‘Artisan” has become so ubiquitous that McDonald’s applies it to its chicken sandwich.
For a reminder of the term’s stricter definition, consider how Sacramento’s Puur Chocolat achieves the glassy effect that makes its bonbons look so distinctive.
It requires a few rounds of tempering and airbrushing and a cocoa butter spray – a process that adds texture as well as beauty. The thin, lightly crunchy outer layer of Puur’s pistachio-lime chocolates, for example, adds dimension to a treat also layered with lime gel, pistachio ganache and pistachio praline.
“It’s a whole adventure,” Nicole Perez, 33, who runs the 2-year-old business with her pastry-chef husband Ramon Perez, said of biting into Puur’s bonbons. Though the candy line has more notice for its looks and unusual flavors (such as Gochujang Korean hot pepper paste and red miso), the contrasting consistencies within bonbons contribute to the sensual experience, Nicole Perez said.
Ramon Perez, 34, grew up helping out in restaurant kitchens run by his chef father, Robert Perez, who once worked at Enotria. The elder Perez enlisted his son to make desserts at Citronée, the family’s former restaurant in Nevada City.
“He taught me the basics, crème brulee, tiramisu and profiteroles,” Ramon Perez said. From there, the young Perez improvised, staying at the restaurant until 3 a.m. to try out various flavor combinations.
He attended culinary school in Vermont, and worked in top-tier kitchens in the Netherlands and Los Angeles, sticking to savory until a stint at the Michelin-starred (and since-closed) L.A. restaurant Sona. He became the pastry chef there, and then for the restaurant group to which it belonged, stirring his love for cacao.
His family runs two restaurants in Santa Barbara. Perez said they headed south just as he and his wife headed north.
The timing was better regarding Sacramento’s food scene, which Puur’s opening caught mid-embrace of craftsmanship in general and specialty items (pickled vegetables, gelato, chocolate) in particular. Plus, Ginger Elizabeth already had thrown open the door for high-end, locally made chocolate. (A 12-piece – or non baker’s dozen – box of Puur costs $27.)
Puur was an online-centric business when it started. Internet sales now account for half their business, the Perezes say. The rest comes from visitors to their headquarters in an industrial park in Sacramento’s Village Green neighborhood, or to the Midtown Farmers Market, where the Perezes appear regularly. Andy’s Candy and Taylor’s Market also carry the line.
The Inn at Park Winters, a 4-year-old bed and breakfast that just began serving dinner to the public, also carries Puur Chocolat. The Perezes want to develop a line specifically for it. But they’re waiting for the inn’s just-planted vegetable garden to come up to provide ingredients.
“Artisan” is not the only buzz term for which Puur is an emblem. Though the Perezes get cocoa from South America and dairy from Petaluma, “our fruits, vegetables and herbs are probably 70 to 80 percent local,” Ramon Perez said.
Nicole and Ramon Perez – Puur Chocolat
What’s so special: Artistry is equally evident in presentation and in unusual but complementary flavor combinations.
The local connection: Made in Sacramento.
Where to buy it: Company headquarters, 4366 Pinell St., Sacramento, puurchocolat.com; Taylor’s Market, 2900 Freeport Blvd., Sacramento; Andy’s Candy, 1012 Ninth St., Sacramento; Midtown Farmers Market, 1050 20th St., Sacramento (Saturday mornings).
Expectations: Owners Ramon and Nicole Perez would like to expand their wholesale operation. Packing for bigger orders has been an issue, they said, but they’re looking at potential new designs.
Quote: “There’s no limitations for us” regarding ingredients. “We really like to go deep.”
Ramon Perez, Puur Chocolat co-owner