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Sugary Shops to Sate a Sweet Tooth

April 16, 1992|CAROLINE LEMKE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Grand Marnier truffle lightly dusted in Dutch cocoa that magically melts down the throat, leaving a warm, orangy tingle. A frozen Snicker's bar so rock solid it could chip your two front teeth.

There is definitely a high end and a low end to chocolate and candy in general, but by whose definition which is which can get a bit sticky. One person can covet green M&Ms with the same fervor that another pines for a fresh chocolate-pecan cluster.

Day in and day out, the industry biggies such as Sees, Godiva and Ethel M Chocolates satisfy candy cravings. But there are also a number of independent candy makers working to sate North County's sweet tooth.

Local confectioneries create all manner of sweets, from toffee to taffy. Some carry imported chocolates and hard candies not readily available.

Although economic hard times have forced several North County confectioneries out of business, a number have survived and seem to be thriving.

Nearly all confectioneries sell by weight, and a customer can purchase as little--some people can stop at one piece--or as much as they want.

Most will ship candies for you when the weather is not too hot.

Here's a quick dip into North County's candy country. Self-exploration is definitely encouraged.

SARAH-DIPPITY CHOCOLATES

Lumberyard Shopping Center 947 1st St., Encinitas Calls: 436-3899 "It's disgusting stuff," candy shop owner Carolyn Zucker said unabashedly. She's not talking about 99.9% of what's in her shop. She's talking about the salt licorice made with ammonium chloride she imports from Europe.

It's just one of the 30 licorice flavors that can be found at Sarah-Dippity and the ultra-salty version has ardent supporters no matter how hard shop owner Zucker tries to discontinue the line.

"People in Germany and the Netherlands eat it and people who like it really love it, and people who don't, don't. I've tried to get rid of it several times, but somebody always begs me to keep it," she said.

Despite Zucker's animosity on this point, she loves everything else in her shop and crafts it with pride. About 85% of her candies are made on the premises with chocolate from the Guittard Chocolate Co., based in Burlingame, Calif.; the rest are brought in through various distributors from around the world.

Zucker and her family members make chocolates in the shop window, where customers can watch the action.

"Sometimes it's like being a performer," Zucker says of her on-site, out-in-the-open candy making. "It's important not to get stage fright having customers watching you do what you do.

"It would be easier to do this (make chocolate) outside the shop, but there really aren't a whole lot of chocolate makers around," Zucker said. "It's part of our charm and it makes the store smell good too."

Easter bunnies abound here, and range from a 49-cent lollipop to $22.50 for a three-pound, one-foot-high solid milk chocolate rabbit. If you want the large bunny in another medium, such as white chocolate or semi-sweet, Zucker needs a day or two notice.

Another holiday item is Zucker's decorated fudge eggs--in peanut butter, plain chocolate, chocolate walnut and vanilla walnut. A half-pound egg, with name inscribed, sells for $6 and a 3/4-pound egg sells for $8.

Although Sarah-Dippity has a few corporate clients and does special order work (like the white chocolate bells tied together with peach-colored candy bows as party favors for a bridal shower), the retail side makes up the majority of the business. Zucker has an extensive line of chocolate molds she uses to fill custom orders.

Salt water taffy, while not made on the premises, is a popular East Coast import. Zucker carries 16 flavors including watermelon, peppermint, peanut butter and molasses.

Tapping into the childhoods of transplanted Midwesterners and Easterners, Zucker sells nostalgic items like scented gums, violet-flavored squares, rock candy and some non-chocolate items from Pennsylvania Dutch, a confectionery in Pennsylvania that Zucker says she grew up with.

What Zucker calls her "everyday stuff" are what dreams are made of. One of Zucker's creations is the "Raspberry Cloud," a cluster of fresh raspberries dipped in white chocolate. The clouds are available only during raspberry season, usually between June 1 and Nov. 1, and sell for $9.95 a pound.

Cup candies are another Zucker concoction. Poured into a cupcake-sized mold, these confections come in peanut butter and chocolate, cookies and cream (white chocolate blended with crushed Oreo cookies), soft caramel, and milk chocolate with macadamia nuts.

And, with the chocolate vat in constant use, there isn't much Zucker won't dunk, be it Oreos, Nutter Butters or pretzels. Her caramello crisps are marshmallows dipped in caramel, rolled in Rice Krispies, then dipped in chocolate.

"There's not a lot here that isn't decadent," Zucker said. "You are only limited by your imagination. You could go berserk."

Offering customers what they can't find elsewhere is Sarah-Dippity's forte, Zucker said.

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