CHOCOLATE SHOW

BIG CHOCOLATE IN THE BIG APPLE

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The long weekend in NYC was one of those long-overdue girlfriend reunions, which conveniently coincided with The Big Chocolate Show.  My friends opted out, so I Uber-ed solo, passing New York ComicCon on the way.  The Big Chocolate Show - not so big.  But aspirational.

On display was everything from Scharffen Berger (a pioneer in American bean-to-bar now owned by The Hershey Company) to Elements Truffles "Ayurveda Inspired Artisanal Chocolate" bars with cloth labels stitched onto their boxes.  There were multiple offerings from Ecuador, including Tolita.  And I confess, I bought the Tolita gift box because of the Ginger 70% organic dark chocolate, but also because of the founder's story, and the award-winning packaging (sadly, the gift box is not on their website).

I watched part of a grinder demo, part of Jacques Torres's centerpiece demo, and bought a copy of On the Chocolate Trail (because who doesn't want an autographed book by a Rabbi about the intersection of chocolate and religion?).

Once I secured the chocolate eyeballs for my friends, my Big Chocolate fix in the Big Apple was satisfied.

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LOREE DOES DALLAS

Well, I joined Margo, Chris and Jason in The Grommet's awesome booth the first day of the Dallas Total Home and Gift Market.  Despite electrical obstacles resulting in a 10+ hour set-up, Team Grommet was all vim and vigor greeting, sprucing up shelves, and selling by the time I rolled in close to 10.  At least I brought snacks, so I wasn't totally useless.

Booth 2401 was well-positioned near the elevators on the 12th floor of "Temporaries," and there was a steady stream of buyers throughout the day.  Of course I had to check out the Gourmet Food section and cross the street to poke around the Vintage offerings.  And yes, I managed to snag a few souvenirs (thanks Freakers and Kalalou).  But mostly I tried to stay off my feet.  Wrong shoes, anyone?

It's difficult to overstate the crowds, energy, and sheer quantity of merchandise at a gift market.  What an honor to have Let Them Eat Candles among the unique and innovative products featured on the summer circuit with The Grommet Wholesale.

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COMMENCING COUNTDOWN, ENGINES ON

Like any voyage, today’s launch on The Grommet required planning and teamwork to execute.  The odyssey began with a submission in August, followed by contact from Discovery Manager, Ryan.  There were contracts and negotiations, samples and style selections.  A date.  And suddenly, in addition to needing more supplies and gearing up for more production than ever before, LTEC had marching orders.  Photos, video, media outreach.  The Grommet is a hive of activity out in Somerville, MA, and there's not a lot left to chance.

Big thanks not only to Ryan, but to Co-Founder and Chief Discovery Officer, Joanne, Maker Programming Associate, Katherine, Sr. Discovery Associate, Blaise, Vice President, Discovery, Kate, Senior Manager, Video Production, Alyssa, and Market Associate, Mike.  May God's love be with you....


 

 

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PAPER ROUTE

The call from Sheridan Road Magazine Editor, Dustin O’Regan, was a complete (albeit welcome) surprise.  She had seen Let Them Eat Candles at a holiday sale and wanted to know more.

This is a lesson in why budding entrepreneurs should say “yes.”  One never knows where a curvy path will lead, and in this case, saying yes and showing up led to the beautiful Let Them Eat Candles spread in February’s Sheridan Road edition.

From a September networking event at the NWC Food Incubator to a focus group for The Zen of Slow Cooking, to a November artisan house show, to a favor from a stranger who agreed to stand in and sell candles, to an Editor stopping by the show.

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WELL BRED CHEESEHEADS

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Fromagination, the specialty cheese shop that’s steps from Wisconsin’s State Capitol, is as creative as the name implies.  (It helps to know that the French word for cheese is fromage, and that Wisconsin is the nation’s Dairy State).

Front to back, top to bottom, Fromagination is the rare food shop that makes you want to linger, stroll, and touch.   In fact, it's a challenge to walk more than a few steps without picking things up, reading the labels, tasting the samples.  The shop is curated without being precious, charming without being cutesy.  Run in for a gift and walk out with a sack of stuff for yourself.

If you’re nowhere near Madison, check out the website.  Fromagination has a cheese-of-the-month club, corporate gifts, picnic baskets and a blog.  Owner Ken Monteleone is as savvy as he is friendly, and it’s an honor to have Let Them Eat Candles among his fine offerings.

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MAD FOR MADISON

http://www.chocolateriancafe.com

It’s not obvious that the Chocolaterian Café’s building was, for nearly 100-years, a department store, but a few reminders remain – the antique wood shelves, the Schenk Huegel sign, and the cozy booth nooks that formerly served as dressing rooms.

What’s notable today, of course, is what co-owners Leanne Cordisco and Kimberly Vrubley have added: windows into the busy kitchen, a rotating gallery of local artwork for sale, and most importantly, a menu that includes even more than the name suggests.

Yes, there’s chocolate: cakes and bars, fondue and tarts.  And for the heathens: lemon squares and macarons, cookies and toffee.   But for those who know they shouldn’t live on dessert alone: quiches and paninis, soups and galettes.

Before I could grab a chicken and fig panini to go, Leanne had the Let Them Eat Candles display on the counter, and the boxes added to inventory.  These women know how to please their customers!  Don't take my word for it.  Come see (and taste) for yourself.

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SUMMER PLUM-IN'

Here’s why I love Plum:

Before stocking Let Them Eat Candles, Tiffany, Director of Floral & Specialty Candy, asked for bigger displays!  Better visuals, more candles.  Win-win.

Having never done an in-store demo, anywhere, this summer I hung out at each Plum for fun.  The Markets are in constant motion.  Flowers are clipped, replenished and arranged.  Jars are faced forward, breads are fluffed.  Provisions are orderly and bountiful, and the Plum employees offer assistance, samples and suggestions with enthusiasm.  

Their prepared-food chef designs recipes then provides photographs - ensuring consistency in palate and plate across all stores.  Details prevail.  The heaping platter of Salmon, Fennel, Collards, & Corn Salad was garnished with layers of red onions cut into the shape of flowers. Fresh, creative, delicious.

A highlight of Chicago’s demo day?  Meeting Patricia, who comes to Plum specifically for Let Them Eat Candles, then sends them on to friends in LA!


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BEAN DREAMS

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http://www.finechocolateindustry.org

FINE CHOCOLATE INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION, ELEVATE CHOCOLATE 2015

Gotham Park Ballroom, Intercontinental NY Times Square Hotel, June 27, 2015

More than 270 chocolate-lovers gathered in Manhattan to show, taste and tell.  There were Table Talks, lectures, a guided tasting, interactive displays, and raffle prizes.

As a volunteer I agreed to summarize Dan Pearson’s Heirloom Cacao Preservation update, Ed Seguine’s tasting, and Jonathan Wajskol’s Keynote, Navigating the Landscape of Visual Identity, for FCIA’s newsletter.  I was writing all night.

Matt and Yelena Caputo's table talk was a hot ticket.  Their elite chocolate catalogue has over 400 SKUs, so they know what sells and why. Caputo favorites include Dick Taylor, Marou, Omnom, Pump Street Bakery, and Taza, for design, branding, shape, and clarity of information.

Later, Jonathan Wajskol (designwajskol) likened the unwrapping of a bar to a striptease – attraction and anticipation.  Chocolate: all in good taste!

The most important message of FCIA's event? Preserve heirloom beans.  Just as interest and appreciation in fine chocolate is exploding, the very qualities that make fine chocolate fine are being threatened.  For much of the world, eating locally grown chocolate is nearly impossible, but asking farmers and politicians to care about the crops will come with a sweet, sustainable reward.

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SWING A LITTLE, SHARE A LOT

Chicago Charity Tennis Clinic 2015

To benefit the Carol Gollob Foundation

http://www.carolgollobfoundation.org

The Carol Gollob Foundation for Breast Cancer Research is a non-profit organization that raises awareness and funds research, and simultaneously honors the memory of my friend Lisa’s mother, Carol.

The Gollobs were and continue to be a tennis-playing family.   Their annual Chicago Charity Tennis Clinic brings together players of all skill levels and 40 volunteer pros for a night of athletics and camaraderie.   Swinging For a Cure has raised over $500,000 since 1992.

This year’s “swag bags” include postcards introducing Let Them Eat Candles, and outlines my plan to donate to the Carol Gollob Foundation every time somebody sends me a photo of chocolate candles in action.

You don’t have to play tennis to participate!  Get some Let Them Eat Candles, snap a shot of your cake, or your mouth full of chocolate, and together we can pay it forward.

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HEIGHTS OF HAPPINESS

ALL CITY CANDY

746 Richmond Rd, Richmond Heights, OH  44143, (216) 487-7070

When Elisabeth Sapell opened All City Candy in October of 2013, she wisely kept a Wish Book.  Customers requested favorites as the store’s inventory of bulk, nostalgia and fine chocolate grew to over 5,000 items.

“Now I either have it or it’s discontinued,” Sapell quipped.

With 5,000 square feet of selling space, an online store, and corporate and private event candy buffets to boot, All City Candy can satisfy every person’s sweet tooth, any time, everywhere!

But be warned: if Fruities made by Tootsie Roll are your favorite, you’ve got to be quick.  All City Candy’s stock of this surprise super-seller disappears faster than it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. 

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A FRESH SPIN ON DINING IN

ARTIZONE HOME DELIVERY for Chicagoland -- http://www.artizone.com/Chicago

With 3,000 Chicago customers, 104 local shops represented, and a similar program in Dallas, (Austin and Denver coming soon), Artizone isn’t a secret.  But when I was approached over the summer, the company was news to me.

If it’s news to you, here’s the skinny: Artizone is an online specialty food shopping community, delivering to your door from storefronts that might require a trek, like Bang Bang Pie Shop and Black Dog Gelato, and goods made from kitchens without a storefront, like Karl’s Craft Soup and Mama’s Nuts!  Check their zip code zone to be sure they’ll come to you. 

Supporting the local Artizone scene is a 12-person crew including 7 drivers.  Pictured are Roger, Josie, Bernadette “Berni” and Juan, ready to handle logistics, inventory, stocking and driving.

Delivery is free for orders over $120, or a flat $5.95 for anything less.  What are you waiting for?  Visit Artizone’s online aisles and get the best of what Chicago has to offer straight to your door.

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KEEP ON TRUNK-IN’

THE DIY TRUNK SHOW

Broadway Armory Park

5917 North Broadway Street, Chicago, IL.

Saturday, 22 Nov 2014, 10 am to 5 pm

If you want a jump-start on holiday shopping, check out the 130 artisans at The DIY Trunk Show - a free, single-day happening in Edgewater.  Since its inception in 2003, the show has moved and evolved and been lovingly nurtured by folks who adhere to the founders’ vision – creating a venue for local, indie talent to meet with an appreciative, enthusiastic audience.

There will be lunch and chair massages and a place to check your coat.  There will be art and clothing and paper goods to buy.  And edible candles?  You’ll find those there, too!  Let Them Eat Candles will be in aisle 1 at booth18, sharing space with other Blue Buddha Boutiquers.

Last time I shopped the show I bought the most beautiful wooden pen to give as a gift.  Of course once I got it home and thought about the great conversation I had with the maker, I couldn’t give it away.  This year’s strategy will be to buy in two’s.  Just in case.

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A SWEET BUSMAN'S HOLIDAY

CHOCOLATE ACADEMY, 600 W Chicago Ave, Chicago IL  312.496.7427

THE LIBRARY at the PARK HYATT CHICAGO, 800 N Michigan Ave, Chicago IL 312.335.1234

What’d I learn at Sugar and Spice and all (Chocolate) Things Nice, the 2-hour demo with Chef Meg Galus at The Chocolate Academy? Oh, just how to make some super-cool looking (not to mention delicious) holiday treats including Chocolate Eggnog Macaron Trees, Vanilla Praline Crunch Candy Bars, Chocolate Gingerbread Ornaments and Milk Chocolate Mont Blanc Éclairs.

In an ideal world, I’d whip up some of the macaron trees for teacher gifts and my book club cookie exchange and impress the pants off everyone.  But in reality I feel guilty for just sneaking out for the afternoon.  Attending the demo was my own little gift to myself.

As a new entrepreneur, I am practicing the art of saying, “Yes” to new opportunities.  Sometimes they’re challenges that I’d rather avoid, but every once in a while, they’re the best kind of busman’s holiday.

To see or sample what I got to see and sample, head to the NoMI Boutique at the Park Hyatt Chicago November 19 - December 24 (check the hours).  You won't be disappointed.

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IN CONCLUSION

Martha Stewart American Made Contest

Let Them Eat Candles: Wildcard Finalist 2014

Yesterday was a day of candle production, and while stirring chocolate, I absent-mindedly scrolled through email on my phone.

“I really dislike that you didn’t win!” came from loyal friend and die-hard voter, Sabrina.  It was the most humane way to learn I wasn’t among the chosen 10.

I spent this morning pouring over the winners.  Although the Detroit Dirt gal’s video was a car commercial (an actual commercial), she appears to be pretty awesome.  Never guessed a composter was Food category competition.

It was exciting to become a Finalist out of the 3,259 small business nominations.  It was fun reaching out to my community and getting positive feedback and support.  It was thrilling to receive new inquiries and business opportunities.

I might not open every future email from MarthaStewart.com (how much daily love does a person need?), but I’ll remember this experience with fondness for a long, long time.

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MULTIPLE EXHIBITIONISTS

MULTIPLES the SHOW2605 W Armitage Ave, Chicago, IL

Saturday, 18 Oct 2014, Noon to 8 pm, Sunday, 19 Oct 2014, Noon to 6 pm

The categories: Visual Art / Indie Craft, Hand-Made & Vintage / Zines, Comix & Artists Books / Craft Kitchen / Bike Alley / The Store.  The show: MULTIPLES.

The weekend: too busy for me.  Couldn’t be at a show.  Or could I?  The show’s “shop” is little cubbies of salable goods (aka bookshelves), and the venue is right down the street from where I produce.  It was too convenient not to “show” up.  And the space is as cool as the vendors.

The flip side of choosing my spot early was not getting to see the show in full swing.  If you go, let me know.

 

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A FRESH SLICE OF HISTORY

A FRESH PERSPECTIVE

Bittersweet Pastry Shop1114 West Belmont Ave, Chicago, IL.  773.929.1100

Bittersweet Pastry Shop is an extraordinary bakery/café that has graced Belmont Avenue for 20 years.  Hopefully my cousins at Tenenbaum Hardware were welcoming neighbors - having been a few doors down for decades themselves.  The street has seen tremendous growth and change, and these businesses have anchored the way.

Bittersweet’s original storefront was a fraction of the size, as was the menu.  Happily, the flavored shortbread cookies are still a staple.  Once upon a time, my friend Karen would stop at Bittersweet before work, arriving at Gelick Associates to announce she had “treats” for us to share.  Always the shortbread cookies, and always, indeed, a treat.

When I asked veteran store supervisor, Zaida, what the biggest sellers are today, she couldn’t be pinned down.

“We have so many signature cookies, pies, and cakes.  The linzers.  And the almond strawberry brulee.  The chocolate raspberry,” she said motioning toward the end of the case.  “For Dine Around we featured the clafouti.  The name is hard to remember, but it was popular because it can be for breakfast or dessert.”

And there you have it.  A fresh slice of history awaits you on West Belmont Avenue.

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DON'T JUDGE A STORE BY ITS WEBSITE

Blue Buddha Boutique (B3)

1127 West Granville Ave, Chicago, IL.  773.478.3767

If you visit B3’s website, you’ll wonder what chocolate has to do with chainmaille.  At least I would have wondered had I seen the website first.  But I first saw the store.

And inside, alongside the tools and supplies for chainmaille enthusiasts, is the work of 40 local artisans.  And the artisans are there because of Blue Buddha Boutique’s unique connection to the Chicago Craft Mafia and the DIY Trunk Show, both of which support entrepreneurs and artisans through workshops and shows.

In other words, there's a lot more to this shop than being voted Best New Business in Edgewater 2013.  This business began 11 years ago as a chainmaille mail order out of owner Rebecca Mojica’s home, and was the first chainmaille-only brick-and-mortar store in the world.  Now B3 hosts classes and trunk shows and Maker days.  Which is all to say that sometimes a website reveals only part of a rich and resourceful story – one that you need to see for yourself.

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FORGET DADDY, DIG THIS SUGAR MAMA

Give Me Some Sugar

2205 West Belmont Ave, Chicago, IL.  773.281.3154

In 2006, Chef Alekka Sweeney was giving cooking classes in people’s homes just as Ace of Cakes was hitting the airwaves.  As requests for cake decorating grew, Chef Sweeney held classes in larger venues.

Although she was in demand, her business was not being branded by all these guest appearances.  Market research revealed that Chicago lacked a school dedicated solely to pastry classes, and savvy Chef Sweeney stepped in to fill the void.

Give Me Some Sugar, her charming studio and shop in Roscoe Village, was previously a Montessori school, complete with all the hook-ups necessary to power a commercial kitchen.  The mouthwatering brochure advertises classes in Cakes, Pies & Tarts, Donuts, Cookies, and Chocolate & Cream Puffs.  Additionally, the space is available for private parties and events.  Seriously sweet fun!

Pictured is Alekka with instructor Mahta, in the adorable Give Me Some Sugar shop.  Don't wait to visit.  The storefront windows change seasonally, and they are so welcoming right now, you've got to at least drive by.

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A WARM, WOOLY WELCOME FOR THE NEW SHEEP IN TOWN

BlackSheep General Store346 Park Avenue, Glencoe, IL.  847.242.0130

For months, my tiny town of Glencoe has waited excitedly for the BlackSheep General Store to open for business.  On Friday, the brand-new, old-time shop will officially welcome customers at last.

I’ve had a sneak peek, and the goods are great!  But my history with BlackSheep goes back a’ways.  Owner Stephanie Macakanja and I dreamed up our new chapters in tandem.  We attended the Sweets and Snacks Expo together in 2012.  And then again in 2013.

We discussed our ideal spaces – me touring commercial kitchens for rent, her waiting patiently for just the right storefront.  We shared notes on banking, on logos, on displays.  Our businesses are fraternal twins – babies together.

What a thrill to have BlackSheep General Store selling Let Them Eat Candles!  Stop in.  Hang out.  Remember, it takes a Village to raise a child.What a thrill to have the BlackSheep General Store selling Let Them Eat Candles!  Stop in.  Hang out.  Remember, it takes a Village to raise a child.

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MANNERS OF FACT

CALLEBAUT CHOCOLATE USA, MARTHA STEWART, FAMILY, FRIENDS, & FRIENDS OF FAMILY & FRIENDS

True story:

I become a Wildcard Finalist in the Martha Stewart American Made contest today!  If it hadn't happened today, I'd have been out.  As a last ditch effort (we're talking last Friday and yesterday), I:

1. Sent a box of Let Them Eat Candles to each of the 5 FOOD category judges, including Martha herself.

2. Sent a note to a few suppliers and vendors, telling them about the contest, asking if they'd be willing to "share" my nomination through social media.

My very first email response came from Galit at Callebaut Chocolate USA, with an offer to post my nomination to their Facebook page!  Hello THOUSANDS of followers!

And this afternoon, a Thank You note from Martha herself!  Or maybe from someone 10 layers below Martha herself.  Still, Martha walks the walk.  The note writer actually read my letter.  Upon receipt. There were 3,200 contestants, and while I don't know how many sent Martha their product, surely there's a backlog of packages to open and notes to write?

And so, as this 2014 contest enters the next round, I want to thank not only my family and friends, and friends of friends and family, for every shred of support, I want to thank Galit and Martha and other Let Them Eat Candles Friends, for believing my efforts were worth acknowledging, if not rewarding. I apologize in advance for what will come next: Repeated requests for Like and Shares, Comments and Clicks.  While becoming a Finalist is already a reward.  I'm in it to win it.  After all, I'm in the business of wish fulfillment!

 

 

 

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