Thursday, June 14, 2018

Greetings from the island

Turtle Faithful!

I made a promise, and I'm stickin to it.  A post a month!
June is shaping up to be pretty swell, as far as I'm concerned.  Folks are starting to flock back to Gloucester and Salem.  The Northshore is truly spectacular; those of us who live here are beyond lucky.
Summertime means a lot of things, not the least of which are extended hours.  Also, wacky holiday hours (did you know that the Gloucester Parade is called the Horribles, and happens on July 3rd?!). There's block parties, beach days, fireworks, farmer's markets - all good things, really.  And maybe the summer weather will come and stay!
It turtle town, though, summer means the return of a couple of special treats.  We love our Strawberry Pecan Turtles in milk chocolate, and adore our white chocolate Cashew Blueberry Turtles.  These are originals to Turtle Alley, don't let imitations fool you!
In other news, it was pointed out to me by my loyal customers that there is a dearth of excellent chocolate jimmies in our area.  We've got you covered!  We use the best when making our Tulips (Brazil nut wrapped in caramel and rolled in chocolate jimmies).  I posted a video on Instagram and Facebook, and the jimmies got all the love.  SO now we are packaging them up in BPA free containers for you to grab for whatever you need them for.  I've been toying with a recipe for candied maple walnuts, it's pretty alright, maybe we should sell those too?  What do we think, folks?  Your input is welcome and much appreciated! 
I'm sure the long days and warmer temperatures will stoke my creative fires, so who knows?  There could be new and fabulous taste treats on the horizon!  
Stay tuned.  See you in July!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

So long, 2017. Hoping 2018 is sweet.

Hellloooo again!  HAPPY NEW YEAR! *cue Mayday eyeroll*

Man, 2017 was a GRIND.  So many things happening on the world stage, so many things happening in the States, just soooo much.  I find myself wishing more of it was good stuff happening.

At Turtle Alley, things were an oasis, most of the time, of sweetness.  We've got a great crew in both shops, and of course, plenty of things to do.  We came up with a couple of new things to tempt you folks, and I still have to taste-test enough to ruin dinner at least once or twice a month.  All together, a swell way to pass the hours.

I've been pretty quiet on the blogfront; I had a loyal customer mention today that she missed the blog updates, and to be honest, I do too.  It's been a busy winter, but it always is.
The winter of 2017 was marked by loss for me, however -- 1 mentor, 3 dear friends. Pretty heavy.

This week, one of those dear friends would have had a birthday.  We played a lot of tennis, ate a lot of meals, drank ourselves some fine French wines, and had the most rewarding working relationship ever. Since I first opened the doors of Turtle Alley. 

Laura Herrmann Couallier was Turtle Alley's graphic designer since day one.  That's almost 19 years.  Almost 19 years of my last minute requests for snappy ads, spontaneous sticker inspirations, brochures, window designs, sign updates, just everything.  Laura was a great designer because she was a great listener.  She was very open to all of my input.  One of the best collaborative relationships I have ever had.  A lot of this winter was spent trying to figure out how to continue without her.
Thankfully, chocolatetown is a busy place in the winter.  Thankfully I have the most delightful and supportive husband, and crew. Thankfully, winter turns to spring, the light returns, darkness recedes.  Happy birthday, chica, I miss you daily.

Pretty good reason to be quiet for awhile, no?

So let's have a bright spot, shall we?

Excellent fun news in candyland (and a big ole whoop whoop) comes from our girls Amy and Brandy
look at those sweet mugs!!
who brought home the excellence in retail award this year!  They got to put on their glad rags and had a swell time being wined and dined.  Shout out to the Salem Chamber of Commerce  for welcoming Amy so warmly to the fold.  It's been wonderful to watch Amy make new connections, and great fun for both Amy and Brandy to welcome all sorts of new customers through those connections.              

So for now, we'll luxuriate in accolades for a job well done, dream up some wonderful gifts for your Mother (Mother's Day is May 13th, FYI), enjoy spring whenever it decides to show up, and think good thoughts.  For those that are here on the planet, and those that are not.  A blog a month, that's    
my promise for 2018.  I like to keep my promises.  Talk to you in June!  xxx   H.                                              

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Try, Try Again...

I've been making chocolate professionally for about 25 years.  It's not a big fat brag, it's just what I do.  You'd think I'd have it down by now. That's what I think most of the time.

I've had it in my head to bring back an old favorite, Figaro, to the shop.  It's been in my head for a few months now.  I just could never find the time, it seemed. I realized at the start of the week that in fact, that wasn't true.

I was nervous.

I hadn't made it in years, maybe a decade.  I have shadowy memories of it only being partially successful.  After I had made it a few times, I still didn't feel like I owned the recipe.  It harshed my candyland mellow, and eventually I dropped it from our repertoire.

I'm old enough that I don't like not being an expert at my job.

I've got a birthday coming.  Such stupid thoughts in the face of another ring around the sun, said I!

I got all the ingredients last week, and then I put it off again, until just yesterday.  I'll tell you what: when I flubbed the first batch, I wasn't surprised at all.  Not a whit! Don't get me wrong, it was super tasty.  Just wrong.  In lots of ways.
So pretty. So wrong.

After retreating into my office to do some non-threatening paperwork, I thought about it some more. Double checking my math, my ratios.
The thing about making a mistake in chocolate (especially Figaro), is that it's costly, and I dislike wasting money almost as much as not being an expert. Double whammy, mammy, get on your horse and ride!

And so I did.

Figaro?  You're MINE now.

Second time was a charm, but the best part of the whole process was having a laugh at myself and who I think I am sometimes.  It's got me all jazzed up to make some more mistakes.  We're just heading into a fairly predictable summer season; there's plenty of time and space to work on some new ideas.

Or maybe just make some of the things I love best.

Did I ever tell you how much I love torrone?

Stay tuned.  Who knows what could happen next.

your flawed, but devoted, chocolatier.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Shame.  I hang my head in SHAME, people!
I've not had a hot minute to sit down and say hello since....

Oh hell, last year.
it's been 5 months since I wrote last.  Here's some bacon. 

here's some smoky chipotle to cover the blogger's shame halo.

this one's just cute.
So so so much to report, Turtle Faithful!  First, let's go back to LAST YEAR's last post, which talked about our new location in Salem MA.  318 Derby St, people!  It's the prettiest shop we've had in Salem to date. Just lovely. The neighborhood has been so warm and supportive, and Amy, Brandy and Kathleen have been loving the new space.  A complete lemons-to-lemonade story, as far as I'm concerned.  Huzzah!
We had a great holiday season in both shops, then a great Valentine's Day, as well.  One of the reasons Valentine's Day was so fab (despite its being on a Tuesday) was that the Phantom Gourmet filmed an excellent piece on us.  Couldn't have been nicer to work with, and the timing of the release was beyond perfect.  Watch it here: 

In that same week (more great timing, and lovely people to work with), our caramel apples got the spotlight on InsiderFood, here:

SO:  we had a crazy amount of really wonderful publicity, and have gotten to see a ton of new faces as a result, not to mention all of our loyal customers who have made us what we are today. We are lucky dogs!
In chocolate news, we've stretched our truffle wings a little this winter, and added a couple of new flavors:
Sharing is optional, and not necessarily recommended.
One of our turtle worker bees, Natalia, (and her husband) love to travel.  She often brings me back treats.  Last summer she brought me back a most divine pink grapefruit truffle, which haunted me for months.  I had to figure it out, as I didn't expect to be heading that way with the holidays approaching, and I wanted more.  I couldn't be more pleased with the final product (if I do say myself):  a true balancing act of tart, sweet, deep, dark, delicious.  Feeling pretty proud of that baby.
We also made a beautiful milk chocolate wild fruit ganache truffle.  I'm not always a milk chocolate-with-fruit type of gal, but I have to say, it's damn good.

Of course, March is here, so the Stout Truffle is here too.  Grab them while the grabbin's good, people.

See?  I've been a busy bee. Too busy to write until just this moment.  And actually, it was great to get back to the ole keyboard.  It's really something to put it all down and see how much has actually gone on in the past few months!

Next up?  Easter!  Stay tuned for bunny updates!  xxx

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Ch ch ch changes

Drat and blast, folks!  Summer has passed us by and not a peep from yours truly. Truth be told, I just had a really exciting, fun, and busy summer.  I know people were worried for their lawns, but I'm the kind of gal who loves to see the sun every damn day if I can.
One of my favorite things about the summer in the Gloucester location is that in the last few years it really has become a destination of sorts for folks from all over the world. Our Salem shop has enjoyed this diversity for years, as the PEM lives up to its reputation as an international draw.  Here in Gloucester, though, it's still new to see so many cultures and people all over the island.  My favorite international tidbit so far is that what we call non pareils here are called "freckles" in Australia.  Cool!
Freckles, down under

So much for the fun, folks, now on to the busy part:  At the start of summer (on my birthday, actually) I was alerted that our Salem shop would have to move out of its home for the past 5 years.  We're really sad to leave 177 Essex St., but had no say in the matter. We'll have our last hurrah there this October, and will be moving in November.

So here comes the exciting part:  OUR NEW DIGS!  We are super excited to be moving just a couple blocks away to 318 Derby St.  We're really thrilled to be just around the corner from two of my favorite foodie stores in Salem, A&J King Artisan Bakers and the Cheese Shop of Salem. With us at the tip, I think we are going to make a gorgeous tasty triangle of a neighborhood.  A Bermuda Triangle of Tasty Delights!  The Black Hole of Deliciousness! The Golden Triangle of Temptation! I could go on...

We hope (cross your fingers, folks!) to be up and running at the start of December. In the meantime, stock up on Essex St. all the way to Halloween, which will be our last day of business in that location. Remember, too -- the Gloucester shop has all the things you need, and will be open while the Salem shop relocates.  It's beautiful drive out here.  Trust me! 

We'll keep you posted on progress, last minute news bits, and any crazy sales we might have on our Facebook Page. Visit often!

Until next time, folks, we're here.  We're making candy.  It's yours for the taking.  Xxx.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Turtle out of her shell--

Sometimes, it's really good to get your routine shaken up.  It's not always easy, but it's a good thing.  I found myself in such a situation just recently -- not only was I summoned for jury duty, but for the first time in my life, actually chosen.

The courthouse was in Lawrence, and the case was predicted to be two weeks long.  Not necessarily the most pleasant or convenient circumstances, but there you have it.  I could see no reason not to participate; because I have such a solid crew, I forged ahead with my civic duty.

For those of you who don't know me well, my work commute is generally 8-9 minutes.  I can see the ocean the whole ride.  I like it that way.
As you all know, most of the time my job includes making delicious, messy, chocolate-y treats.  My work wardrobe is well suited for mud pie making.  Just as I would have it.
My day often consists of telling stories, listening to stories, laughing a lot, listening to music,  and being productive in ways that are immediately appreciated by 99% of the folks who happen to open our door. Sometimes there is singing.  It's good life. It truly is.

I haven't spent much time in Lawrence.  It's pretty big, there's a lot of history, and a refreshingly vibrant and diverse population.  The employees of the Supreme Court were really lovely, very accommodating, very helpful.  There's a lot of excellent food in this city.  I was determined to have lunch hour be my carrot every day, scoured Yelp for recommendations, and had some excellent luck.

Our jury consisted of fourteen individuals, and it took two days for the full number to be reached. Our jury was as diverse as Lawrence itself, which was really pretty cool; I really didn't know what to expect, and this was a happy surprise.  All ages, colors, sexes, really, a great cross section.

The whole process is fascinating, but what was really interesting was this:  while we know that jurors are not allowed to talk about the case outside of the courthouse until the case is completed, I was surprised to find that the actual jurors were not permitted to talk among themselves about the case until all of the evidence and testimony has been heard.  This actually makes a great deal of sense, as new information comes to light every day, and opinions can easily change as the case reveals itself.

So here are these fourteen strangers, spending countless hours together, not talking about the only thing the group had in common. Lots of traffic talk, lunch talk, small talk.  The group dynamics were fascinating to watch; people's personalities took a couple of days to surface (or assert themselves, in some cases).  Interesting to see who always sat in the same seat in the deliberation room, who worked the room, who kept their heads down and read, those who complained, stared into space, knitted, tried to talk about the case, overshared, played games on their phones, just mesmerizing stuff.

In the courtroom, the sociological fodder was just as rich -- watching witnesses, lawyers, the defendants, the plaintiffs, so much to see and hear.  Riveting!  I soaked it all up like a sponge.

This isn't to say my transition was easy.  Waking up at an ungodly hour to fight traffic for 50 minutes or more each morning was only slightly better than trying to figure out what would be considered grown up clothes in which to attend court.  I found myself up against a wall of striped shirts. Sweaters, too.  Apparently, one can have too many striped shirts....

On the commute home, despite the fact that the judge required us to forget all about the case until the next morning, I often would mull over what I saw and heard throughout the day.  After about day four, it became very clear that we fourteen people were going to have a significant impact on some people's lives. It could get a little heavy.

After 6 days of testimony and evidence, we were sent to the deliberation room, where we were to stay until we had either come to a decision, or the day was up. Our case was a civil case, not criminal. The major difference between the two as far as I could tell, was that while a criminal case had to be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, a criminal case is decided on the preponderance of evidence -- the weight of the testimony and evidence heard.  This distinction can make reaching a verdict really difficult, a 12-2 verdict almost impossible, in our case.

On the first day of deliberation, most of us had no idea what the other did for work.  I was outed as the Turtle lady on the first day of court (there were three of us from Gloucester), so was an open book.  I had theories about what different people did professionally.  A couple of times I was spot on, but mostly I had no idea.  It was intriguing to me that only during the course of deliberations, almost everyone identified what they did, as it informed their opinions of the case.  

What a talented, varied, brilliant group.  Really.  Just fabulous.  Well spoken, thoughtful.  For almost 12 hours over two days, the debate was thorough, civilized, just really smart.  In the end, most of us were content with the verdict reached. Some were just pleased to have avoided a hung jury.  All of us were looking forward to returning to our lives.

Me?  Feeling really fortunate to have had the chance to do my civic duty,  and grateful the Turtle team could roll on without me at the helm.
Mostly, though, I'm delighted to be back making mud pies, my less-than-ten-minute commute, laughing lots, and telling stories.

Plus the singing.  Mustn't forget that.

Happy Summer, folks!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Hippity Hoppity and Shake that Shillelagh, Turtle Babies!

The light is changing.  The sun feels kinda warm sometimes in the afternoon.  There's an unspecified optimism emanating from our customers, despite the chill.

Spring.  So close!

It's crazy how much these little things mean by the time March rolls around.  This year, Easter is early, so March has a little more oomph to it here at the ole chocolate factory.  But Easter isn't just it: St. Patrick's Day, too, is right around the corner -- this means only one thing to our fans:


 No really, folks --

They ARE all that.  And more.  So much more.  Super silky, deep and dark, the stout is right in front, nothing subtle about these babies.

Just how we like it.  We make them for the month, and then we make then a little longer, if folks ask.

They ask.

We've been making these for about a decade or so.  One of my first forays into breaking out of the tried and true truffle combos.  It took just a couple of batches before they were perfect.  I'm really proud of these -- and tooting my own horn is a rare thing.  These guys are close to my heart, and that's saying something (my Scottish grandmother is positively rolling in her grave reading this).

Back to Easter!

I love this holiday because the most imaginative, fun, and whimsical molds are made in it's honor. We've got some great ones this year, and the astronaut bunny is among my favorites.  That's not to leave out the boater bunnies, peep baskets, edible eggs and baskets, the Dapper Bunny, the Jelly Belly bunny, and the ever popular Bunny Boxes.  Our last little bunny is hands down the crowd pleaser of the season:

               And that's just some of the things we offer.  So many options.

Happy Spring, Happy St. Patrick's Day, Happy Easter, and everything in between!

Me?  I'm celebrating the light.  The crocuses emerging from the ground.  The fact that I get to be surrounded by this sweetness every day.  I'll take unspecified optimism, any day, from any source.       Winter?  Can't say I'm sorry to see you leave.  Onward ho!