December begins and it’s almost as if the crack of a starter gun sets us all in motion, pushing off the blocks and sprinting headlong toward those final days of the month when everything better be shopped, shipped, wrapped, and ready. For those of us who celebrate Chanukah, rewind this process back a month as the holiday officially kicks off WAY earlier than usual this year. Oy vey!
Well, friends, in honor of the season of sharing, I have selflessly thrown myself into an intensive research period just for the sake of offering great gift-giving ideas to all of you. No, no, please, there’s no need to thank me—I was happy to do it … really, really happy!
I began my project by attending the 13th Annual Chocolate Show in NYC in November. It’s perfect timing for snapping up specialty treats and discovering great finds for holiday gift buying. After roaming the exhibition halls, where more than 50 vendors showcased—and offered countless samples of—specialty products including truffles, fondue, chocolate-enrobed bacon, espresso beans, peanut butter bars, “drinking elixirs,” and so much more, I found a few faves I thought chocolate-loving Jersey Moms might enjoy giving (and getting) this year:
2 Chicks with Chocolate: Elyissia Wassung and her mom, Barbara, are the two chicks, and their Jersey-based company produces the chocolate under the direction of their renowned “Master Chocolatier” Patrick Coston. Their line of fun, gift-ready treats includes toffee, bark (Pumpkin Spice is the current seasonal specialty flavor, but check out others like the Coffee Bark with Espresso Sea Salt, too), Spicy Tiles, Rock-n-Pop (crazy chocolate-covered popcorn with toffee and Pop Rocks), and various lovely filled-chocolate collections. The Wine Collection is especially nice for the oenophiles on your list: the selection pairs Spicy Merlot bon bons with Cabernet Caramels, the box features a wine bottle silhouette, and the whole thing is slipped inside a silky cocoa-brown wine bottle bag. You can shop 2 Chicks online, and select items can also be found at some HomeGoods locations, Platypus in Shrewsbury and Princeton, and Century 21.
Sendall Chocolates: Bob Sendall, a bigwig in the culinary world as a chef, event producer, and cookbook co-author, has been working his magic for more than 20 years. Throughout that time, he had a special candy treat that he bestowed on friends, family, and guests, never intending to make it part of his business. But seven years ago, his “Toffee Taboo” hit the market and it is not to be missed. Available in milk, dark, and holiday versions (the addition of dried cherries gives it a seasonal spark), Toffee Taboo is a chunky bark of Belgian chocolate with a cascade of toffee-encrusted almonds and cashews and a drizzle of white chocolate over the top (see the photo above for a visual sample!). If you happen to be road-tripping to Pittsburgh, where Sendall is based, you can find it in several locations there. Closer to home, it sells at Barneys as well as Chelsea Market Baskets in NYC. Shop online at http://store.allingoodtasteproductions.com.
No Chewing Allowed: I find the French irresistible. Olivier Martinez, Vincent Cassel, Marion Cotillard … ah, but I digress. Back to the chocolate … powdered French truffles are such a unique culinary treasure—a moment of pure bliss when the nugget of smooth chocolate emerges from its light dust of bittersweet pixie dust inside your mouth. No Chewing Allowed is a French company that has been crafting these perfect specimens since 1934. It was a real treat to sample their truly first-rate truffles at the show while the table crew kept watch with stern reminders of “no chewing allowed!” Their truffles will be available at a handful of holiday markets in the city through December. More info, and online ordering, available at www.nochewingallowed.com.
Alas, the show did come to an end, as all good things must. But I had one more discovery yet to make! My husband, perhaps taking pity on me after my massive post-show sugar crash, brought home a treat he’d found close to home: Jersey Devil Chocolates, crafted just down the road from me in Madison, NJ. This crazy-delicious bar is “hot & spicy,” as the packaging promises. It’s a smooth dark chocolate with chipotle chili and tart, tasty bits of cranberry. You chew through your first square thinking, “hmm, not spicy, I don’t taste the chili …” and then the warm flame of that gorgeous chipotle flavor catches fire gently on the back of your tongue. A wonderful sensation! Love this one with a glass of wine, and the packaging (featuring an impish little devil face) is fun for giving to out-of-staters to represent your home turf with a little bit of Jersey ’tude. Check out the website (www.jerseydevilchocolates.com) for more info and where to find it around the state. It’s also selling on Amazon.com.
Happy holiday season to you all. Enjoy every bite!
This is an original JerseyMomsBlog post. You can also follow Deanna Q’s walks along the chocolate path, and other culinary roads, at JerseyBites.com.