Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night will keep me from enjoying chocolate. When it is very hot outside I’ve been known to turn on the air-conditioned seats in my car and put my box of chocolates in the passenger seat so my chocolates won’t melt on the way home.
At least once a week I find myself at Baylee’s Best Chocolate shop. My car just seems to automatically drive itself there. I adore her chocolates and have to have at least a bite of it every day. I’ve eaten chocolate in many places including the places you would think represent the best chocolate has to offer and Baylee’s lives up to it’s name…it is the BEST! On Friday, I found myself sequestered in Baylee’s Best Chocolate shop without an umbrella in a sudden torrential rain storm. I was a happy girl. I took this opportunity to sit with Bayla, the owner of Baylee’s Chocolates and ask her 10 questions that I have been longing to ask her since the shop opened several years ago:
3549 Electric Road, Roanoke, Virginia 24018 Located in West Village close to Fink’s Jewelers.
- Why chocolate? Most people like it. It is an affordable luxury, like lipstick. Bayla told me the “lipstick story” ~ used to be that in hard economic times lipstick sales would increase. These sales would go up because people needed something to make them feel good even though the economic climate was dim.
- What’s the origin of the name Baylee’s Best Chocolate? Bayla is my first name, but people don’t always know how to pronounce it. Baylee’s is easy to pronounce and Baylee’s Best has a nice ring to it, so Baylee’s Best it is!
3. What is the most chocolate you’ve used in one day? It’s not unusual to use up to 50 or 100 pounds of chocolate for a large order to dip and enrobe the chocolates and make the center ganaches.
4. Which is your favorite chocolate in your shop? Our customers love the Fleur de Sel. I love the Fig and Cognac, Fleur de Sel and the Dixie Doodle (chocolate with caramel and a pecan on top, like a “turtle”).
In Baylee’s Best Chocolate shop you can look back into the kitchen where they prepare the yummy chocolates, dipping them in this yummy melted chocolate paradise…
5. The secret behind the honeycomb. “Honeycomb” candy dipped in chocolate can only be made when the it’s not too humid. We have two air conditioning systems ~ one for the retail store that hovers around 68 – 70 degrees Fahrenheit and one for the kitchen that keeps it at 60 degrees Fahrenheit. We monitor the humidity in the kitchen carefully.
I started making the honeycomb or seafoam candy when a former tax client (Bayla previously worked at H and R Block) from Buffalo, New York, wanted sponge candy because it was popular in her home town. We call it “AKA”… which means “Also Known As” because it is known by so many different names…
In Wisconsin it is known as “Fairy Food”
In England it is known as “Cinder Toffee”
In Australia it is known as “Crackle or Crunchy Bar”
6. What gives you inspiration to make a new flavor for your chocolates? I am always open to all sorts of ideas. I love improvisation and I have enjoyed teaching improv which shows us how to say “yes” to whatever you are given because as soon as you say “no” you cut off possibility. I try to do things that are a skosh different while try to cater to local tastes and please my customers. My inspiration for a new flavor for my chocolates may come from a customer’s suggestion, trade or specialty food magazine, or when I walk through an ethnic or gourmet food store.
Holiday Selection pictured right to left above:
Pumpkin Spice, Apple Cider Caramel, Fleur de Sel and tray of Apple Cider Caramel
7. What was your largest order? A holiday corporate order for 460 boxes of chocolates.
8. Tell me about when you opened your shop. We had a soft opening on January 6, 2009 and on January 7, 2009 just 24 hours later a car crashed into the front of the store (fortunately no injuries) and we had to close briefly. We reopened the following week and on February 6, 2009 we had our formal ribbon cutting.
9. Any fun little amusing snippets from your days running a chocolate shop? On Valentine’s Day a fellow said that his wife keeps her chocolate in the safe because she does not want her children to get into it. Another regular customer asked for “Liquid of the Gods” (the liquid caramel chocolate) and now many customers call it that. (Bubblybee keeps her chocolate in her wine cooler with her champagne!)
10. I saved the last question for me. What is your favorite Baylee’s Chocolate Bubblybee? I have a “left chocolate case” favorite and a “right chocolate case” favorite in Baylee’s Best Chocolates shop. When you walk in the shop, in the left case is a “Lemonade” which we call “Lemon Drop”. It is a lemon buttercream enrobed in milk chocolate. Honestly, this chocolate tastes like a fresh lemon dipped in the most decadent milk chocolate. Turn to your right and you’ll see pieces of Mediterranean sea salt chocolate made with Oliveto olive oil. (Oliveto is the Artisan olive oil shop that is also located in West Village near Baylee’s Best.)
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