CANDY A Sweet Quarter & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & W & lt;/span & hile wandering the Carnegie Square neighborhood a couple of weeks ago, I spied a sign for THE FRENCH QUARTER, promising fresh chocolates. I followed the signs to the door of the Studio One salon, where the tiny shop is tucked in the building's front corner. The glass display case is filled with glorious chocolate truffles, a dozen or more varieties, while colorful canned goods -- pickled green beans and asparagus, apple butter, apple-peach chutney -- decorate the counter.
"We make the truffles ourselves in small batches," says Stacy Blowers, who's behind the counter. "We do all of our own canning, and most everything comes from my garden."
The hand-rolled truffles ($1.25 each, $15 for a baker's dozen), made by partner DeVerne Augustus, feature soft ganache infused with surprising flavors like lavender, basil and ginger. Some are dusted with cocoa powder while others sport a coating of dark or white chocolate. All of the chocolate is from Guittard in San Francisco.
Another local chocolate maker initially planned to move into the space, but when that plan fell through, Augustus stepped up to the challenge. "I started making truffles a dozen years ago, as thank-you gifts for sales reps," says Augustus. He went back to those early recipes and continues to experiment with new flavors.
The clove-orange truffles are made with a reduction of juice and zest from organic Valencia oranges, with just a hint of clove for complexity.
The Fireworks -- made with chipotle peppers -- begins with smooth dark ganache; then the smokiness opens up, and it explodes with a buzz of pepper heat at the back of the mouth. The caramel with sea salt infuses the ganache with caramel flavor, then coats it in a dark chocolate shell and tops it with sea salt crystals. The flavors linger deliciously.
Augustus and Blowers plan to add wine to their mix, along with artisan cheeses -- preferably from local or regional producers. And they'll be bringing in some hot sipping chocolate to celebrate the upcoming First Friday art event on Nov. 7. The shop's grand opening celebration is set for Thanksgiving weekend. In the meantime, the truffles and canned goods are worth a visit. Expect to get hooked.
-- ANN M. COLFORD
French Quarter, 1311 W. Sprague Ave., is open Tue-Sat 9 am-6 pm. Visit www.myfrenchquarter.com or call 624-5350.
CANDY Bruttles Two
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & "Y & lt;/span & ou need a sample," says the woman behind the counter, handing me a bite of flaky, nutty soft peanut brittle. A scrumptious aroma had already greeted me at the front door of BRUTTLES' new home in Spokane Valley. While they continue to sell candy in the Davenport Hotel downtown, this building contains the candy factory along with prepackaged and bulk candy sales.
"We've tripled our space and it's all on one level now," says owner Carol Measel with enthusiasm. From the front counter, she adds, "You can watch the soft peanut brittle being made, see us pulling it on the slab, and [see it] being wrapped and packaged."
For those who want the candy without the fuss of packaging, customers at the factory location can now mix and match up to four different flavors of soft peanut and cashew brittles, soft caramels, as well as peanut and cashew Bruttles (similar to brittle but without the nuts, and half-dipped in chocolate), all available in bulk for $11 a pound with a quarter-pound minimum.
"Now when [customers] buy a pound for a gift, they can grab a little extra for themselves to eat in the car on the way home," Measel says with a knowing smile.
Fifteen flavors of fudge ($10 per pound in bulk, quarter-pound minimum) have also been added at the Valley location. Now, I am something of a fudge snob -- a purist who believes that fudge ought to be chocolate and, for that reason, brown. Pointing to a pan of green and white candy, Carol suggests I try the Key Lime fudge: vanilla fudge topped with Key Lime fudge. "We use a double-strength key lime juice from Florida," she explains.
I hesitate, and then take a bite. This is amazing. There is a tangy citrus note that is at once sweet, tart and sublimely, brightly lime. No wonder this is one of their best sellers. I've not tasted anything like it.
In a "sour" economy, Bruttles has seen sales of their sweets increase fourfold. Measel says the reason is simple: "In times like these, [candy] makes you feel good."
-- M.C. PAUL
Bruttles Candy Shoppe, 101 N. University Rd., Spokane Valley, is open Mon-Fri 9 am-5 pm, Sat 9 am-4 pm. Visit www.bruttles.com or call 228-9509.