Thursday, February 28, 2008

Artisanal Candy Bars From the Land of the Endless Summer


I've been sitting on this post for a while now, but I think the time has come to let you all in on the secret...

Santa Monica based CIA-Greystone pastry grad and fellow food blogger Nina Wanat, of Sweet Napa fame, recently launched her artisanal candy bar company, called Bon Bon Bar. I ordered up some samples back in December. What arrived was a trio of hand-made candy bars and two packages of artisanal marshmallows (vanilla and passion fruit flavored) which I stored in the fridge and savored, just a bit at a time, for weeks. To paraphrase my friend Zach's comparison of The Wire to Law and Order, Nina's confections are to a normal sugar fix what Dostoevsky is to Danielle Steele. Yeah, that's right, they're that good!

First, the bars. I ordered up one each of the Dark Chocolate Caramel Nut Bar, the Milk Chocolate Malt Bar, and the Dark Chocolate Malt Bar. The Caramel Nut Bar incorporates California-sourced organic almonds, walnuts and pecans, paired with a buttered caramel made with organic cream. I can't quite summon the words to describe this, but you can think of it as a Snickers bar that's broken free of its shackles and rebelled against its industrial masters. To continue the "Big Candy" analogy, the malt bars could be considered Twixes Gone Wild: malt ganache (just mull that over in your head for a second: Malt... Ganache...) and hand-made shortbread enrobed in milk/dark chocolate. These were even better than the Caramel Nut Bar. I'll never be able to look at a Twix the same way again.

As for the marshmallows, I can't gush too much about them because, well, Nina comped them with my order (blogger ethics and all that). But let it suffice to say that the vanilla marshmallows were just that: very good marshmallows that taste of vanilla. And the passion fruit marshmallows packed a surprisingly tangy and refreshing pucker that you wouldn't normally associate with this s'more staple.

Nina makes her products with a devotion to sustainablity and an uncompromising rejection of dodgy ingredients like high fructose corn syrup. Monsanto is not well represented in this girl's kitchen, thankfully. If you live in Southern California, you can find her treats at Chefmakers in Manhattan Beach and Pacific Palisades, and Clementine in Los Angeles. Her vanilla marshmallows can also be found at Food on Pico Blvd. in Los Angeles. If you don't live in the area, her products are available through the Bon Bon Bar website. You may not be accustomed to paying five dollars for a small candy bar (or $30 for an internet order of small candy bars), but believe me, it's worth it. Nina's recently added several new bars to her lineup, and is in the process of moving her operation into a larger, climate controlled kitchen, and with these tweaks her empire will undoubtedly spread. With any luck, her products will eventually find their way to Portland...

4 comments:

Hungry T said...

Tommy-

Thanks for the tip. I just placed an order for the single malt scotch dark chocolate bars. Can't wait to taste them...

tommy said...

Ah yes, the single malt bars. She didn't have those back in December, but there was already some talk about them (Nina did some pretty extensive flavor idea guinea pigging on her blog before the official launch, and the single malt idea got some of the most favorable feedback). Looks like I'm gonna have to place another order...

Anonymous said...

The phrase "single malt" refers to whiskey, but she also has malt (as in malted milk)also, is that right?

tommy said...

Yes, that's dead on. The "single malt bars" incorporate single malt scotch whisky, while the "malt bars" have a malted milk ganache. Which, I feel I should reiterate, is very, very tasty. I knew I should've specified that in my response to Hungry T's comment, but well, I'm a lazy bastard, so there you have it.

And welcome to the blog, anonymous (who ARE you?)!