February: The Sweetest Month?

Posted: February 1st, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Christopher's Table, Event, Finz, Gloucester, Harbor Sweets, Ipswich, News, Red Lulu, Rockport, Salem, Wine Connextion | Tags: , , | No Comments »

We hope you spent January getting all the holiday excess behind you because February promises to be a great month for indulgence, with or without a sweetheart. There’s one contest to win chocolate, two chocolate tours, and several Valentine’s Day dinner menus.

Wake up your creative side and enter Harbor Sweets’ Valentine’s Day Poem contest—the winner receives the gift-basket (pictured above) of chocolate worth $100 sent directly to their sweetheart. Just write a poem (1,000 words or less) about chocolate and submit it by February 11 to Poems@Harborsweets.com. Include your first and last name, phone number, and email. The winner will be notified by February 13 to allow enough time to ship the basket.

Chocolate lovers will want to be in Salem on February 8 for the 11th Annual Chocolate & Wine Tasting. Tickets are on sale now ($25 at the Salem Chamber of Commerce, this event sells out quickly, so don’t wait). From 6:30 to 8:30 at the Colonial Hall, there will be samplings galore from restaurants, stores, and sweet shops. For a taste of what to expect, check out our coverage of the 2011 event. The tasting is part of Salem’s So Sweet Chocolate & Ice Sculpture Festival, which runs from the 8th to the 14th and includes a myriad of offers and tastings.

On February 9, Gloucester hosts its first Downtown Chocolate Tour, marked by retailers with large red hearts on their doors. You can pick up a tour map at Toodeloos, Harbor Goods, or Premier Imprints after February 1. Then simply follow the map to pick up goodies at all the participating stores and bring your completed map to Island Art & Hobby to be entered in a raffle for a Cape Ann gift certificate.

Christopher’s Table in Ipswich is celebrating February 14 with a four-course romance-inspired dinner that includes a wine tasting. They’re following that up with a Crazy Sexy Chocolate party on February 23. This “evening of chocolate decadence with a cash bar” sounds intriguing.

The Valentine’s menu at Finz in Salem has unusual items such as strawberry burratta salad, cocoa-dusted scallops, and duck breast with a ginger/brandied pears/cherry/soy reduction.

Rockport’s Emerson Inn by the Sea always goes all out for Valentine’s Day. This year, the menu features fire-roasted shrimp and corn chowder, beef wellington, duck confit with blackberry reduction, and expresso crème brulée or spiced apple anadama bread pudding.

Red Lulu in Salem promises secret suprises on the 14th, along with a menu that includes spiced lobster bisque grilled endive and frisee salad with spiced candied walnuts and manchego cheese, statler chicken breast with don julio reposado
tequila sauce, and blackened ribeye with creamy polenta and tart cherry sauce

Also in Salem, the Hawthorne Hotel will be serving up Wellfleet oysters, seared tuna with spicy mediterranean-style relish, and Valrhona chocolate torte for two, among other things in a lavish Valentine’s spread.

Last, but certainly not least, Andover’s Wine ConneXtion and China Blossom are collaborating to find help you create a simple, romantic evening with their Take Out to Stay In deal. Place any takeout order from China Blossom before the 14th, and they will contact the Wine ConneXtion to put aside a perfectly paired wine for the order and have it ready for pick up. Or you can peruse the Wine ConneXtion aisles February 10 through February 14 for highlighted wines along with suggestions of the best China Blossom dish for pairing.

So go out and celebrate—we’ll eat healthy in March!

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Harbor Sweets Chocolate Factory: No Golden Ticket Required

Posted: June 19th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Harbor Sweets, Salem, Sweets and Treats | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments »

We didn’t see any Oompa Loompas, but there is a working chocolate factory just a few blocks from Salem center, complete with vats of chocolate, copper kettles full of hot sugar, and a (small) waterfall of white chocolate.

Many North Shore residents are familiar with Harbor Sweets, makers of the famous sailboat-shaped Sweet Sloop: a triangle of almond buttercrunch covered in white chocolate and dipped in dark chocolate and crushed pecans. But few are aware that the company offers free tours of the factory on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11:00 to 12:00. The company is also happy to accommodate groups (like Girl Scout troops) almost any time with a reservation.

One of the great things about the tour is that despite having been in business for 36 years, Harbor Sweets is still a very small operation. So rather than viewing production from a catwalk above a factory floor, you get an up-close look at the cooking, tempering, molding, wrapping, and packaging of the company’s sweet treats, which is done mostly by hand.

Our tour started in the best way possible, with a platter of rich chocolates to sample. Sweet Sloops are in the middle, at the bottom are Sweet Shells (dark chocolate with an orange crunch), and around the edges are a sampling of Dark Horse molded chocolates. While munching, we watched a short film about the company, which Ben Strohecker began in his basement—he challenged himself to create the best piece of candy in the world, regardless of cost.

hsstart1

We progressed on to a room filled with vats of melting chocolate (dark, milk, and white) and saw where batches of caramel for Sand Dollars and almond buttercrunch for Sweet Sloops are mixed by hand in copper kettles as they cook. The caramel is dispensed in dollops on large table, and when the temperature is perfect, a ringing ship’s bell calls all nearby workers to quickly press on pecan halves before they’re completely cool.

Another room holds the production line for finishing their signature candy. Triangles of cooled almond buttercrunch receive a coating of white chocolate top and bottom, and the sail is created by hand with an iced tea spoon. Finally, the pieces are dipped in dark chocolate and crushed pecans to become Sweet Sloops.

Finished chocolates are fed into one of three antique foil wrapping machines and packaged into bags or boxes by hand. The tour ends at the factory’s small store where you can purchase boxes of chocolates as well as individual bars, ice cream toppings, and Sail Mix.

Not only are Harbor Sweets’ chocolates something special, the people behind the candy are as well—warm, welcoming, and very enthusiastic about creating a quality product. Everyone we met was happy to share the experience with us.

Production varies due to season (late fall through Easter is the busiest time), so if you go during the summer, we suggest calling ahead to find out what’s happening on that day— although the facility is fascinating to see any time and truly a New England original.

Harbor Sweets
85 Leavitt Street, Salem
(978) 745-7648
www.harborsweets.com

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