Cacaopod and I stopped by Company Confections’ booth at the Temescal Farmers Market the Sunday before Valentine’s Day to buy some holiday chocolate and find out about this SFBA chocolatier. We’ve had a real winter this year, cold and rainy, but luckily the day was sunny and mild — perfect for picking up chocolate and chatting between the steady stream of regulars and holiday shoppers.
Becky Shank, Company Confections’ owner and chocolatier, told us she has a booth at either the Montclair or Temescal Farmers Market every Sunday alternating between the two locations weekly. You can check her website for where she will be on a particular Sunday.
She’s had her booth for about a year at the markets. While she gets about the same amount of business from both markets, she said she would prefer to be at only one (she told us Temescal but I bet she tells people at the Montclair market that she prefers to be there when asked 😉), but the powers that be want to share Company Confections with both markets. Given how good her wares are, I can understand their decision.
Becky had filled Company Confections’ Valentine themed booth with her line of bars and treats, plus single origin chocolate tiles, some limited edition Valentines’ chocolates, and the revival of a truffle she hadn’t made in years. She also had one of my new favorite treats but reshaped for the holiday.
Company Confections, an Oakland based chocolatier, has a unique chocolate tribute to our town: a molded chocolate in the shape of an acorn. Before I ever tried it, I was excited about it — I love Oakland. Turns out I love these Hazelnut Coffee Crisp acorns too.
The acorns are on the large size for bonbons, which make them a good snack size. They are pretty too with a light application of luster dust on the milk chocolate acorns.
The acorn I tried had an immediate coffee taste which soon morphed into a delicious chocolate hazelnut. The coffee seemed to be more about giving it a deeper chocolate taste than to be a distinctly coffee chocolate. Bits of crunchy crispy feuilletine and little hits of salt in the smooth light texture ganache evoked a cereal crunch texture. I loved the salty pops as the chocolate melted. It’s a satisfying snack.
Valentine’s Day treats
I was hoping to buy more acorns at the market but they were nowhere to be seen. That was because Becky had made Hazelnut Coffee Crisp hearts for Valentine’s Day instead. They were available as little 2 heart boxes and as part of a mixed treats assortment.
Becky told our little acorn fan club that she plans on having acorns almost year round at the markets because they are so Oakland-y (and delicious!) but they are so soft they melt in warmer weather. So we probably won’t be able to score some in the summer time, but chances are good the rest of the year they will be in stock at the markets. (Thank you Bay Area weather!) They just might not be acorn shaped so be sure to inquire if you don’t see them. They might be masquerading as something else for some event.
Cacaopod and I were happy to get the Valentine’s Day Assortment which included 4 hearts, 4 tasting tiles, and 4 caramels. And I am happy to report the Hazelnut Coffee Crisp hearts were just as yummy as the acorns.
I liked the assortment concept too. I can rarely get through a box of bonbons on my own before their freshness has passed, so having a variety with some longer shelf life items is a winner in my book.
The caramels in the package were Mango Passion Fruit. The soft chew caramels had a smoky/fruity/sweet smell. They were very smooth with browned butter and tropical fruit tastes. I liked that the mango was distinct. Often I find in these types of mixes that the more tart flavors dominate, but this time there was a nice balance between the mango and passion fruit.
The third treat in the assortment was 70% single origin tasting squares. Becky said they were a fairly new item she is making and she gets the cacao from a women owned business in Ecuador. In addition to the 70%, she also offers a milk chocolate and an 85%. The squares are decorated with a pretty plant inspired mold and are a good size. The 70% had a smooth texture and took a while to melt. The initially nutty then fruity and slightly bitter flavor lasted a long time afterwards.
The 40% had a slightly grainy texture and was very milky tasting. It was a more savory not too sweet milk chocolate. It tasted almost malted and had a long aftertaste. The 85% had a different taste than either the 40% or the 70%. It was more bitter and fermented tasting with an astringent sensation. It was a unique flavor that I wish I could describe better.
Also for the holiday, Becky had 2 new Valentine’s Day-themed flavors: Rose and Raspberry Cream. I passed on the milk chocolate Rose bar because that’s not my flavor, but we got the pretty, pink Raspberry Cream Bar decorated with a red heart.
It was a white chocolate bar with a slightly grainy texture from raspberry. It tasted very creamy and lightly raspberry with little pops of stronger raspberry. A nice not too sweet bar.
The cream part of the name came from whole milk powder. I don’t know if this bar had more milk in it than typical white chocolates, but it had a less sweet more creamy taste than I expect from white chocolate.
A non-holiday themed but also festive looking treat in the booth that I haven’t seen on Company’s website was the box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch bonbons. Becky said she made these when she first started making chocolates 6–7 years ago and doesn’t know why she stopped.
Lucky for us she is making them again. The pretty round balls with an all over crunchy looking texture were packed in white boxes decorated with metallic gold dots and tied with a red ribbon. Very gift-able.
Inside the crispy crunchy milk chocolate shell was a smooth milk chocolate ganache. The first taste was cinnamon chocolate and the flavors continued in balance. Pieces of feuilletine gave it a satisfying crunch. And just like cinnamon toast, there was a little sugar crunch. Cute, fun, tasty. I can’t imagine why she stopped making them either.
Eclectic & familiar
In addition to these treats, Company Confections has a line of interesting bars in dark, milk, and white chocolate plus barks and other confections. Over the past year I tried almost all of them, because I kept liking what I’ve tried. I think you will too.
Company Confections’ chocolates are well made and attractive, but the biggest things to me are the flavors and textures Becky uses and the balance between different inclusions and the chocolate. I asked Becky where her palate comes from and she said, “Since I grew up in the Bay Area I was exposed to so many things. It’s funny, I was a picky eater as a kid but I loved Schweppes Bitter Lemon [carbonated lemonade with the bitter extras of quinine and lemon peel], blue cheese, Indian food. I would eat weird things other kids wouldn’t but then also really basic stuff like grilled cheese sandwiches and hot chocolate.”
Viewed through that prism, the following lineup makes total sense. Some unusual combos, a variety of cultural food influences, and nostalgic references updated with quality chocolate.
The Harvest bar is a bittersweet chocolate bar with candied orange peel inclusions and pepitas sprinkled over the top. It had an immediate candied orange flavor from the chunks of orange peel that matched well with the dark chocolate taste.
With the orange and pepitas it was more of a chewing chocolate than a melting chocolate. I didn’t really taste the pepitas. They were more a texture. I think some salt would pep it up. It was a good not bitter dark chocolate orange bar.
The Cherry Ginger bar had whole dried cherries and bits of crystalized ginger mixed in the bittersweet chocolate. The ginger gave it a slow heat and I liked the combo (but I would like more ginger). The base was a good dark chocolate with slightly fruity/fermented/bitter overtones. I really liked the chewy cherry bits scattered through the bar.
The HOT Chili Spice bar label highlights the “hot” in the name and no kidding. The initial taste was a blast from the past, a fiery cinnamon like Atomic Fireballs. The chocolate appeared second. As it melted, it got hotter! Afterwards the heat lingered as a burning sensation.
This was one of those too hot for me spicy chocolates, but addictive. I don’t understand why I am like this but certain hot spices are so hot I can hardly stand it but I keep eating them. They don’t get any less hot, but I like the taste and I somehow accept the burn. Consider yourself warned.
Becky will also warn you if you buy the HOT Chili Spice bar in person. She makes the spice blend of 7–8 spices herself so the extreme heat is intentional. If you like hot spicy tastes or want to try a grownup version of Atomic Fireballs that features good dark chocolate at the same time, this is the bar to try.
I loved the Churro Hot Cocoa bar. It’s a milk chocolate bar made with Peruvian chocolate, cinnamon toast crunch churros, and Ibarra cocoa (the iconic Mexican hot chocolate tablets). The 1/4–1/2″ long churro bits sprinkled over the bar were crunchy and the milk chocolate had nice cinnamon undertones. Becky does a great job choosing and blending cinnamon and chocolate couvertures. The bar was not too sweet and very milk chocolaty. It’s a good interpretation of a Mexican hot chocolate with a churro for dunking.
The Oasis bar was a flavor ride. It started as a salty milk chocolate, then it was crunchy from quinoa and a little nutty from soft cashews. At the end was a little chewy raisin bit. It varied from square to square depending on which inclusions were there. Overall a good bar with the raisin and salty milk chocolate flavors lingering at the end.
The Crunchy Salty bar is accurately named. A milky milk chocolate with a tiny consistent crunch from feuillitine and lots of hits from the salt. Salt was the flavor that lingered longest and helped cut the sweetness of the chocolate and cookie bits.
The Toffee and Crispy Pearls bar was very pretty with a generous cascade of toffee bits running down the back of the bar anchored by 2 islands of crispy pearls at opposite corners. It was a good milk chocolate with a long aftertaste. I liked the slightly sticky small crunch buttery toffee bits, but I wanted more crispy pearls.
The Cardamom bar is a thin white chocolate bar that at first tasted citrus-y before turning distinctly cardamom. The flavor change was so interesting I had to check the label: no citrus, just cardamom and white chocolate. Your results may vary, but I think it’s a really good bar: not too sweet, flavorful, and made with a good white chocolate that’s more milky than sugary.
I loved Company Confections’ Peppermint Bark: Thin slabs of swirled dark and white chocolate with peppermint candy bits sprinkled on it. It has a refreshing mint taste, not cloying, I liked the soft slightly sticky crunch of the candy cane bits. It had lots of peppermint flavor which was a good balance with the 75% dark and white chocolates. I also liked the bar’s thin thickness: The chocolate melted quickly, so the mint and chocolate flavors expanded fast then lingered.
Becky plans to keep making the peppermint bark year round. I found a kindred spirit when she said, “Why is it just a winter thing? It’s so refreshing.”
Company Confections’ barks are thinner than most barks I’ve had, and I definitely prefer their thinner snap to having to bite down on a thick hard bark. That said the milk chocolate Almond Latte Bark was wafer thin in places.
It started out too sweet for me but I liked the crunchy almonds and the coffee flavor that came after the initial sweetness. Little hits of salt throughout the piece tempered the sweetness too.
Company Confections makes a couple of confections in addition to the caramels in the Valentine’s Day Assortment, but I don’t think I’m the right demographic for them. I didn’t try the Chocolate Dipped Oreos but they looked attractive with a splash of colorful sprinkles on the dark chocolate.
I did try the Giant Salted Caramel Pecan Turtle but it was too gooey for me; I wanted a firmer caramel. The toasted pecans were good — and one of Becky’s regulars said the macadamia nut version was not to be missed — but to me it had more of a cookie vibe than the hard shelled confection I expected.
Come on down!
Company Confections has an online store, but it doesn’t have as much of the lineup as the farmers market booths. If you are in SFBA, try to come to one of the markets so you have the most options. Just be sure to check first which market Becky will be at the day you plan to come.
In addition to the online store and the booths at the farmers markets, you can find some Company Confections at Piedmont Grocery (Oakland) and Palm + Perkins (Berkeley).