Bonbon Bounty

Words by Kate Daly

Photos by Paulette Phlipot

Words by Kate Daly

Given that chocolate makes just about anything better, it seems fitting that the creation of Woodside Chocolate Company brought hope in a dark time. “We were searching for ways to keep everyone employed” at Bacchus Management Group’s restaurants during the early pandemic, explains Tim Stannard, the founding partner and president of the hospitality company behind The Village Pub and The Village Bakery in Woodside as well as Selby’s in Atherton.

“Some of the pastry chefs got together to make candy bars and they were spectacular,” he recalls. After some packaging and branding work, a “tiny little company” called Woodside Chocolate Company launched three product lines: gourmet chocolate bars, hot chocolate bombs and bonbons.
Woodside Chocolate Company has brought new life to the mignardises, the sweet finale at the end of a meal. The bonbons get rave reviews when they are handed out to dinner guests as after-dessert desserts at The Village Pub and Selby’s, and “sell like crazy” at The Village Bakery and the company’s café at Spruce in San Francisco, Tim shares.

Andi Rouse has worked for Bacchus restaurants for several years and became its chocolatier and pastry chef in 2023. She and her apprentice keep busy, devoting their attention full-time to the making of sweet creations in a pastry kitchen located upstairs from Selby’s.

Andi says the most popular item in the rotating lineup of their seasonal, well-balanced confections is an eye-catching dark chocolate caramel bar covered in edible 23-karat gold leaf. That bar is likely to stay in the repertoire while new flavors are explored. This spring, they are experimenting with flavors derived from fresh berries grown at the organic SMIP Ranch on Dale Djerassi’s property in the hills above Woodside, and there are plans to play around with chamomile, cherry blossom and rose petal infusions. In her search for the perfect citrus-flavored bonbon, Andi is experimenting with bergamot, the fragrant orange native to southern Italy that perfumes a cup of Earl Grey tea.

Research and development typically take place on Fridays. The rest of the week is devoted to production, since most of their confections are so labor-intensive they require three days to make.

Andi describes how the bonbon-making process starts by preparing about 80 polycarbonate molds. After cleaning and polishing them, the focus turns to the tempering machine. That’s where molten Valrhona chocolate is run through multiple temperature settings, allowing crystals to form that give the finished treats their highly-prized “snap and shine,” she says. For the best shine, Andi decorates the molds and leaves them overnight.

Next, ganache fillings are made and shells formed, once again using the key ingredient: Valrhona chocolate, a premium brand that has been manufactured near Lyon, France, for over 100 years. The chocolate is sourced from close to 17,000 cocoa producers spread out in the Caribbean, Central and South America, and Africa. The day after filling the bonbon shells with ganache, Andi and her partner use a capping machine to make the flat bonbon bottoms.

For Valentine’s Day, a box of bonbons included white chocolate raspberry rose, dark chocolate caramel and a “vibrant” milk chocolate passion fruit. Of the seasonal flavors, Andi favors the gingersnap cookie bonbon they concocted for Christmas.

As for what you might find in future boxes? Who knows! Constantly inventing, Andi says there’s no telling what the next flavor combinations will be. She subjects new possible combos to a series of taste-tests, gathering feedback from her apprentice and Bacchus partners.

What should Peninsula gourmands be on the lookout for? Three words: hot chocolate bombs. “Those are so much fun; they look like little bath bombs,” Tim says. “You drop them into hot milk and they melt and explode.” Changing its offerings with the seasons, Woodside Chocolate Company crafts snowmen-shaped bombs filled with hot cocoa mix and peppermint marshmallows at Christmas as well as heart-shaped bombs featuring heart-shaped mini-marshmallows for Valentine’s Day.

Their chocolate bars also come in all sorts of intriguing flavors, ranging from strawberry shortcake to chocolate pistachio, green matcha tea to cookies and cream, or cherry and almond, and white chocolate with strawberries. Tim’s personal favorite: a dark chocolate bar topped with Cadbury’s crunchy mini-Easter eggs.

“Everyone has a different palate,” Andi reasons. And the Woodside Chocolate Company sweetly embraces them all.

sweet indulgence –