Couple creates unique artisanal chocolates
A truffle is a confection to be enjoyed and savored slowly and with attention, according to Homer Truffle Co. owners and confectioners, David and Evangelina Briggs.
Gradual and deliberate describes the couple'?approach to developing their business and lifestyle. Parents to two sons, ages two years and six months, they wanted a home-based, online business in a tight-knit Alaska community where they could attend to and enjoy their family, have a simple lifestyle, grow their own food and have chickens, goats and a greenhouse. Both like the pace at which the business is growing and they have developed a naturally flowing tag team system with the kids, as they work together.
"It's fun for us — a family affair!" they agree.
They chose Homer and truffle/confection making, both of which fit their chosen pace. In search of a place to settle, two years ago, in the January cold, they visited Homer, staying at Land's End on the then-deserted Spit. As they explored, they liked what they saw and decided it was a fit, even finding a house within a few days. They love the more personal vibe here, according to David.
"There's more integrity here, a community, a small-town feel where people are true to their word."
Raised in Wasilla, David is no stranger to candy-making. His mom owned and operated a successful candy enterprise, Tundra Chocolates, in Anchorage and Wasilla for many years. She sold the business in 1992.
When asked, 'Why truffles?' he replies "Just try them!"
Evangelina hails from San Antonio, Texas, where she was a self-described 'brain' in school. "I always wanted to join the military, but the high school counselors, who saw college as my future, kept me away from the recruiters. After college, she started out as a statistician, later becoming a substance abuse case manager and probation officer. Eventually she joined the Navy, where she met David.
"We were in A-school together, which is where you get your specific training. We were older members of the same unit, hung out with mutual friends, and it just clicked," she said.
In their case, they trained to become military cops, known as MA, or Master at Arms. When training ended, she was stationed in the Middle East and he in the states. When she was home on a visit to San Antonio he found a clever way to propose. At graduation they were issued T-shirts emblazoned with MA and surname. Her name was misspelled, Sandovall, with an extra 'L'. At dinner, David announced that he could fix the error, as he pulled out a shirt that read instead, 'MA Briggs'.
Apparently she said yes, because, just after the proposal, her Mom queried, "when is the wedding?" He replied, "on Tuesday!" The duo married in a simple ceremony at a local B and B, she in simple white dress and black leather jacket, he in his Leather Harley attire.
As he left the service and she transferred into inactive military reserve status, they moved to Homer to begin their lives as aspiring entrepreneurs. The couple loves the challenge, studying recipes worldwide, experimenting endlessly and setting their standards high. "All around it has to be perfect," she said, which undoubtedly includes the creative embellishment she adds to each piece. David has dubbed her 'The Magic Maker.'
Getting procedures and techniques down are key and failures become lessons, according to the partners. "We experiment and brainstorm incessantly on finished products. We are neophytes, but are dedicated to flavor, texture, and delicacy and preparation with love and care."
You must be patient with chocolate," said Evangelina, "it constantly tests you. It is not an easy medium to work with. It is temperamental, finicky, and is easily affected by moisture and temperature. Getting it right is an arduous process."
To further her knowledge and experience, Evangelina is enrolled in a unique online culinary program, the Escoffier School of Culinary Arts based in Boulder, Colo. She speaks of the school with enthusiasm, "It is the only licensed, industry-endorsed, online culinary school — it is legit. I wanted experience, so it's a blessing that I found them. I am learning the science. They make you document everything and you always have access to chefs.
"Chocolate is fascinating to me," she said, "At first it made me crazy, trying to get it right. I like to create, and this journey has led me to a gradual self-discovery of my passion!"
Developing new flavors is a unique challenge, they agree. "For instance, when developing the pumpkin pie truffle we didn't want to make it chalky with chocolate, so used a smooth cocoa butter in the filling mixed with a white chocolate outer shell," he explained. "And we developed the cherry cordial in the old-fashioned style with the liquidy interior instead of a paste."
Current truffles include raspberry, cinnamon, gingerbread, cranberry, mocha, peanut butter, dark chocolate and more. Other confections include many flavors of their two-inch, paw-imprinted discs, Bear Paws, and coming attractions include artisanal bon-bons.
The business is also working on seasonal truffle offerings, like this year's holiday mints, pumpkin pie and mocha, and some ideas for spring and summer are drink-flavored refreshers like banana daiquiri, coconut, lime and Mai Tai.
The truffles come in several package sizes: two, five, eight, 16 and 32 pieces. Although eventually the company may consider a brick and mortar storefront, the current business focus is online. For product photos, go to Instagram @homertruffleco.
The company website, www.homertruffle.co, is live, but still under construction.
Until it is complete, anyone looking for the chocolates in the Homer or Anchor Point area can call (907-435-7941?or email email@example.com (NOT .com). And, a bonus, the company delivers!
The chocolate factory's Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) kitchen is coming along, with lots of stainless steel surfaces and exposed piping, "for that industrial feel," said David. "The DEC focus is on sanitation, cleanliness and labeling."
David explained HTC's philosophy: "For our chocolates, we want that traditional feel, richer ingredients — making luxury chocolates again."
"We want to create guilty pleasures, not just handfuls of chocolate that you pop into your mouth," she added.
The company website states that Homer Truffle Co. strives to provide chocolate products that are perfectly simple, handmade, handcrafted, and full of flavor.
One way that David and Evangelina are recognizing their success is to witness what he calls 'the eye roll,' as new customers taste a sample, and the sensuous and satisfying nature of a truffle is experienced — a bite of pure pleasure. "We want a product that looks good, tastes good and makes people feel good," said David.