Tag Archives: gift ideas

Soft, chewy, handmade caramels

08 Dec

 

artisan-caramel-box

 

Soft, chewy, handmade caramels are an old-fashioned treat made with simple ingredients. Traditional recipes have you combine a mixture of cream, butter and sugars over medium-high heat and voila — caramel!

 

On paper, it seems simple but a great caramel is more than the sum of its ingredients. Many of my personal attempts at caramel making have ended in disaster. The mixture has either burned or crystallized, resulting in a grainy mess. Caramel making is harder than it looks, I’m happy to leave it to the professionals.

 

Imagine my delight when my friends at Saul Good Gift Co. offered to send me a box full of handmade artisan caramels. All of the caramels, none of the kitchen disaster — yes please!

 

One thing I love about Saul Good’s gift boxes is the exterior packaging.The box is decorated with an artful rendering of Canada and a personalized gift tag. It’s slightly mysterious. At first glance, you wouldn’t be able to guess what is inside. This little bit of suspense adds to the fun of opening the gift.

 

 

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Inside the box, I found a friendly little postcard and a Fresh Sheet. The Fresh Sheet lists the flavours of the caramels and details about the artisan makers on one side. On the other side, it lists details about the Saul Good Gift Co. I peeled back the wrapping paper to discover a sparkling selection of assorted caramels. It was hard to know where to start. I consulted the Fresh Sheet for the descriptions before digging in.

 

 

fresh-sheet

 

 

I decided to start with a classic Salted Caramel made by Kitchening & Co. from Langley, BC. The folks at Kitchening & Co. are famous for their French macarons and classic chewy cookies . Their caramels do not disappoint. They are generously sized so you can split one in half to share or save it for later. The texture is firm and they have a deep caramelized sugar flavour with a subtle hint of salt. These are a perfectly nostalgic treat.

 

 

artisan-caramel-gift

 

The other two caramel flavours in the box come from Roselle Desserts. Roselle Desserts is a Toronto-based treat shop. I spent more time than I care to admit scrolling through their Instagram. Everything they make looks so tempting. First, I tried their Passionfruit Mango caramel. I am a huge fan of mango so I was happy with the rich, tropical, slightly floral flavor. Next, I tried the raspberry version. It was like eating rich, buttery toast with jam…minus the toast. I really enjoyed the soft texture of these caramels, they were easy to eat.

 

This assortment of caramels would make a great holiday corporate gift for a small office. The individually wrapped caramels can easily be shared with a crowd. I ate more than my fair share and had plenty to share with friends and family.

 

Check out my unboxing video to see what it’s like to get a gift box from Saul Good Gift Co.

 

 

About the Author & Photographer

Jasmine

Jasmine Lukuku is a professional sweet tooth who spends much of her time baking, eating, photographing and writing about treats. She co-founded chocolatecodex.com to share her love of fine chocolate with the world. Follow Jasmine: @chocolatecodex

 

 

 

 

 

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Canadian Craft Chocolate is on the rise

02 Dec

We are delighted to share this guest post by chocolate expert Jasmine Lukuku.

 

 

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Photo from East Van Roasters

Canadian Craft Chocolate

There is a revolution happening in the chocolate industry, Craft Chocolate is on the rise. The vast majority of commercially available chocolate is manufactured by a handful of large European and American companies. In the past, small chocolate businesses would buy pre-made chocolate from these large companies, melt it, flavour it and repackage it under their own labels.

 

Unfortunately, many of the large companies supplying this pre-made chocolate have well documented histories of exploitation in cacao growing regions such as West Africa and Central America. This is the chocolate industry’s dirty secret.

 

Palette de Bine chocolate

Photo from Palette de Bine chocolate

 

What is a chocolate lover to do? Fortunately, there is a growing community of chocolate makers committed to ethical sourcing of cacao. They are buying beans directly from growers or trusted brokers and making their own chocolate from the bean. Transparency is important to these makers and they are not afraid to share their sources with consumers and other chocolate makers. This is chocolate you can feel good about purchasing for yourself or as a gift.

 

chocolate - evr

Photo from East Van Roasters

 

The first time you try Craft Chocolate, you may be surprised. Cacao Beans can taste drastically different depending on where they are grown, how they are handled after harvesting and how the chocolate maker chooses to roast and process them. Craft Chocolate makers delight in highlighting the unique characteristics of the beans. You can liken this to the terroir of wine. When I host group chocolate tastings, we often go through a variety of bean origins so we can compare characteristics.

 

We are lucky to have some amazing Craft Chocolate makers in our own backyard. Canada is home to some of the industry’s pioneers as well as talented newcomers. If you are looking for a great chocolate gift or want to treat yourself to something special, I recommend the chocolate makers below.

 

Sirene Chocolate

sirene chocolate

Photo from Sirene Chocolate

 

Chocolate Maker Taylor Kennedy has been scooping up international awards for his well-crafted bars. His genius Tasting Pairs combine two varietals of single-origin chocolate in one package. You can find Sirene’s cheery and sophisticated bars in several of Saul Good’s Gourmet Gift Baskets.

 

Palette de Bine

Palette de Bine chocolate

Photo from Palette de Bine chocolate

 

This Québec based maker is all about the details. Founder Christine Blais crafts elegant, small-batch chocolate from such diverse origins as Vietnam, Trinidad and Belize. The wood-grain patterned bars are packaged in simple kraft card stock with a letterpress logo. The look is simple, rustic luxury with a dose of Canadiana. They make a perfect chocolate gift!

 

Palette de Bine chocolate

Photo from Palette de Bine chocolate

 

Soma Chocolate Makers

soma chocolate

Photo from Soma Chocolate

 

If you find yourself in Toronto, you need to pay a visit to one of Soma’s chocolate cafes. Cynthia Leung and David Castellan have been making chocolate since 2003; that makes them trailblazers in the craft chocolate community. They are lauded around the world for both their bean-to-bar chocolate and their innovative confections. Their CSB Chama bar won a Silver Medal in the World Finals of the International Chocolate Awards.

 

Organic Fair

organic fair chocolate

Photo from Organic Fair Chocolate

If you love flavoured chocolate bars, look no further than Organic Fair’s impressive selection. The Sakura bar with candied ginger and sundried cherries is a personal favourite. This Cobble Hill, BC based operation makes bars that are the perfect size for snacking. They also offer a vast selection of Fairtrade pantry goods and spices.

 

East Van Roasters

evr - chocolate

Photo from East Van Roasters

 

Vancouver residents can get in on the bean-to-bar chocolate action by visiting East Van Roasters. This chocolate cafe is a social enterprise designed to provide training to women living in the Ranier Hotel. Stop in and see how chocolate is made while sipping on a house-roasted coffee paired with some hand-rolled truffles. East Van Roasters’ bars are available in select Chocolate Gift Baskets from Saul Good.

chocolate gift basket 

About the author: 

Jasmine co-founded ChocolateCodex.com as a way to share her enthusiasm for chocolate. She spends much of her time baking and photographing her creations for theblenderist.com and collaborating on design and branding projects with her partner Chris at pleaserxvp.com. Follow Jasmine on instagram: @chocolatecodex

Jasmine

 

Top 3 tips for corporate gifts

30 Oct

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christmas gift baskets

It’s easy to give a nice bottle of wine or a fancy box of chocolates, but how do you make your corporate gifts stand out from the rest? 

 

Over the past ten years, we’ve learned a lot about what it takes to make people feel special. Our team has customized corporate gift programs for some of Canada’s most successful brands. We love getting to know our clients, their value proposition and their culture. It allows us to inject a piece of their DNA into their gift program.

corporate christmas gift basket

One way to enhance that sense of meaningfulness and appreciation is by telling a good story. Not a story like Moby Dick, but rather a story that connects the gift giver, the recipient and the gift.

 

Our gifts tell a good story

Our gifts tell a good story

 

 

Your brand is the narrator of the story you are crafting.  Tasteful customization of your gift program is a superb way to keep your company in the spotlight without overshadowing the recipient. Here are 3 ways to give gifts that tell a good story.

 

office party throwdown

 

1) Put your brand center stage

 

Once we have clarified the needs of your gift program, we can help you customize branded ribbons for your gift boxes. As the gift recipient digs into the sensory delights of their gift, they will be thinking of your brand.

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Our focus is and always will be on ensuring the gift recipient feels super special and genuinely appreciated. But we never loose sight of the fact that your brand belongs at the centre of the memorable gift giving experience.

 

2) Personalized messages go a long way

 

In our previous posts, The Business Value of Thank-you and Investing in Appreciation, we discussed the tangible value of appreciating your clients, employees and colleagues. Research has revealed that a thoughtful thank-you is essential to strengthening your professional relationships. It is important to take the time to personalize your message and be clear about why you appreciate the recipient.

 

corporate gifts vancouver

 

3) Full circle giving is a darn good story

 

The Saul Good Gift Co. was created as a way to make a positive difference through business. We wanted to offer an alternative to the wasteful nature of gifts that are wrapped in excessive packaging and full of less-than-special stuff. Each of our corporate gifts demonstrate the delicious beauty of sustainability, local purchasing and social responsibility. The recycled cardboard gift boxes feature hand drawn maps of local Canadian cities. The products are all locally handmade and the gifts are assembled by a social enterprise.

 

We’d love to facilitate a gift program that tells the story of your brand. If you would like to get started, you can download our 2015 gift guide and apply for your corporate account. We look forward to following up with you! 

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Eliminating the noise – Canadian chocolate legend Thomas Haas

17 Sep

Saul Good Christmas 2015 6569-EDIT

When we met Thomas Haas in person, he was warm and welcoming. His chocolate shop is a thoughtfully designed space where you can feel comfy and at home. When chatting with him, we discussed how important it is to be yourself and never waste time comparing yourself to other people.

 

 

Being authentic is one of Thomas’ secrets to success. It is interesting that this attitude is extended into how he works with chocolate. We are delighted to feature some of Thomas’ delicacies in our chocolate gifts and we are fascinated by how and why these chocolates are so delicious. The following is a review that dives into the details of Thomas Haas treats – thoughtfully prepared by local chef and writer Charles Macurdy.

 

Thomas Haas practices a very direct approach to chocolate.

 

Consider his dark chocolate bark. It is simply a disc of 79% cocoa dark chocolate, studded with dried fruit and a few nuts. That cocoa mass is substantial enough that you have a very rich dark chocolate, but not enough that it throws the whole thing out of balance.

Saul Good Christmas 2015 6568-EDIT

The orange rind and dried cranberries play off the bitterness in the chocolate, but also emphasize some light, fruity notes which might otherwise go unnoticed. Meanwhile, a few blanched almonds and slivered pistachios help to draw out the more earthy tones. So, at first blush, it might appear a bit simple. But it becomes a more and more elegant presentation of chocolate’s true character the more you eat it. When you have a perfectly handled piece of chocolate like this, all you need is a little something to help the chocolate speak for itself.

 

Letting chocolate speak for itself

 

His hazelnut crisp shows you another look entirely. Here, you have a small bite of exceptionally smooth milk chocolate paired with a big hazelnut flavour. Again, it is a very familiar combination. Anyone who has ever tasted Nutella will understand it immediately. Except that here, the hazelnut is in a crispy praline, so there is a delicate crunch when you bite into it.

Saul Good Christmas 2015 6660-EDIT

The creamy texture of the milk chocolate wraps around the crispy praline and the flavours of hazelnut and chocolate pair with a light caramel flavoured backdrop. Suddenly, a familiar thing has become a subtle surprise.

chocolate gift baskets

And what this all illustrates is the way that a skilled hand can manage chocolate without feeling the need to make it complicated. You can almost hear him saying “I don’t have to wow you. The chocolate will take care of that.”

 

Flavours as a counterpoint

 

His focus is on more familiar pairings, presented in with a delicate and refined touch. Of course, there are still a few surprises, like ginger, cardamom, thyme, and even matcha green tea. But they all seem to make sense.

 

Consider the chai bark. It is basically the same thing as the dark chocolate bark, except that the base is a spice infused milk chocolate. And as you eat it, within the smoothness of the chocolate, the spices of chai present themselves. So as you taste the cardamom and cinnamon, you get an almond or a cranberry and, just like with the dark bark, they round out and counterpoint the other flavours.

 

But as you taste the spices, the chocolate, the fruit, and the nuts together, you start to realize that this is not only the flavour of chai, but the whole thing together starts to take on the character of fruit cake. And once you notice it, you start to see how much sense it makes. Almost like the comparison was always obvious. Simple things, executed with restraint and skill, can make for truly novel surprises.