Of all the boxes of chocolate you’ve ever received, were you more impressed with the colorful box or the chocolates inside? Let me put that another way. When you think back on that box of chocolates, do you remember how pretty it was, or do you remember the way the velvety, almost-bitter dark chocolate ganache melted into a puddle on your tongue? The way the silky, darkly sweet caramel dribbled down your thumb after you bit through the thin, snappy chocolate shell? The surprising array of flavors like tangy handmade cream cheese, rich Indonesian cinnamon, and berry-bright balsamic?
Think of a normal box of chocolates.
I’m talking the kind that pop up at drug stores a few weeks before Valentine’s. We all know what to expect from those chocolates. Chances are, they’re super sweet and not much else. But whether or not they taste great, they’re sure to look stunning. The dark secret of the chocolate world is that (usually) the box costs more than the chocolates inside. That means when you pay a premium price for that box of chocolates, mostly what you’re paying for is the box—not the chocolate.
To balance the high cost of the box, the chocolates inside have to be cheap. To make cheap chocolates you use cheap ingredients, starting with low quality cacao. Most confectioners use the same rule: start with cheap cacao, add plenty of cheap sugar. You end up with something sweet that tastes okay. As an added bonus, all that sugar acts as a preservative, so the chocolates can sit on the shelf in the shop for months on end. And hey, as long as it comes in a pretty box and makes a statement, who cares what it tastes like, right?
Detroit’s hip chocolatier BonBonBon is taking a different path.
Instead of pouring money into glossy, precious traditional packaging, they designed something far cheaper, yet just as stylish: a modular cardboard box they can use to hold two pieces or thirty-five. It’s funky, it’s functional, it’s cool, and most importantly, it lets Alexandra Clark and her crew put their resources into the ingredients and flavors of their “bons.”
That starts with the cacao. Alex uses blends seven different chocolates to get just the flavor and texture she’s looking for in her bons. Each bon starts with a thin chocolate shell (either milk, dark, or white) that looks like a little rectangular cup and holds a myriad of fillings. BonBonBon creates new flavors weekly (at last check, they’ve created over two hundred different bons in their three short years of business).
Alex and her team came to Zingerman’s Deli to find inspiration.
We grabbed spices, coffee cakes, preserves, olive oils, vinegars, cheese…we strolled through our land of a thousand flavors and they came up with 1001 ideas using many of our best-selling products. Two weeks later they presented us with their top ideas. Some of them were out there (but still pretty tasty!), like Old Pickle pate de fruit. After tasting through all the options—tough job, I know—we selected four flavors we liked best:
Rugelach – buttery and flaky with Zingerman’s Bakehouse apricot rugelach mixed into a smooth ganache
Coffee Cake and Coffee – nuggets of cinnamon-laced Zingerman’s Bakehouse sour cream coffee cake over a bittersweet ganache blended with Zingerman’s Coffee Company high flyer coffee
Everything Bagel – sweet and savory with a fluffy ganache that’s tangy Zingerman’s Creamery hand-ladled cream cheese, topped with all the spices of an everything bagel
Olive Oil and Balsamic – a silky Vecchia Dispensa balsamic-infused caramel topped with smooth chocolate infused with Zingerman’s Peranzana olive oil
For a special seasonal treat, we’re offering a ten-piece collection of chocolates.
In addition to the four Zingerman’s-inspired flavors, the collection includes six of BonBonBon’s bons. Each is unique, featuring sometimes surprising flavor combinations using carefully sourced ingredients that are a far cry from your average box of chocolates. The result is a collection of intriguing, bold flavors that are more memorable than the prettiest box on the market.