This week, we at Dibs had to chew. And chew. And chew. We did it for the sake of artistry, in support of independent enterprise, to whet the blades of ambition and fan the flames of rivalry and to honor butter and sugar and the power of chemistry to spin these two exquisitely simple ingredients into softly, stretchily exquisite confections that create their own exercise program, if flexing your mandibles counts as a workout.
We were among the judges at a roundtable competition based on selecting America’s best artisan caramels.
Organized by TasteTV, the confab entailed tasting dozens of different caramels from dozens of different companies and evaluating their packaging, appearance, uniqueness, ingredient combinations, flavor and general artistry. Grueling work, we know. Our dentist can now afford that yacht he wants.
Among the many glorious competitors (winners have yet to be announced) were Kandinsky-esque delights from Wild Sweets and faceted, gleaming jewel-like designer caramels from Phillip Ashley. Local-ism wasn’t a category in TasteTV’s contest, but Austin, Texas-based Delysia Chocolatier won our own private Local Caramel Prize for its Salt Lick BBQ Dry Rub caramels:
Subtle at first and then slowly building up to a smokin’-hot sweetness, these soft squares were inspired by (and created for) the Salt Lick Bar-B-Que restaurant in Driftwood Texas, adorably packaged in pure white boxes whose snowy hue serves as a whimsical counterpart to the moody dark-chocolate bitterness and bright peppery blaze.
Kudos to chocolatier Nicole Patel, a trained engineer and former Fortune 100 business leader who has made good on a lifelong love of creating sweet treats while keeping local-ism alive. Nothing says “Texas” like capsicum-infused caramels that bite you back!