Fresh off winning two honors at the 2013 Good Food Awards, chocolatier Jeff Shepherd and his Lillie Belle Farms Handmade Chocolates are set to unveil their 2013 organic “bean-to-bar” line at the 2013 Natural Products Expo West trade show in Anaheim, Calif. The award-winning “Rock-and-Roll Chocolatier,” who is based in Southern Oregon and is celebrating his company’s 10-year anniversary this year, will be exhibiting at the show for the first time.
“I am so excited to be able to share my unique organic chocolates with the natural retail trade,” Shepherd said. “This year’s line is shaping up to be truly something special.”
Shepherd was named one of the Top 10 Chocolatiers in North America by Dessert Professional magazine in 2009, and his Lillie Belle Farms has come to be known for award-winning, artisan organic chocolates that are completely handmade using time-honored European techniques, but with an American twist. The chocolatier offers a full line of unique truffles, exotic caramels, out-of-this world bars and irreverent novelty products.
One of Shepherd’s more outlandishly named new products, “The Most Awesome Chocolate Bar EVER!” – made with organic milk chocolate, caramelized almond and hazelnut butter, feuilletine and sea salt – has certainly lived up to its billing. In September 2012, it took home a gold medal at the Northwest Chocolate Festival in Seattle. Then in January at the 2013 Good Food Awards, it picked up two more honors: A Good Food Award in the confections category, and a Good Food Awards Gold Seal, which honors a commitment to sustainability and organics. This year’s Good Food Awards also marked the second year in a row Shepherd was honored – he won the same two awards in 2012 for one of his bean-to-bar chocolates, The Perfect Illusion.
To create his bean-to-bar line, Shepherd scours the richest cacao-growing regions in the world to find the highest quality beans, and each year the line differs slightly based on what he finds. The bars are made in small batches from organic chocolate that Shepherd processes himself, and the bars from year-to-year represent limited edition offerings.
“Each bar in the bean-to-bar line is an experience unto itself, as well as an expression of who I am as a chocolate maker,” Shepherd said. “For me, making those bars is where I really have fun, creating something from the ground up that is truly unlike any other bar available. The bars are all about the beans they’re made from, the quality of the fermentation, the individual roasts and my wild imagination.”
This year’s bean-to-bar line consists of the following:
· Dark Star – The line’s darkest chocolate with an 80% cacao content, Dark Star features a blend of beans from the Dominican Republic and Peru, along with a touch of organic vanilla bean for a smooth finish.
· Perfect Illusion – The 2012 Double Good Food Awards winner features a 65% cacao content and fair-trade Criollo beans from an organic Peruvian Co-Op that are delicately roasted and conched for almost 70 hours.
· Purple Haze – A 75% cacao content bar with chocolate made from Venezuelan beans roasted to perfection, resulting in an earthy, surprisingly smooth experience.
· Stella Blue – A dark milk chocolate with 50% cacao content and featuring chocolate made from Bolivian beans blended with tangy buttermilk and powdered blue cheese from the famous Rogue Creamery.
· Sunshine Daydream – Unlike traditional milk chocolate bars, this 45% cacao content bar made from Peruvian beans features buttermilk, which adds to the bars’ unparalleled richness.
Shepherd’s dedication to his craft has earned him a large and loyal following of fans across the country, including some of the biggest names in music <http://www.lilliebellefarms.com/pilot.asp?pg=rocknroll> . Shepherd has provided his chocolates to artists such as Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Crosby, Stills and Nash, members of the Grateful Dead and dozens more. In fact, his frequent presence backstage at shows, along with the names of his chocolates and his psychedelic-influenced packaging – designed by Shepherd himself – have earned Shepherd the nickname, “Rock-and-Roll Chocolatier.”
Visitors to the Lillie Belle Farms booth (#5389) at Natural Products Expo West 2013 may feel as though they’ve stumbled backstage at a concert. Loud, colorful and “in-your-face” Shepherd will be sampling his 2013 bean-to-bar line, “The Most Awesome Chocolate Bar EVER!” and more, including his “Don’t Eat This Chocolate” bar, which features a blend of organic milk and dark chocolates with Ghost Chili Peppers, Aji Amarillo Chili Peppers and Chile de árbol. That bar picked up a Golden Chili at the 2010 Zest Fest in Fort Worth, Texas, for being named Best Chocolate.
The only question: Will Expo West attendees follow the advice of the bar’s name?
About Lillie Belle Farms
Founded in 2002 when chocolatier Jeff Shepherd began making four flavors of truffles on his home kitchen counter and selling them at local farmers markets in Southern Oregon, Central Point-based Lillie Belle Farms Handmade Chocolates offers a full line of award-winning artisan chocolates that are handmade in the European way, but with an American twist. In 2009 Shepherd was named one of the Top 10 Chocolatiers in North America by Dessert Professional magazine for his unique brand of handmade truffles, bon bons, novelties and bars, including a line of bean-to-bar chocolates. Lillie Belle Farms’ chocolates are available in fine stores across the country, and its full line of year-round and seasonal chocolates can be found at its retail store in Central Point, as well as online at www.lilliebellefarms.com <http://www.lilliebellefarms.com/> .