Friday, April 13, 2012

Local spotlight - Au Marche

On the list of my top five favorite shops is Au Marche, a small store that is modeled after a European marketplace (hence the name).

 (My bag of October goodies, including: a coffee sampler, fruit gummies, cola Mentos and a pistachio truffle.)

Au Marche brings goods to Lawrence, Kan. that usually can only be found across the pond. Owner Lora Wiley was inspired to open Au Marche after studying abroad in France and traveling throughout Europe where she not only fell in love with the culture, but happened upon a small store that sold hard-to-come-by American products such as Oreos and Snapple. She thought that opening such a shop in the United States - selling European wares, of course - would be a great idea. And thus, Au Marche was born.

The store, though not massive, is packed with treasures in the forms of paper goods, small eatables and body care products. Upon walking into Au Marche, directly to the left is an assortment of body lotions, soaps and lip balms that will keep your nose entranced for hours. Though I don't use bar soap, the brand Pre de Provence makes the most tantalizing scents, like Pineapple and Vanilla Woods, for instance, that have me willing to switch from using my tried-and-true body washes. Anothe bar soap brand, Nesti, has the most interesting - yet still delightful - soap scents, such as Red Grape and Blueberry, Fig and Almond Milk, Artichoke, and Olive and Tangerine.

The store even carries the cult product that many cosmetic mavens rave about - the hard-to-find Nivea face cream that's manufactured in Germany, as opposed to the more prevalently found, less hydrating formula that's made in Mexico.

The center of the store is host to meats, cheeses, chilled drinks, spreads, spices and even handmade ice cream and truffles by local celebrity chef Christopher Elbow. The piece de resistance? An expansive middle table devoted exclusively to an assortment of tiny candies, all of which are individually wrapped and ripe for the plucking. And pluck I do.
This candy buffet, such as it were, makes me a glutton. How can you resist grabbing one of everything when it's packaged so enticingly?

It is through my forays into the candy brands presented on this table that I found a product that marries my two great loves, coffee and chocolate. The product in question, Pocket Coffee, is a candy that consists of a thin, crunchy square chocolate wafer that houses a half shot of liquid espresso in its center. When you take a bite and the decadent mix of chocolate and espresso hits your lips, you'll be so overwhelmed that you'll forget your name.
Yes, it's that good, and I've turned half of my friends on to it. The candy is hard to come by and is usually on backorder from abroad. Once it arrives in store, it is snatched up almost immediately by customers. There were crates full of Pocket Coffee boxes that were delivered to Au Marche, and within three days, the store only had four small boxes left to sell.

Some other middle table goodies that I'm a fan of include: Zots sour candies, Kinder chocolate-coated, hazelnut-infused vanilla wafer Happy Hippos, cola-flavored Mentos and Hopjes coffee-flavored hard candies.

Found situated against the wall and housed on gondolas are Euro-centric stationary, postcards and gift tags, most of which are pastel-colored, some of which contain glitter and all of which are adorable.

I've fallen prey to their spell many a time, as you can see from my tiny gift tag stash.

Along the walls, packaged goods such as jams, teas, coffee, seasonings and sweets can be found. In a corner I've unofficially dubbed "chocolate paradise", there are rows upon rows of pastries, cookies and full-size candy and chocolate bars.


And these foreign candy bars, by the way, have the most delectable combination of ingredients that seem to be missing in their American counterparts. For instance, there are banana-hazelnut combos, cappucino-filled milk chocolate, pear-infused dark chocolate, bacon and chocolate combos, plus many more. *Side note: I've tried the Vosges Mo's Milk Chocolate Bacon Bar, and despite the eyebrow-raising ingredient combination, the taste is anticlimatic. I honestly couldn't taste any bacon. This isn't to say that I was expecting a ham-cocoa-fest to happen in my mouth, but I was expecting something more than a slightly salty chocolate bar. Meh.

A dark chocolate spread by a company called Nusco is a divine creation I'm glad I bought on a whim. If I thought that I was blown away by the taste bud oasis that is Nutella, then I wasn't prepared for Nusco. This dark chocolate topping is the bee's knees, though the brand also offers a sweet spread that is a swirled hazelnut and milk chocolate combo. I haven't tried that one yet, but I'm sure it's worth a taste.

Should coffee be your thing, Au Marche also offers sample-size packages of several of its flavors so that you can try a coffee flavor before committing to a full bag of grounds. My favorite time to peruse the coffee selection is right around fall and winter when the seasonal selections come out. Pumpkin flavors during September and October and vanilla-run combos in November and December are delicious (and great stocking stuffers). 

Obviously I'm an Au Marche fan. Exemplary customer service from the staff combined with a stellar selection of amazing products not only keeps me coming back for more, but also encourages me to tell everyone about the store.

No comments:

Post a Comment