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LCC Takes Over Washington

Posted on July 21, 2011 10:32 AM by Allyson

On July 9th, the LCC team moved into Washington, DC and served up Vermont’s best chocolates to customers not only from the Mid-Atlantic region but from around the world. Washington’s multi-cultural, international spirit was alive and well at the 2011 Fancy Food show.

For the first time in LCC’s history of exhibiting at a show (nearly 25 years!), our booth was located right next to the International Pavilions, specifically Egypt. We anchored one end of the Vermont Paviliion, organized by the Vermont Specialty Food Association

For three full days we gave customers a taste of our very best–  visitors could sample all five varieties of our Five Star Bars, Sea Salt Caramels, and Truffles.

Attendees also garnered a sneak preview of the new Christmas packaging, which features a less traditional color palate. Feedback from customers coast to coast was overwhelmingly positive. They loved the fresh, contemporary hues married with the rural sophisticated imagery they’ve come to expect from LCC.

The Fancy Food Show offers much more than just chocolate – truly everything from soup to nuts.  What stood out to me as trends this year were not only crackers, chips & snacks like we had seen in January at the San Francisco version of this show but the number of ice cream and gelato companies. Knowing the distribution and shipping challenges we face with chocolate, I admire so many folks who are attempting to bring a frozen product into the competitive specialty market.

While the show is hard work with long hours spent with customers, brokers, and the media – we do always make room for some fun. The National Confectioners Association hosted many friends & competitors at their offices in Georgetown for a cocktail reception that featured a huge candy buffet of ‘trick-or-treating’.
 
Robert Peck of the World Cocoa Foundation(WCF) spoke at our Sales Meeting on Monday morning to further educate our team on the outstanding work this organization does to improve the sustainability of cocoa.   WCF focuses on economic and social development programs for the more than 6 MILLION cocoa farmers in the world who have very little infrastructure and resources available. Robert summed it up by stating that in order for us to have a sustainable cocoa industry, there must be an integrated approach with emphasis on profit, people, and the planet.

Our own Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy made a special appearance on Tuesday morning. You’d have thought that we had a rock star in our booth (besides the Grace Under Fire Bar) – our visitors in the booth from Colorado (who admire Vermont’s progressive approach to politics) were thrilled at the opportunity to shake hands and talk with the Senator about health care reform.

Being in the food business, a trip to a show isn’t complete without exploring some of the best restaurants we can find in a new city. Founding Farmers and 2 Amys Pizza were my two favorites. Both featured the freshest ingredients and simple preparation methods. We’ll definitely go back again next year. And of course, we had to be ‘tourists’ a little bit – with a quick walk to the White House and some playing in the waterfountain outside Founding Farmers on Pennsyvlania Avenue.

It was a truly successful show and we’ll head back to the nation’s capital, June 17-19, 2012!


Easy Brownies from Scratch for busy Moms

Posted on January 7, 2011 12:17 PM by Allyson

I’m not only a chocolate fanatic but crazy for cookies and brownies.  A couple months ago at the Natural Products Expo in Boston, it was all I could do to control myself from eating all of the samples in Vermont Cookie Love booth next to us. And when on the road, I always am on the search for the ultimate cookie.  Some favorites include the Chocolate Truffle Cookies at Pasta & Company in Seattle, the Molasses Ginger Cookies at Foster’s Market in Durham, NC or at Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor, MI.

Admittedly, I’m a snob when it comes to cookies and brownies.  I can’t understand why anyone would ever use a mix when it’s so easy to bake from scratch with quality natural ingredients.  I always use King Arthur Flour and swear by their no-fail recipes.   Cabot Vermont butter also is a must for good results.  No substituting margarine or shortening.  And when baking from scratch, you can take some liberties and make the recipes your own.

For weeks, I’ve been thinking about taking my favorite brownie recipe from King Arthur Flour’s Cookie Companion Cookbook (note:  this recipe is different from the one on their website.  Pick up the cookbook – you won’t regret it!) and enhancing it with our Sea Salt Caramels.  

For starters, I wasn’t sure how many caramels I’d need. 

I had 10 on hand and found that my 18 month old son kept reaching his hands into the pile of caramels and eating them – so only ended up with 8 for the recipe.   

After I finally figured out what he was doing and moved them out of arm’s reach, he then discovered the 54% dark chocolate pistoles.   I suppose I shouldn’t be shocked that I gave birth to a dark chocolate lover although I can’t get him to eat any of the brownies after we baked them.

Once I got him occupied in mixing, the baking got underway.

I quartered the caramels and dropped them evenly across my 9” x 9” pan.  

In hindsight, I wished I had only cut them in halves as they melted during baking and weren’t as pronounced as I’d hoped.  Guess this is good reason to make another batch next weekend!   Or maybe I’ll experiment with our new Peppermint Cups.  I LOVE mint and chocolate!

Hope you give the recipe a try – experiment with other add-in and let me know how it goes!


Fudgy Brownies
Yields 2 dozen 2 inch brownies
Bake at 325 degrees.
Baking time:  29 to 32 minutes
 
3/4 cup unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
1 cup Dutch process cocoa powder (preferably LCC!)
1 teaspoon salt (I use about 1/2 teaspoon in my non-caramel brownies and didn't use any in these sea salt caramel brownies)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (King Arthur!)
1 cup dark chocolate chips from LCC (54% cocoa)
(used about 1/2 cup chips and 8 sea salt caramels (quartered) for this batch)

 
Preheat the oven to 325.  Lightly grease a 9 x 13 inch pan (for this batch, I used a 9x9 pan - cooked about 32 minutes, yielded a thicker brownie).

In a medium saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter, then add the sugar and stir to combine.   Return the mixture to the heat briefly, just until it's hot but not bubbling; it will become shiny looking as you stir it.

 Stir in the cocoa, salt, baking powder, and vanilla.  Whisk in the eggs, stirring until smooth, then add the flour and chips, again stirring until smooth. 

Spoon about half of  the batter into the prepared pan.   

Drop the quartered Sea Salt Caramels evenly across the batter and cover with the remaining batter.

Bake the brownies for 29-32 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (note that with the caramels, it will tough to judge this as they remained moist).    Remove the brownies from the oven and cool on a rack before cutting.

 


You wouldn’t expect to find Lake Champlain Chocolates at Palmetto Bluff’s Music To Your Mouth Festival – a week long celebration of the Low Country cuisine and lifestyle.  I was fortunate to attend the fourth annual event this year and joined Jim, as host of the Chocolate Decadence Cruise Aboard the Grace.

On a beautiful, sunny fall afternoon, we boarded the 60 foot antique motor yacht and spent two hours touring the May River.  Most of the guests were intrigued with the chocolate, cheese, beer, wine, and conversation; however for me, the highlight was seeing dolphins frolicking in the water.

Our menu began with Champagne, the ideal beverage for ANY chocolate!

We served an unexpected ‘cheese course’ next.  Fresh goat cheese from Sweet Grass Dairy spread on a simple cracker topped with a Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel.  Guests were surprised to see a whole caramel atop a cracker with cheese.  Once they tasted it and experienced the salty-sweet-sour explosion of flavor, they were convinced this should be on the menu for their next cocktail party. Next up was a Sharp Cheddar Cheese with Caramelized Almonds.  With most of the guests being from the Northeast and accustomed to a sharp cheddar from Grafton or Shelburne Farms, all agreed that the pairing with the caramelized almonds was good but would have been better with a more pungent cheese.

At this point, our palates were looking for liquid refreshment so we shifted gears and got into the beers.  The locally brewed Thomas Creek IPA, was a refreshing choice with the fruitiness of Dark Chocolate Covered Orange Peels.  We headed to the darker side next pairing the Thomas Creek Porter with our newest creation, the Peanut Chocolate Caramel.  The saltiness from the roasted peanuts balanced nicely with the chocolatey notes in the Porter.

Savory  and bold flavors were next – Blue Cheese alongside the Organic 70% Dark Chocolate Truffle.  The dairy notes from the butter and cream in the Truffle counterbalanced the bold, salty, and sour of the Blue Cheese.  While I’m not a big fan of blue cheese, the chocolate offered a nice ‘sweetener’ to cleanse my palate.

The Organic Vanilla Truffle, also in 70% dark chocolate was matched with Leitz’s Reisling, Rheingau which offered a sweet honeyed nose that was ripe, melony and pure. The palate was fresh and limey with overly bright apple fruit notes.

Our last pairing of the afternoon was to be with a single vineyard Zinfandel from Quivira's Wine Creek Ranch vineyard, a hilly area in Sonoma's Dry Creek Valley.  It was an enjoyable Zin, which became even more enjoyable after it was opened up a bit.   Not too jammy, hints of pepper, fresh thyme and a nice finish.  The plan was to recommend the Spicy Aztec Organic Chocolate with it.  I really liked this combination.  Jim much preferred the simple 54% Dark Chocolate.  We gave our guests the option of about six choices – seemed that most did indeed prefer the spicy Aztec with the spicy Zin.

A great time was had by all and it was fun to see these chocolate lovers at other events throughout the weekend, including Friday night’s Supper Club Block Party where I was fortunate to eat the food of the Bayou region by Bravo’s Top Chef Winner, Kevin Sbraga.  Not only was his food outstanding; his personality and conversation was equally enjoyable.  Both of us got to enjoy Saturday’s festival on the Green at Palmettto Bluff’s Village – eating and drinking food from the most talented local artisans.  Gail Simmons, from Food & Wine Magazine and judge of Top Chef, moderated the cooking demonstrations by other Top Chef competitors like Chef Kevin Gillespie of Atlanta’s Woodfire Grill and Chef Kenny Gilbert of Nippers Beach Grille in Jacksonville, FL.  They demonstrated that simple food is often most enjoyable and that holds true for chocolate pairings.  Experiment & intrigue the guests at your next event!

 


Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival!

Posted on November 15, 2010 2:19 PM by Allyson

What a treat for Lake Champlain Chocolates be a part of Epcot's 15th annual Food & Wine Festival the other weekend! On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, I taught an "Authentic Taste" Seminar - a free class that gives participants the chance to get to better know a food or wine. LCC has been involved with this festival for about four years and this year, the emphasis was on sharing "Our Local Secret" - bringing a taste of Vermont to central Florida. Little did I know ahead of time that I'd be bringing Vermont weather to Florida, with morning temperatures in the 40s!

 

Because this event is free and limited to the first 42 participants, people start lining up well in advance in true Disney style. It was exciting to have so many people who not only were familiar with Lake Champlain Chocolates but also had visited Vermont. The seminar started out with an introduction to Lake Champlain Chocolates and our Local Secrets. Next we took a very quick journey to the equatorial regions where cacao is grown and learned about how chocolate goes from the bean to the bar. Finally (for the very patient listeners), I then led the group in how to taste chocolate and they got to taste the goodness of Vermont.

 

We first tasted the Cappuccino Truffle - featuring the wonderful cream from Monument Farms, butter from VT Butter & Cheese Creamery, and coffee from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. Next was the Honey Caramel -showcasing delicate Vermont honey with its floral notes. Wrapping up the session was our signature Maple Buttercrunch - a favorite of many in the crowd.


We were able to make a Disney "Magical Moment" by letting two people sit up on stage and take part. One couple was from Buffalo and the other was from Scotland. It's amazing how the festival draws a nice crowd of Epcot season-pass holders from the local area as well as people from abroad. The park is transformed into a food and wine lovers paradise -small kiosks are scattered all throughout the World Showcase featuring bite sized tastes of food and wines not only from the permanent showcase countries but many like South African, Belgium, New Zealand and many more who make a special appearance only during the six week festival. I enjoyed spanikopita from Greece and Cheddar Ale Soup from Canada on Day 1. Visited La Hacienda in Mexico on Day 2 and Les Chefs de France on Day 3. Of course, I had to get not only the chocolate mousse but also the chocolate cake at the French Patisserie (the chocolate mousse won my taste-test as the cake was a bit dry and too sweet for my palate).


Every Saturday night during the festival features a Party for the Senses - a huge venue filled with food and wine pairings and entertainment from Cirque du Soleil. Not surprisingly, the highlight for me was the dessert selection - Valhrona Chocolate and Guava Chiffon miniature cupcakes from Cindy Roman of the Yacht Club Resort were just the right size and satisfying. Patty Mitchell of Vista, CA caught my attention for creativity with a spiced donut served with pear sorbet, dried pear, and chocolate sauce. Graham Beck Brut Rose NV South African sparkling wine was a refreshing complement.
Like any Disney production, no detail is overlooked at this festival and there are events with wide appeal. I enourage anyone with a passion for food and a love for Disney to attend this festival. Next year will be the 16th - and likely the sweetest one yet!

 


Exotic tastes of my middle aged mother!

Posted on September 30, 2010 3:48 PM by Allyson

I’d never have imagined that my Mom would like red pepper and pistachio dark chocolate but when I visited last weekend, she was raving about the new Grace Under Fire Bar.  (side note:   She must have sought this out on her own at our Waterbury Store since I didn’t give it to her!).   When I expressed my surprise about this, she reminded me how much she enjoyed the Raspberry Pink Peppercorn Truffles I gave her a few years ago in the Chocolate Obsession box.  I’d completely forgotten about that – and really thought she liked the Raspberry aspect, not the peppery taste.


I’ve always known that she is a dark chocolate freak – growing up, we would fight over the Hershey Special Dark in the bag of miniatures and I always got a dark chocolate Easter bunny.   Today, the 54% Dark Chocolate Squares are a staple in her house and the Dark Chocolate Nonpareils a must-have in her Christmas Stocking.   And she’s a huge fan of Mexican food – her best friend brings back chili peppers from New Mexico when she visits.   So it shouldn’t be a surprise to me that she likes spicy chocolate.


Lesson learned – never underestimate your Mom.     Sounds like I’ll have to stuff her stocking this year with the Organic Spicy Aztec Bars and maybe even the Spicy Aztec Hot Chocolate!

 


Friendly, Healthy Skies

Posted on August 31, 2010 9:38 AM by Allyson

When travelling through the spiffy new Jet Blue Terminal #5 at JFK this week, it was satisfying to see Lake Champlain Chocolates at every Cibo Express outlet.    As a long time business traveler (for those of you out there thinking business travel is all fun & games & glamorous, think again) – it is so refreshing to have an airport terminal where there are so many fresh, healthy food choices.  

JFK’s Terminal 5 offers an impressive array of choices including natural, organic, and gourmet selections.  Right up my alley as a chocolate fanatic and foodie who needs to supplement my diet with healthy options to counter-balance the nearly 36 pounds of chocolate I eat annually!!


Travelers at JFK aren’t the only lucky ones.   O’Hare, Orlando, Logan, LaGuardia, and Reagan National also have CIBO locations that feature not only LCC but fresh fruits, salads, and sandwiches!  Yum! 

Who says you can’t be healthy while on the road?


It felt more like New York or LA this past Sunday afternoon on the Church Street Marketplace and I was part of the paparazzi with my camera.    Passers-by were curious what was going on as a crowd developed on the street.  Some commented “is that the line for ice cream?” (thankfully, it wasn’t!)   After an amazing concert the night before on the waterfront where the Vermont night sky was rivaled only by Grace and her band’s energetic performance, Grace graciously came to our retail store for a last minute signing for her loyal fans.


A rally of 800 motorcycles cruised up the street while the lineup of fans anticipated Grace Potter’s arrival from Leunig’s.  Some came more than an hour early to be the first in line to get an autograph.


Grace’s proud Dad, Sparky, was there grinning from ear to ear capturing the event on film while sporting a St. Lawrence University baseball cap. 

A group of St. Lawrence gals came by with student IDs for Grace to sign. 

Another group sported snappy sandals that caught the eye of Grace (they were heading to Sweet Lady Jane’s next!).  

Many fans brought old concert posters, ticket stubs, and t-shirts to be signed while others bought a Grace Under Fire Chocolate Bar or the latest CD as a souvenir. 

All were eager to create their own memorabilia by capturing a photo with Grace including our own, Gary Coffey and Fran Tobin!


Thanks to Grace and Matt for making a sweet stop at LCC with their families on their very busy weekend in Vermont –we’re very fortunate to have such down-to-earth, fun local celebrities!


Check out our facebook page for more pictures!


My Love Affair with Chocolate & Mint

Posted on February 19, 2009 10:50 AM by Allyson

For those who don’t know, today is National Chocolate Mint Day. To me, chocolate and mint is a natural pairing – as classic as chocolate and peanut butter!  My love affair with chocolate and mint began at an early age when I got my start selling Thin Mint cookies as a Girl Scout in the 1970s. We’d buy extra boxes, put them in the freezer and enjoy the coolness of chocolate and mint in the summer long after everyone else’s cookies were gone.

Junior Mints were my coveted Halloween treat – I’d try to trade with my younger brother to get as many as possible.  When it came to choosing ice cream from Howard Johnson’s 28 flavors, Peppermint Stick always was my top pick. And, when Ben & Jerry developed Mint Chocolate Cookie ice cream, I became a regular at the Montpelier scoop shop after school (which sold factory seconds – loaded with either too many cookies or none at all).

I discovered Lake Champlain Chocolates and the Evergreen Mint in the mid 1980s at a small specialty food store in Montpelier, called The Country Store. I would save up my money (I was a high school student) and purchase one single piece out of the Countertop dispenser, savoring as long as I could.

As you can imagine, it was a dream come true when I joined LCC in 1993. Endless supply of the Evergreen Mint, which remains one of my all time favorites! I’ve been a champion over the years, as we’ve added more items like the Mint Crunch Coin, Square, Heart, and Peppermint Crunch Signature Bar.   

Today, I love to bake and find King Arthur Flour’s recipes phenomenal, especially when paired with LCC’s baking chocolates.  Here is a link to their Thick Mint Brownie recipe:

http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/RecipeDisplay?RID=1146493248892

So, go ahead, indulge in all things mint and chocolate as you celebrate Chocolate Mint Day!


Tasting Session at Epcot - Follow Up

Posted on November 25, 2008 8:15 AM by Allyson

The chocolate classes at Epcot went really well and were a lot of fun (what’s not fun at Epcot?). It was amazing that when I arrived more than an hour prior to the start of the class, there already was a line of 75+ people waiting to get in (and only the first 45 got seats, with another 20-30 standing!). As the slogan goes, “chocolate really does change your world!”.

The first part of the class focused on where chocolate comes from. The second part of the class that everyone really was most interested in (I made them sit in their chairs with four chocolates in front of them for nearly 25 minutes before they could eat – and again, this was after they had been standing in line an hour or more!).

We started by tasting milk chocolate. Everyone had to slow down and actually TASTE the chocolate (rather than EAT the chocolate). Step 1: look at the appearance and take note of the aroma (vanilla and caramelized sugar in milk chocolate).  Step 2 was to taste the chocolate and identify the key flavor components: sweet, cooked milk, caramelized sugar, lactic sour, and chocolate.  

The tasting was primarily dark chocolates given the popularity of dark and the wide variances in flavors. This is where the fun began. Our standard 54% cocoa content dark chocolate was up next, with its key flavor attributes of: sweet, baked brownie, chocolate, sour (citric), and brown fruit. From there, we journeyed up the chocolate scale to 75% cocoa content, a single origin dark chocolate from Tanzania. This chocolate is dramatically different from the 54% dark, featuring hints of tropical fruit (think banana), lots of citric sour, slightly more bitter, and a robust chocolate/baked brownie flavor.

Last but not least, we got to see how a high cocoa dark chocolate can complement a sweeter ganache center. And, how good products with organic ingredients taste today. The 70% Dark Chocolate Organic Truffle featured dairy notes like cooked milk and lactic sour with a strong presence of chocolate, cocoa, bitter, and sour.

Great questions from the crowds each day, ranging from “Where can you buy Lake Champlain Chocolates” to “Are the cacao plants hand-pollinated or pollinated by bees”? Chocolate is something that nearly everyone loves and is fanatical about – it was a great opportunity to share my passion with more than 200 people from around the world!


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My nerves were tested a little bit already for this event. The organic, 70% dark chocolates are finally made and on their way to Epcot.    Truffles don’t get any fresher than this! Demand has been so strong for this new product since we introduced in last month, that we’ve had a hard time keeping them in stock.  I need 300 pieces to ship today to Epcot for the classes I’m teaching this weekend as part of the Epcot Food & Wine Authentic Taste Program.

I’m teaching three classes on chocolate this Friday – Sunday.  A class on chocolate, you ask?  What is that all about?    It’s “All About Chocolate”.  I’ll talk about the history of chocolate, where it’s grown and how it becomes eating chocolate, and best of all – lead the group in a session on how to taste and appreciate fine chocolate.   Participants will get to taste 34% cocoa content milk chocolate, 54% and 75% cocoa content dark chocolate, and last but not the least, the much sought-after, 70% Dark Chocolate Organic Truffles.

For the full festival program schedule, click here. From what I understand, only the first 100 people get to attend the class and not surprisingly, there typically is a long line so if you are able to attend, arrive early!

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