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Free Chocolate at Stowe!

Posted on January 29, 2013 3:27 PM by Caitlin
Stowe Ice Carving Competition

Thanks to our beautiful store in Waterbury, just down Route 100 from Stowe, we are the official chocolates of Stowe Mountain Resort. This weekend was a big one for the resort, as they were part of Stowe’s Winter Carnival, and on Saturday they hosted their annual Ice Sculpture Competition.

With only a few hours to create art out of frozen water, it was amazing to see these carvers work. Chainsaws, hand tools and rags were all used to create beautiful finished sculptures.

Free Chocolate for Everyone

All of this was great fun to watch, but with temperatures in the teens and an added wind-chill factor, we knew we had to help keep the crowds warm and happy. My mother always had chocolate in her pocket when we went skiing, and we passed along the tradition this Saturday, handing out free chocolate squares to adults and children alike.

Five Star Bar Sticker

If you missed us this past weekend, don’t worry – we’ll be back for more fun at the s’mores pit on February 16. In the meantime, look out for our 5 Star Sticker. It’s an awesome sticker to slap on a helmet or boot bag, but it’s even more awesome when you realize that it’s good for a free Five Star Bar, redeemable at our Waterbury location! Stowe staff will be handing them out if you look like you’re having a five star day, and you can always come and ask us for one at the s’mores pit!

Happy Winter! We hope to catch you (with some chocolate) on the slopes!


Giving Thanks.

Posted on November 21, 2012 9:36 AM by Meghan


Ten reasons we are thankful at LCC.

Lake Champlain Chocolates Company

  1. We make delicious chocolate in Vermont- a beautiful place to live, work and play.
  2. We are a family-owned company.
  3. We work with an amazingly talented group of people.
  4. We love making and selling something that brings such joy and delight to people every day.
  5. Working with local producers here in VT who provide us with exceptional ingredients such as heavy cream, honey, maple syrup and fresh cultured butter.  YUM.
  6. Life-altering lattes and mouthwatering milkshakes from our cafes.
  7. “LCC Day.” A special day off on a Friday in June. How many companies have their own holiday?
  8. When fresh chocolate from the factory randomly shows up in the kitchen for the taking.
  9. Hot chocolate Fridays during the month of December. It gets us through the holiday craziness!
  10. Our loyal customers! Where would we be without you?

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?


How To Host a Chocolate Tasting

Posted on November 20, 2012 12:44 PM by Caitlin

Like it or not, the holiday season is fast approaching. To many, this means the joy of being surrounded by friends and family, be it for a Thanksgiving feast or for a carol-singing session around the Christmas tree. One thing is for certain, though: the season is full of opportunities to entertain. Hot cocoa and cookies is still a great traditional way to placate the grandkids (and we do have some delicious hot cocoa, if you’re so inclined,) but if you’re looking to become the host that everyone is talking about this season, read on.

For the true foodies out there, chocolate is more than just a delicious confection. Sure, it comes with health benefits, but it also comes packed with a variety of different tones and flavors that can be parsed and paired with everything from beer and wine to cheese. To impress your guests, host a chocolate tasting or pairing party. Here’s what to do:

First, you’ll want to make sure to learn how to taste chocolate. As tempting as it is just to eat it, to truly gain an understanding of all of the varieties of flavor in each different chocolate, you will want to make sure you involve all of your senses in the process. Here’s what we suggest you look for when tasting chocolate. And if you want to know how we do it, read our notes on our Sensory Panel.

To host a chocolate tasting party in the purest form, try looking at our single source bars. The beans in these bars come from just one location, so the flavors vary tremendously. You always want to start with the lightest chocolate first, so:

  1. 54% Dark ChocolateStart with our 54% Dark Chocolate. This isn’t a single source – it’s a combination of beans from Ghana, Sao Thome (an island off of the west coast of Africa,) and Tanzania – but it’s a great place to get your chocolate bearings, since this is the dark chocolate we use most frequently to make our truffles and other treats. Try and think about all of the flavors involved. What do you taste under the “chocolate” flavor?

  2. Sao Thome 70% Dark ChocolateMove on to our Sao Thome. This should taste quite different from the 54%, and not just because it is a little more bitter due to the higher cocoa percentage. Can you discern some earthy flavors? Maybe a slight hint of vanilla? Some people even taste a bit of olive.

  3. Peru 70% Dark ChocolateNext try our Peru. This is the same cacao percentage as the Sao Thome, but the beans come from the other side of the world. Can you taste the difference? It is much creamier, and has much fruitier tones than the Sao Thome. Can you taste a slightly unripe banana? There are also some nice floral tones in there. One thing to note about our Peru, is that, unlike most of our chocolate, which is made with about 20% cocoa butter, our Peru has 40% cocoa butter, making it deliciously smooth and creamy.

  4. Tanzania 75% Dark ChocolateNow taste our Tanzania. This is a 75%, so it’s a little higher in cocoa than the last two you tried, but again, for something so close in cocoa content, it tastes surprisingly different. How does this compare to the Peru and Sao Thome? What types of flavors can you pick out? Perhaps a ripe banana? We use this one to make our delicious fudge sauce (available only in our retail stores) because the fruity tones blend deliciously with ice cream.

  5. African Blend 80% Dark ChocolateAs a penultimate step, move on to the African blend. At 80%, this is the highest cocoa content chocolate we produce. It is made from the same blend as the 54% (Ghana, Sao Thome and Tanzania). How does this compare to the others? What can you taste?

  6. And finally, we have worked our way through higher and higher cocoa percentages so now go back and try one more bite of the 54%. Has the taste changed from what you originally perceived? Are you surprised?

 

Of course, doing an entire tasting like this means two things: first, that, by the end, unless you take very small bites of each (which I suggest you do!) you’ll most likely have had enough chocolate to last you the rest of the evening. Second, you will also realize quite quickly that it is important to have water on hand, if only to cleanse the palate a little.

If you’re looking to do a pairing, though, alcohol is also a great way to refresh your palate. The natural acidity, particularly in beer, will help rid your mouth of some of the fat residue left from the chocolate. To find beer and wine that pair nicely with chocolate, use the flavors you discerned in the chocolates to find drinks with similar or complementary tones. Here’s what we came up with when we hosted a party.

We also have a history of pairing our chocolates with beer. Look through what we’ve done in the past here.

Finally, why not progress a little further, and involve another Vermont specialty: cheese? You can find some of our pairing suggestions for chocolate and cheese here.

Have you thought of a good chocolate pairing, or discovered an interesting flavor in one of our chocolates? Post your ideas for a chocolate pairing on our Facebook Page


Whole Planet Calendar

If you have ever wondered where you can find our chocolate outside of our three retail stores in Vermont, you’ll know that, in addition to the option of ordering our chocolate online, our products can be found in Whole Foods Markets as well as more than 1,500 specialty stores across the country.

This year, for the first time, we’ve agreed to be a sponsor of the Whole Planet Foundation’s 2013 calendar, which is currently being sold at all Whole Foods Markets. The calendar sells for $3.00 and all of the proceeds go towards empowering entrepreneurs around the world by providing them with micro-credit loans.

Last year’s calendar raised $143,000, and this year it's expected to raise over $200,000 for the cause. So if you’re in the mood to get inspired by small-business owners across the world, and if you want to support their efforts, stop by your local Whole Foods Market and buy a calendar!

Oh, and if you’re wondering what’s in it for you besides the joy of helping to promote the ideas of bright minds across the globe, there are over $40 in coupon savings inside the calendar, including, of course, a coupon for 50 cents off of our Five Star Bar, redeemable at any Whole Foods Market.


Did you know that Lake Champlain Chocolates is the official chocolate of Stowe Mountain Resort? To celebrate this, last Saturday we gave away Five Star Bars at the Boston Ski and Snowboard Expo with Stowe.

There’s nothing quite like hitting the slopes (which you can do soon – Stowe is opening to the general public this weekend) but even better than skiing or snowboarding on its own is doing it with enough fuel (read, chocolate) to keep you out there for a long time. To celebrate the joys of skiing with our Five Star Bars (the granola really does the trick,) we wanted to see what people’s Five Star Moments were while on the slopes.

Obviously, fresh powder was on many people’s minds:

Fresh Powder and LCC Chocolate

But so were family, friends, and loved ones:

Loved Ones

And there were also a few accidents:

Crashes and Breaks

But at the end of the day, the best part was avoiding anything major:

No Trees No Children

For more five star moments, check our facebook album. See you on the slopes, and let us know if you have a five star moment!


Blue Bandana Chocolate

What do wine and chocolate have in common? Aside from the fact that they can pair very well together, quite a lot!

Last Thursday evening, the Echo Center hosted a wine tasting event, featuring wines from several terroirs in France and Italy. The wines were delicious, but what made the event extra interesting was the table of our Blue Bandana Chocolate that also made an appearance. With both high-quality wine and high-quality chocolate present, it wasn't a hard step to start to draw comparisons between the two, in terms of both tasting and origin.

Let’s take the concept of a terroir: A terroir, as Jason Zuliani from Dedalus Wine explained, is a sense of location and place for the grapes. As Jason put it, "this wine exists to communicate place." All aspects of that place can influence the wine, from the soil to the climate to the age of the grape vines. Here are two quick examples from the event:

The age of the vines played an important part in the flavors that came out. Older vines produce fewer grapes, and those they produce tend to be more concentrated, so that the older the vine, the more it can contribute to something in the flavor. For instance, there were two 2010 Riofavara "Nero D’Avola" Sicilian wines at the event: the "Spaccaforno" and the "Sciavè." Both are produced in the same year, but the Sciavè used older vines (43 years instead of 30). The difference in taste was clear! The older vines had a more rounded flavor with bolder tones.

The location and soil of the vines changes the flavor of the grapes created. For example, with the Chablis we tasted, there were two types: Chablis and Petit Chablis, both made from Chardonnay grapes and grown in the same town. But the Petit Chablis, had slightly less limestone in its soil, whereas the Chablis had more. As a result, the Petit Chablis was a bit more crisp and fresh, and the Chablis more rounded.

Now, let’s take these two examples over to chocolate:

Blue Bandana at Echo

The plants themselves: Cocoa trees have a lot in common with grape vines. For one thing, both have to reach maturity before they begin to produce. In the case of grape vines, this can be 3-5 years. For cocoa trees, it’s 5-6. In both plants, a lot of thought goes into the specific type of plant being used. In the cocoa world more and more farmers and producers are getting the skills they need to graft "super producer" trees onto trees that produce fewer cocoa pods. The wine industry is slightly ahead here, but it’s the same concept.

Location: Sourcing cocoa beans, and the soil type and area in which the trees are grown, is just as important with chocolate as it is with wine. We produce several varieties of chocolate from specific sources, including our Tanzania, Peru, Sao Thome, and, from Blue Bandana, a Madagascar and a Guatemala. All of these have differentiating tastes, based on the locations where they were produced. For instance, Madagascar is a huge spice producer, so when you take a bite of our chocolate, you can taste the hints of cinnamon and vanilla wrapped in chocolate. Guatemala, on the other hand, grows a lot of bananas, and those flavors translate into the chocolate itself.

So you see, terroir is important to both wine and chocolate!

Finally, what’s better than tasting wine and chocolate? Tasting them together to see how they work! From the various combinations around, we found two that were true winners:

Chocolate Pairing Set

1. The Blue Bandana Madagascar Black Pepper with the Sang Des Cailloux Cuvée Lopy: The peppery taste of the chocolate brought out new and different sweetnesses in the wine, and the chocolate just blossomed with the help of this delicious red from the Southern Rhône.

2. The Blue Bandana Guatemala with the 1997 Chablis: 1997 was a great growing year for the grapes, and age has only intensified the almost honey-like flavors in this wine. Taste it with the Guatemala and you’ll be amazed at how it brings out the fruit tones in what I often consider to be a very flowery chocolate.

And, for those of you who attended the event and want to remember, or for any of you who missed it and want to recreate it on your own, here’s the list of wines we tried. Don’t forget to continue to experiment on pairing them with our chocolate!

Domaine le Sang Des Cailloux
Winemaker: Serge Férigoule
Country: France
Region: Southern Rhone/Vacqueryas
2010 Sang des Cailloux Vacqueyras
2010 Sang des Cailloux Vacqueyras "Cuvée Lopy"
2010 Sang des Cailloux Vacqueyras Blanc

Riofavara
Winemaker: Massimo Padova
Country: Italy
Region: Sicily/Eloro
2010 Riofavara Eloro Nero d’Avola "Spaccaforno"
2010 Riofavara Eloro Nero d’Avola "Sciavè"

Roland Lavantureux
Winemaker: Roland Lavantureux
Country: France
Region: Burgundy/Chablis
2010 Lavantureux Chablis
2011 Lavantureux Chablis
2010 Lavantureux Petit Chablis
2011 Lavantureux Petit Chablis
2008 Lavantureux Chablis magnum
1997 Lavantureux Chablis magnum


What is a Truffle?

Posted on October 2, 2012 1:09 PM by Caitlin
Chocolate Truffles

There are many different things that we can do with chocolate to create different chocolate candies. Sometimes, we add homemade caramel to the middle, as in our honey caramels, our caramel five star bar, and of course, in the ever popular sea salt caramels. Sometimes, we cover nuts with chocolate. Other times it’s orange peels. But what our company started with thirty years ago, and what we built our name on is a chocolate confectioner’s tradition: the chocolate truffle.

What is a chocolate truffle?

A chocolate truffle is a chocolate candy in which the filling is made out of ganache. Ganache is a mixture of chocolate and cream, whipped together to create a smooth delicious center. In our ganache, we whip together Belgian chocolate with local butter from Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery and local cream from Monument Farms. The ganache filling can be coated with any number of items. Traditionally, it was rolled in cocoa powder, but the ganache can also be rolled in nuts, coconut, or anything else you might fancy. We coat ours in a layer of hard chocolate, and hand-decorate the tops.

Why is it called a truffle?

Truffles from the Ground (the Fungus)

You may have heard of a tasty little fungus, rooted out by pigs or dogs, that is so exquisite it can sell for $400 to $600 a pound. Well that truffle bears a striking resemblance to the original, hand-rolled truffles created in Europe in the early 19th century. In fact, those confectioners named their chocolate creation after the fungus, which helped it gain an elite status, to be appreciated by nobles and the higher classes (just like the other truffle).

The History of the Truffle:

There are two competing stories here: the first is a great tale of a mistake that turned into a creation. In 1920, an apprentice for the great French Chef Auguste Escoffier was attempting to pour hot cream into a sugared egg mixture, but somehow mixed up his bowls and ended up pouring it into his broken chocolate instead. Not wanting to waste the ingredients, he waited for the result to cool a little, then rolled the chocolate and cream in cocoa powder. And so the truffle was born.

Peter's Gala Chocolate

The other story goes back to when Milk Chocolate was first invented. In the Swiss Alps, Daniel Peter devoted many years to the incorporation of milk into chocolate, which was a very difficult task, since cocoa contains so much fat that it does not mix well with milk. After years of research, he was finally able to do so in 1887, and his “Gala Peter” chocolate sold across Europe, and eventually the world. It was the foundation for the Societe Generale Suisse de Chocolat, which eventually merged into Nestle-Petr-Cailler-Kohler in 1929, and is now known as Nestle. Many tried to copy his invention, and in the process, they probably poured cream over chocolate, with the result being a ganache (which, by the way, has a much shorter shelf life and a very different taste and feel from milk chocolate!) This in turn led to the truffle, which became its own delicacy. (You can read more about the history of milk chocolate here.)

Where does the chocolate truffle end and other chocolate candy begin?

This question is up for a bit of debate. Generally speaking, any sort of chocolate confection with a ganache filling would be considered a truffle, which means that our revel chocolates are also truffles, even though they are squares. American truffles have a tradition of being shaped like a half egg (as ours are) while European truffles tend to be smaller and round (like our organic truffles.) However, chocolates with cream fillings are not truffles, since they have no ganache. Therefore, our Chocolates of Vermont or the chocolate creams you can get in our selection boxes cannot be considered truffles. That doesn’t mean they’re any less delicious, however!

The joy of chocolate is that it is terribly delicious just on its own, and can be combined with so many other flavors, either by pairing or by creating new treats that it is an inexhaustible resource!


Top Ten Lake Champlain Products of 2012

Posted on September 10, 2012 9:17 AM by Caitlin

We have an amazing variety of products here at Lake Champlain Chocolates, from our truffles – the first product we ever created – to our bars, selection boxes, and Chocolates of Vermont, and a lot of it is popular. But we recently saw a listing of the Top Ten Chocolate Trends of 2012, and that made us think. What products do we have that have seen a lot of success in 2012? Here’s what we came up with:

Chocolate Frog

10.Novelties

One item that can always get a reaction from our customers is a novelty. Whether it’s a chocolate turkey, a spooky chocolate cat, or a more conventional chocolate Easter bunny or chocolate santa, the variety of novelty items we make and the specialized way in which we hand decorate every item shows in the oohs and aahs these get when customers pick them up in our stores.

9. Signature Bars

We sell our chocolate through three channels: in our retail stores, online, and by distributing to various stores around the country. Our most popular product for these stores to stock is our bar, and our natural ingredients and high-class Belgian chocolate leave little wonder as to why. With delicious flavors such as Raspberry and Hazelnut Praline, there is a lot to choose from, but our top sellers are our 54% dark chocolate and our milk caramel.

8. Caramel Nut Clusters

Using a variety of different nuts, from almonds to pecans to macadamia nuts, we have created the perfect combination of caramel, chocolate and nut. In fact, since nuts are healthy, and chocolate isn’t bad for you either, our retail staff have been known to eat these clusters for breakfast. They consistently draw the eye of our customers in our retail stores, and demand is strong online as well!

7. Truffles

We made our name with a truffle, and our truffles are still one of our hottest items. The ganache (the inside of our truffles), is handmade with – believe it or not – an egg beater, and there is literally one guy in our factory who makes all of our ganache, blending the Vermont butter and cream into our chocolate, and adding the appropriate flavorings. Our top selling flavors are Legendary Dark and Raspberry.

6. Five Star Bars

We may have started with truffles, but we broke new ground with our Five Star Bars. From mentions in books, to exclamations of pure joy when we give them out as samples on our factory tours, we know and love all five of our flavors. Our hazelnut and caramel bars, however, rule this category.

5. Hot Chocolate

Our hot chocolate goes beyond the “just add water” variety. We create a creamy, smooth and delicious blend that has earned us a place on the Wall Street Journal’s Serious Hot Chocolate article. With a number of varieties, from Spicy Aztec to Mountain Mint, we have more than just liquidized our chocolate – we have created a new genre. Top sellers here include our traditional and our organic blends.

4. Chocolates of Vermont

These were the second set of products we ever made, almost thirty years ago. There are four flavors, each representing a different Vermont season. With close ties to Vermont’s seasons and ingredients, these are big hits for gifts for out-of-state-ers or for anyone who just loves maple toffee, honey caramel, peppermint, and fruit and nuts in delicious chocolate. We sell them in a variety of forms, from gift bags to beautiful gift boxes.

3. Almond Butter Crunch

In our stores, we will frequently have people come in and purchase a whole pound of this, probably because it is very difficult to stop eating after just one piece. The buttery-ness of the toffee topped with almonds that we grind ourselves and a little bit of saltiness all combine to make this an irresistible treat. That’s why we offer it as one of our items in our chocolate of the month clubs and it is why it retains the Bronze position on our top-ten list.

2. Peanut Butter Cups

An all-American treat, it’s no wonder this has the Silver position on our list. We create the inside of our peanut butter cups by mixing peanuts with white chocolate into peanuty, sweet deliciousness, layered on the bottom and on top with our milk chocolate. Once you’ve have one of ours, you’ll never want to go back to any other kind!

1. Sea Salt Caramels

We make all of our caramel in house, and it is truly delicious, and deserving of the Gold spot on our list. The salt on top of these chocolate-coated caramels cuts through the sweetness of the candy, and also helps you to explore all of the flavors within the caramel (that’s why we use salt in baking – it opens up other flavors.) It’s a winning combination, and, as anybody in our retail store can tell you, it means that we constantly have to restock the shelves with more!

That’s what we see as our top-ten, but that’s not all we do. Did we miss something you love? If so, let us know in the comments!


Celebrating 20 years in the South End

Posted on September 6, 2012 9:58 AM by Meghan

One of our favorite events of the year is this weekend- The South End Art Hop!  It’s hard to believe they are celebrating their 20th year!   The south end of Burlington is a special place for LCC—it’s where Jim Lampman started the company and where we still are today (just in a slightly bigger building).

lake champlain chocolates building

art hop posterLikewise the art hop has grown from a grassroots movement to show some experimental art to a full-blown, amazing celebration of over 400+ artists at nearly 100 locations.   And like every year, we will be displaying some chocolate masterpieces created by resident sculptress Emily McCracken.  She usually likes to keep her creations under wraps until the big reveal tomorrow night, but the poster below should give you a hint

blue bandanaWe are also highlighting another type of craft for this year’s art hop—the art of making chocolate from bean to bar.  It is a sub-brand evolving at Lake Champlain Chocolates that sources, roast, winnow (separates shell from nib), grind, conche, and refine cacao beans into chocolate from scratch.
Blue Bandana Chocolate Maker will be making its debut with three amazing new chocolates:  70% Madagascar, 70% Guatemala and Madagascar Wild Pepper.  Get in here and be one of the first to taste this first batch of exceptional chocolates.

And last but not least, if you’re doing the kids art hop, don’t forget to hop into LCC, complete your passport and collect your prize!

We have a feeling this is going to be a hop you don’t want to miss!


Fall is in the air, we're reflecting that in our stores. We've started seeing the leaves turn in the trees as we drive by them...

Vermont Autumn Trees

...but now you can get that feeling in our stores as well. You've already heard about our artist's vision for our fall collection, and we've decorated our stores to match:

Lake Champlain Chocolates Autumn Store Decorations

To echo the changing seasons, we've brought out a number of exclusive fall chocolates of Vermont. In addition to our peanut butter and caramel leaves, we also have some specialty autumn gift boxes. In the true spirit of fall, we are offering a unique truffle flavor that is only available this time of year: the pumpkin truffle. If you like all things spiced, be sure to taste this one. Made with real pumpkin and seasoned with cinnamon and nutmeg, this truffle is the chocolatier's answer to the perfect pumpkin pie. Want to try one? We have them in our autumn collections, or you can stop into one of our stores and find them behind the counter.

Pumpkin Truffle

Although the weather is helping us start to think about autumn here in Vermont, you can get yourself in the mood for fall anywhere! Maybe a little of our chai gourmet hot chocolate would help?

And if you're in the area, stop by our factory store for a factory tour! The summer rush is over, and the tours are becoming much more intimate. Plus, as we gear up for our busy season, we're making more and more cool chocolate confections in our factory.

However you decide to celebrate, have a great end-of-summer.