Welcoming Spring and her bounty is a favorite time for all, as we shake the last few flakes of snow from our boots and our thoughts, shifting them toward warmer days.
Spring is indeed the “brainstorming” phase of Nature’s cycle. It is a time of revelation. A time of awe and wonder… and planning. Easter celebrations mark the spirit of reflection, renewal and rebirth, as family and friends emerge from their warm and cozy dens. We join together again, sharing insights from the calm heart of winter, which lays the foundation for the active Summer days.
Filling up baskets full of Springtime goodness!
Many of us take care to fill this time with anticipation, bringing forth glimpses of the bounty to come. We hold the first feast with our loved ones since the coming of the New Year. We engage in outdoor games and hunt for evidence of the blossoming season, including that which has been hidden by the Easter Bunny. We indulge a bit in delicious treats and revel in the sweetness of the revival. It is a very special time indeed.
So fill your hearts with eagerness and fill your baskets with provisions! Summer is officially on its way! Yet, take the time to enjoy the masterful glory of Spring’s changeability. She will show you all that is possible, if you know just where to look!
Join us Saturday, March 28th at 10am for our annual Easter Egg Hunt!
Note: Our beautiful cover image for this post is the masterful artwork of Emily Balivet.
Now that we have explored one aspect of naming chocolates, wherein sounds form words, which become names leading to flavor fusions, resulting finally in a creative chocolate confection, let’s delve a little deeper and explore how the physical characteristics available to the sensory perception of taste, communicates its own name into auditory being!
As we know, there are six flavor qualities which occur in varying degrees in any given substance. They are sweet, sour, salty, bitter, astringent, and pungent. Naturally, in chocolate making, I deal primarily with the first three in the list; carefully interweaving accents of the latter to create interest. Now, some things are obvious, such as people’s unabashed love of chocolate and caramel, but have you ever thought about the varying degrees of flavor contexts that could be used to amplify the chocolate caramel experience? I have… quite extensively I might add. I dare to say, that in the name of all things Divani, we have hardly missed a beat in this arena.
Some of you may be familiar with our Gourmet Chocolate Caramels I presume? We have pushed the limits on what’s ‘normal’ when it comes to creating combinations based on these six flavors. Then, back to the naming thing, once a new chocolate caramel creation was made, I plopped that baby right in the center of my mouth, allowing it to coat every corner, then gently began to chew and “listen”.
No – I wasn’t waiting to hear the chocolate’s plea for help as I mercilessly devoured every bit of it, but rather for its essence to whisper its name into being. One of my favorite examples of this phenomena is the “Midnight Sun”. Fancy this – Semi-Sweet dark Belgian chocolate plated above and below a surprisingly vivid orange caramel center. It’s as if the solar life force of our galaxy were shining its blissful rays at the peak of night! It’s brilliant!
A few more examples of this profound naming process are as follows: Rumalicious, Berry Patch, and Gingerbread. And those are just the caramels! We also have Karmaluscious Barks such as Tropical Tease, Fluffernutter, and Allegheny Forest whose names divulge a depth of flavorificness! (So good they need a new word to define them.) And don’t even get me started on the creative beverages served in our cafe, and how these chocolate treats can easily be combined indefinitely with various drinks to create all new, yet to be named experiences!
By now, I’m pretty sure you’re hip deep in Wonderland, so I’ll just leave you with that for now. Of course, if you’d like to get belly deep… pay us a visit!
“I sat in a field of shamrocks for a year, then ate some blackberries and talked to the local almonds and now I have all these points!”
~ Quote from a dream I had once.
The “Otherlanguage” of Sound
When asked how I come up with the flavor combinations for our chocolate confections, an enigmatic response arises. Sure, it may seem like a straight forward process, but truly, it is based upon a menagerie of ideas, concepts, and inspirations. I’ll start with the ‘name creating flavor’ approach.
“What is in a name? Would a rose by any other name smell less sweet?”
~ William Shakespeare via Juliet Capulet
It’s a rather quizzical and philosophical metaphor posed by Juliet, which makes for great romantic tragedy, but I have a feeling had Romeo been named Seymour Butts instead, he might not have shaped up to be the person he presented to Juliet on the night of their meeting. Nor would Juliet have been too eager to become Mrs. Seymour Butts.
You see, sounds carry information. And information does just what it says it does, it puts things “in formation”. It arranges circumstances and knowledge with imagery, giving way to a specific, definitive outcome. Certain arrangements of sounds, when uttered together, could convey to a listener anything and everything from confidence to mystery to humor to innocence. When was the last time you heard someone describe a food and said something like, “Oh that sounds delicious!” or “Ew, that sounds disgusting!” based solely on the sound of the word(s)?
It’s because the sounds carried forth information based on a plethora of perception. Now, some perceptions are more obvious than others, being that they are indeed from a relatively modern era and can be traced back to their origins. Still others come from a space seeming otherworldly and inexplicable. But we won’t go there for now. After all, in the art of naming confections for consumer appeal, one must remain harmonious with common contexts.
So where does this bring us? Close your eyes…. no wait… don’t close your eyes, you are reading and won’t be able to continue if you do. Okay, so… leave your eyes open… but allow your mind to drift freely when you read these next words and utter them aloud.
Now add the layer of knowledge that this is a collection of chocolates in a box. What might be in it if you were the creator? What combinations would convey these sounds into flavors? Or, even if you don’t want to get as involved as to dream up these tasty treats, just imagine if you were seeking a chocolate experience and happened upon an assortment by this name, without even looking at the contents, does your first instinct whisper, “You have got to try those!”?
Well, this is in fact one such variety of boxed chocolates whose name conveyed its contents. How does creamed honey with pure essential oil based flavors sound to you? That’s what they are.
Here’s where a clever someone might say, “But I don’t like honey”. To which my response would be, “That’s why I didn’t call them Honey Dreams.” To have called it Honey Dreams would have diluted the essence of the experience and made it finitely attached to a persons perception of honey.
“But wait!” you say, “I thought you named it first than came up with the combinations!” And I did, but it just so happens that these matters are sort of like Wonderland and somehow wind up being all inside-outsee and topsy-turvy. The name spoke of a delightful sweet, dream like experience, which was precisely how I felt the moment I tried creamed honey for the first time. Whisked away to dream land where all is divine! I just knew that sensation had to be enraptured by chocolate. And so it was.
Wonder awaits at the bottom of the rabbit hole.
Want to see what we mean? Try Sweet Dreams in Milk or Semi-Sweet Chocolate!
Valentine’s Day. It’s is all about the love. Seems fitting that, hey… so are we! Hence, why we produce the one confection that pretty much says all there is to say in terms of love. Chocolate – or more specifically for this particular holiday, chocolate covered strawberries! Red, ripe, chocolate covered strawberries are great for all kinds of crazy love, such as: friendly love, family love, respectful love, appreciative love, sympathetic love, self love, and of course, romantic love.
We tend to think a lot in terms of what sort of love these luscious delicacies are for, but what about the love that goes in to these sumptuous sweets?
There are a lot of caring steps involved in delivering you and your loved ones the best of the best in terms of chocolate covered strawberries. Some are undertaken by ourselves, and others by those with whom we choose to work.
So, here’s a little timeline snapshot of your Valentine’s Day berries in how they get from the farm to your, or your loved one’s, heart!
First, being outside of our strawberry growing season here in Western PA, the strawberries are grown in California’s temperate region, are picked on a Saturday, then freighted the same day to arrive at our local distributor on Monday.
Depending upon which day the holiday falls, we either pick up our reserved flats immediately or allow them to remain in store until day before dipping.
Once brought to our kitchen, they are thoroughly washed in special high-alkalinity water to remove any pesticides, dirt, or all other residues that don’t belong. They are then spread out on a flat surface in a clean, cool environment to air dry.
The very next morning, before the sun rise, they are individually hand dipped in our signature Belgian chocolate, and topped with the appropriate toppings.
Finally, they are boxed and ribboned for presentation to our lovely customers!
I make it sound easy, don’t I? But the truth is, it takes a lot of love and a lot of life-force to conjure up these fabulous confections for that one very special day – for everyone’s very special someones. All in all, to see the faces of mostly grown men, light up, when they pick up their Princess or Queen box of chocolate covered strawberries for their sweetheart – well, that makes it so worth it!
“Time is measured not by the passing of years, but by what one does, what one feels, and what one achieves.” ~ Jawaharlal Nehru
The flipping of a calendar page seems just as fitting a moment as any to reflect upon the time gone by and plan for the time to come. The declaration of a new year on the horizon gives us motive to share our insights, our accomplishments, our challenges, and our gratitude to all those who have been there for us – with us – throughout this past calendar year.
Fare thee well 2014, and welcome, with open arms and open hearts, 2015.
Valentine’s Day Gourmet Chocolate Covered Strawberries
Looking back on the events of the past year is both exciting and somewhat bittersweet. We have introduced so many new things into our little chocolate making universe. We have shared so much with our visitors, with great pride and love.
Earlier this year, we shared the meaning of Divani with an artist friend and asked her to convey it through her art. What came out is nothing short of a marvel; for the first time in the history of our business, we finally had a logo that conveyed fully, the spirit of our vocation.
Our new logo radiating the spirit of Divani!
With all of this activity, naturally, there comes growth. And with growth, comes change.
We are running out of room here in our quaint little shop where we, up until this point, have lovingly crafted our delicious confections. Like a well that overflows into a fountain, we are going to have to spill our divine love of chocolate creation on yet, another town.
2015 marks the transition for our chocolate making arrangements to relocate to the Crawford building in Emlenton, PA.
Emlenton is picturesque little hamlet reminiscent of a town from a Dickens novel…it will truly be a joy to make chocolate there!
View from Chocolate Kitchen in Emlenton
It has been an extraordinary year. Our dedication in conveying what we all love so well – chocolate – in a responsible, delicately balanced manner, has been well received. You all have come to see what we’ve been up to, some many times over, bringing new light and new energy to our cause. We thank you wholeheartedly. Your love and support reminds us that when hard times come to call, we are not alone.
And now, with the grace of an angel, 2014 takes her final bows and leaves us with our next host… the gracious new year and all the possibilities he holds.
As we shared recently, in our previous blog, in our home we celebrate 12 Days of Yuletide and the 13th day of Christmas. This means a slew of festivities filled with love, family, presents, music, movies, and of course, extra special meals.
Being who we are – we do our best to inject a little “chocolate love” into all of our desserts, especially during this time of the year. We know that many of you enjoy preparing delectable treats for your loved ones, so we thought we’d share a few variations on old favorites for your musing – and indulging – pleasure! Santa’s Secret: A few old stand-by’s done up with special style for the holidays!
The time when we hustle and bustle to make everything just right for the holidays. We are starting our days early, before the sun makes its debut, working hard all day and into the night. We’re busy making Christmas boxes, holiday truffles, stocking stuffers, and gift baskets galore!
This time of year is exhausting as a small business! And yet also – so exhilarating! It is such a joy to think that the dedication and love we pour into our craft – our hand-crafted chocolates – will be shared in the homes of our customers – our friends.
In this small calm before the storm of holiday gifting, greetings, and – of course – gourmet delights – we wanted to pause for a moment to reflect on and share some of our small practices which have become tradition to us over the years.
Ever intrigued by various cultures, we recently decided to switch up our celebration style a bit. Just last year, we started celebrating 12 days of Yuletide and the 13th day of Christmas which, equals maximum glory of the season!
Historically, Yuletide was an indigenous midwinter festival celebrated by the Germanic peoples to mark the return of the Sun – as in the sunlight. In Old Norse poetry, the word “Yule” is often employed as a synonym for ‘feast’. Traditionally, Yule is celebrated with gatherings that often involve a meal, caroling, and gift giving.
So for us, each night beginning on the 13th of December, we give a gift and spend time together doing activities of the children’s choosing. Then, come Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we visit with our extended family and share food, laughter, and talk of the year gone by and plans for the year to come! It makes for a long, relaxing, and joyous season of holiday splendor – rather than an upheaval of holiday mayhem!
Inside our shop, a blend of playful tinsel, twinkling star lights, and strands of colored faux bulbs on silver strings make the atmosphere sparkle! This year, we even brought in and decorated a live Christmas tree which compliments the delightful aromas of coffee and chocolate! Everything is starting to feel so warm and cozy and we just can’t help but rejoice in the spirit! We are so grateful for family, for our work, and for all of you!
Gifting in a ‘chocolate’ shell!
Seems like we’ve got it all figured out, right? Well, in terms of holiday gift-giving – let us help you figure (at least part) of it out, and make it a relaxing and wonderful holiday!
We have reintroduced our Gourmet Belgian Fudge Truffles in a delectable assortment this season. Truffles are one our most beloved products. They make a fantastic holiday gift for almost anyone on your list – or maybe for yourself as a special indulgence! In fact, as one customer recently shared in the note below – they are so popular in his home that they have trouble keeping them from disappearing!
“I think this will make you guys do a little LOL.
After dinner, I made a little french press coffee and went to enjoy one of your cinnamon truffles. When I picked up the box, it felt too light. My heart sank a little. I opened it up to find 1 left. I guess one for 9 isn’t too bad. Haha! The house really loved them. Thank you for the chocolate artistry.” Scott G.
If you are anything like me, as I suspect you may be in this matter, you try to merge chocolate with everything in your life – and holidays which traditionally don’t focus on the inclusion of chocolate, are no exception.
That being said…. Thanksgiving. You know what I’m thinking? I’m super grateful for chocolate!
Not only has chocolate come a long way from its humble beginnings as a bean in a pod on a tree all alone in a jungle full of wild animals…
…*pause for dramatic effect*…
It now plays a very important role in the fate of the universe!
Yes, without chocolate, the entire fabric of existence could unravel, flinging the globe helplessly into mindless, tasteless, oblivion! Or, so it seems on those really hard days when none is to be found, such as Thanksgiving.
Ok, so maybe the holiday energy is going to my head a bit here – but seriously, what good is a holiday traditionally focused on food, without our favorite treat???
So what’s a chocolatier to do? Why, come up with clever ways of sneaking chocolate on to the Thanksgiving Day table, of course!
So here it is folks, a perfect plan to bring Thanksgiving and chocolate together, forever. Simply follow the recipes below and you too can save the world!
Of course you will need raw materials to create these delicious concoctions – here’s a suggestion to get you started: You may substitute our chocolate morsels for cocoa powder to add that divinely creamy dimension to your recipes.
We’d love to hear about your favorite Thanksgiving recipes (chocolate or otherwise) in the comments below!
Marketplaces have always intrigued me. Having grown up in India, it’s quite nostalgic to see a variety of vendors, from near and far, come together in one place, featuring a myriad of curios wares as people traverse through rows of booths, stopping now and again to investigate their prospective buy. Such markets intrigue me even more when they are attuned to a certain theme. I’ve been through many markets in the past, however, had the pleasure of participating in one of its kind recently. With the dual theme, the annual German Christmas Mart was held for the 136th time in the historic town of Harmony, PA.
Chocolate Making Demonstration
We decided to bring our best offerings for this holiday season. With boxes of chocolate adorning our table, we were pleasantly surprised to recognize some faces. However, what was even more delightful was when people recognized us and the town of Foxburg. Visitors to our table not only enjoyed the variety of chocolate samples being offered, but also the consistent demonstrations of our craft. Rows of rice cakes, freshly dipped in chocolate lined up two medium sized cookie sheets and those who got a chuckle out of the irony, were subjected to our favorite slogan that accompanies Naughty Rice, which is, “They make them healthy, we make them edible!”
A Piece of German Craftsmanship
It was a two day market with some vendors set up outside under tents, and the rest, including ourselves, set up inside a hall which is part of the Harmony Museum. It was a joy to take an opportunity to browse through and check out some of the other displays, out of which I had to bring some of the craftsmanship home.
Thousands of visitors come through the market every year and this weekend was no exception. We had a great time participating and hope to return to the German Christmas Market in the town of Harmony PA in the years to come.
A brisk spring morning greeted our egg hunters on the morning of March 23rd. The snow took a break from falling and the sun decided to shine, shedding an extra bit of warmth to the occasion. Several cheerful children arrived promptly at 11 am, ready to scour the Faerie Garden for hidden treasure! Children under five had a minute to get a start on the action before their quick and lively rivals broke loose and we had a nice, well rounded search. Every one got plenty of eggs and even the special silver and gold eggs were well distributed. Some lucky kids even found butterflies, colorful caterpillars, and frog princes along the way!
At the end of the hunt, some of our explorers cozied up in the chocolate shop for hot victory drinks, at which time we had the opportunity to chat with the father of three of our young hunters. He told us, “This was the best hunt we’ve come to!”, and we happily accepted the compliment.
So glad you all could come. Until next year everyone!