Laguna’s independent food purveyors aim to entice with a variety of artisanal goods.
By Beth Fhaner
The trend of eating sustainable, locally sourced foods shows no signs of tapering. In fact, the passing of the California Homemade Food Act last January only added momentum to the small batch movement, allowing specialized “cottage” food enterprises to sell snacks like chocolates, preserves, honey and baked goods to grateful gourmands across the golden state. With overall interest in homemade goods on the rise, Laguna Beach Magazine spoke to some of the city’s small batch food and beverage purveryors, whose diverse offerings run the gamut from finely crafted chocolates to locally processed wines. As these vendors prove, in one case at least, bigger isn’t always better.
At Michelle haut Chocolat, admirers of the decadent confection can indulge in elegantly handcrafted sweets, which are made daily from scratch using a variety of natural ingredients. Michelle’s bespoke blend is a 73 percent bittersweet chocolate from Belgium, and although she still practices traditional European methods of artisanal craftsmanship, her chocolates flaunt a contemporary edge. Uncommon garnishes like crystallized rose petals, lavender and black lava sea salt add zest and texture to her signature bars, but it’s the truffle that’s the star of the show at this shop. The bite-sized chocolates appear in a range of flavors, from burnt orange caramel to Italian floral honey, guaranteeing a truly unprecedented experience for the taste buds. “The best thing about making chocolate is seeing people smile after tasting a piece,” Michelle says. “We focus on quality, craftsmanship, true grit and a passion for what we do. Ultimately, we settle for nothing less than amazing work.” (949-630-5886; michellehautchocolat.com)
Regular diners at Mozambique restaurant no doubt are familiar with the eatery’s popular peri-peri chicken, peri-peri prawns or other sumptuous dishes prepared and served with the peppery peri-peri spice sourced from Southeast Africa. What they may not know, however, is that the restaurant’s Mozambique Spice Co. sells bottled peri-peri dipping sauce for home cooking use, too. The flavorful citric blend—which consists of roasted tomatoes, onions, apple cider vinegar, garlic, bird’s eye pepper and fresh herbs, among other ingredients—is a perfect complement to meats, poultry and shellfish. Mozambique Spice Co.’s well-loved peri-peri dipping sauce can be purchased online in 10-ounce bottles. (949-715-7777; mozambiquespice.foodoro.com)
Though relatively new to the cottage food scene, Jar’d Small Batch Goods Co. is revolutionizing the industry with a mouthwatering array of canned spreads and rubs. Concoctions like mimosa marmalade, pear and ginger jam, and vanilla cranberry and bourbon sauce—each handmade using locally sourced, natural ingredients—add 21st-century flair to traditional preserves. All of the brand’s batches are produced in limited quantities to ensure premium quality and flavor perfection. Meanwhile, nostalgic packaging—Mason jars, naturally—enhances the company’s down-home appeal. Personalized details, like printed and stamped labels, further emphasize the company’s passion for its products. “Jar’d Small Batch Goods Co. is the result of three friends and their love of condiments,” says Matt Contorelli, the company’s sales and customer service representative. “From our famous balsamic strawberry preserves to our new roasted jalapeno and rosemary salt, our locally sourced products are crafted to be great on nearly anything.” (jardgoods.com)
Influenced by their grandmother’s original recipes, Madrya’s owners endeavor to sell small batch condiments that have been lovingly crafted using unique blends of spices. The family-operated company offers a variety of tangy sauces that can be paired with meats, fish and vegetables, or added to rice and stew. Strains like the saffron marinade infuse dishes with a light floral flavor, while the brand’s umami eggplant mixes work well as savory toppings. Madrya’s condiments can be purchased online; in addition, the company’s website offers sample recipes that incorporate the signature sauces. (madrya.com)
Cookies and Confections
Tucked into Laguna Canyon, the Gecko Cookie Co. is a small bakery known for its scrumptious home-style cookies, dessert bars and hand-dipped chocolate confections. Laguna residents can find Gecko’s handcrafted products at local coffee shops, hotels, restaurants and specialty markets, plus the bakery sells its goods to individuals and companies for gifts and special occasions, too. An old-fashioned, hand-pressed butter shortbread cookie serves as Gecko’s signature cookie, and the sweet treat is used as the centerpiece for all gift boxes. Signature cookies also can be personalized with cookie stamps to match any company logo, holiday or event design. To truly indulge, try one of the bakery’s delicious gift boxes, including the Big Cookie, One Pound Toffee or Death by Chocolate offerings. (949-494-6960; geckocookies.com)
If you’re in the market for a gourmet, organic brew, nothing beats the Laguna Coffee Co., an award-winning shop that serves specialty coffees from an assortment of global vendors. Owners Paul and Cathy Ackley and Peggy Warner buy, roast and serve premium blends that are guaranteed to satisfy even the most particular coffee connoisseur. Using beans sourced from the best growing regions in the world—Africa, Brazil, Indonesia and Hawaii, to name a few—the Laguna Coffee Co. initiates a European roasting process that results in fresh and distinctive dark roasts, espressos, cappuccinos and even decaffeinated beverages. Independently owned and operated, the shop provides an exceptional experience for the palate. (949-494-6901; lagunacoffeeco.com)
The next time you’re driving through the canyon and need a quick respite, stop at Laguna Canyon Winery and savor the artisanal varietals available for tasting and purchase. Your grape escape is enhanced by three brands currently featured at the winery’s main tasting room; the selection includes the property’s eponymous label, as well as Purple Paws and Wyland Cellars. “We are a small, family-owned boutique winery selecting premium grapes from low-yield vineyards in Napa and Sonoma Valleys, which are then transported to the winery for processing,” explains Marlowe Huber, Laguna Canyon Winery’s owner and winemaker. “Our wines have received many awards from the Orange County Fair, which is the largest California wine competition anywhere.” (949-715-9463; lagunacanyonwinery.com) LBM