After selling handmade sweets for more than two decades, Stafford’s Famous Chocolates took its rightful place as a fierce Santa Barbara chocolate competitor by winning the people’s choice award at the Rape Crisis Center’s annual Chocolate de Vine fundraiser earlier this year. The company was first founded in 1987 in the San Joaquin Valley town of Porterville by Larry Stafford, and it stayed in his family until 2012, when Benjamin Taylor and his father took over.
One of the Taylors’ first moves was opening a retail shop in Los Olivos, and they also plan to open another in Santa Barbara sometime soon. Relying on regional ingredients remains a key to the company’s continued success, especially the fruits and nuts that come from the orchards near Porterville and, increasingly, the products, including wine and beer, that are available in the Santa Ynez Valley. Larry Stafford’s trademark recipes are still the core of the business, but the Taylors are also developing creative confections of their own. Here are some customer favorites:
Ooey Gooey Bar & Sea Salt Caramels: Although the name is reminiscent of a whimsical Willy Wonka creation, this bar is one of Larry Stafford’s original recipes. It comes on a stick and consists of fluffy homemade marshmallow, natural peanut butter, and caramel that’s covered in a creamy layer of dark or milk chocolate and topped off with crunchy California almonds. To satisfy a sweet tooth with a more simple selection, try the Sea Salt Caramels for a sensational blend of sweet and salty flavors. Each caramel is hand-dipped in dark or milk chocolate and then sprinkled with Mediterranean sea salt crystals.
Dark Chocolate Lavender & Red Wine Truffles: Stafford’s recently collaborated with Clairmont Lavender Farm to enhance the rich taste of their Dark Chocolate Lavender Truffle. That’s a popular pick in wine country, and so are the Dark Chocolate Red Wine Truffles, which contain a decadent ganache center delicately flavored with red wine from the Santa Ynez Valley.
Beer Brittle: For those who love beer as much as chocolate, watch out for Stafford’s Beer Brittle, a collaboration with Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company that combines roasted peanuts and pretzels with Davy Brown Ale. They’re also considering adding Figueroa Mountain beer to a truffle or caramel in the near future. Explained Taylor, “Some beers that I think might work the best are their Hoppy Poppy IPA and their Stagecoach Stout.”
Visit Stafford’s Famous Chocolates in Los Olivos at 2902 San Marcos Avenue, Unit D. See staffordsfamouschocolates.com or call (805) 688-2893.