjool Date Cake was the last thing that I ate there, a perfect cube of moist cake, with candied quince… and earl grey ice cream… and caramelized apples (I think)… and matchsticks of apple…and candied lemon. The earl grey ice cream was such a delightful part of this dish, mingling so well with the other autumnal flavors that I can’t wait to play with the combination myself… and taste it again.

As all the “I think’s” show, I didn’t ask too many questions or take notes, or take pic’s of the menu as I used, too… I just wanted to relax and enjoy, and I did.