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Top Pick Of The Week

November 14, 2006

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John & Kira's Artisan Chocolate
Three of the ten flavors, from top to bottom: Pistachio, Honey Lavender and Coffee Whiskey.
WHAT IT IS: Squares of chocolate ganache, infused with spices, herbs and fruits. Very popular as gift chocolate and corporate chocolate gifts.
WHY IT’S DIFFERENT: A commitment to supporting family farms, biodynamic and organic farming and to abetting community activism—while making delicious artisan chocolates.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Melt-in-your-mouth squares of gently-flavored ganache are made with a modicum of sugar, so the infused flavors and the chocolate can shine.
WHERE TO BUY IT: JohnAndKiras.com.


John & Kira’s:
Conscientious Chocolate

CAPSULE REPORT: There are many foods, including chocolate, that are made with ingredients that directly or indirectly contribute to a good cause. John & Kira’s is a United Way of good intent: The Philadelphia producers of gourmet chocolate flavor their ganaches with ingredients purchased to support a spectrum of grass-roots agricultural efforts, and enrobe them in delicious dark chocolate.

These are perhaps the best chocolates-with-a-conscience one will ever taste: gently-flavored, silky-smooth centers in ten flavors from mint to lemongrass, enrobed  in dark Valrhona chocolate. Available in a variety of gift chocolate assortments (including personalized corporate gifts), you don’t need a social conscience to buy—only a good palate. Personally, we need only question the conscientiousness of eating half a box at one sitting. And hope that someone sends us another dark chocolate gift box from John & Kira’s. Read the full review below.

Great Chocolate Books

Essence of Chocolate Chocolate Obsession Chocolate and Vanilla
Essence of Chocolate: Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate, by John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg. America’s preeminent maker of gourmet baking chocolate launches its first cookbook, with more than 100 recipes for classics as well as Chocolate Chunk Challah, a homemade version of Oreos and savory dishes made with chocolate like Tortilla Soup and Chile-Marinated Flank Steak. Click here for more information or to purchase. Chocolate Obsession: Confections and Treats to Create and Savor, by Michael Recchiuti and Fran Gage. The top chocolatier makes it possible for amateurs to achieve his artistry in dipped chocolates, truffles and molded chocolates. With his recipes for Earl Grey tea, burnt caramel and tarragon with grapefruit ganaches, plus some delicious baked goods (Recchiuti is also a patissier), this book provides many hours of happiness. Click here for more information or to purchase. Chocolate and Vanilla, by Gale Gand. James Beard Award-winner Gand, host of the Food Network’s Sweet Dreams and co-owner and Executive Pastry Chef at Chicago’s Tru, dazzles as usual. Recipes are both delicious and visually arresting. Those who are chocoholics may discover their inner vanilla-holic in this book, which gives equal attention to the spice that Gand considers even sexier than chocolate. Click here for more information or to purchase.

Conscientious Chocolate: John & Kira’s

INDEX

 

 

John Doyle and Kira Baker-Doyle, two socially-active people, wanted to create a company that would support their local community. They wanted to make a product that would make people happy. They found the answer in chocolate—specifically, chocolates filled with velvety ganache centers that could be flavored with local ingredients like mint and lavender, supporting local farmers and urban city garden programs. Since 2001, their chocolate has indeed been making people happy—to the point where their two-person company has received an astounding amount of national publicity. As a result, they have had to quickly figure out how to grow from a 2-person company to a 15-person one to handle the increased business (no easy task). Amid the “roller coaster” ride, to quote the chocolatiers, the chocolate tastes better than ever. And thousands of people have been made happier with memorable chocolate gifts.

John and Kira's Box
The dark chocolates with assorted ganache centers are packaged in reusable wood boxes that make the chocolate “gift box” doubly nice.

The Gourmet Chocolate: Gentle Goodness

Some chocolates are robust: the flavors leap out at you, or the shells are so thick, you need to chomp through them to get to the filling inside. John & Kira’s makes gentle chocolates: elegant fillings, flavored with finesse, enrobed with the thinnest of coatings.* The chocolates are 1-1/8" square, about 1/2" high. The centers are made with a minimal amount of sugar so that the infused flavor and the counterpoint of the couverture can be appreciated. Several of the 10 flavors are named for growers of the ingredients. There’s a feeling of community, even though the community reaches halfway around the world.
*A thin coat of chocolate enrobing a center is the classic French technique. Thick shells are Belgian-style molded chocolates. In 1912, the Belgian chocolatier Jean Neuhaus invented the first hard chocolate shell, enabling fillings of any kind and consistency—creme, whipped cream, soft caramel, light ganache, liqueurs, etc. Previously, only solid centers like caramels and nut pastes could be enrobed in chocolate—anything else would have leaked out. Shortly thereafter, molds and filling equipment were developed by the Swiss chocolatier Jules Séchaud, leading to artistically-designed chocolates and the variety of butterflies, pyramids, hearts etc., that are filled today (including shapes like Santas and Easter bunnies).

Drew Garden Elementary Mint, shown in the photo at the right, uses Kentucky Colonel mint grown and tended by students at Drew Elementary School and University City High School in Philadelphia. So many other mint chocolates are made with mint oil, a very strong mint taste. These are an exercise in finesse: the mint is infused into cream, which in turn is combined with a 40% Valrhona deep milk chocolate and just a touch of sugar to make the ganache. Try them to see what a delicate touch of fresh-picked mint tastes like. The students pick and sell fresh mint to the chocolatiers each week. John & Kira’s has set up a second school program in Chicago, and welcomes anyone seeking to establish a student gardener program to contact them.

Glenn’s Raspberry and Glenn’s Strawberry are grown by Glenn Brendle and his family on Green Meadow Farm in the Lancaster Amish area of Pennsylvania. Supporting small family farms aids the local economy and helps maintain America’s small family farms. It also yields incredibly tasty fruit from the farmers. One bite of the intensely wonderful Glenn’s Raspberry will convince you of that!

John And Kira's Mint Squares
Drew Garden Elementary Mint reveals how delicate real mint tastes. It’s not like the overpowering mint oil to which many people are accustomed.

Honey Lavender is made with honey from Trickett Honey & Beekeeping, a small West Philadelphia company, and from Draper Apiaries in Tioga County, Pennsylvania. Draper Apiaries is the supplier of honey to the White House. The Draper family is active in their local community, sponsoring a drug awareness program. This piece is a charming fusion of both flavors in a very light milk chocolate ganache.

Lingering Lemongrass is made with fresh lemongrass grown by Helene & Robert Beck on La Vigne Biodynamic & Organic farm in northern San Diego County. The hint of lemongrass in the milk chocolate ganache is tempting: we could wish for even more.

Mut Vitz Coffee Whiskey acknowledges the Mut Vitz cooperative of some 600 families from 26 communities in the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico. Community promoters have led the cooperative through the organic certification process, and developed a shade-grown coffee production system. More importantly, the families have control over their product, giving them the potential to earn a fair wage and escape the acute poverty of working as low-paid labor for huge plantations. The whiskey is not prominent—just a dash is used to perk up the milk chocolate and coffee ganache.

Papohaku Farm Ginger is biodynamically grown in Hawaii by Ellen Sugawara, on a small farm adjacent to a 14,000-acre land preserve on the rugged and untouched island of Molokai. The Doyles say it is some of the best ginger they have ever tasted. They infuse it in a milk chocolate ganache that diffuses the heat and allows the ginger to waltz on the tongue.

Pistachi-Oh! is perhaps the most delightful flavor in the collection, marrying sweet, nutty pistachio, an American favorite, with the unexpected accent of cinnamon, into a creamy center. The nuts are grown and roasted by the Schweers family on Eagle Ranch in New Mexico. This flavor happens to be a staff favorite at John & Kira’s as well as one of our favorite pieces.

Bergamot combines Earl Grey Tea and the essence of orange flower water in a bitter chocolate ganache. The chocolate tends to overpower the delicate tea and orange flavors, which appear on the finish rather than at mid-palate, but it is a delicious chocolate nevertheless.

Starry Night is a milk chocolate ganache infused with star anise. Our flavor-forward palate would have liked a bit more star anise, but as with all of John & Kira’s chocolates, the net effect is a happy one.

LEARN MORE ABOUT CHOCOLATE
What’s the difference between criollo beans and forastero beans?
Between beans grown in Venezuela and those grown in Madagascar?
And what do all those percentages mean?
Your complete chocolate education awaits in THE NIBBLE’s
CHOCOLATE SECTION.
START WITH UNDERSTANDING PRESTIGE CHOCOLATE.

Fig Pumpkins

Calabacita Fig Pumpkins: one of the most delightful things we’ve eaten this fall.

Seasonal Specials

For holiday gift-giving, there is seasonal packaging—satin ribbons in seasonal colors with sealing wax stamps (Thanksgiving has an image of a turkey, Christmas says “Happy Holidays”). But the real excitement this season is the Calabacita Fig Pumpkin Bonbons. Run and get a box before they sell out. 

Sweet calabacita figs from Spain are filled with a delectable whiskey clove ganache, then dipped in a thin layer of white chocolate that is tinted a perfect shade of pumpkin. Read our full review of the chocolate-covered figs, which are also available in a dark chocolate coating, filled with a pure chocoalte ganache.

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John & Kira’s offers custom-packaging options for wedding and party favors and for corporate gifts. Since no preservatives are used, the chocolates should be eaten within two weeks. As they melt in the mouth, this is not a tough assignment!

—Karen Hochman

FORWARD THIS NIBBLE to anyone who loves fine chocolate, or needs corporate gift ideas.

JOHN AND KIRA’S

Artisan Chocolates

  • Single Flavor Box: 15-Pieces
    $30.00
  • Single Flavor Box: 30-Pieces
    $41.00
  • Single Flavor Box: 56-Pieces
    $77.00
  • Assorted Flavor Boxes
    $28.00 to $75.00
  • Gift Sets
    $39.99 to $165.00
  • Additional Products On Website

Purchase online at JohnAndKiras.com

Telephone: 1.800.747.4808
Fax: 1.215.893.4915

Prices and flavor availability are verified at
publication but are subject to change.

John and Kira's Gift Tower

The simple wood boxes are reusable  (we store greeting cards in ours), and tied with satin ribbon. Shown: The Farmer’s Market Feast Gift Tower, with a 56-piece Every Flavor Box, 28-piece Fruit Squares, 12-piece Dipped Apricots, 6-piece Raspberry Chocolates, $130.00.

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