Opened 13 years ago Uptown, Blue Frog Chocolates (5707 Magazine St., 504-269-5707; www.bluefrogchocolates.com) made a name for itself on the local culinary scene for its elegant and often witty confections. Co-founder/owner Ann Streiffer spoke with Gambit about leaping into a career as a chocolatier and her efforts to satisfy the Big Easy's sweet tooth.
How did you find yourself starting a chocolate shop?
Streiffer: My husband Rick and I started the business in 2000, in August, and the first thing we learned was, "Never open a chocolate shop in August in New Orleans." Because it's hot, and of course there are hurricanes, so when you have to evacuate, all of your chocolate melts.
And there weren't a lot of unique chocolate shops here at the time. We had praline shops and a few other things, but nothing like our model. We want to bring in as much pleasure and fun provided by chocolate as possible by making this a fun place to visit, a wonderful, friendly atmosphere, very "Cheers-friendly." We kind of just jumped in by the seat of our pants, found the building we wanted in the neighborhood we wanted and said, "We think we can do this." And here we are.
What's the most important thing you've learned about chocolate, and how has that shaped what you offer at Blue Frog?
S: What we discovered, as we made our way through the learning process of having a business like this, was that we wanted chocolate that was chocolate, without fats added to it or anything like that. We wanted a pure product, something that was chocolate and not wax, without vegetable oils added. Chocolate has its own cocoa butter, so we wanted to be sure that that was what wound up in the final product. So we learned that as we learned to work with the chocolate and being able to mold it, and and to temper it, which is a complicated process in itself. We wanted something that tasted great, but that wasn't so high-end that we couldn't afford to sell it, but we also definitely didn't want the lower end, because we needed something that we would enjoy ourselves. Finding that perfect balance was really important to us. It still is.
How do New Orleans' culture and flavors work their way into your confections?
S: We particularly love our "New Orleans collection," which includes chocolate-covered Zapp's. We take their spicy Crawtator chips and dip them in our delicious dark chocolate, and it's a really nice mix of sweet, salty and savory, very pleasing to the palate. That's our small batch creation. Then there's our "red beans and rice," which come from a process called "panned chocolate." The "beans" are what's known as chocolate lentil, similar to an M&M, but it has a higher cocoa content, paired with chocolate-covered sunflower seeds. Both together look like red beans and rice. ... We also have "Cajun bites" which are dark chocolate paired with cayenne pepper, which is really good, especially if you like spicy things. And New Orleanians really do love sweet and spicy together. — SCOTT GOLD