Top 10 Los Angeles Artisan Food Producers
|Patricia Tsai of Chocovivo Making Chocolate|
In L.A., we are fortunate to have our share of notable artisan chocolatiers. Pastry chefs like Yvan Valentin have long excelled at making the classic French truffles of his homeland (and this time of year. Buche de Noël cakes); younger artisan chocolatiers like Ococoa's Diana Malouf are introducing new chocolate flavor combinations (she makes great nut butter-filled cups inspired by her Middle Eastern heritage). And then there's Patricia Tsai. In an interview with Squid Ink, Tsai recalls how she had her heart set on making stone-ground Mexican chocolate like those that Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo imports from a small women's cooperative in Mexico.
Chocovivo is a remarkable artisan story of perseverance, un-tempered by Western customer expectations. On first bite, the grainy texture of Tsai's bars can be shocking. But take another bite. The flavor is subtly nuanced, like a really good cup of coffee layered with the flavor of freshly roasted beans. An acquired taste, certainly. But one worth acquiring. Chocovivo is in the process of moving to a new location in Culver City that will open in early 2013. In the meantime, you can find their chocolates at Stronghold in Venice.
1. Little Flower Candy Company Caramels
Little Flower Candy Company Little Flower Sea Salt Caramels
Former restaurant pastry chef Christine Moore launched her business with sea salt caramels more than twelve years ago; today, her candy line has expanded to include other sweets like coffee-flavored marshmallows. You probably know the rest of the story. A Pasadena bakery/café followed, and she recently released her first cookbook (read the book's introduction and she will remind you that starting an artisan food business is hardly easy, more so when facing life's daily adversities). One might predict that Jessica Koslow of Sqirl, the artisan jam maker with an equally sharp business eye, is well on her way to a similar Hollywood cookbook ending.
But the catalyst for Moore's business is the reason she tops our best-of list. Those caramels, a recipe Moore developed while reminiscing about her pastry apprenticeship days in Brittany, are simply divine -- perhaps the perfect marriage of caramelized sugar, butter and sea salt on this side of the Atlantic. That she has parlayed each chewy, yet still delicate, little square into a much larger business without affecting their hand-made quality epitomizes the American artisan dream. Little Flower Candy Company sea salt caramels are available online and at Little Flower in Pasadena.
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