No trouble with these truffles: Rate one and get one free

Mona Newbauer, of Langley, with a dish of chocolates: “Everybody deserves the indulgence.” - Roy Jacobson / The Record
Mona Newbauer, of Langley, with a dish of chocolates: “Everybody deserves the indulgence.”
— image credit: Roy Jacobson / The Record

The economy’s a bummer, Christmas is coming, everybody’s stressed, but Mona Newbauer is ready and waiting with a sugar coat.

A free chocolate for everyone. Just one. But that’s $2 worth of bliss for free, she said.

“Everybody deserves the indulgence,” said Newbauer, owner of Island Angel Chocolates in downtown Langley. “This is your opportunity for the sweet life.”

Newbauer is giving away a truffle to anyone who comes into the shop and asks for one.

But there’s a catch. You have to fill out a short questionnaire. Newbauer wants to improve her chocolate-making skills, and is looking for help.

“I want to be the best,” she said.

So, step up and get your free truffle: Amore Amaretto, Marzipan Button, Luscious Lemon, Kickin’ Kokonut, Espresso Elegance, Lively Lime, Majestic Milk, Heated Passion — any of nearly 40 varieties made by Newbauer in her little shop on Second Street.

Testers are asked to evaluate aroma, flavor, texture and overall taste, and rate the sample on a scale of one to five.

Newbauer has nearly 100 responses so far, which she hasn’t brought herself to read. The survey continues until Dec. 23, when there will be a drawing, with the winner receiving a $50 gift certificate.

“Everybody has a different way of tasting something,” she said. With truffles, “it involves all five senses, like wine.”

“Everybody gets a different impression,” she added. “It’s all about perception.”

“I can’t be the best without feedback from people,” Newbauer said. “This is my opportunity to get better, and for them to get some free chocolate.”

Newbauer came up with the idea after taking part in a chocolate event in Seattle last summer that featured 30 booths and several foodies and critics. She won a couple of awards, but was hungry for more expertise.

Newbauer has lived on the island since her college days in the 1980s. “I love Langley,” she said.

Always fascinated by cooking, she started selling goods at local farmers markets and Christmas events about six years ago. She said it “was kind of quirky” how she came to turn pro.

One day, her young son, Phillip, went on his own across the street to the local bakery and told the owners his mother wanted to make chocolate truffles to sell. Cool, they said.

“I didn’t even know how to spell truffles,” she said, “But I’ve always said that if you get a chance to do something, you should go ahead and do it.”

She found a recipe on-line.

“It took me three days to make 149 truffles,” Newbauer said.

“I figured I’d have to charge $40 apiece. Anyway, they sold.”

Hooked by her initial success, Newbauer spent three months at the Ecole Chocolat Professional School of Chocolate Arts in Vancouver, British Columbia.

She studied the history, chemistry and artistry of chocolate making, and came away with a professional chocolatier’s certificate. She also attend a chocolatier’s course at the Chicago Pastry Institute.

She and her husband, Tony, opened Island Angel Chocolates about three years ago. They also sell baked goods and beverages.

That basic truffle recipe called for one part cream, one part chocolate, she said.

“They all started from that recipe, then they evolved,” she said.

Newbauer now adds purees, spices, alcohol, sugars, syrups — anything to make the truffles distinctive.

Her personal favorite is the Sweet Citrus Five-Spice, with orange, mango and Chinese spices — “not something you’ll find in every chocolate shop,” she said.

Newbauer makes her truffles in batches of 100. It takes about an hour to mix and fill the molds, then they sit overnight so any remaining moisture can evaporate.

She said the first truffle got its name because it resembled a truffle mushroom in the ground.

Newbauer sells her truffles for $2 apiece, or 12 for $22, but if you buy a $5 gift card benefitting Whidbey Island Share A Home, you get

10 percent off on every purchase for a year, Newbauer said.

She said her business overall has been up slightly for the year, but, reflecting the general state of the economy locally, December business has been off about 30 percent from last year.

In January, Newbauer will close the shop for a couple of weeks to do some remodeling.

“I’ve always had a feng shui problem,” she said. “I’m going to make it more comfortable, homey and welcoming.”

Meanwhile, Newbauer encourages everyone to come and get a free hit of chocolate to ward off the reality blues.

“Everybody is stressing out,” Newbauer said. “Chocolate is fun, creative comfort food.

“And it’s healthy for you,” she added. “It has that feel-good underlying chemical that makes the endorphins kick in.”

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