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January 21, 2013

I’m not one to gush. Maybe you’ve picked up on that by now. So listen to me when I tell you this. Really I probably shouldn’t even mention it.

A while back I wrote about TC Bakery and their French macarons. They were great. And since then I’ve been in contact with chef Paul there, visiting the kitchen and tasting some of the new and delicious things he and his crew have cooked up.

I really liked their rustic fruit tart and the creme brulee too. But those aren’t always available. Before Christmas he gave me a taste of something amazing. And I wasn’t sure there would be any left come the new year. But I popped into the bakery last week and was able to pick up another bag of these decadent treats.

They aren’t macarons. They aren’t pastry. They aren’t chocolates. Nope, they are actually some very special nuts.

The TC Bakery crew has a philosophy that I can’t help but respect. Find crazy delicious ingredients, make crazy delicious things out of them, and then figure out how much they cost. If people can afford to buy them, and should the ingredients remain available, they’ll make it again.

Say hello to the stupidly expensive, ridiculously delicious DuChilly hazelnut.

Chef Paul is on vacation, so I couldn’t sweat him down on the details. But I vaguely recall that he was telling me in December about him getting on a waiting list for this very special cultivar of filberts from some highly lauded producer.

Now I may have that wrong, because when I brought my sample of the nuts home for the first time, I was convinced they were almonds. They looked exactly like almonds: dark brown and oblong. Yet oddly they tasted nothing like any almond I had ever tried. They were richer, with less of a flowery sweetness, and no trace of woodiness.

They kind of tasted like a hazelnut fried in brown butter.

But TC Bakery isn’t selling just fancy hazelnuts. The nuts are deeply roasted and dipped in a crispy caramel made from the shop’s own vanilla sugar. And if there is one thing that TC Bakery excels at, it’s caramel.

Their chocolate caramel macarons remain my favorite of their cookies on the strength of the caramel center. The secret to good caramel is that one has to be fearless about pushing the boundaries to the point where its dark bitter complexity peaks, but finding a way to stop before it crosses the point of no return into the acrid realm of being burned.

But the bittersweetness of the caramel, the floral notes of the vanilla, and the rich creamy texture of the DuChilly all come together in an addictive combination of complementary and contrasting flavors and textures.

These are very adult treats.

I had just recently spent a hefty sum on chocolate covered hazelnuts at Eric Kayser in Paris. These are better–if admittedly a bit more rustic–and actually less expensive to boot.

A small five ounce bag will set you back $9.50. Don’t calculate the per pound cost. Just don’t. Let’s go the other way. That’s under $2 an ounce for one of the greatest things you’ll put in your mouth all week. Possibly even all month. An ounce is about 15 of these hand crafted nuts. That’s a little over a dime per nut.

So hear me out. Even if you are on a budget, for the price of a bottle of soda that you’ll soon forget, you can enjoy a small handful of these amazing treats that you will always remember. I don’t know about you, but I’d call that a great value.

Oh, and even better, these are totally on my new diet. Yes!

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