Spring at The Chocolate Fetish

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Asheville is in full spring bloom and things are really starting to hop here at The Chocolate Fetish!  Chocolate bunnies of all shapes and sizes adorn our shelves in preparation for Easter next weekend.  In addition to the beautiful hand painted Easter eggs we have been making for years this year we are adding special filled eggs in four fabulous flavors; Coconut, Soft Caramel, Peanut Butter Melt-away, and Mint Melt-away.  We’ve taken our delicious German style caramel softened it with fresh cream and filled a milk chocolate shell with its gooey buttery goodness.  If caramel isn’t your thing then maybe a melt-away will inspire indulgence?  Decadent chocolate that literally melts in your mouth these chocolates are super smooth and velvety.  Available in dark chocolate and mint or milk chocolate and peanut butter they will make a great addition to an Easter basket or just a great addition to your afternoon.

Our family of Easter bunnies has grown this year as well!  In addition to the fun whimsical bunnies of years past like the motorcycle riding bunny and the bunny wearing a suit we have added the sharp shooter cowboy bunny and the sidecar family of bunnies.  You’re not going to find anything like this fabulous family of bunnies piled up on a motorcycle complete with sidecar at your local grocery store (and I guarantee ours tastes better).  A touch of color has been added to our “big eared” bunny so he now boasts pink ears and nose and fluffy white tail.  We wouldn’t want all these bunnies getting lonely so we added some friends, white chocolate lambs and hand painted chicks!

The Easter excitement doesn’t end there!  We have our signature “Dinosaur Eggs.”  A textured chocolate shell bigger than a softball is filled with little baby chocolate dinosaurs.  Kids of all ages will love breaking one of these open Easter morning to discover the delectable goodies inside.  There are also our German made real eggshell eggs.  While we do make most everything we sell right in our shop downtown every once in a while we discover something special we want to share with you from elsewhere in the world.  A few years ago our owner’s went on a chocolate tour in Germany and found these really cool real eggshell eggs.  The company first empties the eggshell (they use the egg inside to make pre-cooked egg meals, like those used on airplanes) then after cleaning, sanitizing and painting; they fill them with an amazing German hazelnut chocolate.  These eggs are super yummy and lots of fun to eat.

ImageOur owner Sue at the Gut Springenheide Factory in Metelen, Germany

Easter marks the beginning of another exciting time at The Chocolate Fetish… Chocolate Dipped Strawberry season.  Beginning Easter weekend we will be offering chocolate covered strawberries every Friday and Saturday through berry season (usually through June).  We source the biggest most delicious strawberries we can find, then dip them fresh through out the day in our signature dark chocolate blend.  At The Chocolate Fetish you’ll never get a berry that has been sitting around in a case for days.  We dip them multiple times throughout the day so you are always assured a fresh delicious berry.

Stay tuned, chocolate covered frozen bananas are coming soon….

Why Do We Use Real Chocolate?

Why Do We Use REAL Chocolate?
As an informed consumer, there is a lot of misleading rhetoric out there.
Are ‘chocolate flavored’ and ‘chocolate’ the same?
Is artificial chocolate just as good as real chocolate?
The answer is no.
Real chocolate is like no other substance on earth. For years scientists have tried to duplicate its characteristics without success. They have come very close, but the very best is still a pale comparison. The main difference between real chocolate and a ‘chocolate flavored’ substance is its most basic ingredient, cocoa butter. When you pick up a candy bar in the grocery store, look at the ingredients label on the package. If it does not contain cocoa butter, it is not real chocolate.
Chocolate is more expensive than its artificial counterpart and much more difficult to work with. It is temperamental at times. It can be affected by high humidity as well as warm temperatures, so it must be stored and handled in controlled environments. Chocolate must be melted to a specific temperature, cooled to a specific temperature and then warmed to a specific temperature, and it must be agitated in a specific way during this entire process before it will harden into a substance that you recognize. It takes much more work and expertise to bring you the tasty confection that you want and expect. So why do we use real chocolate? Because there is simply no other substitute. If you want to offer the very best, it is necessary to start with the best ingredients.
Chocolate has been found to lower blood pressure and it is a potent antioxidant according to the Aug. 27 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association. Not only does it taste good but it is good for you~ Cocoa butter melts completely at 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Body temperature is 98.7. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Quetzalcoatl, the Mexican god that gave us chocolate, knew exactly what he was doing.
Chocolate has become the most distinct and popular flavor in the entire world. It has been with American soldiers in every war since 1940. Chocolate has mended fences, fixed broken hearts, closed sales, welcomed guests, turned acquaintances into friends and satisfied that unspoken craving. When you establish your business and reputation on something as important as chocolate, shouldn’t you only use the very best? We think that you should.

By Gary Dinstuhl ,Guittard Chocolates

Fall at The Chocolate Fetish

The cool mountain air of fall has once again settled upon Asheville.  Autumn’s cool days offer a much appreciated respite from the sometimes blistering heat that this summer brought us.  Our chocolate and those who like to leave the shop with a box or two of it are rejoicing as well.  Already the leaves are starting to turn and the mountainsides are soon to be ablaze with the gorgeous colors that make this area such a desired fall vacation spot.   Natures beauty in fall is a constant inspiration for us here at The Chocolate Fetish, evident in this years fall product offerings.

Drawing on fall's inspiration to create beautiful Chocolate High Heels

Back on the shelves are our Maple Walnut Caramel Cups, a personal favorite.  These delightful dark chocolate shells, shaped like maple leaves are filled with a gooey liquid caramel made with Vermont Grade B maple syrup and toasted walnuts.  I grew up spending summer’s in Vermont with my grandparents and one bite of these takes me back to our summer excursions to buy maple syrup direct from the farmer.  I remember him climbing up the rickety old ladder to the rafters of the barn and handing down old mason jars and tins thick with dust.  Inside was the thickest sweetest most delectable Grade B maple syrup you’ve ever tasted.  (To learn more about Maple Syrup grades and why I think Grade B is better check out this website http://www.vermontmaple.org/grades.php)  This year my thoughts turn often to Vermont as I hear towns I visited in my childhood ravaged by flood.  I am glad that in one small way we can help the people of Vermont through our continued purchasing of their maple syrup.

Also on our shelves are our brand new Pumpkin Pie Truffles.  Over  a year in the works we finally found the perfect marriage of chocolate and pumpkin.  To get the perfect balance we sought out a new chocolate (which brings us to more than 6 different milk chocolates that we blend to make our delectable flavors) a single origin Milk chocolate from Hawaii.  This milk chocolate is made entirely from beans grown on one estate in Hawaii giving a distinct fruity flavor.  This delicious chocolate is quickly becoming a personal favorite and is also available as a Single Origin bar in our shop.  The Pumpkin Pie Truffle marries fresh organic pumpkin with this delicious chocolate and a hint of spice.

Hand Painted Chocolate Pumpkins

Fall marks the beginning of what we at The Chocolate Fetish refer to as 3-D season.  Starting with three dimensional pumpkins, turkeys, and cats and continuing through the seasons with Santas and snowmen, then on to Easter with bunnies and eggs.  This year’s pumpkins are particularly beautiful.  Hand painted in oranges, yellows and reds and dusted with shimmering luster dust, they make a great addition to table centerpieces for Thanksgiving or fall entertaining. As usual we are offering a wide array of chocolate leaves including some hand painted maple leaves, another great way to add a little flair to fall table decorations.

The cool air means it’s hot cocoa season again and this year we have a new product that will knock your socks (it had our samplers eyes rolling back in their heads, and I am not exaggerating).  Gone is the plain old American style hot cocoa of the past instead we are now offering European Style Sipping Chocolate.  This decidedly decadent and indulgent beverage is made from our premium blend of freshly shaved dark chocolate mixed with half and half.   If you don’t live in Asheville be sure you make it up here this winter to try some… trust me you won’t want to miss it!  For those of you that live a little to far for a Sunday drive we’re working on a make at home version that we can ship to you, just another thing you’ll want to be on the look out for.

For us at The Chocolate Fetish fall is just the beginning. The busy holiday season is close on fall’s heels and the excitement of more new products keeps me jazzed about coming to work everyday.  We have more single origins, more seasonal flavors, and a whole new line of truffles coming soon!  As usual stay tuned to all our social media to be the first to hear about all the new flavors coming your way.

August at the Chocolate Fetish.

It’s been a busy summer here at The Chocolate Fetish.  Our kitchen has been hard at work developing some new products while our retail staff has been busy providing awesome customer service to all the different people that Asheville summer events bring our way.  We literally rolled out the red carpet to celebrate Bele Chere this year and a few of us even found a moment to check out The Southern Highland Craft Guild and Elvis Costello while they were at the Asheville Civic Center in July.

The Chocolate Fetish rolls out the red carpet.

This summer we have renewed our focus on giving exemplary customer service with new training and incentive programs for our staff.  Our goal is to not only give everyone a wonderful experience when they visit our store but also to go above and beyond for every customer.  Thankfully we’ve been hearing lots of positive feedback from satisfied customers all over the country!  We love hearing your feedback so if you have a positive experience with one of our employees please tell us about it!  There is nothing like going through the daily business mail and finding hand addressed letters with thoughtful notes and even pictures telling us what a good job we’re doing (we like hearing good news electronically too)!  We may not be changing the world through chocolate but if we can  brighten peoples days on a regular basis then I think we are doing our job.

As promised new flavors have been debuting from our kitchen.  We recently unveiled a new America’s Best Milk Coconut Truffle.  Our coconut loving customers have been asking for more so we introduced this classic milk chocolate truffle laced throughout with freshly toasted coconut.  Its a great classic flavor that is quickly becoming a favorite.   We have also been developing a peanut butter truffle.  Some of you may have been lucky enough to participate in our peanut butter truffle tasting.  We really appreciate hearing what you, our customers enjoy and desire and your feedback helps us achieve better results.  We are still working on perfecting the peanut butter truffle, its proving challenging to get the right balance of peanut butter to chocolate.  If you missed out on the first round of tasting I encourage you to stop by the shop often in the next couple weeks for another chance.  Peanut Butter and Coconut are not the only new flavors that we are working on!

Edible chocolate sculptures celebrate summer!

In our ongoing pursuit to create beautiful edible art all this month we are displaying an edible beach scene.  Featuring hand painted shells and fish created by our talented and creative team of chocolatiers the display has been getting rave reviews so far.  I enjoy listening to people as they check it out in the store and try to figure out if its all edible or not.  Many people wonder in particular about the sand on the bottom of the display, yes!  It is edible, it is a blend of sugar and cocoa powder.  Just to keep things interesting their is one shell in the display that is not made out of chocolate.  You’ll have to come down and see if you can find it for yourself.

August has brought with it once again The Best of WNC readers poll from the Mountain Xpress.  We have been voted the best chocolate shop in WNC or 12 years and we sure appreciate your help in making it to number 13.  The deadline for voting is August 24th so get your votes in and tell your friends!  This year we are also going for a win in the Uniquely Asheville category for Best Reason to Live in Asheville.  We might not beat the mountains (a long time favorite in this category), but its worth a shot right?  After all the mountains wouldn’t be as nice to enjoy if you didn’t get to savor a piece of chocolate along with the view.

Please vote for us as The Best Chocolate Shop in WNC. Vote at http://www.mountainx.com/bestof/vote/login

 

AmericasMart Atlanta

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A Cat Cora demonstration at Americas Mart

I often hear people say that they would love to have my job and they would even be glad to work for chocolate.  I love my job and I definitely spend a fair amount of my pay check on chocolate but it is definitely not all delicious chocolate tasting and creative chocolate making.  As with any job their is the nitty gritty and the day to day.  For me the the yearly visit to the Atlanta Gift Market is high on the list of nitty gritty.

Atlanta is home to one of a few wholesale shopping markets in the country and the largest wholesale gift show in the country.   This place has everything!  Glittering showrooms boast the latest greatest trends in everything from housewares and gourmet foods to apparel and cheeky magnets.  It also is home to some of our packaging suppliers and a great source of new ideas and inspiration.

I dread the AmericasMart.  I like to spend lots of time out side enjoying this beautiful place I am so lucky to call home.  At the mart in Atlanta you don’t even have to go outside to go from one building to the next.  In fact we walked about three blocks from the parking garage to the hotel without even going outside, which I reluctantly admit was preferable to the blistering heat outside.

An art installation about at AmericasMart

We stayed at The Hyatt Regency Hotel.  It boasts that Spider man descended 22 stories from the ceiling one new years eve and the elevators were finished with molasses.  What on earth molasses is used for I don’t know.  I do know it tastes good with chocolate.  Its a beautiful building and close to the mart which is nice when your trying to cover 20+ floors in three buildings in less than three days.

In everything I do I try to find inspiration and value; the mart is no different.  So I enter with 5 pound guidebook in hand determined to make the most of it, get some serious work done and find something new and exciting to walk away from it with.  A multitude of corridors were roamed seeking out the coolest new chocolate related products and most beautiful packaging offerings.  Interspersed with visiting suppliers and placing some orders I got to watch Cat Cora (the only female Iron Chef) do a cooking demonstration, attend a social media seminar and taste some delicious (and not so delicious) cookies, crackers, candied nuts and the like.

Sue and I meet Suzy Toronto!

The highlight of the mart was discovering Suzy Toronto.  She is an artist/wordsmith that creates a fun and funky line of gift products themed around chocolate.  “Behind every successful woman is a substantial amount of chocolate” is her tag line and I wholeheartedly agree!  It was fun to meet the artist that creates the products we will be selling and she is as fun as her art would lead you to believe.

All in all this years visit to the mart was a success.  We got lost in the maze that is the mart a couple of times but came away with some new ideas and exciting new products.  We also got to enjoy a little bit of Atlanta the highlight being when we visited the restaurant Two Urban Licks a must try on your next visit to Atlanta.  We sat at “the chef’s table” a long bar that surrounded the open kitchen on three sides and gave us an unforgettable view of all the plates leaving the kitchen.  A delicious meal was finished with a delightful bread pudding that left nothing to be desired… except maybe a chocolate course to follow it.

July at The Chocolate Fetish

With the official beginning of summer things have really started to heat up here in Asheville and at The Chocolate Fetish (don’t worry we’re keeping your chocolate nice and cool).  As usual this time of year downtown has been filled with visitors from out of town, lots of talented buskers, high energy drum circles, and a general sense of summer enjoyment and excitement.  We’re gearing up for the end of the month with the Southern Highlands Craft Guild Show and Belle Chere just around the corner.

If you’ve never been to a Southern Highlands Craft guild Show and you appreciate fine art & crafts this is the place to go!  I’ve always been a fan of The Southern Highlands show because it showcases nothing but top quality work from the best artists in the South and you get to meet the artists and watch demonstrations.  I like working in our shop during the show because lots of the artists come in to get their chocolate fix and because we see a lot of people that have a real appreciation for artisan things like our artisan Chocolates.   When Southern Highlands comes to town we always feature some of our more artistic Chocolates.  We continue to have a wide selection of hand painted Chocolate High Heels and Cowboy Boots on display as well as Smash Cakes and Chocolate Showpieces.  We will also be featuring our hand painted with luster dust Chocolate artist palettes available in milk or dark chocolate.  The show (http://www.southernhighlandguild.org/)  will be happening at the Civic Center July 21 to July 24, and if you make it downtown make sure and come by to get a little Chocolate!

As usual our kitchen is a buzz with activity.  The season for chocolate covered strawberries has come to a close but we are continuing to create delicious treats using fresh fruits.  Blueberry and/or Blackberry bites (made with local berries)  will be available on Fridays and Saturdays as they are available.  Apparently the extra rain has caused some of the black berries to be less than perfect so we’re crossing our fingers and hoping the later crops come in better.  These little morsels of goodness are so delicious!  Fresh juicy fruits offer the perfect tart/sweet accent to our always indulgent dark or creamy smooth white chocolate.  We’re also creating some new sure to be delicious creations specifically for Bele Chere.  At this point it’s all top secret but this much I can say…  if you are an Ashevillian that usually avoids Bele Chere because of the crowds it just might be worth a  trip to try some of our special Bele Chere treats (and it’s not that crazy early Friday and on Sunday). Stay tuned to Facebook and Twitter to hear about what seasonal fruit delight we will have every weekend through the summer.

The testing continues as our chocolatiers continue to develop some new truffle flavors.  We are extremely particular about our truffles.  We never take a recipe out of a book or just throw something together on a whim.  Each recipe is the result of numerous test batches to achieve just the right flavor balance.  It takes lots of work (and a lot of tasting, yum!) to create a flavor that unfolds on your palette and really creates a moment of ecstasy.  Chocolate is much like fine wine with different varieties and processes creating different flavor profiles from smoky to fruity or oaky and beyond .  To create the perfect truffle one must consider these flavor nuances as well as whatever you are using for flavor be it spices, herbs, fruits, or liquors.  Keep an eye out early this fall as I’m sure by then we will be ready to share the fruits of our labors.

June at The Chocolate Fetish

There are no pending adventures in the chocolate world this month but there are plenty of interesting adventures with chocolate going on right here at home.  Summer has been unofficially kicked off by the grill out celebrations of Memorial Day and the heat has already started to bear down on Asheville.  We made the seasons first batches of frozen Chocolate covered bananas to help beat the heat.  Savoring a frozen Chocolate covered banana on a hot summer day is a great way to cool off and a much healthier option than ice cream.  We’ve got them in milk chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate with pecans, and dark chocolate with pecans.

I’ve been hard at work learning to incorporate all the interesting things I learned at The French Pastry School class about Chocolate Showpieces that I attended in May.  A large part of my focus has been applying the technique I learned for creating flowers into creating specific flowers that can coordinate with people’s wedding bouquets.  Currently I can offer Gerber Daisies, Roses, Sunflowers and Dahlias and soon I hope to offer Orchids, Calla Lilies, and Anemones.  The result of all this experimentation has been the creation of some beautiful flowers which adorn some of our Smash Cakes.  For those of you that aren’t familiar a Smash Cake is a cake made with a thin shell of chocolate and filled with chocolates (not cake).  The cake is then smashed with a special hammer and the pieces shared with guests.   It’s a fun and unique way to celebrate.  I am also working on creating bouquets of flowers to be used as cake toppers so that someone seeking a more traditional cake can add a bouquet of chocolate flowers to the top of their cake.

I’ve also used the new flowers to create mini showpieces.  For the showpieces I drew on some inspiration that has been lingering with me since my trip through Kentucky in May (see blog post Bluegrass Country).  I used some new techniques to create wood grain on chocolate and constructed a base for the showpieces that resembles old barns and fences.  My goal was to create showpieces that would really show off the flowers, juxtaposing the rustic elements with the delicate beauty of the flowers.  They will be on display at the shop through June so come on down and check them out!

As for what the rest of The Chocolate Fetish kitchen is up to?  One of our chocolatiers has been hard at work in The Chocolate Fetish “shoe factory” refining our cowboy boots and chocolate high heels.  From animal prints to whimsical colors I am constantly delighted by the creativity and attention to detail that goes into creating these chocolate shoes.  There are always a great selection of fresh and stylish designs to choose from, it’s worth a trip to the shop just to check them out.  Another chocolatier has been designing some custom art that may soon grace the walls of The Chocolate Fetish while our Production Manager has been here all hours as he experiments with some delicious (and top secret) new flavors.  Keep an eye on Facebook and Twitter to be the first to hear about all the deliciousness coming your way!

Success! Day 4.

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There is so much that goes into creating a piece of art, and it doesn’t include just good solid techniques.  At times like this morning it requires a willingness to persevere even when it’s not going quite right.  The pieces just weren’t going together well, and my partner and I weren’t working together well.  Chef Leroux kept walking by and telling us it wasn’t flowing.  Neither of us could figure out why when he visited our piece he could hold up an element and it looked beautiful but as soon as he was gone we couldn’t recreate it. 

This is the moment when one has to know to walk away and come back fresh when one’s mind won’t wallow in thoughts of we’re never going to finish and this is the worst piece in the class.  We stuck with it and eventually the pieces began to flow together.  We were finally able to get the base all together and thankfully my partner took on the hairsplitting task of carrying the piece across the room to the spray booth. 

After spraying with a good base coat of colored cocoa butter we attached the finishing elements including the leaves and flower.  The leaves were pretty straightforward but attaching the flower was another hairsplitting experience.  When attaching sculptural elements with chocolate it is not as simple as just gluing them on.  One has to find a balance between holding the piece long enough for the chocolate to set up but delicately enough that it doesn’t melt in your hands.  You also have to take care that you use enough chocolate glue for it to stick together but not so much that it creates messy globs all over your sculpture. 

By mid afternoon we had finished! Four long days of learning and work had finally come together into a beautiful chocolate showpiece. And much to my delight we had actually done a mighty fine job. Even the Chef admitted that earlier he was concerned we might not do well but we had really pulled it together into a nice piece. After an emotionally trying morning wondering how we would ever finish hearing this kind of praise was relieving. Sure it was easy for me to look back and and see where the mistakes were and write a list of everything that could be better. However it was also easy to look at it and think about all the great things I had learned, some of which I learned by having this forum to make mistakes in. I could also look at it and see all the great things that had been accomplished; we had a made a beautiful piece, executed a lot of new techniques, and made lots of great design choices.

There were a total of ten different sculptures made, each beautiful and while based on the same designs rach was a little different, reflecting the people who made them. There is much a person learns at an intensive course that goes beyond how to manipulate chocolate.  This week taught me patience, it taught me how to work in collaboration with someone else, it taught me that its ok if it isn’t perfect and it taught me lots of times less is more.  Stephan Leroux has written books about sculpture and I’m sure they are filled with great technique but no amount of reading could compare to hands on one on one with a master.

Chocolate Showpieces Day 3

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In my day to day at The Chocolate Fetish I don’t get many chances to create chocolate showpieces.  Flowers however are in high demand, so I am always grateful for a new technique.  Today Chef Leroux taught us a relatively quick method that should be easily adaptable to making lots of different kinds of flowers.  We began by making petals, lots and lots of petals.  We were instructed to make petals in sets of various lengths and curved angles so when constructing the flower they would layer well together.  Then we tediously attached them to a center sphere taking care because the delicate petals easily melted in our hands.  The final step was to airbrush the flowers with colored Cocoa butter.  This proved to be another tedious step as just the pressure from the airgun threatened to blow petals off the delicate flowers.

The flowers were our last element to build so after the airbrush we moved on to putting it all together.  I tend to want to rush to this step and not spend the time it really takes to get each of the elements absolutely perfect.  It becomes more and more important to be presice with each element because one little wobble between pieces will cause a big problem when you add multiple pieces together and make something three feet tall.  Furthermore its helpful to make multiple extra pieces because every once in awhile a piece you thought was connected well goes crashing to the floor and it sure is nice to have an extra ready to go.   Another important lesson learned… from now on my chocolate showpiece mantra will be “take the time to get it right now and make extra or you will regret it later.”

French Pastry School Day 2

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The French Pastry School is known for being the top of its class.  You don’t get to the top without demanding excellence, and this class is definitely doing that.

We started the day working with pastiage, a material that I as a chocolatier have never worked with.  Pastiage is a combination of confectioners sugar, starch and geletin.  It’s not particularly tasty but it’s nice to work with and allows easy molding of things that would be impossible with chocolate.  Working quickly so it would not become to dry we made various swirls that reference wrought iron metal work.

I find it interesting to see how different chocolatiers use everyday objects and home made tools, a lot of tools for chocolate sculpture come right from the hardware store.  Chef Leroux had his own collection including some homemade silicon molds used to mold leaves.  We used a heat gun to mold acetate sheets to the leaf vein pattern on the homemade silicon molds.  After sandwiching the semi molten acetate between the two sides of the silicon mold, appling pressure and letting it cool we were left with acetate leaves that we could mold chocolate on.  This is a really cool technique that creates a very detailed leaf.

The rest of the day we spent continuing to fine tune our base pieces, molding chocolate leaves, and creating various spheres and swirls we’ll need for our final pieces.  Chef Leroux is staying a few steps ahead of us as he builds one of each of the sculptures, so we’ll have an example for reference.  It is constantly amazing to witness the skill of a master.  Each action is so precise, and executed with such grace and accuracy.  I can hope that with years of practice I might come close to Chef Leroux’s level, and close would be quite an accomplishment.