A Hometown Favorite Is A Great Source For Chanukah Gifts. | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

A Hometown Favorite Is A Great Source For Chanukah Gifts.

A Hometown Favorite Is A Great Source For Chanukah Gifts.

That "I Love Lucy" episode was more true than it seemed. Ronnie Fein/JW

All of Li-Lac’s products are OU-certified.

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Every year after eating my way through Kosherfest, the annual food show at the New Jersey Meadowlands, I think about which new product I liked best. There are always a few real contenders. Some as sensational as Jack’s Gourmet facon, others interesting riffs on the existing, like Matzolah Chocolate Almond Granola.

But I have to confess that my favorite of favorites is always an oldie but goodie: Li-Lac Chocolates Buttercrunch (OU). I whizz by their booth because I know if I linger too long I will consume all the samples.

What makes this Buttercrunch so good? The toffee part has the perfect level of salt to balance the sweet chocolate, which actually tastes like chocolate, not sugar. The toffee is also firm and brittle, not so hard that it will break your teeth. The tiny nut crumbs provide an additional layer of pleasurable texture. Myohmy, I love it.

This year, as I grabbed my fourth sample, I mentioned to Christopher Taylor, who owns the company (along with chocolatier Anwar Khoder and president Anthony Cirone) that I remember Li-Lac from back in the day, when it was a tiny mom-and-pop in the West Village; in fact, it is Manhattan’s oldest chocolate shop. Today Li-Lac is bigger business, with four stores and one more to open next year. All of its products are OU-certified.

But big hasn’t changed the company’s ways. They’re not trend- setters, and they’re proud of it: no Balsamic-Chili Truffles here. Their chocolates include tried-and-true staples such as almond bark, marshmallow bars, raspberry jellies, chocolate-coated Oreos and chocolate-covered orange peel (dangerously good). New items are occasionally added to the lineup after they prove their staying power with the consumer. “We’ve been called stubbornly old fashioned, by the ‘Wall Street Journal,’” Taylor said.

When he invited me to tour their factory, who was I to say no? So I schlepped for almost two hours from Connecticut to Brooklyn, where they make their stuff. The cocoa aroma was a most welcome hello, though Taylor told me he doesn’t even notice it anymore. I got to see all aspects of chocolate candy making: chocolate melting in a big vat, chocolate poured into a mold, chocolate drizzled over marzipan to give it a thick brown coat, chocolates being mixed with colorful sprinkles for nonpareils, candies being glazed with signature icings, inventive chocolate gifts – trucks, dinosaurs, Statues of Liberty, a chocolate Noah’s Ark!

My first sample was a fresh salted caramel coming off the “I Love Lucy” machine, aptly named for the famous scene where Lucy stuffs chocolates into her mouth and pockets.

Alas, no there was Buttercrunch on the menu that day, but I did also get to sample a memorably delicious French Mint, a couple of non-pareils and two hazelnut chocolate pieces. I should have jogged home.

Folks, this is a serious candy store and a solid Chanukah destination! You can order online or got to their brick-and-mortar stores. Of course, they make gold-foil wrapped Chanukah gelt, but also a big chocolate treasure chest filled with gelt! Or a chocolate dreidel filled with gelt, or individual chocolate (dark and milk) stars of David and menorah lollypops. Grown-ups will love gift boxes of embossed chocolagtes and blue-sprinkled nonpareils. For me? The Buttercrunch gift box, please.

Ronnie Fein is a cookbook author, food writer and cooking teacher in Stamford. She is the author of The Modern Kosher Kitchen and Hip Kosher. Visit her at her food blog, Kitchen Vignettes, Facebook and Twitter.

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