In my travels abroad, I love stopping at new shops or a shop tucked away, off the beaten path. Antique shops, dive bars, or a small “Mom & Pop” restaurants.
This past Monday, January 12th, 2015, I had traveled to Rancho Santa Margarita, California to pick up 400lb granite slab for my friend. Driving from Temecula, I took the Ortega Highway (State Route 74) through the Ortega Mountains and down into Orange County. About halfway through the mountain, there is a small candy shop, Ortega Oaks Candy Store!
On my way back from Orange County, I decided to stop by and take a look inside. It was packed with so many great items! I felt like I was walking into a cozy mountain store. The wood floors, the home baked goods, and the scratch-made chocolates all added to the overall ambiance.
I was welcomed by Shannon, the store owner. She is a very humble owner and was eager to answer all of my questions. Shannon and her husband Tobin are proud to have been opened for four years now. She discussed her passion for sweets and had basically decided to open this store within eleven days! Crazy, right?!
Her store not only provides homemade sweets – but she also provides hiking/biking/horseback riding information. Her store is situated between several trail heads in the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness Trails (Trabuco Ranger Distrct; Cleveland National Forest).
Now onto the good stuff! Candy! I purchased a variety of candy on this trip.
I bought a Chocolate Haystack – which was divine! This piece was HUGE! Super chocolatey!
The next item on my review were these delicious small caramel-filled creamy chocolates topped with sea salt. Holy cow! With a swift bite into one of these guys, my mouth was filled with the sweet goodness of chocolate and caramel mixed with a salty bite that balanced perfectly!
The next candy is something I grew up loving in Upstate New York. These hard candy sticks were a staple at the Slate Hill Orchards. Any of my childhood friends and family can attest to this. On this trip, I *only* purchased four flavors (out of the twelve they had available). Check out the picture below.
Perhaps one of my favorites were the sour stars, pictured below. I absolutely love ANYTHING in gummy form: bears, sharks, worms, etc. What set these apart from “Sour Patch Kids” – and this is a huge PLUS – is that these stars were soft. From my past experiences with sour gummies, they usually tend to be somewhat firmer than regular gummy items. These stars were spot on!
One last thing I must review from my visit – Shannon gave me a sample of pollen! Can you imagine my surprise!? I have never had pollen before! The Temecula Honey Company sells jars of collected pollen from their honey bees. This shop sells them in their store and it is definitely a unique experience.
These little granules of pollen are delicate and aren’t too sweet. It is not easy to describe – you’ll just have to try it for yourself!
Here are some suggestions for the use of bee pollen:
10 ways to use bee pollen:
Note: You do not want to heat bee pollen because this will destroy all of its beneficial nutrients. To grind bee pollen you can use a mortar and pestle, or you can process it in a coffee/spice grinder.
- Use granules as a topping over yogurt or cereal
- Add ground bee pollen to cooling homemade granola while it is still moist and sticky.
- Blend ground pollen or granules into a smoothie
- Incorporate into raw protein bars, raw desserts or candies
- Sprinkle granules directly over salad
- Incorporate ground pollen into salad dressing such as a honey mustard
- Sprinkle ground pollen over popcorn
- Use granules as a garnish on top of dark chocolate
- Use ground pollen as a coating for sugared almonds or hazelnuts
- Toast whole wheat bread, smear with chocolate hazelnut spread and sprinkle with bee pollen granules. ( Link Source )
On my next visit, I must try their famous pumpkin roll! According to Shannon, it is THE best pumpkin roll you will find anywhere! I must say, it DOES look enticing!
Contact Shannon and Tobin:
34950 Ortega Highway
Lake Elsinore, CA 92530
Until next time…FORKTHISPLATE!