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Where can I find salt caramels in Chicago?

Where can I find salt caramels in Chicago?
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  • Where can I find salt caramels in Chicago?

    Post #1 - January 2nd, 2006, 5:30 pm
    Post #1 - January 2nd, 2006, 5:30 pm Post #1 - January 2nd, 2006, 5:30 pm
    While in Dallas for Xmas/New Year's, I told my stepmother about the delicious salt caramels that were served after dinner the last time I was at Charlie Trotters. (When I raved about them to the waiter, he presented me with a box of about 10 little caramels, which if you lumped them all together, would be the same size as one Kraft caramel. :) But I savored that box of caramels for about a month.) I bought a box of French salt caramels at Whole Foods about a year ago, and they were good, but not as good as Trotters.

    So...after talking about these in Dallas, we set out on a search for at least the French salt caramels at Whole Foods and Central Market, but neither had them. Then, we happened to wander into Godiva, and they're selling a limited edition box of candies that includes 1 salt caramel, but the box costs $45 for 15 pieces (and the others didn't seem that wonderful), so we resisted the temptation to spend $45 for a single salt caramel.

    Now that I'm home, I want to send a box of salt caramels to my stepmother as a thank you gift (plus I'd like some myself since I've been thinking about them for the last week). I know Frans in Seattle is supposed have some wonderful ones that are chocolate covered (which is different than the ones I've previously tried. Does anyone know of any local sources that are strictly caramels (no chocolate)? Thanks!
  • Post #2 - January 3rd, 2006, 11:07 am
    Post #2 - January 3rd, 2006, 11:07 am Post #2 - January 3rd, 2006, 11:07 am
    Again, not exactly local, but Zingerman's is an option. I had a tin of these and ate the whole thing. They are wonderful.

    (And now that I actually let that link load, I see that they are sold out. I am sorry to you and also for myself, as I now have an insane craving. I hope you get good, local responses!)
  • Post #3 - January 3rd, 2006, 1:54 pm
    Post #3 - January 3rd, 2006, 1:54 pm Post #3 - January 3rd, 2006, 1:54 pm
    Thanks kl5! I wonder if they're similar to the French fleur de sel caramels I bought at Whole Foods. Zingerman's describes theirs as coming in a tin, and sells them for $25. The ones at WF were in a round wooden box and were about $10 or $15.

    An update...I was at the cheese counter at Binny's on Clark today, and while chatting with the guy at the counter and picking cheeses, it occurred to me to ask if they had salt caramels and--what do you know?--they did! Theirs were dipped in dark chocolate, and were a soft, drippy caramel (not the chewy kind), but they were quite yummy, so I bought a few. They're made by the former pastry chef (?) at North Pond and she's calling her line Blue (or some other color) Cat Chocolates. (Wow...my short term memory is shot today.) So I'm still looking for chewy, non-chocolate salt caramels, but at least I have something to send home! And for those of you who have started to crave salt caramels after reading this...head to Binny's on Clark!
  • Post #4 - January 3rd, 2006, 5:35 pm
    Post #4 - January 3rd, 2006, 5:35 pm Post #4 - January 3rd, 2006, 5:35 pm
    Googling "fleur de sel caramels" yielded a few potential sites for on-line ordering:

    http://www.lilliebellefarms.com/product ... c=jnorqqc0

    http://www.fauchon.com/c-Chocolate-Swee ... amels.html

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/de ... 6?v=glance (apparently the same brand as Zingermann's but less expensive)

    There was also a recipe from epicurious.com
  • Post #5 - January 3rd, 2006, 6:03 pm
    Post #5 - January 3rd, 2006, 6:03 pm Post #5 - January 3rd, 2006, 6:03 pm
    Thanks thaiobsessed. I was searching for salt caramels and got way too many hits to browse through them all (though most led to Fran's in Seattle, which sound delicious and apparently have gotten a few awards). Should have gone with the French fleur de sel caramels to narrow it down. The Amazon product is the same one that Whole Foods was selling for about half the price. They were good, but not great. The salt is mixed throughout the caramel--there is none sprinkled on the outside, which how I had them at Trotters and what I found at Binnys (though I suspect in both cases that there's also more salt than normal mixed through the caramel, too).

    When I was in Dallas, I asked an employee at Whole Foods there if they carried them. He'd never heard of them, but said, "They sound great. I melt my chocolate and add salt to it to enhance the flavor." I guess if you'd described salt caramels to me before I first tried them, I would have throught they sounded weird, but I thought his melted chocolate and salt sounded a bit odd (and I love a good salty chocolate-dipped pretzel)!
  • Post #6 - January 3rd, 2006, 9:52 pm
    Post #6 - January 3rd, 2006, 9:52 pm Post #6 - January 3rd, 2006, 9:52 pm
    Chicago Editor,
    After a vague memory of a salt caramel at Vosges, I did some research to determine that they do in fact make a caramel with Hawaiian sea salt that is dipped in chocolate. I'm not sure if you can buy the salt caramels by the pound or not. It may very well be worth a phone call.

    http://www.vosgeschocolate.com/detail.a ... goryID=387

    Veloute
  • Post #7 - January 4th, 2006, 11:23 am
    Post #7 - January 4th, 2006, 11:23 am Post #7 - January 4th, 2006, 11:23 am
    From time to time, I see them for sale at Trotters to Go. You're right. They're luscious and wonderful. My suggestion would be to inquire there as to whether you could order a box of them.
  • Post #8 - January 4th, 2006, 10:41 pm
    Post #8 - January 4th, 2006, 10:41 pm Post #8 - January 4th, 2006, 10:41 pm
    Thanks Veloute and YourPalWill! One of my food quests for the rest of the winter will be seek out other salt caramels. I just sent off the ones from Binnys, so I hope they're well received. If they are, I'll forward her some of the others I find. It never actually occurred to me that Trotters to Go might actually sell, because I hadn't seen them there before (and I try to stay as far away from there as possible because I manage to run up quite large totals there and walk out with very small shopping bags). Next time I'm near Vosges I'll see if they're selling them a la carte.
  • Post #9 - January 5th, 2006, 11:27 am
    Post #9 - January 5th, 2006, 11:27 am Post #9 - January 5th, 2006, 11:27 am
    I used to work at Trotters To Go back in the day, and we had requests all the time for the pastry shop to make something specific or similar to what someone had at the restaurant. My suggestion is to call them up and ask for them to make it specially for you, like a small catering order. I almost positive they would do it for you, and then you can get exactly the caramel you were looking for. Just a suggestion.
  • Post #10 - January 5th, 2006, 10:47 pm
    Post #10 - January 5th, 2006, 10:47 pm Post #10 - January 5th, 2006, 10:47 pm
    I didn't have a very good experience at TTG tonight, I stopped in for a little dinner andf asked about the caramels with crushed pink sea salt at vthe register.

    The guy on the register was as nice as he could be. Said he'd go ask his manager. About two minutes later, this very brusque woman comes bolting out of the back and advises me that they have never sold any such thing and never will.

    I didn't bother to tell her that I had bought them there before nor did I bother to tell her that the $35 box of house made candies over by the dessert items contained four of them.

    Maybe someone else will have better luck finding a human there to interact with.

    Go figure. Charlie has found management for his to go store whose arrogance matches his own.
  • Post #11 - January 6th, 2006, 8:27 am
    Post #11 - January 6th, 2006, 8:27 am Post #11 - January 6th, 2006, 8:27 am
    Will,
    I believe that very same blunt woman is one of the reasons I am very glad not to work there anymore.
    Next time, try calling and talking to either the Pastry Chef or the catering director. If you tell them you not only bought them there before and would very interested in purchasing more in a slightly larger quantity, they may be able to accomodate you. I know we accomodated plenty of strange requests when I worked there, so for them to deny it seems kind of silly.
    By the way, I think it would be very funny to see you tell the blunt woman that there were salt caramels on the floor.
    Sorry about the bad experience!
  • Post #12 - January 6th, 2006, 10:55 am
    Post #12 - January 6th, 2006, 10:55 am Post #12 - January 6th, 2006, 10:55 am
    YourPalWill wrote:I didn't bother to tell her that I had bought them there before nor did I bother to tell her that the $35 box of house made candies over by the dessert items contained four of them.


    You know, I find this sort of thing all the time (most recently, twice at Home Depot.) "Oh we are out of whatever" and then I find a huge display of it over in aisle 7 or wherever. And usually I go over and tell the person afterwards "and by the way, you do in fact have foam weatherstripping, tons of it, in aisle 7." And they say Oh, didn't know we'd restocked. And you know they don't care and are going to forget about it in 5 minutes.

    Customer service stinks in lots of places, big to small.
    Leek

    SAVING ONE DOG may not change the world,
    but it CHANGES THE WORLD for that one dog.
    American Brittany Rescue always needs foster homes. Please think about helping that one dog. http://www.americanbrittanyrescue.org
  • Post #13 - March 1st, 2006, 1:05 pm
    Post #13 - March 1st, 2006, 1:05 pm Post #13 - March 1st, 2006, 1:05 pm
    For those who like salt with their sweet, I just discovered a new candy bar by Vosges...the Barcelona Bar. It's milk chocolate (40% cacao), smoked almonds and gray sea salt (seems to be mixed in as the chocolate is cooling, because the salt hasn't melted...the crystals are probably the size you'd find on a large pretzel). The woman at the cheese counter at Binny's on Clark/Halsted clued me into it, and even the cashier at the checkout line was raving about it. Definitely worth trying! (At ~$6-7 each, I'm trying to ration myself to one per week.)
  • Post #14 - March 10th, 2006, 1:49 pm
    Post #14 - March 10th, 2006, 1:49 pm Post #14 - March 10th, 2006, 1:49 pm
    gotta second that - that vosges barcelona bar is in-sane!!
    (in a good way.)

    it's the best chocolate bar i've had in the last year, and i eat a LOT of candy.
    my second best is the pierre marcolini incruste - chocolat au lait du venezuela incruste de riz souffle et aromatise a l'orange.

    i picked that one up in brussels in december.
    Happiness is a path, not a destination.
  • Post #15 - March 10th, 2006, 2:15 pm
    Post #15 - March 10th, 2006, 2:15 pm Post #15 - March 10th, 2006, 2:15 pm
    Ditto on the Vosges bar. It was quite the unexpected surprise!
  • Post #16 - March 10th, 2006, 2:44 pm
    Post #16 - March 10th, 2006, 2:44 pm Post #16 - March 10th, 2006, 2:44 pm
    It isn't in Chicago, but you can order these on the web and they're worth every penny. I'm no caramel expert, but my fiancee's father is a caramel fiend, so she is always searching for great caramels to give him. These are by a LONGSHOT the best we've ever tasted, and he readily agreed:

    http://boulela.com/indexs.php?cPath=22&osCsid=12e65f93aa4a3c49b21761c5bcecbeeb

    They're salty with a healthy dose of fresh vanilla bean. And they're wonderfully soft. Good size, too... maybe about 7cm in length. Dynamite. Boule is a relatively new bakery in L.A. Aside from that, I don't know anything about them except that their caramels are amazing.[/url]
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com
  • Post #17 - March 10th, 2006, 9:30 pm
    Post #17 - March 10th, 2006, 9:30 pm Post #17 - March 10th, 2006, 9:30 pm
    Dmnkly wrote:It isn't in Chicago, but you can order these on the web and they're worth every penny. I'm no caramel expert, but my fiancee's father is a caramel fiend, so she is always searching for great caramels to give him. These are by a LONGSHOT the best we've ever tasted, and he readily agreed:

    http://boulela.com/indexs.php?cPath=22&osCsid=12e65f93aa4a3c49b21761c5bcecbeeb

    They're salty with a healthy dose of fresh vanilla bean. And they're wonderfully soft. Good size, too... maybe about 7cm in length. Dynamite. Boule is a relatively new bakery in L.A. Aside from that, I don't know anything about them except that their caramels are amazing.[/url]


    You're the second person who's recommended Boule's salt caramels this week! I'll have to check them out.

    I was at Fox & Obel this week buying some of Scharffen Berger's Chocolate Covered Cacao Nibs (thanks SteveZ for pointing me toward F&O!) and noticed that they're selling Fran's Salt Caramels, which apparently have won all sorts of award. I've had some of Fran's other chocolates and think they're great, but didn't buy any of the salt caramels...between the Cacao Nibs, a Barcelona Bar, some sea salt, a Breton sugar cookie and F&O's oatmeal cookie dough (they say it's the "best of 2005" but don't attribute that to anyone...says who? is that an Oprah thing? I haven't made cookies yet, but the dough is awesome!) I'd already spent about $40, so I figured the salt caramels could wait 'til next time :)
  • Post #18 - March 10th, 2006, 9:33 pm
    Post #18 - March 10th, 2006, 9:33 pm Post #18 - March 10th, 2006, 9:33 pm
    By the way, slightly off topic, but for those of you who have a sweet tooth, I highly recommend Candy Blog http://typetive.com/candyblog/. Cybele, who writes the blog, is the one who originally recommended I check out Boule's salt caramels.
  • Post #19 - March 23rd, 2006, 11:41 am
    Post #19 - March 23rd, 2006, 11:41 am Post #19 - March 23rd, 2006, 11:41 am
    I regularly buy the fleur de sel caramels at Bouffe in Lincoln Square... only sold individually, but if you ask you can get a box - maybe a dozen in each box?? Also have had some from Bleeding Heart Bakery - theirs are very small, wrapped in wax paper - not certain they're fleur de sel, but salted nonetheless.
  • Post #20 - April 6th, 2006, 9:02 pm
    Post #20 - April 6th, 2006, 9:02 pm Post #20 - April 6th, 2006, 9:02 pm
    After reading the above posts, I was kind of curious about salt caramels. I was waiting for a pick-up order from Spoon and decided to browse in some of the stores in Lincoln Square. As luck would have it, I stopped in Bouffe and noticed they had individual salt caramels for sale. I bought a couple for a pre-lunch desert. They were quite good (although they were my first salt caramels and I have no comparison)--however, at $1 a piece they could be kind of an expensive habit.
    I checked on some recipe sites when I got home and found a recipe for 'fleur de sel caramels' that didn't look too difficult.

    http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/recipe_views/views/230778

    I had some fleur de sel and a candy thermometer at home but I picked up some cream, fancy french butter and corn syrup and...voila...

    Image



    Image

    They were actually pretty easy to make and I think they are pretty delicious (again, I don't have a lot of salt caramel background). I think I might have liked them with a little more salt than the 1 tsp the recipe calls for--I did sprinkle some extra salt over the top after pouring the caramel into the pan. Also, wrapping them was a bit of a hassle--small children would definitely come in handy there. The recipe made about 40 caramels (not including some scraps that had to be eaten during the wrapping process) and probably cost about $6 to make. I'm planning to give some of them away as host gifts. Over all, I was pretty pleased with the result.
  • Post #21 - April 6th, 2006, 10:40 pm
    Post #21 - April 6th, 2006, 10:40 pm Post #21 - April 6th, 2006, 10:40 pm
    thaiobsessed wrote: Also, wrapping them was a bit of a hassle--small children would definitely come in handy there.


    I volunteer my children. I will supervise.

    -ramon
  • Post #22 - April 6th, 2006, 10:47 pm
    Post #22 - April 6th, 2006, 10:47 pm Post #22 - April 6th, 2006, 10:47 pm
    thaiobsessed wrote:--however, at $1 a piece they could be kind of an expensive habit.

    Thaiobsessed,

    Your salt caramels look terrific! Nice job on making them yourself.

    I started making gravlax a few years ago for exactly the same reason. Shortly after Fox and Obel opened I tried their gravlax and soon found myself addicted, buying a 1/3-lb or more at least once a week. Doesn't sound like much, but at $45 a lb it was really starting to add up.

    I had saved a gravlax recipe that Bill/SFNM had posted in '01 to a BBQ list we both participate on and away I went. Easy to make, a hell of a lot cheaper and pretty darn good.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #23 - April 7th, 2006, 8:55 am
    Post #23 - April 7th, 2006, 8:55 am Post #23 - April 7th, 2006, 8:55 am
    I had saved a gravlax recipe that Bill/SFNM had posted in '01 to a BBQ list we both participate on and away I went. Easy to make, a hell of a lot cheaper and pretty darn good.


    Gary--I found your gravlax recipe from an earlier post. It's moving right to the top of my "recipes to try" list.

    I had sort of a "DOH!" moment after making the caramels. On the Boule website they list vanilla bean as one of the ingredients. I have several vanilla beans I brought back from Oaxaca sitting on my shelf. When I make the caramels again, I'll definitely be scraping a half of a vanilla bean into the pan and I think I'll try doubling the salt.
  • Post #24 - April 7th, 2006, 1:09 pm
    Post #24 - April 7th, 2006, 1:09 pm Post #24 - April 7th, 2006, 1:09 pm
    At the risk of sounding like Yogi Berra, having expensive tastes can be, well, expensive, can't it? :)

    Thaiobsessed: Now you're making me feel lazy! OK...as soon as rain isn't in the forecast, I'll try my hand at it, too. Of course, I don't think mine will make it into any hostess gifts! I'll keep in mind your comments about the salt quantities and fresh vanilla.
  • Post #25 - April 8th, 2006, 12:48 pm
    Post #25 - April 8th, 2006, 12:48 pm Post #25 - April 8th, 2006, 12:48 pm
    Thaiobsessed's post reminded me that the NY Times' Sunday Magazine from 12/18/05 had a recipe for "Salted Butter Caramels." If you don't have access to their archives, PM me and I can email the recipe to you. It's adapted from "Truffles, Candies and Confections," by Carole Bloom. The NYT recipe seems to make a slightly larger batch than the Epicurious recipe (NYT calls for 1 1/3 c cream compared to 1 c from Epicurious), but NYT called for 3t of sea salt--2t mixed into the caramels and 1t sprinkled over top. So, given that Thaiobsessed though the Epicurious recipe could use some more salt, here's an indicator of exactly how much more it could take. (The NYT recipe, however, is a bittersweet chocolate-coated caramel, so that might offset some of the saltiness.)
  • Post #26 - April 9th, 2006, 1:53 pm
    Post #26 - April 9th, 2006, 1:53 pm Post #26 - April 9th, 2006, 1:53 pm
    this is completely going into left field, but I think the Mexican "chicken flavor suckers" (Pollitos Asados) have a pretty salted caramel thing going on. And hey, they're shaped like roasted chickens! And they're a little over a buck a bag.

    Give it a try . . .

    bjt
    "eating is an agricultural act" wendell berry
  • Post #27 - April 9th, 2006, 2:25 pm
    Post #27 - April 9th, 2006, 2:25 pm Post #27 - April 9th, 2006, 2:25 pm
    Uggh...I've tried those pollo asado lollipops. If they could make them taste like actual roast chicken, it would be an improvement. I prefer the mango yaro suckers.
  • Post #28 - April 9th, 2006, 8:00 pm
    Post #28 - April 9th, 2006, 8:00 pm Post #28 - April 9th, 2006, 8:00 pm
    I'm not sure about those lollipops!

    I made the NYT's recipe today for salt caramels this evening.

    The NYT called for boiling the sugar mixture until the tempurature reached 257', which was higher than Epicurious or any other recipe I saw. Most seem to be in the mid to high 240s, though I also saw some complaints on Epicurious that the caramels sometimes had a tendency to be soft. Since the NYTs recipe has slightly different instructions than Epicurious (with Epicurious, you're done cooking after the temp reaches 248', and then you pour into the pan; with NYT, when the temp hits 257 you pull it off the heat, then mix in the butter, salt and vanilla, which Epicurious added much earlier, then pour it in the pan), I thought that might account for some of the temperature difference.

    My caramels are still cooling, but I can tell they're going to turn out too chewy and/or brittle, based on early tastes. This is definitely a symptom of boiling at too high of a temperature. (And my candy thermometer goes in 5' increments, so I could have been closer to 260' by the time I got the additional ingredients mixed in.) I'll probably make another batch and experiment with pulling them off the stove when the temp is closer to 250', knowing it might creep up another couple of degrees before the temp starts to fall.

    But based on early samples, they still taste good, nonetheless. Fleur de sel toffee, anyone? :)

    One other observation...the NYT recipe called for 2t of salt mixed into the caramels and another 1t sprinkled on top. I can just barely taste the salt with the caramels, but when I put a grain or two on top, it makes all of the difference in the world. So no surprise here: The top coating of salt is the key, and any good caramel recipe could be convered into fleur de sel caramels.
  • Post #29 - April 9th, 2006, 8:08 pm
    Post #29 - April 9th, 2006, 8:08 pm Post #29 - April 9th, 2006, 8:08 pm
    The great think about those pink salt caramels that I had at TTG was the finely crushed pink salt that the caramels were rolled in. It was like a fine salty dust with creamy milk caramels in the center. It was a wonderful contrast, and one that I still remember almost a year later.
  • Post #30 - April 10th, 2006, 11:48 am
    Post #30 - April 10th, 2006, 11:48 am Post #30 - April 10th, 2006, 11:48 am
    The great think about those pink salt caramels that I had at TTG was the finely crushed pink salt that the caramels were rolled in
    .

    I was actually thinking about trying them with the pink Hawaiian salt I just got. It's actually pretty course but I could run it through my "spice grinder"(i.e. old coffee grinder). Was there vanilla in the caramels from TTG?
    If anyone is planning on trying the Epicurious recipe--several of my "taster" friends have commented on the richness and I think I would cut them into smaller squares (maybe 1/2 inch) the next time.

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