Every Wednesday USC hosts a farmer’s market on campus for students, staff, and community members alike to conveniently purchase fresh fruits, vegetables, and a variety of snacks and prepared foods. I love famer’s market day because it’s a wonderful excuse to take a stroll outside for a little while, get some sun, and pick up a few snacks to stash in my desk at work.
Today I visited the market on the earlier side, before many of the stalls had been set up. My stomach was growling, and I was still craving something more than the tangerine and almonds I had already purchased. I noticed one solitary stall on the far end of the pathway with a small crowd of students in front of it. I decided to check it out, and discovered a magical little table displaying an assortment of mouth-watering chocolate treats.
The woman behind the table immediately greeted me with a contagious smile. She introduced herself as Kimberly, the sole owner and chocolatier of Bond Bar. Kimberly explained that she runs a very small operation; in fact she makes all of her chocolate bars and barks in her home, and sells that at a few wineries and specialty markets.
She sources quality Belgian chocolate (her website mentions that she studied abroad in Belgium where she was inspired to pursue her chocolate making endeavors) and combines it with both sweet and savory elements to create irresistible bars. The chocolate bars on display contained flavors ranging from coconut and cookies and cream to peanut butter toffee crunch and ‘Celebration’ a bar that supposedly tastes just like birthday cake. Not all the bars are vegan, but many of them are, and most are gluten free as well.
Kimberly gave me a sample of the vegan/GF dark chocolate bar with dried cherries and roasted almonds. Needless to say, it was amazing! The 72% cocoa content contrasted nicely with the slight sweetness and tartness of the cherry, and savory aspect of the almonds; plus the bar is topped off with a subtle hint of cypress salt for an even more complex flavor. When you unwrap the bar, you can actually see big chunks of cherry and almonds all throughout, not like the more processed store-bought variety.
Now these are not your typical delicate chocolate bar—these Bond Bars are hefty! A single bar probably ways a quarter of a pound, and is much thicker than a typical chocolate bar. It almost looks like fudge in the wrapping. So even though the price per bar may drop your jaw momentarily ($5-10 at the market, up to $12 online), I can vouch for the fact that you are actually getting the same quantity of chocolate that would normally be in 2-3 ‘typical’ sized bars, and therefore is not actually so outrageous—especially considering the small scale at which Kimberly is producing her products.
Besides, I’m always inspired by individuals who are brave enough to start their own businesses, especially when they are genuinely passionate and driven enough to take a risk and produce something for others to enjoy. Kimberly won me over instantly with her friendly, enthusiastic disposition as she described her products and business. I was happy to support her by purchasing one of the cherry/almond bars (and almost immediately devouring a good portion of it with my colleagues upon returning to my office!).
The quality of the chocolate is apparent, and the variety of flavors Kimberly has on offer is impressive. There is no nutrition label on the bars, so I cannot determine the quantity of sugar or other ingredients in the chocolate. I will likely inquire next time I attend the market to get a better idea of the ingredients Kimberly uses. I would also be more likely to continually purchase a product like this if I knew that the cocoa and other key ingredients were organic and/or fair trade, which would further justify paying a higher price. But I know that with a small business, you have to take one step at a time (check back in the coming days for my review of Chocovivo, another local artisanal chocolate company that is making minimally processed, organic stone-ground chocolate, as well as KindKreme, which produces vegan raw chocolate desserts).
These bars are definitely a bit of an indulgence, but if its a choice between home-made dark chocolate or the sickeningly sweet kettle-corn that’s taking over farmer’s markets by storm, I’ll choose the artisanal chocolate any day of the week!
Dark chocolate Bond Bar with dried cherries and toasted almond ($10)
Health rating: 2.5 out of 5 (no nutrition label on the bar, so this is qualitative; the cocoa content is fairly high at 72% which is good, but there is definitely a decent amount of sugar—not sure whether it is refined or not—and perhaps soy lecithin as well)
Taste: 4.5 out of 5 (rich dark chocolate taste with generous amount of cherries and almonds, in a thick satiating bar; I could handle a bit more bitterness though)
Dark Chocolate Bond Bar with Sea Salt
Health rating: 2.5 out of 5 (see above)
Taste: 4 out of 5 (Wonderful rich dark chocolate flavor, just slightly too sweet to be my fave, and not as complex as the cherry/almond bar above, which is still my fave)