When I arrived at the San Francisco Chocolate Salon, I made a beeline for the Poco Dolce booth. Besides being madly in love with their salt-sprinkled burnt caramel and chocolate tiles, I wanted to say hi to chocolatier Kathy Wiley and her peeps since I'd recently written them up in Edible San Francisco. As I nibbled on a small bite of the aforementioned heaven, I decided to hit Kathy up for a recommendation on where to head next, since being caught in a large crowd that is slowly shuffling from side to side is my idea of hell. I wanted to get in, get the goods, and get out.
"Try the blue cheese truffles. They're in the back corner," she replied. My friend wrinkled her nose but I was off like a shot. (Or, given the thick swarms of humanity clustered around us, like a hippopotamus through mud. But a very fast and hungry hippopotamus on the scent of an unusual treat.) It wasn't that I thought the combination sounded good; the truth is, it sounded sort of horrible. But it also sounded interesting, and besides, if Kathy liked it, how bad could it be?
When I arrived at the Lillie Belle Farms stand it took me a minute for my eyes to focus amidst all the pretty truffles. But the second I spotted the shimmering silver-blue packaging, I knew I'd found what I was looking for. I quickly popped a sample in my mouth, half expecting to spit it out a moment later. Instead, my entire body began to slowly quiver, overcome with a taste that was positively angelic and a feeling that was stronger than happiness and more powerful than simple satisfaction.
This was an absolutely perfect chocolate.
The San Francisco Chocolate Salon agreed, and awarded it best new product at the show. The truffle is made by a small artisan chocolatier by the name of Jeff Shepherd, who is also the farmer/proprietor of Lillie Belle, an organic berry farm in southern Oregon. He got his start making truffles in the kitchen at home and selling them at the farmers' market. Today it's a full-time operation.
The Smokey Blue Truffles combine organic milk chocolate, local Oregonian cream, and toasted almonds with award-winning "Oregon Blue," an artisan cheese from The Rogue Creamery that is smoked over hazelnut shells. The result is a surprisingly mellow chocolate. The texture is smooth and silky, and the blue cheese and chocolate blend harmoniously into a flavor that is ethereal, and far more than the sum of its parts. Though both the sweet chocolate and the tangy cheese are clear and strong, neither overpowers the other.
According to Shepherd, "Many people are skeptical at the beginning but after the first bite peoples' faces light up and they are immediately reaching for another one." That's exactly what I did. I promptly bought a box, tossed it into my purse, and greedily devoured the five truffles nestled inside at home later that night. It's hard to believe, but in the right hands, blue cheese and chocolate are a match made in heaven.
Lillie Belle's Smokey Blue Truffles are available for purchase online. $11 per box.