The venerable Vancouver confectioner — well known for quality milk and dark chocolates in distinctive purple packaging, not to mention those cute little hedgehogs — is breaking down culinary boundaries with seasonal and specialty treats designed for a flourishing foodie culture.

Mitchell recently broke the chocolate-cheese barrier with a first-prize win at the 2011 Baking and Sweet Show for his brie, basil, lemon zest and fig truffle.“I’m very focused on developing sweet and savoury combinations and that’s a very hot trend in food right now,” said Mitchell. “We want to be known as a chocolatier, not just a chocolate maker.”

Foodies increasingly value quality and creativity over quantity, he said. And, as Mitchell noted in a recent article he penned for Chef’s Quarterly, the addition of savoury flavours, herbs, vinegars and even olive oils to chocolate opens the door for previously unimagined wine pairing possibilities.Owner Karen Flavelle gave Mitchell the order to run with the leaders of a fast-growing artisanal chocolate industry, and run he has.Among his first seasonal creations was a cream cheese red velvet centred chocolate for Valentine’s Day.“Cheese adds a whole different texture to chocolate,” he said. “I’ve also done a three-cheese truffle and I recently did a goat cheese and Chardonnay chocolate for the Toronto International Film Festival.”

Purdy’s Thanksgiving collection includes a new pumpkin caramel, flavoured with cinnamon and ginger, that is remarkably evocative of a slice of really good pumpkin pie.Pumpkin caramel and the red velvet filling are among a handful of “keeper” recipes, the truly great combinations that emerge from the 150-plus experimental chocolate flavour combinations Mitchell tries over the course of a year.Many are discarded. You won’t be eating a goat cheese-rosemary chocolate any time soon.“That just didn’t work, even though I thought it would be good,” said Mitchell.

A special treat Not yet released is another chocolate and cheese combination: Mitchell’s tiramisu chocolate with real mascarpone cheese, Kahlua, and Purdy’s secret blended milk chocolate as a truffle base, layered with a German white chocolate vodka ganache in a dark chocolate shell and topped with powdered cocoa.The effect is uncannily like eating a scoop of tiramisu with a dark chocolate spoon, which, if you think about it, is a pretty awesome idea.“For The Vancouver Sun anniversary I wanted to do something with cheese and the mascarpone adds an amazing texture and flavour,” said Mitchell. “I also wanted to do a dessert cup, which is different from anything we have ever done before.”Before the tiramisu chocolate hits the shelves of Purdy’s stores across Metro Vancouver and Canada, it will be introduced on The Vancouver Sun 100th Anniversary cruise, now steaming its way to Alaska on Holland America’s MS Volendam with 572 guests and many of the The Sun’s best-known editors, columnists and writers. Mitchell will be aboard to present the new confection to Sun staff and guests.

It makes perfect sense for Purdy’s — a Vancouver institution that opened its first store on Robson Street in 1907 — to be a part of The Sun’s 100th Anniversary celebration, said Sun Editor-in-Chief Harold Munro.Long road from AfricaLong before Mitchell works his magic, Purdy’s chocolate starts its life as a raw bean grown on a sustainable plantation on Africa’s Côte d’Ivoire.Purdy’s is a member of the World Cocoa Foundation, which works with farmers to stabilize incomes and to help them grow sustainably, with respect for the environment.

Read the full article