Mindo Chocolate Makers and Flora Confections
There are some great things afoot this month in the chocolate corner! I’ve been working the past couple of months to bring in outstanding new products from two with two new companies — Flora Confections and Mindo Chocolate Makers. Based in Chicago, Flora Lazar of Flora Confections is an expert in classic, French-style candies like pâte de fruit and honey and nut nougat. And right down the road in Dexter, MI, Barbara Wilson and Joe Meza are trying their hands at making bean-to-bar chocolate! As luck would have it, both company owners will be making appearances at the Deli this month, rolling out the their products, sampling, answering questions and getting to know you. Behind the scenes this month, I’m working to bring in new chocolates from Rogue Chocolatier in Minneapolis, MN as well as an outstanding peanut brittle from Elaine’s Toffee in California — more to come about that in June!
As always, I am only an email duffzingermanscom (duffzingermanscom) or a phone call (734-663-5282) away if you have any questions or comments related to the wonderful world of chocolate and candy!
Mindo Chocolate Makers
Joe Meza and Barbara Wilson are two of the most determined people I know. I met them last fall and have been following their progress as they went from talking about starting a chocolate company to having single-origin, bean-to-bar chocolates and cocoa powder on the shelves at several great shops around town. Their story is great, and Zingerman’s is proud to support them.
Joe and Barbara have been married for over 30 years and they live and work in the Dexter/Ann Arbor area. Both had busy careers in other industries and, around 2008, they started talking about retiring and spending the winters in Ecuador (where Joe was born). The couple visited a beautiful town called Mindo (about 1 and 1/2 hours from Quito) and began construction on a little home. But as Joe explains, “I can’t do anything small,” and the winter home quickly evolved into a hostel and restaurant called El Quetzel de Mindo. About that same time, Barbara began experimenting with roasting the local coffee beans. One thing led to another and soon she was roasting the local cacao and playing around with making chocolate. The work was fascinating and the results compelling enough to convince the couple to focus their energies almost entirely on making chocolate. In 2009, they built a facility for drying, fermenting, roasting and winnowing local cacao on their property. In the last year, they’ve taken the last great leap — importing Ecuadorian cacao from Mindo-area farmers and completing the chocolate making process at their factory in Dexter. And that, my friends, is the short story of how of your friendly, local chocolate company — Mindo Chocolate Makers — came to be!
While we’re not currently stocking the chocolate bars at the Deli (although I can see them in our future), I am super-duper excited to be selling Barbara’s unsweetened chocolate disks and all-natural, unsweetened cocoa powder. The unsweetened chocolate is extremely tasty. I keep a 1/2 # of the disks at home and nibble on one after dinner. The chocolate is typically Ecuadorian — it smells and tastes delicately floral, like all the great spring smells we’ve been enjoying around the neighborhood these past couple of weeks. It hops and jumps in your mouth with nice acidity and is very, very mild for 100% cacao. If it is this nice to eat, just imagine how it would play out in your favorite recipe for chocolate brownies, cake, mousse, etc. Yowza! The all-natural (i.e. non-alkalized), un-sweetened cocoa powder from Mindo Chocolate Makers is also great — we sold out of our first case in less than a week! And you know the amazing thing? Barbara is pressing the cocoa powder right at the factory! There aren’t very many companies who can claim to press their own cocoa powder/butter right at the factory (most people out-source that step or skip it all together).
I knew 2010 was going to be a good year because one of the first things that happened in January was getting to know Flora Confections. On January 5th, Ari forwarded me an email from Flora, who I didn’t know at the time. As I quickly learned, she is a first-rate chocolatier/confectioner based in Chicago, specializing in French-style nougat, pâte de fruit and bonbon. Anyway, she emailed Ari to ask for pâte de fruit and cheese pairing suggestions for a piece she was writing for the Huffington Post. Of course, he said “Happy to taste!” and before I knew it I was standing in front of the cheese taste with Ari and a plateful of dazzling pâte de fruit, trying different flavors with different cheese. Needless to say, that was a lot of fun.
After that experience, I knew I needed to get my hands on some of that pâte de fruit. It was just perfect — reminding me of the confections I have tasted in France. Loose and juicy, light and sweet, with just enough pectin to hold them together without making them gummy. I like the ingredient list, which lists fruit purée first! I also love the fact that Flora works exclusively with the fruits of the Midwest, specifically those that grow in Illinois and Mighigan. Her springtime flavors (and the flavors you will find at the Deli this month) include Honey Crisp Apple, Apricot, Blueberry and Raspberry. Flora says that pâte de fruit “highlight the best of local fruit,” and when you taste one I think that you will agree. Flora wrote a great piece about her discovery of pâte de fruit and shares a recipe in her Huffington Post article.
In addition to Flora’s pâte de fruit you will find her nougat at the Deli, too. This nougat style is nougat mou, or “soft nougat.” This doesn’t mean that it is fluffy and whipped up, but rather that it has a nice chew to it. It doesn’t crack and crumble — it bends. We currently stock two types, a traditional (with pistachios and almonds) and a locavore (with pecans and dried cherries). The ingredient list for these is outstanding: Free range egg whites from Illinois, honey from Ellis Farms in Benton Harbor, MI, almonds, pistachios, pecans, dried cherries from Seedling in South Haven, MI… you get the idea.
These are not complicated candies — they are classic confections, flawlessly executed. Zingerman’s is the only place you will find Flora Confections outside of Chicago, which is pretty exciting.
Don’t forget to stop by the Deli between 11 and 1 PM on Friday, May 14th (Mindo Chocolate Makers) and Saturday, May 28th (Flora Confections) for FREE demos and a chance to learn more about Flora, Barbara and the important work they are doing to make great chocolates and confections… and to make all our lives a little bit sweeter.
Upcoming Chocolate Events
Call 734-663-3400 to save a seat!
Charlie and the Candy Manufactory
Join us for a tasting with a real-life Willy Wonka. . . Charlie Frank of Zingerman’s Candy Manufactory! Charlie’s candy bars are an homage to the American “combination” bars of the 1930’s — super fresh and super simple, with outstanding ingredients like honey nougat, brittle, fudge, peanuts, caramel and chocolate. We will taste the entire line of Zzang! Bars — the Zzang! Original, Ca$hew Cow, What the Fudge and brand new Wowza! Charlie will also lead us in a comparative tasting and walk us through a “day in the life” of a candy maker!
Mindo Chocolate Makers Demo
Chocolate maker and co-owner of Mindo Chocolate Makers (Dexter, MI) Barbara Wilson will be spending the lunch-hours with us at the Deli sampling baked goods made using the company’s excellent unsweetened Ecuadorian chocolate and natural single-origin cocoa powder. Stop by to share some recipes and learn about baking with great chocolate from the chocolate maker herself!
Flora Confections Demo
Flora Lazar is coming from Chicago to visit the Deli and share her great confections with you! She will be sampling a variety of pâte de fruit as well as her Traditional nougat (pistachios and almonds) and Locavore nougat (pecans and dried cherries). This is a great opportunity to meet and master confectioner and sample a classic French-style candies at their absolute best. Ever wondered how to pair pâte de fruit with cheese? Curious about the origins of nougat? Heard rumors about the movie Kings of Pastry (showing nationally in theaters in the fall) — which Flora co-produced? Stop by and meet her!