Deborah Cassell
Executive Editor
Candy Industry

getting fresh: A 'Taste' of confectionery Chicago

The Fourth of July is approaching, and for Chicagoans, that means it’s time for Taste of Chicago. I don’t always attend this annual event, depending mostly on the weather … and my patience for being surrounded by throngs of hungry tourists and locals. But this year, my family’s coming for the holiday weekend, so Grant Park, here I come!
On past trips to “the Taste,” as we here in Chi-town call it, I have partaken in “Taste” portions of everything from Asian cuisine to deep-dish pizza to fried ice cream. Once, I even attempted to eat one of those giant turkey legs, dripping with barbecue sauce, which requires the use of both hands and is nearly impossible to tackle while standing.
One of my other favorite stops is Aunt Diana’s Candy Makers, whose chocolate-dipped frozen bananas are a sweet yet refreshing crowd pleaser. I’m happy to see that Diana’s will be at the Taste again this year. There will be other confectionery fixes on hand, as well …
Take Canady Le Chocolatier. The Chicago-area boutique will be offering gelato in chocolate, tiramisu and peanut butter flavors.
Meanwhile, Celebration Creamery will be selling a brownie with vanilla ice cream and chocolate topping, and a strawberry cheesecake frozen yogurt sandwich.
Then there’s Franco’s Ristaurante, which will be featuring Stracciatella gelato (vanilla with chocolate shavings), as well as a lemon and watermelon Italian ices.
Eli’s Cheesecake also will be on hand at the Taste, with a menu that includes Oreo cookie cheesecake with vanilla ice cream, Turtle cheesecake and no-sugar-added Key Lime cheesecake, made with Equal.
JR Dessert Bakery will be pushing its own cheesecake items, including a “plain” version with fresh strawberry or caramel pecan sauce and a frozen chocolate-dipped cheesecake bar. Chicago’s famed
Garrett Popcorn Shops will exhibit at the fest, offering up chocolate-covered caramel corn, mixed nuts and a new innovation called the “Popcornsicle,” which is a caramel and cheese corn mix, flash-frozen on a stick.
The one-and-only Harry Caray’s will be baking up chocolate chip cookies as well as whole wheat oatmeal raisin cookies for this year’s fest, while Mazzone’s Italian Ice will cover Rice Crispy Treats in chocolate.
Among the more unusual confectionery items at the Taste will be Tamarind’s Banana Chocolate Egg Roll.
The ethnic offerings will continue at Costa’s, whose baklava (filo, honey and nut pastry) will have everyone going Greek. Even grocers are getting in on the Taste of Chicago act. In addition to making deli trays for the event, Dominick’s will be hawking caramel apples with peanuts, triple chocolate chips, or both peanuts and milk chocolate chips. They’ll also have strawberries dipped in dark or white chocolate with drizzle.
Chocolate-covered fruits? Ice cream and ices? Foods on sticks? I can’t wait to fight the crowds for my share of these confections (weather pending). Here’s to a happy Fourth … wherever you are!
Editor’s Note: For a list of all 2009 Taste of Chicago booths as well as information about the city’s other Fourth of July events, visit

Bridge Brands Chocolate offers up new chocolates

San Francisco-based Bridge Brands Chocolate, also known as The San Francisco Chocolate Factory, debuted its new Sport Lover’s Chocolate at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York earlier this week.
The Sport Lover’s Collection targets consumers with active lifestyles. Each box is packed with 3.5 oz. of Bridge Brands’ gourmet chocolate drops and features different seasonal pastimes, from golf to skiing. The new Sport Lover’s Winter Chocolate Collection features a graceful ice-skater, a shredding skier and a high-flying snowboarder, while the Summer Sport Collection features a serving tennis player, a speeding cyclist and a swinging golfer.
The company also rolled out a got milk? chocolate straw for kids in both single straws and triple packs, got milk? chocolate s’mores, got milk? chocolate cocoa mugs, a got milk? chocolate cup and straw pack, and special got milk? chocolate straws in Halloween and holiday-themed packaging.
“Despite a recent surge in the popularity of dark chocolate, milk chocolate still accounts for 80% of chocolate sales worldwide,” says Mike Litton, the company’s founder and ceo. The got milk? chocolate products come in bovine-inspired tins and packaging that appeals to kids and adults alike. These new items expand on Bridge Brands’ got milk? chocolate line, now composed of 14 SKUs.
For more information, visit

Chocolate maker Kintzer joins TCHO team

Bradley Kintzer, formerly a product developer with a subsidiary of The Hershey Company, has joined TCHO, a recently formed chocolate company based in San Francisco. The 32-year-old chocolatier developed new products for Scharffen Berger, Joseph Schmidt Confections and Dagoba Organic Chocolate. He will work with TCHO’s co-founder and chief chocolate officer, Timothy Childs, in developing flavor-focused, high performance chocolate for the consumer and professional markets.
“Brad is a rising young star with considerable experience and a key addition to the TCHO team,” said TCHO President Tom Twietmeyer. “His deep, botanical knowledge of cacao and other raw ingredients augments our strength in applying technology to making chocolate. And, his drive to connect with cacao farmers and unlock the complex flavors in chocolate is a perfect fit with TCHO’s mission. We go beyond Fair Trade by partnering with farmers to deliver the quality beans needed to make TCHO’s flavor-focused chocolates.”
For more information, visit

Blommer Chocolate Co. reorganizes commodity department

With the retirement of 13-year veteran Lee McConnell, vice president of commodities, on June 30, Chicago-based Blommer Chocolate Co. reorganized its commodity procurement department. 
Kip Walk, director of cocoa, will take on expanded responsibility for cocoa procurement strategy and execution. He will continue to be the primary contact with customers and industry associations on Blommer’s origin and corporate social responsibility activities. Kip has more than 25 years of experience in cocoa trading and procurement, 20 years at Blommer.
Jeff Rasinski, director of commodities, will expand his role to provide market research and analytical pricing support for cocoa in addition to sugar, dairy, fats/oils, energy and currency. In this role, Jeff will be the primary interface with customers concerning market advice and custom pricing structures. Jeff has 20 years of commodity trading and procurement experience, working for Mars Snack Foods and Nestle/Dreyers before joining Blommer in 2006.
Sheila Fortune, manager of commodity hedging, will expand her role of managing all hedging activity and advising customers on cocoa market direction. Sheila, who has more than 20 years of experience in cocoa trading and technical analysis, joined Blommer in 2006.
For more information about Bloomer, visit

Antoine Amrani Chocolates opens factory, launches premium boxed line

Antoine Amrani Chocolates has opened its premium, artisan chocolate factory in East Norriton, Pa., a suburb of Philadelphia. The opening coincides with the launch of a line of chocolate gift boxes. Amrani, the former head pastry chef of Philadelphia’s famed Le Bec Fin restaurant, teamed up with partners Fred Potok and Vincent Uliano Jr. to fulfill his boyhood dream of creating his own line of chocolates. The gift boxes, which come in 4- and 6-piece tasting sizes as well as 9-, 17- and 68-piece boxes, retail between $11.95 and $122. Smith Design developed the line of packaging to meet Amrani’s desire to evoke “a superlative chocolate experience” while embracing sustainability. For more information,

sweet of the week: Chuao Chocolatier's Origins, Panko Bars

To kick-start its participation in the 55th Summer Fancy Food Show, held earlier this week in New York City, Chuao Chocolatier launched two new items: theOriginsChocolate Bar and thePankoChocolate Bar. With a 77% cacao content, theOriginsbar features dark, premium chocolate from Chuao, Venezuela. Offered as a limited edition, the 80-g. bar will be available in small batches at Chuao Chocolatier cafés and gourmet retailers as well as online for $18. Chuao’s other new chocolate bar,Panko, also uses Venzulean dark chocolate, combined with panko bread crumbs and sea salt. Created by Chef Michael Antonorsi, the company’s master chocolatier and co-founder, thePanko bar draws its inspiration from chocolate paninis served up in Venezuela. The 80-g. bar retails for $5.99 and will debut this fall. For more information,