Creating Ethereal Confections
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Posted on June 3, 2013 by Chococat
Now that song is going to be in your head all day, isn't it? Sorry to do that to you, but I've got news to share about our new space signage!
We've started to build up quite the stock pile of palettes from various shipments. See below...
Since I'm a bit addicted to Pinterest, I knew people were doing really cool things with palette wood, so I suggested that maybe we build something for the space from them. We settled on building our signage, along with a few other small items that will be in the space. We finished the signage yesterday so I'm really excited to show you the transformation!
First step, take apart palettes and arrange how we want them:
Step 2, figure out a good way to brace the back and keep all those loose pieces of wood together:
Step 3, add a few extra supports when you try to pick up sign and realize it's actually three pieces due to where the seams in the wood happened to be:
Step 4, now that sign holds together, add a few coats of stain:
Step 5, once the stain is good and dry (which takes about two days longer than expected due to the fact that you don't believe in putting stain on and wiping it off, so your coats end up being thicker than average), take the giant stencil you had custom made and do your best to center it on the wood:
Step 6, stencil away! (Didn't I say I would never stencil again? Never say never I guess)
Step 7, pull off the stencil and be amazed that this plan actually worked!
Now all we have to do is add a few coats of polyurethane and hang it up. That last part may be easier said than done, but we got this far so I'm confident we'll get it on the building!
This post was posted in Uncategorized
Posted on May 13, 2013 by Chococat
We've finished with all the major painting and have moved onto acquiring all the furniture we need. We've made a point to buy local as much as we can. Most of what we've purchased came from one of three places: Rare Rubbish in Woodstock, Interiors Anew in Woodstock and Reclaimed in Crystal Lake. It's been fun shopping, too bad we're almost finished!
A hutch for displaying our goods:
We nabbed two of these for cafe lounge seating:
And two of these:
A good sized table for hanging out:
Benches for to-go customers:
Coffee table for hanging out by our electric fireplace:
These beautiful stained glass windows come from a building in Chicago, circa the 1880s. The colors coordinate with our colors perfectly...can't wait to hang them! Once we figure out how to hang them that is...
This post was posted in Uncategorized
Posted on April 15, 2013 by Chococat
I knew from the beginning that I wanted a really large-scale, bold, graphic wallcovering for our cafe. I also know that I have a tendency to want things we can't afford! In exploring alternate options, I decided on a large-scale, bold, graphic stencil. Great idea! Now here, for your viewing pleasure, after 15ish hours of hand cramping stenciling...
I absolutely adore it! However, I must say that my career as a stencil artist was short-lived. Started and finished in about a week...I don't think I'll be doing any more stenciling in my lifetime!
This post was posted in Moving/Growing and was tagged with Stencil, Interior Design
Posted on March 18, 2013 by Chococat
We super got into the St. Patty’s Day spirit yesterday. First, we put on our shamrock socks:
Then we took our future dessert & drink cafe and covered it in green!
Before the green:
Finally, being inspired by all that green, we rounded the day off with a few shamrock shakes. Maybe not the healthiest of things, but definitely deserved after all that hard work!
This post was posted in Uncategorized, Moving/Growing and was tagged with Shamrock, Shamrock shakes, St. Patty's Day
Posted on March 12, 2013 by Chococat
If you're from the Woodstock area, perhaps you've heard that we are moving to a new space in a few months. It gives us some more room to spread out, so when we have three or four of us in the kitchen, we won't be elbowing each other for more space to make your chocolates! Plus it gives us the opportunity to do some new things, like the aforementioned bean-to-bar chocolate making process. We also plan on opening a dessert & drink lounge. We haven't quite settled on what to call it yet, but we'll have a place where you can relax with some coffee, tea or hot chocolate and some baked (gluten free!) goodies. There may or may not be some more adult beverages too...depends on how things pan out with licensing on that front.
We started putting our Ethereal stamp on the space over the weekend. It used to be an Irish pub, and while a very pretty space already, it needed to fit our personality a bit better. Here is a before shot of what will become the retail store and chocolate making kitchen:
After we got our hands on it:
We've still got more work to do, but we are already in love with it!
This post was posted in Moving/Growing
Posted on February 5, 2013 by Chococat
We haven’t exactly been the best of bloggers. While I’d like to say that’s going to change, I don’t want to make any promises! We have our hands full with all the tasks required to grow a small business, so often blogging gets pushed off the list of to-dos. But here I am today!
We always seem to have a lot on our plates…generally way more than we have time for! Plans for new products, plans for new spaces, plans for new packaging, etc. One of those plans is a pretty big one and we’ve been making a few strides towards it and thought our fans might be interested.
If you are a chocolate fiend like us, you know a bit about how chocolate is made. It starts with a tropical plant, the cacao tree (yes folks, chocolate is technically a fruit! Or, rather, a seed of a fruit). The super quick story is this: cacao pods grow, someone harvests the beans, they get fermented, then dried, then sold as cacao beans. Cacao beans are purchased, then roasted, cracked into pieces, winnowed (the shell is separated from the nib), and then ground into a liquor. Add some sugar and vanilla and you have chocolate!
Making your own chocolate from the bean is a pretty big endeavor and not too many chocolatiers do so themselves. Being just a bit chocolate obsessed, of course we’ve decided to try our hand at bean-to-bar chocolate making this year. We’ll do our best to keep you updated along the way. Here’s where we are at so far. Meet the newest additions to our chocolate family...
Our winnower, Windycat:
Our nut grinder, which will grind the nibs into a paste, post-winnowing (TBA):
And finally, Ann, our grindeur (part melangeur, part conche):
We can't wait to get started! But first...we search for an oven...
This post was posted in Uncategorized, The Chocolate Business and was tagged with Bean-to-Bar, Melangeur, Conche, Winnower
Posted on July 28, 2012 by Chococat
...peaches for me, Millions of peaches, peaches for free!
What did you do last night? Mary and I helped lighten the load of a few peach trees. There were a few brief moments of heavy rain about an hour before we picked, which made the peaches glisten beautifully with drops of water. It was a gorgeous sight...pale orange with spots of ruby red heavily weighing down branches of green. It was not difficult to quickly fill the two 5 gallon buckets we had with us…and there were still plenty more peaches left on the trees!
What to do with 10 gallons worth of peaches? Why, dip them in chocolate of course!
For a very limited time (today, Saturday July 28th) only, we have chocolate dipped peaches for sale in our store. Freshly picked (with our own four hands!), pesticide free, locally grown peaches! Come get some!
This post was posted in Uncategorized
Posted on October 30, 2011 by Chococat
Sometimes you start with just a simple idea. "I know", you think, "I am going to get a cute little kitten to keep me company. It's just a small kitty. They aren't much work and it will keep mean spiders away."
We've illustrated it just to be sure you know what we are talking about.
And because you have on your new fancy green shirt, you MUST know what you are talking about. We know, we did.
Then, the cat mind control takes hold and one cats leads to two and two cats leads to three and climbing trees and highways and helicopters. Suddenly you are a subject of the Cat Empire.
Not only that, but your cat stairs aren't up to code and you will get sued -- BY CATS!
This is exactly what happened to us. But with chocolate. Our plans were to have a full time production kitchen. Just enough so we had our own little place to keep all of our tools and not move things around every time we needed to make a new batch. But a kitchen turned into a bigger kitchen. Then the chocolate mind control took over. Pretty soon there were signs and a storefront and cool furniture and logos on glass and a lease. Suddenly we are part of the Chocolate Empire.
Holy crap! We have a chocolate store! Luckily, we don't have any stairs, so there should be no lawyer cats around (but you should always look closely).
Although Mary is very talented and did great mockups of the exterior, her shadow looks like E.T. Mary, what were you doing exactly?
What she was doing was talking to Brad Ogan who is building a display case for us and display furniture and a sign and a guitar cutter and custom molds. He just happened to be our neighbor at the farmers market. He and his wife sell their own produce but we slowly discovered his polymathrithmic talents. Everyone should buy furniture from him. You may have to wait a few weeks since we are keeping him busy. Here is our display case in progress.
Sara did an awesome interior 3D for us as well!
Here's one with the security camera shooting laser beams for good measure.
Since we have now started down our path of building an empire and all, we thought it would be a good idea to starting thinking about defensive systems.
Our plan is to be open for the Lighting of the Square in Woodstock, IL (where our store is located) on November 25th. We are at 203 Main Street.
This post was posted in The Chocolate Business, The Chocolate Life
Posted on June 26, 2011 by Chococat
We swear that we are very, very nice people and we love each and every one of our customers. With a background in selling chocolate & confections we knew what to expect, but sometimes (just sometimes!) things build up and it is nice to blow off a little steam.
We thought maybe everyone would enjoy a brief glimpse into the life of selling chocolates and some of the more amusing events or thoughts we have.
In square brackets is a brief [context]. In quotes are real statements/questions. In plain text may or may not be what we actually said -- we'll leave it to you to figure out which one it was!
We have a funny feeling this may become a regular feature in our blog.
[A woman peruses our selection at a local market]
"Are these real?"
Perhaps the word Ethereal threw the person for a loop? Ok, stay calm. We can handle this... Yes, they are real. Our entire selection of confections are made by hand with organic... um, real, chocolate.
"Are they edible?"
Perhaps you are looking for our new line of molten-metal truffles. They have all the goodness of stainless steel with the added bite of being 2,750 degrees -- a new kind of spicy!
[A very nice customer looks over everything]
"They almost look too perfect to eat..."
That's because we eat all of the mistakes. ;)
[A curious person looks excited]
"Who makes your chocolates... Lindt?"
No, we make everything by hand with our own recipes.
"No, my boss sells your chocolates too. I've seen them before."
[Another curious onlooker]
"You are owned by Hershey's, right?"
[Someone walks purposefully up to the booth and looks directly at us]
"It's a good thing that I don't like chocolate"
We were inspired that night to go to the McDonald's drive-up and yell into the big speaker-sign, "It's a good thing we don't like hamburgers!" and then squeal away.
[A man looks over everything very carefully]
"Everything looks great, but where are the candles?"
We sell candies, not candles!
[Across the way, a person scurries by looking at us askance]
"You are evil...EVIL!"
Thanks! We know you have a choice of providers for your evil confections. We appreciate the compliment! Actually... we do get a lot of compliments that our chocolates are addicting... which is our intention... so that people buy more... Oh no! We are evil! A...delicious kind of evil.
Ok, that's enough for now -- we have a few hundred more truffles to make! And don't forget to buy some of our evil confections. You'll be back for more.
This post was posted in The Chocolate Business, The Chocolate Life
Posted on June 6, 2011 by Chococat
Well, it's the reason for Ethereal Confections' existence anyway! We have spent many late nights over the past several months working to create the best chocolates and confections we possibly can.
The biggest challenge has been that we have a million ideas and not enough time to do them all simultaneously! It has been a whirlwind of activities as we've launched our website, built our Facebook page, developed packaging, figured out shipping, sourced ingredients and started to build some wholesale relationships.
Everything you see in our packaging, our confections and our website have been the direct result of our concentrated work the past few months. We designed the graphics and logos ourselves. We developed all of the website layout and programming. We also strapped our families down and forced them to taste test everything that came out of our kitchen until we knew we had the recipes just right. Though, they probably didn't mind that last one too much.
We have also have had the great experience of selling in both the Woodstock, IL and Kenosha, WI farmers' markets. The weather hasn't always cooperated -- it has fluctuated between freezing and boiling us -- but it has been great to be outside and talk with everyone who enjoys chocolate and who enjoys our chocolate.
As you may have guessed, chocolate is something we are passionate about. The history of chocolate, sourcing chocolate and turning that chocolate into something that you think about days or weeks (maybe years?) after eating really is something that we are striving for. So, don't be shy about giving us feedback or ideas. You are all welcome to help us!
People have asked what makes us different; one thing that we have noticed in most main stream chocolates is that they contain a lot of additives, allergens and generally things that don't taste good or that are not good for you. We make all of our confections dairy and gluten free. We are both sensitive to gluten and dairy and feel substantially better when they are not in our diets.
We've had quite a few big smiles and hugs at the markets as people discover they can actually eat our confections! Just this last Saturday, a woman said she had been searching for months trying to find a company that could make a dessert table for her sister's wedding; her sister has Celiac Disease. Also, except for a few things that have honey in them (just ask us if you are not sure which ones), the confections & chocolates are vegan friendly.
But don't think too much about what we are leaving out (all the bad stuff!), organic chocolate mixed with just the right ingredients and flavorings are both healthy and great tasting. All of the extra ingredients really aren't necessary for a small artisan business like ours, so we are just leaving them out!
Another thing that makes us different is where we source our chocolates and ingredients. There is some really great chocolate produced right here in the Americas, but most chocolate producers (especially the big ones) source the same chocolate as everyone else from Europe.
Since we are located centrally in the Midwest, we can take advantage of all the great products and ingredients that are produced right here. We can also ship anywhere pretty quickly. All in all, not a bad place to start!
With our initial line of confections launched, we are now working on sourcing darker chocolate -- think 70% or 80% dark -- and also the most interesting chocolate we can possibly find. Our goal right now is all soy free, fair trade & organic chocolate. The darker chocolate is lower in sugar and also has a more complex taste. We have some really good samples we are testing, but we aren't quite ready to release anything yet. We are also experimenting with some confections of the frozen persuasion...
In the end, we are making sure we have the best sourced and best tasting confections possible.
If you need your chocolate fix, just place an order on our website or visit us at the market. We will also let you know where you can pick up our confections locally as we grow our wholesale accounts. If you know of anyone who might like to carry our confections or maybe someone looking for favors for their wedding (or anything else!), just let us now!
And when you see us at the farmers' market, just mention our blog and we'll chocolate dip anything you might have bought there -- popcorn, tamales, picture frames. ;)
If you have any thoughts or ideas about our business, you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or use our contact form by clicking here.
This post was posted in The Chocolate Business, Philosophy, Chocolate Wholesale, Chocolate Wedding Favors and was tagged with organic chocolate, fair trade chocolate, artisan chocolate, chocolate health, vegan chocolate, gluten free chocolate, dairy free chocolate