Last week I tried fashion blogging on for size. This week I am pretending to be a food blogger. A sponsored food blogger at that, shilling for a product I want you to buy. Not that anybody is paying me for this post, except for my husband, who pays me in foodstuffs. Especially caramel foodstuffs. Which is what this post is about.
I’ve linked to it a few times before, but I haven’t really told you about Robert’s business, Windy City Salt Works. Robert started making homemade salted caramels a few years ago, when I was in law school and he was working at a restaurant in Ann Arbor and we had enough money to pay rent and buy groceries, but not much else. He had the brilliant idea of making caramels to box up all pretty and send to our families for Christmas. He’d learn how to make something delicious and we’d save time and money not buying gifts (we both have big families). Robert started working on his recipe in October and it was a good thing, too, because it took him two months to get it just so. The money he spent on organic ingredients for practice batch after practice batch, not to mention the time, entirely defeated the initial purpose of the thing. I didn’t complain about this because salty caramels that are too soft or too hard are still salty caramels, and I was living off the failed batches.
When we moved to Chicago and Robert upgraded from the wonky little electric stove in his studio apartment to a decent gas range stove, the caramels are always perfect. Plus, in the last year or so he’s developed nine different flavors: Classic Fleur de Sel, Caramel Apple, Brown Sugar Bacon, Southwest Spice, Honey Lavender, Chocolate Stout, Maple Bourbon, Pumpkin Spice, and Earl Grey Almond. My favorite used to be Fleur de Sel, but now it’s Earl Grey-Almond, which is saying something, because Robert just invented that one this weekend. Also, I know bacon is so popular these days that it’s practically a cliche* when it turns up in unexpected foods, but Brown Sugar Bacon is just really, really good.
These things aren’t healthy by any means. I mean, they’re mostly butter. Plus each flavor has its own little bit of sin in it: bacon, or beer, or maple syrup. But Robert is pretty snobby about his ingredients, which are all organic. (I think the salt is the only thing that’s not certified organic, but it’s French, which is better than organic, and also it’s from the sea, so how can it not be organic?) Also, he refuses to use corn syrup, even though it would make them way easier and cheaper to produce. So if you worry about things like that, don’t.
I think my very favorite thing, though, is that Robert wraps each order up in a pretty, well-designed package. I love it because I like watching my husband fumble with the ribbon and twine, and because I am enormously impressed that he has a skill I can’t seem to grasp, namely, making things look nice (this is on top of the cooking talent, which I don’t even try to understand). I also like it because he initially conceived of these caramels as gifts for people we love, and they’ve turned into gifts on a broader scale: he fills orders for birthdays, graduations, weddings, thank yous, and just becauses.
I don’t really know how to end a post like this without being obnoxious, so I guess I’ll just say that if you want to drool over more photos or buy a box of caramels, visit Robert’s Etsy shop here.
*We caught an episode of No Reservations from 2009 tonight and watched Anthony Bourdain drink a bacon latte with surprise and delight. I think today he’d sneer at the gimmick.