What's Happenin'

A Sidelines blog

Good Food Hunting: Dark Horse Chocolates

November 27, 2013 By: janwest Category: What's Happenin'

By Kat Wojtylak

Full Cry chocolate by Dark Horse Chocolates- Almond Butter Crunch in Milk Chocolate.

Full Cry chocolate by Dark Horse Chocolates- Almond Butter Crunch in Milk Chocolate.

We love horses, and many of us love chocolates. You probably didn’t think you could combine the two, but yes….it certainly is true. Dark Horse Chocolates was launched in 1992 by Phyllis LeBlanc. During graduate school she envisioned a line of gifts for equestrians that she could give out to the people at the barn. Her business plan was so intriguing that Harbor Sweets (where she was working at the time), was able to launch the line and pay for all development costs within four weeks. Dark Horse Chocolates has now since expanded, offering great gifts for equestrians year round. Little did Phyllis know that her part time job as a candy dipper would lead her down the path of becoming CEO of Harbor Sweets which is now celebrating forty successful years.

NOTE: If you missed Phyllis’ first interview, visit this link to learn about her background with horses and how Harbor Sweets came about.

This magnificent assortment is complete with both milk and dark chocolates from Dark Horse Chocolates English and Hunt collections. It is easy to pick your favorite from this presentation of unfoiled chocolates!

This magnificent assortment is complete with both milk and dark chocolates from Dark Horse Chocolates English and Hunt collections. It is easy to pick your favorite from this presentation of unfoiled chocolates!

KW: Hi Phyllis and thanks so much for joining us again. Where exactly did the name Dark Horse Chocolates come from?

PB: At the time I had a big (17.3h) black Hanoverian named Able.  He was the inspiration for the name, and we liked the concept of “the dark horse” coming out of nowhere and being a winner!

KW: Gotta love the underdog! Tell us about the line of chocolates and how each individual “horse” relates to a different flavor. How did you decide on these combinations?

PB: We took the most popular flavors of chocolates that we had and combined them with the disciplines that we thought would appeal to the most people. We have a Grand Prix Jumper which is a butter caramel in dark chocolate. Then we have the Dressage Classic which is an almond butter crunch in dark chocolate. The Peppermint Ponies are dark chocolate and peppermint crunch and Sea Biscuits are a running thoroughbred who is peanut butter on a mini biscuit covered in milk chocolate. Then we have our hunt series which includes Full Cry (almond butter crunch and milk chocolate), Fox Trot (butter caramel in milk chocolate) and Tallyho (solid milk chocolate).

KW: You always make me hungry for chocolate! What is your favorite?

PB: Whichever one I’m eating at the moment!

This handsome fabric box, handmade by a local artisan, features a Conte Crayon drawing by Jocelyn Sandor Urban. Filled with a 16 piece assortment of milk and dark chocolates, this gift will thrill all your favorite equestrians!

This handsome fabric box, handmade by a local artisan, features a Conte Crayon drawing by Jocelyn Sandor Urban. Filled with a 16 piece assortment of milk and dark chocolates, this gift will thrill all your favorite equestrians!

KW: That sounds like an answer I’d give! But tell us about the photo shoots for your catalog, are they of your horse?

PB: It would be fun to do the photo shoots on location at a farm or my stable but usually we shoot the photos of the chocolates in a studio.  Keep in mind we are photographing the chocolates in the middle of the summer, when it is hot in New England!  The photos of Chiron and me are either from a show or at the stable.

KW: Any special gift ideas for other horse enthusiasts?

PB: Our Dark Horse Chocolates Christmas Calendar makes a wonderful gift.  It has a Dark Horse Chocolate behind each of the twenty five doors leading up to Christmas, with a pony waiting for you on Christmas Day. We also have our Red Sparkle Take Out Box which is filled with our Dressage Classic and Fox Trot chocolates. No gift wrapping required! And then for those special recipients on your list, we have a a Equestrian Fabric Box showcasing four yearlings. It’s filled with an assortment of milk and dark chocolates. What makes it so unique is that the box is a keepsake and can be kept for years to come, even after the chocolates are long gone.

Open one of the 25 doors on each of the 24 days before Christmas. Behind each door is a gold foiled Dark Horse Chocolates treasure. On the 25th day, Christmas morning, you will find the pony you have always wished for.

Open one of the 25 doors on each of the 24 days before Christmas. Behind each door is a gold foiled Dark Horse Chocolates treasure. On the 25th day, Christmas morning, you will find the pony you have always wished for.

KW: So the million dollar question is, where do you sell Dark Horse Chocolates?

PB: Dark Horse Chocolates can be purchased at your local tack shop, or through our catalog or website at Harbor Sweets.

KW: And if that’s not enough, where can people learn more about Dark Horse Chocolates?

Come visit our chocolate factory for a tour at Harbor Sweets, 85 Leavitt Street, Salem, MA 01970.  You may request a catalog or join our email list on our website also.

 

As always it was a pleasure speaking with Phyllis and becoming increasingly hungry for chocolate! A great gift item for those on your list, it’s a way to support small businesses who also happen to have equestrians onboard . Enjoy your shopping and have a safe and happy holiday season!

To full plates and eating your tarte out.

About the writer: Author Kat Wojtylak is a horse enthusiast turned food blogger. She maintains a day job in the horse world handling marketing and brand support to various companies, while enjoying her evenings and weekends writing recipes and blogging all about her culinary experiences. Visit her blog at EatYourTarteOut.com or email her at tartechic@eatyourtarteout.com.

Good Food Hunting: Food and Kitchen Gifts for the Equestrian

November 21, 2013 By: janwest Category: What's Happenin'

By Kat Wojtylak

What do you buy your trainer, barn owner or fellow horse owner? Most times it’s not an easy and straightforward question. That’s why I’ve compiled a few kitchen/food related items that are sure to be unique for your gift giving this holiday season.

French antique knife holder running horse from PARISOUIPARIS.

This Antique Horse Knife Holder Set is perfect for individuals who enjoy dinner parties and like the equestrian flare. These one of a kind set of silver running horses is from the 1920’s and will be a unique element for the recipient. Sold on Etsy, the set of six retails for $79.00.

Harbor Sweets/Dark Horse Chocolates unique and beautiful display of their chocolates in the Heritage Tin.

Harbor Sweets/Dark Horse Chocolates unique and beautiful display of their chocolates in the Homestead Winter Tin.

Dark Horse Chocolates Homestead Tin is filled with an assortment of handmade chocolates courtesy of Harbor Sweets. Each tin contains forty pieces of various chocolates depicting horses including milk and chocolate varieties. When the chocolates are all gone, the recipient has the perfect tin to store and showcase treats for years to come. Retails at $45.00 and is perfect for a barn owner, barn staff, tack room or for any horse owner.

Wild Stallion Horse Magnet, Set of Eight, sold by OriginalAnimalMagnet.

Wild Stallion Horse Magnets are a fun way to dress up the fridge. Who knows, they might even help keep the little ones entertained while you’re trying to serve up a holiday meal. A perfect stocking stuffer for the collegiate equestrian, or a gift for the newly relocated equestrian. Retails for $22.00 and sold on Etsy. Available in other colors.

Dala Horse Screen Printed Horse Glassware by Vital

Dala Horse Screen Printed Pint Glasses are an eclectic four pack that will bring something special to your holiday equestrian gift giving. Sold in green, blue, red and yellow, this four pack is handmade and good for those equestrians who like to drink and be merry! Retails for $42.00.

Vintage Horse Prints Wafer Paper available from Fancy Flours

Vintage Horse Prints Wafer Paper is a baker’s secret to making breathtaking cookies that pay homage to thoroughbred racing. Available from Fancy Flours, this set of twenty two comes in unique prints that are sure to leave recipients and those indulging talking about them for years to come. Retails for $15.00.

Kicking Horse Coffee, 454 Horse Power Blend sold on Amazon.

And last but not least, for those individuals who have a coffee addiction, Kicking Horse Coffee brings you their 454 Horse Power Blend. An organic and fair trade coffee, this blend from Indonesia bring earthy tones with a deep dark flavor to the palate. Available in whole beans. Retails for $25.55 and is sold on Amazon.

I hope you all have a safe and enjoyable holiday season, and if you need help, you know where to find me.

To full plates and eating your tarte out.

About the writer: Author Kat Wojtylak is a horse enthusiast turned food blogger. She maintains a day job in the horse world handling marketing and brand support to various companies, while enjoying her evenings and weekends writing recipes and blogging all about her culinary experiences. Visit her blog at EatYourTarteOut.com or email her at tartechic@eatyourtarteout.com.

Good Food Hunting: Foodie Interview with Phyllis LeBlanc

September 05, 2013 By: janwest Category: What's Happenin'

By Kat Wojtylak

Phyllis LeBlanc of Harbor Sweets/Dark Horse Chocolates riding her Oldenburg gelding Chiron.

Phyllis LeBlanc of Harbor Sweets/Dark Horse Chocolates riding her Oldenburg gelding Chiron. Photo credit: Reflections Photography, NY

Phyllis LeBlanc seems to have two separate lives. By the light of day she runs the helm of Harbor Sweets as CEO. By evenings and in what spare time she has, she’s a dressage rider and board member for the New England Dressage Association. It seems like most equestrians lead dual lives and can relate to this scenario. What makes her special in terms of Good Food Hunting is that she’s a foodie and has been able to incorporate her love of chocolate and passion for horses all into one. Intrigued? Then please read on.

KW: Tell us a bit about your background with horses.

PLB: I started taking riding lessons when I was thirteen. Although it seems as if longer because I had been begging my parents for a horse and taking every pony ride at the fair since I could say the word ‘pony.’  My first pony was given to me by a friend of my parents to see if I would really do all the work that was involved. He was a 14.1 h. pinto named Sequoia. I rode him all around the neighborhood even doing my paper route by horseback. I had several more horses while I was in high school and did pony club as well, including some local hunter events.  I kept my horses at home but worked at a fancy hunter barn to support my own horses. That was just the beginning.

KW: Do you currently own a horse and if you do, tell us a little bit about them? Such as are you currently competing and what are some of the goals you’re working on?

PLB: I own a wonderful Oldenburg gelding named Chiron. We are competing at 4th level dressage. He is a wonderful teacher and I am so fortunate to have found him. After looking for over a year in 13 states and Europe I found him in Pennsylvania. I actually bought him from the woman who bred him, raised him and trained him up until I bought him two years ago. We have become fast friends, and she now holds the title of being Chiron’s godmother.

KW: What’s your favorite horsey memory?

PLB: My favorite memory is of my horse Nicky.  He was the horse my father bought for me after I proved I would do the work with my pony. We bought him for $150.00. If we hadn’t had bought him, he probably would have gone to the auction. He was skin and bones and in terrible shape. With some food and lots of TLC from a teenage girl, he blossomed into a beautiful strawberry roan Appaloosa. He followed me around the barn whenever I did chores leaving the herd of horses to be in my company.  All I had to do was whistle and he’d come in from the field.  Truly a dream come true for both me and Nicky.

KW: Aww, those kind of memories are the best! Okay now that we have horses covered, what’s your connection to the food industry?

PLB: I own Harbor Sweets.  We make handcrafted gourmet chocolates and sell them through our mail order catalog and website, as well as gift and gourmet stores around the country.

KW: Tell us about how you got your start with Harbor Sweets in the first place.

I was working my way through college and needed a part time job.  I saw an ad for candy dippers at Harbor Sweets and thought that sounded like fun.  The company was just a little start-up at the time.  I loved it and worked my way up in the company as it grew until I purchased majority control 14 years ago.  We are celebrating our 4oth anniversary this year!

KW: Congratulations on your accomplishments! Now what is this unique connection in that you combine your love of horses with chocolate. How is that possible, and could you elaborate a bit for our readers?

PLB: While I was working at Harbor Sweets, this is before I bought the company, I was going to graduate school at night studying for my MBA at Boston University.  I had to write a business plan for a class in Entrepreneurship.  I had struggled to find gifts for my friends at the barn, my trainer and blacksmith.  What I did was write a business plan for Dark Horse Chocolates, a line of gift packaged gourmet chocolates with designs that would appeal to equestrians. After graduating, we launched the Dark Horse Chocolates line through Harbor Sweets.  It paid for all of its development costs the first four weeks it was on the market. It was shortly after that that I bought Harbor Sweets from the founder.

KW: That’s amazing you could combine your love for horses into a tangible business that is still going strong. I actually did a tour already of your factory (which you can read about here), but since not everyone is privy to all these details, tell us where people can learn more about Harbor Sweets.

PLB: Our website is Harborsweets.com or anyone can come and tour our chocolate factory as you did.  During the tour you can watch the chocolates being made and taste a sample! We’re located at 85 Leavitt Street in Salem, Massachusetts.

KW: Before we go, any special words to live by?

PLB: Two expressions that I try to live by.  The first is one I was brought up with, and interestingly enough was also the philosophy of the founder of Harbor Sweets who was my mentor.  It is “Do unto others as you would have done to you”.  The second is to “trust your gut”.

Harbor Sweets/Dark Horse Chocolates unique and beautiful display of their chocolates in the Heritage Tin.

Harbor Sweets/Dark Horse Chocolates unique and beautiful display of their chocolates in the Heritage Tin. Photo courtesy of Harbor Sweets.

It was great fun learning about Phyllis and Harbor Sweets! Stay tuned as in the next few months as I’ll showcase not only more tidbits on Dark Horse Chocolates, but on other equestrians leading dual lives in the food industry.

To full plates and eating your tarte out.

About the writer: Author Kat Wojtylak is a horse enthusiast turned food blogger. She maintains a day job in the horse world handling marketing and brand support to various companies, while enjoying her evenings and weekends writing recipes and blogging all about her culinary experiences. Visit her blog at EatYourTarteOut.com or email her at tartechic@eatyourtarteout.com.