Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Artisanal LA: Plush Puffs Puts the "More" in S'mores

Of the numerous temptations at last weekend's Artisanal LA, the sweets ruled the roost at Santa Monica Place. No less than 34 participants devoted themselves to sharing cakes, pies, cookies, brownies, caramels, jellies, and a host of other toothsome treats. Le Bon Garcon's handmade caramels got my vote for "Best Packaging" and a fabulously buttery product whose cool and silky surface reminded me of those chocolate Ice Cube candies. Sweet D├ętente offered organic pastries that were presented with a cultural history of each recipe's origin. But it was the gourmet marshmallows by Plush Puffs that completely bowled me over.

Reliving childhood memories of toasting marshmallows at the Plush Puffs booth. Not having had a real outdoorsy childhood, I always toasted marshmalllows on the kitchen range, so this was way more nostalgic than one would think!

Jennifer Leavens and Stacey Webb of Plush Puffs were the most welcoming and sincere vendors that Shiho and I spoke to at the entire show. And, like enthusiastic counselors at Camp Willy Wonka, they encouraged visitors to their booth to not only try every flavor of their product, but to toast said product on bamboo skewers over ramekins that held cans of Sterno.

Jennifer Leavens (at left) and Stacey Webb invited the curious - and just plain greedy! - to try every flavor of Plush Puffs.

In case you haven't heard, bacon is apparently the new chocolate. Almost every dessert booth we encountered had a bacon-enhanced version of their specialty. Plush Puffs also offers a maple bacon marshmallow, which like every other dessert booth we encountered, was out of stock. But no matter. Their remaining flavors took the whole marshmallow experience to new heights, literally.

Let them eat... marshmallow?! Plush Puffs' two-pounder is the size of a layer cake that would make all my birthday wishes come true!

Your basic supermarket marshmallow is stiff, dry, and powdery on the outside, gooey and almost Stretch Armstrong-like within. Plush Puffs are softer, with an almost pillowy texture. The dusting of sugar or cocoa on the Chocolate Chipetta and Simply S'mores varieties is very light, and enhances rather than dominates the creamy marshmallow texture. They are amazing "raw." (Untoasted.) But toasting them really brings out their best qualities.

Stalk of shame: We had to use a new skewer for each flavor of marshmallow sampled and I was somewhat embarrassed by the growing bundle I held in my hand. But not for long.

After sampling such exotic flavors as Strawberry Hibiscus (lovely and light), Orange Honey (perfect for topping baked yams at Thanksgiving), and Chocolate Chipetta (the chocolate is like buttah), I decided that Vanilla Bean was the most iconic flavor of all the Plush Puffs - lightly sweet without that overly sugary burn, what I always wished regular marshmallows tasted like. Now if I can only get away with keeping a can of Sterno on my desk...

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