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Bristol couple mixes love of food into handmade ice cream and chocolates

BRISTOL — Sixteen years old is pretty young to be making life decisions, but not for Erlé LaBounty; that’s when he decided to become a chocolatier. He began crafting his first truffles in his grandfather’s farmhouse in Randolph and has been refining them for the past 19 years.
“I used to watch my mom and her friend make chocolates at Christmas,” LaBounty remembered. But that’s about the extent of his mom’s influence on his chocolates. From a simple truffle recipe, LaBounty makes the confections his own; flavoring, rolling and dipping each truffle by hand.
LaBounty joined the culinary program at Randolph Technical Career Center, then earned his degree from New England Culinary Institute in the fall of 200l. After graduating he held various jobs including an almost six-year stint at the Otter Creek Bakery in Middlebury.
LaBounty met his wife Eliza La Rocca when they were both working in Woodstock at Pane e Salute. “It was like meeting the prodigal son,” said La Rocca. Apparently, LaBounty had a pretty good reputation there. The two clicked and were hitched in June of 2012.
“So you take two people obsessed with and intrinsically drawn to food, they get married,” said La Rocca, a foodie in her own right, who’s worked on vineyards in Italy, France and here in Vermont. “It’s not such a stretch that they should scheme to transform one partner’s longstanding part-time chocolate project into a full-time, all-consuming gig…When you fall in love with someone who has a dream, this is what you do.”
LaBounty quit his other jobs and began working for himself full-time in May of 2014. That year, they also launched their ice cream and sorbets at local farmers’ markets.
“We said, ‘how hard can ice cream be,’” said La Rocca, who heads the ice cream operation. “We couldn’t have anticipated exactly what we were in for.” La Rocca joined her husband full-time in May 2015. “Making ice cream from scratch is a lot more lengthy and regulated than anyone knows… It’s hard to educate our customers without sounding pedantic or bitter,” said the 2007 Smith graduate. “And it shouldn’t be pedantic and bitter because it’s ice cream, and it should be fun.”
Thirty-somethings, LaBounty and La Rocca believe that offering frozen desserts is crucial to creating a year-round business. Plus, “I have been ice cream obsessed for most of my life,” said La Rocca.
Now, the chocolates aren’t a walk down easy-street either. First let’s talk ingredients: sourcing chocolate that is organic, fair trade, without soy or lecithin is not easy. Then, because there’s no lecithin, the chocolate is more difficult to work with; so tempering can be tricky. “Chocolate with lecithin reaches temper better,” said LaBounty. But he’s mastered working with the non-lecithin chocolate. “There are still some days that it misbehaves,” he laughed. Next up is flavoring: LaBounty uses mainly whole foods these days to flavor his chocolates. Grapefruit, lavender, lemon, rosemary, espresso and cacao nib are the current flavors. Finally: rolling and dipping the truffles by hand.
“I have a scooper,” said LaBounty. “No, it’s you, and the scoop,” corrected his wife. “It’s hard to roll truffles,” she said. “It takes me four times as long and my balls are uneven.”
Once the truffles or salted caramels, which are the newest additions to the menu are made, there’s the impossible task of not eating them all. “People think they’d gain 400 pounds,” said La Rocca. “But you wouldn’t because you’d be eating all of your profits.”
Sure the long hours and labor-intensive days can be a drag, but the couple has based their business on products they’re both passionate about, and on values (like sourcing local and organic ingredients, and using earth friendly packaging) that they believe in.
“Some day, we won’t have to work seven days a week for eight months out of the year (and 6 days a week for the rest of the year),” said La Rocca. “But for now, we give everything we’ve got to this business because we believe in it, and we believe in each other. And because we really, really like making people smile.”

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