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Today, I stopped in to visit Fran's Chocolates in University Village. Fran Bigelow produces not only some of the best chocolates in the world, she also creates some of the finest ice cream I've ever enjoyed.

Before we go on, I have to invoke Stendahl's famous dictum about ice cream: "Ah, such a pity it isn't a sin!" Spoken like a true Catholic and a true Frenchman. And obviously, as much an ice cream devotee as I am.

FIf you live in Seattle and have never enjoyed Fran's confections, you must. Even if you don't live in Seattle, you can enjoy her mail order confection (alas, no ice creams though!).

Now, Fran's come out with her own chocolate cookbook, Pure Chocolate, which I heartily recommend.Everything that Fran produces is impeccable and delicious. But here are some of my personal favorites:

Tahitian Vanilla ice cream

Chocolats de chocolats ice cream

Turbinado Burnt Sugar ice cream

Dark chocolate truffles

Chocolate espresso torte

The Seattle Times' Pacific Magazine has done a Fran Bigelow profile with some fine photos. She's been written up in a New York Times food section blurb (but I think they've missed out in not featuring her food in an article) and food mags like Food & Wine & sells at Neimanmarcus.com (why in heaven's name am I shilling for them?). So the snooty wealthy can enjoy her as well.

This is not just Seattle's best, but some of the world's best!

This post first appeared in my blog: http://www.richardsilverstein.com/tikun_ol..._worlds_be.html

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the lemon ice cream is my favorite too. their raspberry sorbet is also incredible.

i'm bummed though - they used to have a truffle that was so good. it was big...too big for their boxes - i can't remember the name - but it was something regal. it definitely had gianduja in it and i think there was gold leaf on top. anyway - they stopped making them because they didn't fit into the sampler boxes. :angry:

from overheard in new york:

Kid #1: Paper beats rock. BAM! Your rock is blowed up!

Kid #2: "Bam" doesn't blow up, "bam" makes it spicy. Now I got a SPICY ROCK! You can't defeat that!

--6 Train

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I am a sucker for her caramel filled chocolates with fleur de sel on top.

Me too! I have to get some everytime I am at U Village. I see that they sell boxes of them at other stores, but I am never sure how fresh they are.

Practice Random Acts of Toasting

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I'm not sure I've ever tried Fran's chocolates, but I did have some of Essential's recently and thought they were excellent. Anyone tried both and care to comment on how they compare?

Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.

- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

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I'm not sure I've ever tried Fran's chocolates, but I did have some of Essential's recently and thought they were excellent.  Anyone tried both and care to comment on how they compare?

I can't say that I've ever tried Essential's chocolates, but I can't imagine they'd be anywhere near Fran's quality. I HAVE had Essential's breads & they're creditable breads, but not nearly of the quality of Dahlia Bakery's ficelle or Tallgrass's hominy. I view Essential as a B+ on the food scale, while I view Fran's as an A+.

On a different subject, remember when Fran's provided a free truffle sample to anyone who asked? That was divine.

As for the lemon ice cream, I haven't actually bought the cookbook yet so I don't know. I'm guessing that her cookbook will focus on what she produces that she can distribute nationally. I wouldn't think she'd focus on ice cream since she only makes that here in Seattle. But I hope I'm wrong about that.

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I'm not sure I've ever tried Fran's chocolates, but I did have some of Essential's recently and thought they were excellent.  Anyone tried both and care to comment on how they compare?

I can't say that I've ever tried Essential's chocolates, but I can't imagine they'd be anywhere near Fran's quality. I HAVE had Essential's breads & they're creditable breads, but not nearly of the quality of Dahlia Bakery's ficelle or Tallgrass's hominy. I view Essential as a B+ on the food scale, while I view Fran's as an A+.

That seems a bit unfair...

Gimme what cha got for a pork chop!

-Freakmaster

I have two words for America... Meat Crust.

-Mario

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According Amazon, the book won't be out until October. I love her stuff and agree that Fran's chocolates are world class. Nicely ballanced, smooth fillings will impecable coatings - very French in style. Have to check out the book when it hits the stands.

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I can't say that I've ever tried Essential's chocolates, but I can't imagine they'd be anywhere near Fran's quality. I HAVE had Essential's breads & they're creditable breads, but not nearly of the quality of Dahlia Bakery's ficelle or Tallgrass's hominy. I view Essential as a B+ on the food scale, while I view Fran's as an A+.

Like I said, I haven't tried Fran's so you may be right. I have eaten a lot of other high end chocolates and I think Essential's are really excellent. I wouldn't necessarily equate their place in the chocolate world with their place in the bread world. Based on the other Fran's products I've had, I can believe what Schielke said being true, that Essential's chocolate's aren't as "sexy" as Fran's.

Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.

- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

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Has anyone besides me tasted the "Choc Elan" chocolates. They are produced on Mercer Island I think and are sold in selected locations, including Sur La Table. The are Exquisite looking and more like Essentials in taste profile. One of the principals in the company is Bill Fredericks (the chocolate man) who teaches chocolate tasting and gives classes in molding chocolates and truffles in this area. He also retails many varieties of bulk chocolate and rents tempering machine and molds.

Fred Rowe

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I worked at Fran's for about a year and have to say that the quality of the stuff we'd put out was exemplary. Fran herself would come out often during production, and if she tried something she didn't like, entire racks would be tossed until they were to her satisfaction. Standards were always the highest. Every single person on the floor was a perfectionist. And I think the product still shows that today.

Even then, I still have my favorites. The stuffed figs have incredible ganache centers, but the figlets are even better. The chocolate dipped apricots are a wonderful balance of bright and succulent. The cinnamon truffle is lovely and subtle. I was there when they developed the salt caramels and the spiced nuts, and I love them both. Some of the best stuff I ever tasted were the experiments. Never liked the ice creams, though - too rich for me.

I've tried Essential's stuff as well - it's good, and creative, and the pates des fruits are the best I've had. Dilletante's, though, is like sawdust to me. They used to make this fabulous apricot caramel, but since it's gone I think the quality has gone downhill. Still like their caramel sauce, though.

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... if she tried something she didn't like, entire racks would be tossed until they were to her satisfaction. ...

Actually, I don't know if they were really "tossed"....my grandmother used to own a small apartment building on Capitol Hill and one of her favorite tenants was a Fran's employee, who used to bring us the "rejects". (I think they were up to taste standards, but misshapen or malformed). Ah, those were the days!

I agree that Essential's are also excellent, although the prices give me the flutters. Are they up and running in the old Red Hook building or what? I peeked in yesterday and saw chocolate drippings on bowls and pans -- a good sign, but otherwise it still looked like it was under construction.

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I can't say that I've ever tried Essential's chocolates, but I can't imagine they'd be anywhere near Fran's quality. 

Wow, that's a bit extreme. I think Fran's are just "OK" (though I really like the caramels with fleur de sel) compared with any of the high-end Euro brands (Neuhaus, Richart, Maison du Chocolat, Pierre Marcolini etc etc etc) but I thought the Essential chocolates were quite good. Even my very particular Belgian friends think the Essential chocs are good. Head over to Neuhaus and try some of their chocs, or if you're feeling extravagant, order a box from Maison du Chocolat - you owe it to yourself to get some perspective.

- S

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I ADORE Fran's also. I've been addicted to her truffles for some time now. I got my sister hooked also, and she brings me a box when she comes over now. My fav is bitter sweet truffel with gold on top. There's another truffle that has a wine flavor, but the name escapes me now, but it's great. I also love the fig ganache. I want to try the figlets and their ice cream.

What I love about Fran's is that her chocolates are fresh, they smell fresh, taste fresh, heavenly. I like their coffee bean nuggets also. IMO, Frans out ranks Maison du Chocolat. I will try and ask for a sample the next time and see what happens. Restrain yourself from buying a whole box of sea salt caramels, you have to eat em while fresh and you may get sick....sharing would be good. :smile:

I heard that she moved her gorgeous Bellevue location because an Indian restaurant moved next door and the aroma affected her chocolates........I wonder if that is true?

Now I rather spend my money on Fran's than yoku moku treats. Worth every cent.

hungry_moose

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Regarding Essential going into Red Hook - is that true?

I heard that an ex-Starbucks exec (another SBUX exec besides the one that opened Tutta Bella) is opening a chocolate place at old Red Hook place in Freemont. He was to have a chocolate roasting/making tour and sell some high end fresh chocolates there. I wonder what happened.....I was so looking forward to touring a chocolate plant! If anyone has the scoop - DO TELL!

hungry_moose :unsure:

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