Artisan Chocolates — From the Region Synonymous with Chocolate; And Food Gal Contest Winner

Derry Church Artisan bon bons -- made in Hershey, PA.

It was almost destined that Eric Clayton grow up to be a chocolatier.

After all, he and his family are fifth-generation natives of Derry Church, PA — the historical name for modern-day Hershey, PA.

Yes, that Hershey’s.

Many of Clayton’s relatives worked for Milton Hershey at his original chocolate factory. Moreover, Clayton’s great-grandfather, a dairy farmer and stone mason, laid part of the foundation for that building and sold milk that went into making the milk chocolate.

So, it’s understandable that Clayton has a serious thing for chocolate. When he was 5, he would collect wrappers from every kind of candy bar he came across. As an adult, he worked as both a chef and a pastry chef. But all along, he knew he wanted to start his own chocolate factory one day.

Thus, Derry Church Artisan Chocolates was born. The chocolates are made by hand in small batches, using certified organic cream and butter from local Pennsylvania dairies, as well as Felchlin couvertures from Switzerland, considered among the best in the world.

I recently had a chance to try samples of some of the bon bons, which come in a wide variety of shapes and are named playfully for different cities around the world. A 10-piece box is $22.

The "Burlington'' bon bon.

I’ll use my patented scale of 1 to 10 lip-smackers, with 1 being the “Bleh, save your money” far end of the spectrum; 5 being the “I’m not sure I’d buy it, but if it was just there, I might nibble some” middle-of-the-road response; and 10 being the “My gawd, I could die now and never be happier, because this is the best thing I’ve ever put in my mouth” supreme ranking.

The fillings are all very smooth, the flavors nicely assertive, and the look of each bon bon distinctive from one to another.

The “Burlington” is for maple lovers. It’s made with a reduction of pure Vermont maple syrup and is garnished with a lovely roasted pecan half.

The “Winter Haven” tastes like my favorite Orange Julius of yesteryear. The white chocolate bon bon incorporates fresh-squeezed Florida orange juice, that’s reduced to a syrup and mixed with a hit of Grand Marnier.

The "San Francisco'' bon bon.

The “San Francisco” is a pure taste of fall. Black Mission figs are mixed with molasses and roasted, crushed walnuts, then coated in dark chocolate for a confection that would go wonderfully with a glass of port.

My favorite has to be the “County Kildare.” Imagine a bon bon that tastes like your favorite oatmeal cookie. That’s what you’ll find in this inventive confection that has a milk chocolate ganache filling mixed with ground oats, cinnamon, and crushed walnuts.

The "County Kildare'' bon bon.

Rating: 9 lip-smackers.

Contest Winner: In this latest Food Gal contest, I asked you to tell me what you love most about the food or a dish that hails from the Gulf of Mexico region, in order to score one pair of tickets to the “Bay for the Gulf’‘ food and wine fund-raiser Oct. 24 at the Rosewood Sand Hill in Menlo Park.

Thanks to all for submitting such wonderful, heart-felt answers. Without further adieu, the winner of the two tickets (valued at a total of $300) is:

Linday, who wrote: “Let’s roll back the clock approximately two years to November 2008…The situation: I was working at biotech company in Palo Alto and our lead drug had just received new labeling from the FDA. The sprint to the regulatory finish line completely depleted my immune system. I ended up outrageously sick. Moreover at the end of that week, instead of sleeping and overdosing on NyQuil, I had to attend the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in New Orleans, on behalf of my company. The Friday night before my 7:00 am flights, I had a heartbreaking conversation with my boyfriend. He didn’t see a future for us and thought it was best we go our own way. I cried myself to sleep that night. I cried all the way to New Orleans.

When I arrived at the Renaissance Arts Hotel on Tchoupitoulas Street, I had no audible voice, a 101 degree temperature, and a broken heart that no one could mend. So what are my memories of the trip to Louisiana? Not of the elegant company dinners with amazing Cajun food. (I couldn’t taste it anyways…) I remember eating room service for three days straight as I tried to nurse myself to some state of normal. Bowl after bowl of French Onion Soup. I needed that soup like I’ve never needed soup before. I remain indebted to the team at La Cote Brasserie who loved on me and my room service soup for three days straight.

And that, while not necessarily what I ‘love most’ about a food from the region, is what remains imprinted in my mind about New Orleans cuisine.”

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