Blog

  • Help Intrigue Chocolate Find a 2nd Location

     

    After a great deal of research and planning, we are finally ready to pursue a second retail location for Intrigue Chocolate Co. The first location has been a big success (thank you, Pioneer Square!), but it is a lot to ask of one tiny shop to support itself, roughly 5 full time equivalent staff members, a kitchen, and a storage and admin office. A second location will allow us to reach more people and better utilize our existing kitchen capacity. The effort does come with a Costco-sized bag of excitement mixed with obstacles.

     

    Location

    Where should we look?! Areas we are already excited about would be just off of Pike Place Market, South Lake Union, or Ballard. We have considered a Bellevue focus, but we don’t know that area very well (maybe you do?). Do we open another location in the Seattle area or start looking south to Tacoma, Olympia, or even Portland? North to Everett, Woodinville, Kirkland, or Bellingham? 

    We always have a big winter holiday and Valentine’s Day season, which is when most of the permanent residents or office professionals in the neighborhood come to the shop. But to sustain the shop all year we have great success with first time visitors; introducing them to truffles made with fresh herbs and spices, and encouraging them to take gifts home with them. We want to focus on that ideal mix of customers for our second location. 

    It would also be nice if the second location were close to transportation lines, like the light rail or an easy bus route. Relying on “destination” traffic is a lot of pressure for one small chocolate shop. Activated streets - browsing walkers and day-trippers with many small store fronts - are our bread and butter. 

     

    Finances

    This is always a sticky issue for a small business. We decided to work with a financial consultant to help us understand our business better, and frame the conversation correctly for the bank. Pro tip: banks are much more interested in helping you manage existing cash flow, not exactly creating new cash flow. It’s a small distinction but an enormously important lesson for us, partly because it explains our past difficulty in conversations with the bank. Instead we’ve ended up leaning heavily on social fundraising like Kickstarter and Community Sourced Capital to grow our business. Now we want to build long term bank relationships, and learn to watch cashflow (as well as all the other business’s vitals) more closely.

     

    The Dream

    We’d like this second location to be a bit more lenient about coffee and tea beverages. The Pioneer Square store is right next to a Starbucks which limits us per the lease agreements. Coffee is a complimentary medium for certain styles of experiencing flavor. For instance, a milk drink with some of our cardamom syrup can be even more appealing when the coffee is in the cup, too. Coffee is a natural extension to our in-store experience, so it makes sense to plan some room for it to expand in our new location.

    So that’s the big news on that front. We’ll keep updating as we go, as we overcome hurdles, and when we finally sign that lease. Please keep your eyes open and let us know what you see out there that you think would be a good fit for Intrigue!

  • No Peanuts or Gluten in this Chocolate, We Think

    We are often asked if our chocolate contains any nuts or gluten. Our kitchen is not certified nut-free nor gluten-free, so for people with severe and dangerous allergies our answer needs to be complex to be clear. Here’s a bit more information for you to make an informed decision.

    We do not allow nuts or flour to enter our kitchen, and we take serious care with ingredients that may be of concern. We do this because some allergies - especially nuts and gluten - are so scary (!) and we want to limit our exposure to any customer surprise reactions.

    It is important to note that we use ingredients that come from a variety of sources where we do not have insight into possible cross-contamination issues. Therefore we can only say that there are no nuts and gluten as ingredients in the chocolate, with that caveat that they “may have been processed in a facility with…” For those reasons we deliberately do not make bold claims.

    Truffle flavors of note regarding nuts:

    Mahlab

    After some research we decided it was okay to include Mahlab in our lineup, but is an uncommon spice without much information available and therefore carries with it a bit of risk. Mahlab is the seed from the inside of a cherry pit and comes from the Mediterranean. It is not listed on any of the allergen websites as a nut allergy risk, but it is part of the Prunus genus which means it is related to almond. When we do make this flavor it's the last in the day and we wash the chocolate molds immediately afterward to reduce risk of potential cross contamination, just to be extra cautious.

    Liqueurs

    We stopped using liqueurs that list nut flavors. We weren’t comfortable enough with that. Goodbye, Frangelico! 

    Many liqueurs don’t list any ingredients. Apparently it’s not required for some bizarre reason. When we have even marginal concerns, we exercise caution and clean thoroughly afterward. If you know of any hidden nut risks, please tell us! 

    Truffle flavors of note regarding gluten:

    Stout Beer and Barley Malt

    Beer are made with malts from various grains. Gluten is definitely present but containable (no dust), so we make these only once a year, last batch of the week, and clean everything thoroughly. 

    Bourbon, Whiskey, Scotch

    Similar to the stout beer, these liqueurs are made with grains. Though the liquor is distilled and should have no gluten, some trace proteins might possibly occur. We use these, but fully disclose so that you can judge for yourself based on your individual experience. 

    We encourage you to ask us if you have any questions regarding ingredient intolerances! Please feel free to send us an email or ask in the shop. If we don’t know right away we’ll research for you. Happy chocolate eating!

  • Bean Count Contest Winners

    Few of us have interest in becoming a professional bean counter, but as a guessing game it drew interest! Last month we had a bean count guessing contest running in the shop (link) with the prize being a handy Amazfit Activity tracker worth $80 retail, and chocolate.

    The total number of beans in the bin was 4,218. Some of your guesses were way over the top! Our highest guess was 100,000, and the lowest was 444. Quite a spread.

    And the winners (drumroll please…):

    1st Evan Luza
    2nd Charlotte Abrams
    3rd Sebastian Robbins
    4th Justin Pratt
    5th Mariangela Crus
    6th Sarah Gingell
    7th Vitalie
    8th Drew Nelson
    9th J.T.
    10th Terie Bednarski

     Winners will be emailed and can pick up their Amazfit Tracker and a $10 chocolate gift certificate at the shop any time. Well done!

  • Recipe: Intrigue Spicy Brownies

    These Jamaican hot cocoa brownies were provided by Kyle last night for after hours at the shop. They were so good and went so fast! As promised, here's the recipe: 

    Ingredients

    MAKES 16 SERVINGS

    • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
    • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1 inch pieces
    • 1 1/4 cups sugar
    • 3/4 cup Intrigue Chocolate Company Cocoa Mix
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour

    Preparation

    Preheat oven to 325°. Line an 8x8x2 inches glass baking dish with foil, pressing firmly into pan and leaving a 2 inches overhang. Coat foil with nonstick spray; set baking dish aside.

    Melt butter in a small sauce-pan over medium heat. Let cool slightly. Whisk sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium bowl to combine. Pour butter in a steady stream into dry ingredients, whisking constantly to blend. Whisk in vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, beating vigorously to blend after each addition. Add flour and stir until just combined (do not overmix). Scrape batter into prepared pan; smooth top.

    Bake until top begins to crack and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 25-30 minutes.

    Transfer pan to a wire rack; let cool completely in pan. Using foil overhang, lift brownie out of pan; transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 16 squares.

    For this recipe I used organic unbleached sugar, organic butter, organic unbleached flour, homemade vanilla, and fresh (laid that day) eggs from my backyard chickens. You’re in for a treat!

     

  • Recipe: Chocolate Crackle Cookies

    Kyle made a batch of delicious cookies using some of our cocoa mixes last night. There aren't enough to share (well, there were, but we ate them all) so we thought we'd at least share the recipe if you wanted to make these at home.

    Ingredients

    2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/4 cup intrigue hot cocoa mix
    1 cup granulated sugar
    2 large eggs
    4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

    Directions

      1. Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring.
      2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and cocoa in a small bowl.
      3. Whisk together granulated sugar, eggs, and melted butter in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in melted chocolate and vanilla extract until smooth. Stir in flour mixture.
        1. Refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours.
          1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Roll tablespoons of dough into balls using your palms, then roll in confectioners' sugar to coat. Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing each 1 inch apart. Bake until slightly firm in the center, about 15 minutes.
            1. Let cool slightly on sheets set on wire racks. Transfer cookies to racks, and let cool completely.

                • You can use ANY of the 6 hot cocoa mix flavors to do these cookies
                • Experiment and have fun. I've used the cocoa mixes to make brownies, cakes, even no bake chocolate peanut butter cookies!
                • Our cocoas are less sweet than other cocoa mixes so you don't need to worry about altering the sugar in your recipe. Just replace cocoa powder in your recipe with any of the flavored cocoa mixes

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