Wednesday, February 20, 2008

BonBonBar's Scotch Bar: Two Great Tastes That Taste Great Together

As I think about the beginnings of my new favorite candy bar, I envision two people walking down a busy street. One is sipping a dram of Talisker, the smoky single malt from the Scottish Isle of Skye; the other is eating a piece of dark chocolate. Suddenly, the two become distracted by a passer-by and, as they are looking away, they collide and lose their grip such that the chocolate falls into the glass of whiskey.

"Hey," cries the chocolate eater, "you got your Scotch in my chocolate."
"Hey," yells the tippler, "you got your chocolate in my Scotch."

They contemplate the combination, taste it, and their expressions of anger give way to delight and then ecstasy..."It's good." "Really, good!"

Well, maybe I watched too much television in the 1970s, but how else would someone think of combining one of the smokiest of Scotches with chocolate, which is the exact premise of the new Scotch Bar from BonBonBar.

BonBonBar, a one-woman operation, is the recent creation of Nina Wanat, an LA refugee from New Jersey via the Culinary Institute of America in Napa who also blogs about her candymaking at the Sweet Napa blog. Her mission is to bring candy bars to a new level using fresh, local ingredients, innovation and great care, and although she only started her company last fall, she may well change the candy bar as we know it.

She makes a small variety of chocolate bars and handmade marshmallows, but being a chocolate and whiskey fanatic, I was immediately drawn to her new Scotch Bar.

Now, I must admit that, at first, I was skeptical of the Scotch Bar. I don't even like ice in my Scotch, but chocolate and caramel? I also feared that it was a gimmick without much basis in flavor. I'm happy to report that I was wrong.

The Scotch Bar contains a chocolate ganache made from a combination of Cacao Barry Mi-Amere chocolate (58% cacao) and single malt Scotch (Talisker's 1992 Distiller's Edition). The Scotch ganache is topped with a layer of perfect, thick caramel; the whole bar is coated with chocolate and sprinkled with a few gorgeous crystals of Maldon sea salt.

This is not a candy that tastes like liquor. The whiskey flavor is quite subtle and understated. What comes through is just the faintest bit of smoke from the Talisker. Along with this subtle flavor, the whiskey adds a smoothness which balances well with the caramel and salt. The combination of the four flavor elements is sublime.

I was impressed that Nina used a bold Talisker in this candy as opposed to a more approachable malt and asked her how she arrived at that choice. She replied:

I specifically avoided really smoky or peaty malts for a long time. I tried my best to make Balvenie work, but no matter how much I put in, the flavor was barely coming through in the ganache -- and didn't stand a chance against the caramel or chocolate coating. Finally, I went to Wally's on Westwood Blvd with a couple samples of what I'd made and an attitude of "give me the strongest you've got," and the staff immediately took the project to heart and enthusiastically made recommendations. I added "even if it's smoky" to my attitude, I took home a 200ml bottle of the Talisker to try out, and then returned for more. I liked the way it tasted on its own and in the bar, and I figured that Single Malt Scotch drinkers would want all the flavors that they love in Scotch in the candy bar -- smokiness and all.

You've got that right!

BonBonBar Scotch bars, along with other delicious treats, are available on the website in boxes of 3 for $15 or 6 for $30. And be sure to also try the phenomenal Caramel Nut Bar, a chocolate bar filled with gooey caramel and a mix of nuts and cacao nibs...many great tastes that taste great together.


Bon Vivant said...

Ah, I remember those Reese's commercials well.

I could see how Scotch and chocolate would go really well together. I need to buy some of these soon!

Anonymous said...

I am eating a caramel nut bonbonbar right nut. If there is such a thing as reincarnation, I want to be reborn as this candy bar.