Central American Chocolate Tour – Part 1: ChocoTalk

ChocoTalkBanner4Central America Chocolate Tour – Part 1
By Bernhard Mueller, Master Chocolatier at Christy’s Gourmet Gifts

Do you follow us on Facebook? If so, you probably would have noticed the posts about my chocolate adventure to Central America; Costa Rica to be specific.

Well, I’m back, and I’m ready to share my new-found chocolate knowledge with you wonderful ChocoTalk blog readers!

I arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica on a Thursday.  It was 25 degrees C and breezy.  I had a lovely visit with my brother Gerhard who travels to Costa Rica often.  He showed me the sights of San Jose including the markets and local chocolate shops.

ChocoTalk | South America Chocolate Tour | Part 1 | Christy's gourmet Gifts in Burlington Ontario

I must say I was most impressed with all the food and not just the chocolate.  Fresh fruit, veggies and eggs the colour of sunshine…Wow! I could get used to that.  I loved walking the farmers market. I wanted to buy everything! I was most interested in a fruit called soursop.  The locals claim this fruit has cancer curing properties. I am not sure if this is true, but I really did enjoy its sour yet subtly sweet flavour…a must try for anyone planning on visiting this region.

ChocoTalk | South America Chocolate Tour | Part 1 | Christy's Gourmet Gifts in Burlington Ontario

After my brief visit with my brother I headed out on a long venture to the other side of Costa Rica on the Carribean Coast just north of the Panama border.  I was told I must rent a 4×4 in order to successfully arrive where I was headed and wow were they right!  I arrived at approximately 2:30 in Puerto Viejo at my beautiful destination the Mango Walk cacao farm.

The beautiful sounds of exotic birds greeted me as I walked the path to start my chocolate tour with the chocolate maker from Caribeans, Paul Johnson.  This is Paul on the right. He is originally from Minnesota and moved to Costa Rica 12 years ago where he learned the art of chocolate making from bean to bar.  I can’t wait to tell you more about this guy…. But that will come soon.

ChocoTalk | South America Chocolate Tour | Part 1

As part of my introduction to the Caribeans chocolate farm we enjoyed a chocolate tasting experience  perched on top of a hill overlooking the jungle canopy with the Caribbean coast off in the distance.  This view was by far one of the most spectacular things I have ever seen in my life!  The sounds of jungle birds, howler monkeys and crashing waves contributed the overall experience.

ChocoTalk | South America Chocolate Tour | Part 1 | Christy's gourmet Gifts in Burlington Ontario

It was here in the tasting lounge I felt my chocolate  journey truly began.  I paired delicious single plantation chocolate with spices like cayenne pepper, rosemary, mint, garlic, anise, sea salt and more.   The chocolate was dark, bold and had fruit undertones.  My personal favourite was the cayenne pepper with sea salt combination.

Tasting Pairing Evening

After my tasting experience, I checked into my cabin.  I felt like I was entering the movie Jurassic Park!  My cabin was nestled in the jungle forest….It was beautiful.  All that beauty did come at a cost though…… because when you stay in the jungle, you get the jungle!  I am not going to lie, I was glad there was a cage around my cabin most nights.  Enjoy these pictures of my cabin and the critters that lived with me for 7 days.

ChocoTalk | South America Chocolate Tour | Part 1 | Christy's Gourmet Gifts in Burlington Ontario

Some photos courtesy of www.themangowalk.com

ChocoTalk | South America Chocolate Tour | Part 1 | Christy's Gourmet Gifts in Burlington Ontario

Some photos courtesy of www.themangowalk.com

Well that’s all for now.  My cup of Costa Rica coffee and delicious dark chocolate awaits.

In my next blog I will tell you all about the bean to bar experience.  Please stay tuned for more chocolate adventures.

ChocoTalk | South America Chocolate Tour | Part 1 | Christy's gourmet Gifts in Burlington Ontario

You can meet the Chocolatier face-to-face at our Tasting Day on Saturday April 9thth from 2pm to 4pm. Bernhard will be offering free samples of Costa Rican bean-to-bar chocolate. Come by 3530 Mainway in Burlington to try it! Taste the difference quality makes!

First Day of School Traditions

The first day of school is a time of excitement, stress and tons of new experiences. It’s a time full of high emotions, but also a time for making memories! In our opinion, the best memories usually revolve around family traditions.

We collected 5 of our favourite ‘First Day of School’ traditions from around the web, to give you some ideas for this year!

1. Photo on the first day of a new school year

Perhaps one of the most popular First Day of School Traditions – taking a photo of your child on the first day! We love the idea of putting all the photos into a scrapbook as a keepsake for when they are older. These cute year-by-year printables from DesignsByNicolina are not only adorable, they help you keep each year photo organized and in order.

First Day of School Traditions 1

http://designsbynicolina.blogspot.ca/2013/08/free-first-day-of-school-download.html

Find the year-by-year printables at DesignsByNicolina.

2. Shop for ‘Study Buddies’

We love this idea for the little ones! What makes homework more fun? Having a partner to work with, of course! One fun idea is to bring each child on a shopping trip to buy a new stuffed animal ‘Study Buddy’. Not only is homework more fun with your study buddy, it adds a feeling of comfort to children during times of transition and change.

First Day of School Traditions 22

3. First day of School Interview Page

School is all about growth and change, but sometimes we blink and the change and growth happens far too fast! A great way to document changes is to start with this Free School Interview Page printable. Get your child to fill it out every year, and then put them all together or in a time capsule. Keep those memories forever!

First Day of School Traditions 3

Find the Free School Interview Page printable at Giggles Galore.

4. A Sweet Treat

A long hard day of school deserves a sweet treat after school! Surprise them with some Christy’s Crunch, and a pun-ny tag – “Let the Number CRUNCHing Begin”!

First Day of School Traditions 4

5. Fashion Show

Everyone knows that one of the best parts about Back to School is getting a couple new outfits for the year! On ‘School Year’s Eve’, why not have a kids fashion show? Roll out the red carpet and let them show off their new outfits. What a confidence booster for the first day!

Do you have any First Day of School Traditions? Please share them with us in the comments below!

 

Our Story

As a small, family-run business, Christy’s Gourmet Gifts prides itself on creating delectable sweets that remind you of home. All of their products are lovingly created from old family recipes using the finest Belgian chocolate and pure butter. The company was first started in 2002 by Christy who turned her life-long passion for baking into a business. Not only did she love baking, Christy loved how “giving” a sweet treat to others would bring them joy and happiness.

Christy's Gourmet Gifts | Chocolate in Burlington, Ontario | Family Picture

This combination of baking and giving is what makes Christy’s Gourmet Gifts unique from other local bake shops.

In 2010, joined by her husband Bernie and Mother Diane, Christy opened Burlington Ontario’s first bakery specializing in gourmet gifts.

Their mission is simple; create gourmet gifts that will bring joy and happiness to all.

There is always something exciting going on at Christy’s Gourmet Gifts. Whether it is trade shows (such as the One of a Kind Show), dance recitals, charity events or just the buzz around the holidays, the bake shop is constantly a flurry of activity. New recipes are always being developed, the aroma of fresh baked Christy’s Crunch fills the air and Bernie is constantly in the kitchen baking sweet treats. Despite all the chaos, there is no place the family would rather be!

What sweet times await you at Christy’s Gourmet Gifts! The retail shop is elegantly decorated by Christy for each season – a feast for the eyes (as well as the nose and mouth). A wide range of chocolate gifts can be found including: Their famous chocolate toffee butter crunch, chocolate-dipped cookies, retro Sponge Toffee candy, beer brittles, wine toffees, marshmallows and more. Samples are always available.

Christy's Gourmet Gifts | Chocolate in Burlington, Ontario | Chocolate Toffee Butter Crunch

Christy’s Crunch: Milk Chocolate, White Chocolate Cranberry, Dark Chocolate

From the renowned Christy’s Crunch to gourmet cookie bouquets, Christy’s sweets make perfect gifts for any corporate or personal needs.

Christy’s Gourmet Gifts is a real family affair! Each family member plays their part, however small. Christy’s skill set lies in the creation of anything new. She and Bernie work together to invent new products, while she comes up with new and exciting ways to beautify and market the business. Bernie, a trained chocolatier, does all the baking in the shop. (It’s a good thing, too! The copper kettle used to handcraft the toffees and brittles weights about 30 pounds and holds up to 60 pounds of candy. They need Bernie’s muscles!) Christy’s mom, Diane, is the organizer and shares her keen style sense to perfect Christy’s Gourmet Gifts’ packaging; No one can tie a bow better than Diane! Christy’s father, Brian, helps build all of Christy’s trade show booths (What a feat! Christy comes up with some wild design ideas). Christy’s daughters, Jordy and Aydann, are all to happy to be put to work as taste testers. Christy attributes much of her success to her 98 year old Grandmother who she fondly calls Nanny. Nanny was also the creator of the family’s now famous Christy’s Crunch. Today the Crunch is the most popular product at Christy’s.

Christy's Gourmet Gifts | Toffee Pouring | Sweets in Burlington, Ontario

Bernie pouring toffee from the Copper Kettle

A lot of work has gone into making Christy’s Gourmet Gifts what it is today. They are proud of their accomplishments and more importantly of each other.

Check out Christy’s great gift ideas at www.christysgourmetgifts.com

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“A family that bakes together, stays together.”

REPOST from Small Batch Magazine – Profile: Bernhard Mueller, Chocolatier

Repost from Karina Sinclair at Small Batch Magazine

August 11, 2014

Life By Chocolate

Christy's Gourmet Gifts | Chocolate in Burlington, Ontario | Profile on our Chocolatier, Bernhard MuellerIf your job involved working with chocolate all day, can it really be considered work? What if a whole day goes by and you realize at 9 pm you haven’t stopped since breakfast? Bernhard Mueller often finds himself in this very situation, but to him, it’s just good old fashioned work ethic fueled by passion for chocolate.

Raise your hand if you wished YOUR job was fueled by chocolate. Ok, put your hands back down now…you’re all blocking out the sun.

Bernie is the chocolatier behind Christy’s Gourmet Gifts…..cont’d.

Read more at Small Batch Magazine‘s website, here: http://www.smallbatchmagazine.com/2014/08/profile-christys-gourmet-gifts-chocolatier/

Chocolate Tempering | Christy's Gourmet Gifts | Burlington, Ontario | Hiring

 

TERRA @ Home Farmer’s Market Feature

Terra at Home Market | Milton | Christy’s Gourmet Gifts | Tropical Plants Market 2TERRA is becoming a well-known name in the GTA, and for good reason! With four locations spanning across Burlington, Waterdown, Vaughan and Milton – they have expanded to include not only their greenhouses, but also a TV Show and a Farmer’s Market.

Terra at Home Market | Milton | Christy’s Gourmet Gifts | Christy's BoothWe are so pleased to be a part of the Terra @ Home Market, here’s a walk-through of what you can expect if you choose to visit:

Terra at Home Market | Milton | Christy’s Gourmet Gifts | SpringTimeRomancing the Spoon: Romancing the Spoon features gorgeous jewellery (bracelets, rings and earrings) made from silver-plated flatware…many of them vintage. What a perfect gift for the upcoming Valentine’s Day!

Terra at Home Market | Milton | Christy’s Gourmet Gifts | Romancing the SpoonTerra Teas: Terra Teas (no relation to TERRA greenhouses) offers high-quality loose leaf teas, all certified organic. They proudly serve teas with no pesticides or chemicals, no GMOs and no artificial ingredients. Not to mention they are all delicious! If you’re a fan of tea, bagged or loose, this is one vendor you will want to check out.

Terra at Home Market | Milton | Christy’s Gourmet Gifts | Terra TeasKettle Corn Boss: Kettle Corn Boss is not only serving their ‘Milton Famous’ Kettle Corn, they have many more exciting products available at the market as well such as: apple pie caramel corn, maple caramel corn and gingerbread caramel corn, handmade asparagus corn chips, asparagus salsa, and sunflower kettle potato chips. Wow!

Terra at Home Market | Milton | Christy’s Gourmet Gifts | Kettle Corn BossCake + Loaf Bakery: Cake + Loaf is a ‘from scratch’ neighborhood bakery with an emphasis on organic, fair trade and local ingredients. Cake & Loaf is a great choice for picking up your bread for the week! (And most likely a much more healthy choice than your local grocery store!)

Terra at Home Market | Milton | Christy’s Gourmet Gifts | Cake and LoafRotating food trucks each week! This weekend you can expect to see: The Dirty South, The Salted Pig Ltd., and Mikes Dog House.

And lots more!

Terra at Home Market | Milton | Christy’s Gourmet Gifts | Tropical PlantsThe Market is also themed in a Tropical decor, so if you need a break from Old Man Winter – it’s a great place to be. Not to mention Christy’s Gourmet will have lots of samples available for the tasting. Yum!

Terra at Home Market | Milton | Christy’s Gourmet Gifts | Terra ShowPlease, stop by and say hi!

Visit the TERRA @ Home Market at:

Milton TERRA 

12800 Britannia Road    

Milton, ON

S. W. corner of Britannia at Trafalgar

Apple Hand-Pies Recipe made with Greaves Apple Jelly

Fall has finally arrived! For many people, getting geared up for Fall means going Apple Picking and that is exactly how we spent our first day of Fall! We grabbed our rubber boots and headed out to Carluke Orchards. The weather was cool with a slight wind, but it was sunny and once we were bundled up it was a perfect Autumn Apple-Picking day.

Christy's Gourmet Gifts | Apple Hand-Pie Recipe made with Greaves Jam | Pic BWe managed to pick one full basket of Apples of a few different types – and let us just tell you that it was NOT slim-pickings at Carluke. WOW! We could’ve got a full basket just on one tree.

Christy's Gourmet Gifts | Apple Hand-Pie Recipe made with Greaves Jam | Pic AWith all those apples, of course we had to do some delicious Autumn baking. Given that we are heading up to the Apple Harvest Craft show next weekend in Meaford, we thought the fresh smell of apple pie would get us in the “harvest spirit”. We decided to get extra creative and baked some Apple Hand-Pies (we did ours on a stick) made with Greaves Jams & Marmalades* Pure Apple Jelly. We loved the outcome and thought we would share this yummy recipe:

Here’s the delicious recipe:

Christy's Gourmet Gifts | Apple Hand-Pie Recipe made with Greaves Jam | Pic 8

Apple Hand-Pies made with Greaves Pure Apple Jelly

(Makes enough for about 4 Hand-pies)

Ingredients

  • ½ cup Chilled Butter
  • 1 1/3 cups All Purpose Flour
  • ¼ tsp Salt
  • ¼ cup Ice water
  • 4 Large Apples (We used Cortland)
  • 1 ½ cup Water
  • ¼ cup Sugar
  • 1 tsp Nutmeg
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 jar Greaves Pure Apple Jelly
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 tsp Milk
  • Sprinkling of Sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F.

Christy's Gourmet Gifts | Apple Hand-Pie Recipe made with Greaves Jam | Pic 1Dice butter into cubes. Place in a bowl and then place in the fridge or freezer.

Christy's Gourmet Gifts | Apple Hand-Pie Recipe made with Greaves Jam | Pic 2Place flour in a large mixing bowl with salt.

Christy's Gourmet Gifts | Apple Hand-Pie Recipe made with Greaves Jam | Pic 3Cut in Butter until mixture becomes coarse crumbs. Slowly add ice water, one tbsp at a time, mixing until the dough becomes a ball. Roll the ball up with plastic wrap and place in the fridge. Let chill for 3 hours or more.

Christy's Gourmet Gifts | Apple Hand-Pie Recipe made with Greaves Jam | Pic 4Prep your apples. Peel and core apples, and chop into small cubes.

Christy's Gourmet Gifts | Apple Hand-Pie Recipe made with Greaves Jam | Pic 5Add the 1 ½ cup water to a pot. Bring to a boil and add the sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon. Stir continuously until mixture comes to a boil.

Place the apples in the pot. Bring down the heat, cover and simmer on low for 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat, stir and let cool. Drain.

Cover a cutting board or smooth, clean surface with a dusting of flour. Take the dough out of the fridge. Roll the dough ball out until it is quite thin.

Using a cookie cutter, cut a few shapes out of the dough. Bring leftover dough together, roll out, and continue the cookie cutter process. Continue doing this until you can no longer get any more cookie cutters to fit on the dough.

Place half the cookie cutter shapes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

*Optional* Add a bake-safe stick to the bottom half of the pie. Press it in about ½ way up.

Christy's Gourmet Gifts | Apple Hand-Pie Recipe made with Greaves Jam | Pic 6Place a dollop (1 tsp) of Greaves Apple Jelly to each shape of dough.

Cover the Apple Jelly with the cooled, cooked apples. (Don’t overfill as you will have trouble getting the sides to close!)

Place the leftover dough shapes on-top of the others. Press around the edge with your finger to begin with, then use a fork to seal the edges shut.

Cut a small X shape in the top of the hand-pies to let any steam escape in the baking process.

Mix together egg and milk. Brush onto the tops of the Hand-Pies to give a nice glaze. Sprinkle with sugar (Mmm sugar…).

Christy's Gourmet Gifts | Apple Hand-Pie Recipe made with Greaves Jam | Pic 7Bake until golden and cooked through (around 25-35 minutes).

Enjoy! Happy Fall!

Christy's Gourmet Gifts | Apple Hand-Pie Recipe made with Greaves Jam | Pic 8 *Greaves Jams and Marmalades, in Niagara-on-the-Lake, is one of our newest Christy’s Sweets retailers.

Our Trip to Handmade Market Spring 2013

This past weekend, on Mother’s Day, we took a trip to the Handmade Market (http://www.handmademarket.ca/) in St Davids at the Ravine Vineyard (Niagara region). Despite the crazy weather, the event was gorgeous and included 60+ Artisan Vendors, Live Music, Food Trucks and Wine while you shop.

Christy's Gourmet Gifts visits the Handmade Market in Niagara Spring 2013

It was our first trip to the Handmade Market and it definitely won’t be our last! We loved the market so much that we wanted to share our experience with all of our lovely customers and friends. Since we’re working on a new packaging design for our Chardonnay Wine Brittle, this was also the perfect venue to get some inspiration!

Vintage Truck at the Handmade Market Spring 2013

Some of our favourite parts of the show included:

Everything we sampled from ‘Itty Bitty Pie Company’ was completely amazing, from their pies – of course – to her meat marinades. Our favourite product of theirs was definitely the Salted Caramel Sauce! We imagine it would go very well with sliced apples for an easy treat or appetizer. (Yummy!) This is definitely a shop we will be following around to craft markets. ;)

Itty Bitty Pie Company, Salted Caramel Sauce and Meat Marinades

‘a little hello’ has found an amazing use for those vintage buttons that just don’t have a home. Gorgeous one-of-a-kind earrings! Our very favourites were their pearl button earrings, and the sailor inspired silver anchor buttons. Their set-up was also beautiful, very earthy with fresh flowers – perfect for Handmade Market!

'A Little Hello' Vintage Buttons repurposed into earrings

  • Handmade Tiered Dessert Tray from ‘Cupcakestands Dream’

Tea & dessert together in one beautiful tray – we’re officially in love! ‘Cupcakestands Dream’ uses repurposed vintage china to create gorgeous tiered dessert trays, which in our minds would be so perfect for Afternoon tea. Another factor we love – each piece is completely unique!

'Cupcakestands Dream' Tiered Vintage China Dessert Tray

The Handmade Market really inspired us overall and we wanted to share a quote that embodied that inspiration! Feel free to share, pin etc. We believe it really is true! “Small things become great when done with love”.

Christy's Gourmet Gifts "Small Things Become Great When Done With Love." #quote

Behind the Scenes at the One of a Kind Spring Show 2013

This past March we celebrated our second year at the Spring One of a Kind Show in Toronto and what an exciting experience it was!

The first day of the show finally came – in the wake of a lot of preparation – and that preparation was well worth the effort. We met lots of Christy’s Gourmet Gifts fans and gained some new fans along the way! Our most popular products at the show were our famous Christy’s Crunch, and our Double-Dipped Belgian Chocolate Sugar Cookies. The bunny cookies were a top choice with the flowers leading not too far behind.

Christy's Gourmet Gifts - Sugar Cookies

Our new Chocolate Strawberry Toffee Crunch was also well received!

This year’s One of a Kind Spring Show was definitely one to remember. The show featured many new artisans, delicious goodies, and some very creative products! Some of our favourite booths included: Tricia O, tealish, and glamjulz. We also loved the designs by Headmistress. There were so many amazing artisans at the show, there are almost too many favourites to list!

All in all, the show was an amazing success and we want to give a great big thank you to everyone that stopped by our booth. See you at the Christmas One of a Kind Show!

Christy's Gourmet Gifts - Christy at the Spring One of a Kind Show 2013