COSTCO’S warehouse chocolate shoppe also includes Kirkland Signature fine European boutique chocolates. Arriving in both winter and spring, and now in its 11th season, the premium Kirkland Signature Belgian Chocolate Gift Box ($11.99*) uses responsibly sourced cocoa beans. It is made with the finest European ingre- dients and presents 14 different flavor profiles. My favorite is the Brussels Bouchee: dark chocolate filled with two intense chocolate ganaches. The 56-count Kirkland Signature Belgian Chocolate Cups ($14.99*) are a unique collection of filled Belgian chocolates. They arrive each Novem- ber. I’m wild about toppings such as dark chocolate bits and sea salt. These delectable chocolates are Costco choc- olatier and buyer Franck Myhre’s favorites, and are excellent for enter- taining; array them on platters. Not to be overlooked is the 2-pound jar of Kirkland Signature Chocolates of the World ($9.99*), a collection representing six countries that appears in warehouses in early fall. Shhh—I pick out all the dark caramel truffles first.—PV Kirkland Signature Fine Chocolates
we work with Old World artisans with mod-
ern equipment who think like us.”
Becky and Franck have a visit planned to
Union City, California, where one of Costco’s
chocolate processors, Blommer Chocolate,
and chocolate maker Kerry Group reside.
Lucky me, I tag along.
;e mouthwatering smell of just-roasted
chocolate hits my nose the moment I enter
the Blommer plant.
Tori Blommer-O’Malley greets us and
takes us on a tour. Her grandfather Henry
Blommer Sr., and his two brothers, Al and
Bernard, started the business in 1939.
Chocolate is made from the roasted seeds
(cocoa beans) of the cacao tree. It is at the
Blommer plant that Costco-stamped burlap
“bush” bags of cocoa beans, all inspected by
the Food and Drug Administration, are
opened and tested. Only the highest-quality
beans are accepted.
Shells are removed and the remaining
nibs (the center of the cocoa bean) are
roasted. ;e nibs are then ground in special
mills into chocolate liquor (there is no alcohol in chocolate liquor). Costco requires
roasting to a slightly mild roast and grinding
at a slower rate to achieve proper ;neness.
A;er viewing the process, we are able to
taste the ;nal liquid, much as you would wine:
eyeing, sni;ng, sipping, inhaling, holding
our breath and then exhaling through the
nose. ;e chocolate feels like farm-fresh butter in my mouth. My nose comes alive.
Anne Preston, a Kerry Group account
executive, says, “Costco has rigorous quality
standards for every production step. When it
comes to private-label chocolates, this is the
A;er the tour, we sample Costco choco-
lates in a tasting room. I’m surprised by the
excellent snap when I bite in and the fantastic
lingering ;nish on my tastebuds.
certi;cation label on these new Kirkland
Signature chocolates, you won’t ;nd it.
Costco currently chooses not to pay the
fee required for these “stamps of approval,”
as the added cost does not necessarily go
back to farmers. Rather, according to Sheri,
Costco prefers to partner directly with the
people in a country to purchase the beans
and together develop programs that bene;t
farmers, such as farm training and social
programs in health and education. (Roughly
two-thirds of the world’s, as well as Costco’s,
cacao is grown in Western Africa.)
Artistry and quality
The chocolate liquor is next shipped
around the corner to Kerry Group, where it
is blended with precise amounts of cocoa
butter to yield pure chocolate couverture.
Cocoa butter is what gives that extra
richness and mouth-feel to ;ne chocolate.
Not all manufacturers use cocoa butter, and
instead choose less expensive fats.
Many Kerry employees are true artisans,
with 25 to 30 years of chocolate-making
experience. Batch cooking is a priority to
produce handcra;ed chocolates.
Becky notes, “Our members are choco-
late connoisseurs. ;ey know that chocolates
with high cocoa butter content are more
solid and provide a good clean snap, and they
have quickly embraced these chocolates.”
;e 2-pound Kirkland Signature Milk
Chocolate Salted Caramel Macadamia
Clusters were recently introduced. From the
get-go, sales were phenomenal.
The rustic Kirkland Signature Classic
American Chocolates arrived this fall. Batches
are small and handmade in copper kettles, a
sign that the candy makers are scratch cooks
who know their confections and old-time
techniques, according to Franck.
Each 1-pound box serves up 21 pieces of
caramels, creams, to;ee, fudge, haystack and
cluster chocolates for just $8.99*; many retailers charge $16 and up for similar goodies.
Classics are the perfect go-to treats to
have on hand when you’re waiting for the
kids at school, reading a book, watching Glee
or sipping a glass of wine. I could swear the
almond butter to;ee is my mom’s recipe. I’m
very glad each piece o;ers up two bites.
Also available are Kirkland Signature
Milk Chocolate Raisins ( 54 ounces) and
Milk Chocolate Almonds ( 3 pounds). ;ey
are panned (coated in milk chocolate) in
artisanal vats and highly polished so they
won’t stick to your fingers. They can be
devoured by the handful.
At Blommer I spied a poster that read:
“Chocolate is the answer … no matter what
And Kirkland Signature sustainable
chocolate is the best answer of all. C
Kirkland Signature Classic
American Chocolates 1-lb. box
Chocolate as an art form
Sustainability is only a small part of what
makes these new Kirkland Signature chocolates so dreamy.
Chef and chocolatier Franck says, “Making
great chocolates is an art form. We are not
buying products o; a shelf someplace. Our
chocolates must have soul and character, so
Kirkland Signature Belgian
Chocolate Gift Box 1-lb. box
NOVEMBER 2010 ;e Costco Connection 89
Comparison shop in Bellevue, Washington; Princeton, New Jersey; and Fairview Park, Ohio, on
August 20, 2010. *Prices may vary due to shipping and handling.