How to Catch a Leprechaun

With St. Patrick’s Day only days away, the quest to capture the elusive leprechaun is in full swing. Leprechauns, as legend has it, are Irish cobblers of the elf variety. Deciding to try to ensnare one is not a endeavor one should take lightly. Leprechauns are a deceitful, wily lot, and delight in practical jokes and general debauchery. Tangle with them at your own risk.

Now…should you decide to proceed…you must be creative and tricky. You must get inside of the mind of the leprechaun in your attempts to outsmart him. Leprechauns will smell fear and weakness in you and set about to humiliate you. They won’t stop until they rob you of your riches as well as your dignity.

Ok, so you’re ready to begin. Start by designing your leprechaun trap. This can be anything from a well-placed net to a box propped up with a stick. The key is the bait. Leprechauns love clovers, gold chocolate coins, and of course, a magically delicious bowl of Lucky Charms. (Who doesn’t really?)

If you are lucky enough to trap a leprechaun, don’t for a minute rest on your laurels thinking his jig is up. (see what I did there? Jig…Irish…) Never, and I mean never, take your eyes off the crafty leprechaun, even for a second. Stare directly at him as he bargains with you for his freedom. As long as you are looking him square in the eyes, the leprechaun must honor any deals he makes. Look away for even a moment and he’ll rescind any offers and be gone in the blink of your eye. Leprechauns will usually offer up three wishes or their pot o’ gold in exchange for their freedom. Now is not the time to get greedy. Take the pot o’ gold. Accepting the three wishes will usually backfire as the deceptive leprechaun will find a way to make your wishes backfire on you. And hey, a pot o’ gold is nothing to shake a stick at.

But don’t despair if you’re unable to catch a leprechaun. Not many people can accomplish this feat and when they do, they often regret ever attempting the task. Me? I’ll spend my St. Paddy’s day drinking green beer, wolfing down corned beef & cabbage and snacking on some gold chocolate coins. I learned years ago, leprechauns are just no damn good.

Wedding Planning in 2013 Gets More Specialized

The big day is finally here; all the hard work, countless nights of excitement (and stress), years of dreaming about this one day and the new chapter in life that’s about to start. Family and friends can’t wait to arrive and adore the gorgeous flowers, colorful dresses, exquisite food, catchy music, and the perfect dress for a beautiful blushing bride.

Now rewind 9-24 months before the happy couple meets at the alter. What you’ll see is an overwhelming, extensive list of planning to be done and a tight budget to deal with. In 2011, the average wedding came in at over $27,000. Ouch. While no one would argue that planning the perfect wedding is inexpensive, couples don’t have to break the bank to ensure a special day and a memorable time for guests.

In an effort to keep costs in check while having access to a wide variety of options, brides and wedding planners are turning to online resources to put together a wedding that is both budget-friendly and jaw-dropping beautiful. Heavyweight wedding sites like The Knot allow the bride access to the latest and most popular wedding trends. Unfortunately, many ideas and vendors showcased on The Knot are advertised from budget breaking businesses appealing to the most affluent of couples. It’s a great website to browse and fantasize, but most of us are not in the position to spend many thousands of dollars on wedding needs and wants for one day…even if it is the most special of days.

Deciding where to splurge a bit and where to be frugal is one of the most important introductory steps in wedding planning. This is clearly evident in very business of wedding planning which has taken a turn from oft-expensive and impersonal sites such as The Knot, to micro-businesses focusing on brides with a limited budget using a more personal and intimate focus.

This new genre of the wedding industry has been labelled “Wed-Tech”; a community of wedding vendors utilizing technology to provide brides and wedding planners affordable, personalized wedding solutions. Unlike wedding portals like The Knot, the Wed-Tech industry helps customize weddings with unique elements aimed at distinguishing your wedding from the masses. Today’s brides are moving away from the huge, over-the-top, Kim Kadashian and Jessica Biel weddings, to realistic and do-it-yourself weddings. These online sites give the soon-to-be happy couples the opportunity to find fresh & fun ideas to match their personalities at a cost that is more realistic.

Rental items are a fast-growing field for weddings, as a result of couples wanting to stay in budget and not collect boxes of once-used items. Happily Ever BorroWED is a popular online resource for rentable bridal accessories and is expanding to carry gowns and other formal attire. Brides can save hundreds of dollars just by renting these beautiful, one-time accessories.

Wedding Snap is another example of a Wed-Tech site capitalizing on the fact that some of the best pictures taken at your wedding may not be from your photographer but instead captured by your many guests snapping away on their iPhones. Wedding Snap allows your guests an easy way to upload and share their photos of your wedding. The new bride and groom have so many friends and family to greet and dance with, that they often miss out on most of the fun happening right behind them. Allowing guests to share their photos and videos gives the bride and groom access to timeless memories they may have missed out on at their on wedding.

Pinterest, the online idea showcase gives brides a place to create their very own boards full of links and helpful advice about putting together the perfect wedding. Pinterest has become “the” place to come check out unique wedding ideas, many that are low-cost and not featured on the large wedding mega-sites.

Pinterest wedding boards contain pictures and links with everything custom-made stationery, cake toppers, wedding favors, and much more. The rapid growth of sites like Pinterest has allowed brides and wedding planners to find useful wedding tools that they never would have thought to look for.

These are just a few ideas of the way the wedding industry is evolving to meet the needs of modern brides embracing the latest technologies. As more startups focus on meeting the needs of brides in a targeted area of their planning needs, the opportunities for creating that ideal wedding without overspending become less of a dream and more of a reality.

How Did Mardi Gras Coins Become Part of the Party?

Mardi Gras roars in Tuesday, February 12th, bringing with it all the revelry, parades, and a bit of debauchery that has become synonymous with the event. Once you’ve experienced Mardi Gras in New Orleans, you’ll be hooked on this annual gala.

The first organized Mardi Gras celebration in what would become the United States took place in Mobile, Alabama. The event was conducted by French settlers in the year 1703.

There are many traditions associated with the celebration of Mardi Gras. Since the 1800’s parades have been held featuring the many “krewes” of Carnival. The riders of these parade floats would throw small toys and strings of beads to the gathered crowds who shouted the familiar “Throw me something, Mister!”

One of the relatively recent items added to the trinkets thrown from Mardi Gras floats were aluminum coins known as “doubloons” featuring the identities of the individual krewes. The origin of the Mardi Gras Doubloon reaches back to the 1960’s when a New Orleans artist named H. Alvin Sharpe got word that the king of krewes, the Rex Organization, which represented the School of Design, was looking for something new to throw during parades. As the story goes, Sharpe came up with the idea of minted aluminum coins and pitched his concept to the head of the Rex Organization Darwin Fenner. However, the idea of throwing aluminum coins was deemed unsafe and shot down. Sharpe showed up at Fenner’s office, walked into the room and threw a handful of the proposed coins at Fenner. The doubloons bounced harmlessly off Fenner and with that the idea was a go!

The order that first year was a modest 3,000 coins with the head of Rex on one side and the arms of the School of Design on the other. As a precaution if the coins were not popular, they omitted the date so the coins could be used the following year if necessary.

But the coins were a huge success and by the following year a much larger order was placed. Within a few years the Mardi Gras doubloon had become a treasured token of the Mardi Gras celebration.

While the parades have changed with the times and kept in step with modern technological advancements, the doubloon has flourished. A variation of the aluminum Mardi Gras doubloon are Mardi Gras chocolate coins which feature everything from traditional symbolism, messages like “Laissez les bons temps rouler” (Let the good times roll), to more risque designs.

One thing’s for sure… attendance at Mardi Gras is an experience like no other. So bead up, put on your best party hat, and get ready to shout “Throw me something, Mister!”

Chinese New Year – Red, Gold, Snakes & Chocolate Coins

Of all the traditional Chinese holidays, none is bigger than the “Spring Festival” or as it is more commonly known, Chinese New Year. The centuries-old tradition of Chinese New Year is celebrated for fifteen days, this year beginning on February 10th. Chinese New Year is a time of forgiveness, renewal and wishes of peace and happiness for the coming year.

2013 is recognized as the “Year of the Snake” in Chinese custom and countries with large Chinese populations will decorate extensively with the Snake theme in the traditional colors of red and gold.

One of the most recognized customs relating to Chinese New Year is that of giving money to children in small red envelopes. Over the years, the popularity of using gold foiled chocolate coins has become synonymous with the two-week event. Chinese New Year now accounts for the sale of over 15 million chocolate coins worldwide, adorned with decorative symbols of the incoming year’s representative animal. From the days of waxy, dull-flavored chocolate, these coins have evolved into high-quality offerings often produced with some of Europe’s finest chocolates.

Chinese New year traditions vary in different parts of China and across the rest of the world. Some of the most typical traditions include:

New Year’s Eve Dinner
The eve of the New Year is a very important night in the Chinese culture and is usually a reunion, brining together relatives from near and far. Fish and dumplings are the two most often served dishes which represent prosperity.

The use of fireworks in the Chinese celebration symbolizes the driving away of evil spirits. It is believed that the first person to light a firework after the stroke of midnight on Chinese New Year Eve will receive a bounty of good luck.

Red Envelopes
Red envelopes containing money are given to children during Chinese New Year to ward off evil and keep the children healthy.
In recent years, chocolate coins have also been handed out in these small red paper envelopes.

Just prior to the start of the Chinese New Year, people will do a complete cleaning of their homes and all housewares. This practice is meant as a sort of “out with the old, in with the new.”

After the cleaning has been completed, the process of decorating for the incoming New Year begins. Red is the traditional color of Chines New Year. The most popular decorations for New Year are lanterns, paper cuttings, banners featuring the incoming year’s animal symbol, and upside-down “fu”, the Chinese symbols or luck. It is presented upside-down to symbolize “luck arriving.”

Happy Chinese New Year 2013!

Watch Us on Food Network’s Unwrapped Dec. 22 & 23

Unwrapped Logo

We were selected by the Food Network a few years back for their “Holiday Favorites” episode and we just got word that they’ll be re-airing the episode right before Christmas. Now’s your chance to get a behind-the-scenes of the making of our chocolate coins!

Here’s the schedule:

Food Network’s Unwrapped “Holiday Favorites”

* Dec. 22 9pm ET/PT

* Dec. 22 Midnight ET/PT

* Dec. 23 4pm ET/PT

Announcing Quik-Ship Chocolate Coins!

Ya know those situations where you’re short on time and need chocolate coins for a birthday or company event? Or when 500 coins is just too darn many? (C’mon, throw me a bone here.) Foiled Again! is happy, nay, downright giddy, to announce our new line of Quik-Ship coins. Our most popular designs covering a variety of event categories in neat n’ tidy 250-coin packs. And the best part is that we’re producing these deigns every day so we can ship them out on the double! In many cases the same day, but no more than two days. Say it with me…”That’s fast!”

We realize that you don’t always need to browse through all the available designs…you just need your coins. And you want them now! That’s where Quik-Ship comes in. Keep them in mind for your next pirate-themed birthday party. Or as campaign handouts when your young-un is running for Treasurer. Or for that spur-of-the-moment wedding that seemed like such a really good idea at the time.

Gelt talks – it’s Hanukkah time.

Gelt at Hanukkah

Of the many images of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah a few stand out as especially symbolic. The menorah with its brightly burning candles, the irresistible smell of frying potato pancakes or latkes and who can forget those foil wrapped Hanukkah coins now referred to as “gelt“.

But how did the concept of gelt come about?

Well, that’s where it gets a bit cloudy. Common belief is that the practice of giving small amounts of money, called gelt in Yiddish, began at the time of the Maccabees when special coins were minted to symbolize their newfound freedom. Another theory is that in the 18th century in Eastern Europe a tradition started of recognizing teachers will small amounts of gelt around Hanukkah time as an appreciation of their teachings. Over the years, the tradition moved from teachers to students as a means of recognition for their studies and as an incentive to learn more about the history of the holiday.

In America, Hanukkah was not a widely celebrated holiday until the early 20th century. At that time Hanukkah began to flourish among American jews, becoming a major holiday coinciding with the secular celebration of Christmas.

American chocolate manufacturers, looking to capitalize on the growing popularity of the holiday began manufacturing gold and silver foil wrapped chocolate coins in the 1920’s. It wasn’t long before netted pouches of these shiny foiled discs became ubiquitous with Hanukkah itself.

Traditional imagery was often used on the coins including the menorah, Star of David, or the four Hebrew letters present on the small top known as a dreidel.

Unfortunately these early coins were nicer to look at than to eat. Manufactured with low-grade chocolate and paraffin wax to prevent melting, they didn’t taste much different than chomping on a menorah candle.

Nowadays, the caliber of Hanukkah gelt has evolved through the use of high-quality cocoa beans, more refined fats and better milk powders. The designs have also evolved into modern times. You can still get the traditional imagery of the menorah, dreidel and Star of David…but modern twists like “Oy to the World”, “Happy Challah Days” and “Jews Do It for Eight Days” add a whimsical touch to the Festival of Lights.

While the allure of fresh out of the griddle potato latkes is pretty alluring, with kids there’s no disputing the fact – Gelt talks.

Why Do We Give Out Candy at Halloween?

Think of Halloween and your mind immediately goes to kids in Avengers costumes going door-to-door in pursuit of a scrumptious chocolate treat. Anything but the big orange peanut.

But the history of Halloween is a far cry from today’s modern celebration.

Halloween began as a religious holiday in the Middle Ages when it was called All Souls Day. On this deeply secular day, christians would go from village to village begging for “soul cake” in return for offering a prayer to the dead of the families they visited. Quite a difference from today’s experience of “give me a Kit Kat or I’ll egg your cat.”

The practice of children dressing up in costumes and going to door to door is a relatively modern one. It began in the late 1930’s and it wasn’t until the 1940’s that the present concept of Halloween became widespread in the U.S. Even then, candy wasn’t the definitive treat. As a matter of fact, the focus then was more on the “trick” than the “treat”. It was the one night of the year when kids’ (mostly young boys’) pranks were tolerated. The point was to be mischievous, not to collect treats.

In the 40’s and ’50’s doorbell-ringing ghosts and goblins were as likely to receive cookies, coins, nuts or small toys as they were to get candy.

During the late 1950’s candy manufacturers saw the rising popularity of Halloween and capitalized on the opportunity to expand their offerings. While Easter and Christmas had long been major holidays for the candy industry, Halloween’s growth gave them another rapidly rising demand for small, affordable candies. During this time, it became more and more expected that the handouts would be candy, culminating in the 1970’s when it became THE definitive Halloween treat.

Nowadays, Halloween doesn’t have any of the original religious connotations that were the impetus for the holiday in the first place. Instead, it’s morphed into a night of fun-size Snickers gobbled down by precocious tots dressed as Thor and Lady Gaga. I hear they’re dating actually.

Why We Only Use Belgian Chocolate

Ever eaten one of those discolored, waxy pieces of chocolate that crumbles into a flavorless grit in your mouth? Not from us you haven’t.

Chocolate should be an exquisite taste experience. Fine chocolate awakens the senses and affects brain and body chemistry.

After sampling chocolate coins from all over the world, we discovered that there is simply no substitute for 100% Belgian chocolate. Chocolate coins from Foiled Again! are made with premium Belgian chocolate manufactured by renowned chocolatier Callebaut.

Sure, there are cheaper options out there. Many of the chocolate coins on the market are manufactured in China or Turkey using subpar ingredients and preservatives including paraffin wax to help it hold up longer without melting. Sounds yummy, doesn’t it?

Your event is a special one; whether it be your son’s wedding, daughter’s Bat Mitzvah or your company’s tradeshow appearance. Your guests deserve the best. We’re here to make sure they get it.

What Makes an Awesome Custom Chocolate Coin Design?

While you have more than 2,000 choices of standard designs from our library to use on your chocolate coins…you’re actually only confined by the limits of your imagination. Let us help you create a chocolate coin that is uniquely yours.

There is approximately 1.5″ of usable area to imprint on our chocolate coins. This might not sound like that much, but you’d be surprised what we can get to fit in that space.

A popular layout that maximizes the available space is to use top and bottom arcs with additional text or a graphic in the center of the design. For example, for a wedding design, you can arc your names, say, “Fred & Wilma” on top, the date of the wedding, “July 12, 1000BC” on the bottom. And then add a graphic or saying that is meaningful to you in the center. Have a favorite saying? Put it here. Did you guys meet in a cycling club? Have us add a bicycle image in the center. Anything is do-able. We’ll even suggest font styles based on the theme of your coins. We’ve got everything from ultra-formal script fonts to the fun & funky.

If you’re designing your own artwork, that’s great too. Have at it! Remember that the rule of thumb is “the simpler, the better.” Don’t try to do too much with your design and have it come out cluttered. It’s much better to accentuate the key points (bride/groom names, company logo or web address, etc.) which will result in a clean, readable layout that is more visually appealing than a cluttered look with hard-to-read lettering. Use bold, solid lines as opposed to thin strokes that may not imprint well.

We’re here to help. Use us as a sounding board for your ideas or feel free to send in your designs to have us give you our opinion on how well it will transfer to your custom chocolate coins.

But most of all, have fun with it. How often do you get to see your name in chocolate?

Whatever Happened to Good ol’ Customer Service?

Customer Service. Serving the customer. What has become of this seemingly lost art? Nowadays it seems like businesses and their employees have become so unfocused, jaded, and aloof that the customer is almost viewed as an annoyance. This would be a great place to work if it wasn’t for all those customers. Are we as consumers really willing to accept this level of complacency?

The days of “the customer is king” seem to be all but dead in the eyes and actions of most businesses today. It’s all about the bottom line, cost-cutting, and ensuring that employees don’t log a single minute of overtime. In fact, understaffing is becoming the norm.

Think about it…do the employees in the businesses you patronize really seem to care about your needs? Who’s responsible for the apathy of today’s workforce? Sure, the employees themselves have to take part of the blame, but it’s really a lack of corporate direction at the root of the problem. Without a clear vision of management’s customer service strategy, how is any employee supposed to know the values, standards and level of performance expected of them? The answer? They can’t.

I had an experience yesterday that was mind-boggling. I was at the deli counter of an upscale supermarket needing a single slice of prosciutto. (My 4-year old likes it in his mac n’ cheese. I know, I know…) The deli “specialist” asked me if I wanted Prosciutto di Parma or Prosciutto di San Daniele. “I’m not sure” I answered, “What’s the difference between the two?” She responded “Price and flavor” with a disgruntled huff. Apparently my question really bothered her.

The difference in price (nearly twice as much for the San Daniele) was in plain sight on the price labels. She offered no explanation of the differences in flavor nor did she offer me a sample of each to see which I preferred. (Prosciutto di Parma has a slightly nutty flavor from the Parmigiano Reggiano whey that is added to the pigs’ diet while Prosciutto di San Daniele is darker in color and sweeter in taste. San Danielle is cut from the thigh of a pig bred in one of ten regions in Italy. Thanks Wikipedia!)

My response to her was as disgruntled and curt as hers had been. “Give me the cheaper one.”

Now should this employee have treated me differently? Depends on whether she wanted me to walk away with a positive or negative impression of our interaction. Let’s say that mine could have been better. Had management cleared laid out their expectations for this employee’s role within the organization? Obviously not. From where I sit, if you’re in charge of the specialty meats department, know your specialty meats. Assist the customer in meeting their needs. Maybe I would have purchased the more expensive cut. But at a minimum I would have walked away feeling like this employee knew her stuff and genuinely cared about her role within the organization and her customer’s needs. Bottom line…corporate culture fail on the part of management.

How hard is it to try to enhance the customer experience? Not very. But it must be instilled from the top down. “This is how we do it here” should be the credo of management. Only then will the faces of your organization, the front-line employees, know what they need to do to uphold these standards.

I’m still curious what that expensive Prosciutto di San Daniele tastes like. I think next time I’ll try it. From a different market.

Wedding Guest Gifts Should Let Your Personality Show

One of the last things often considered when planning a wedding is the favor to give your guests as a small thank you for being a part of your special day. It ends up being a last minute “Hey, we forgot wedding favors!” realization a couple of weeks before the big day. So what do you do?

You scramble for anything – ANYTHING – that can fill the bill. And fast. Hershey’s Kisses, Jordan Almonds, anything in stock at the local party store. Whew! Crisis averted. But does your choice come across as something that you’ve put some thought into or does it look like an afterthought?

Personalizing Belgian chocolate coins for your once-in-a-lifetime special event is a fast and cost-effective way to let your personality shine through on your wedding favors.

Does your wedding have a theme? We can design a custom image for your coins that will coordinate perfectly with any theme. Las Vegas wedding? Let us add a dice image, a Royal Flush, or a playful saying (Holy Craps! We’re Married!) to your chocolate coins along with your names and wedding date. Pirate weddings are still going strong…why not add a Jolly Roger skull & crossbones to your coins? There’s really no limit to what you can do to make your favors uniquely yours.

Customizing your wedding favors can be done a lot faster than you might think. Five business days or less. That’s all it takes. And we’re here to help. We’ve been doing this a long time and we can give you suggestions on how to tie your theme in to your customized wedding favors.

Are people going to be talking about your wedding favors the next day? “That was the best Hershey’s Kiss I’ve had since my kid’s Halloween bag last year.” Not likely. But something that conveys a fun message showcasing the happy couple’s interests? That’s something unique that conveys a more personal tone and adds a more heartfelt feeling to your event.

UNFOILED: Can Chocolate Coins Really Taste Good?

We all grew up on it. Crappy chocolate. It took many forms. That gritty Easter bunny. The waxy Santa Claus or the discolored Advent chocolates. Those little foiled marbles of faintly chocolate-flavored crud that crumbled in your mouth. And lest we forget, the incredible inedible chocolate coin.

Something had to be done. And done it we did. (Well…you get the point.)

Foiled Again! uses exceptional Callebaut(R) Belgian chocolate in our coins. Callebaut (pronounced Cal-eh-beau) has recently been recognized as the world’s biggest chocolatier and has been producing fine chocolate for over 100 years.

This is chocolate your guests, employees, customers, or whomever will actually enjoy eating. The rich smoothness of the chocolate will let you know that this is not your average chocolate coin.

We’ve tasted the competition’s offerings…and we’re confident that Callebaut chocolate coins from Foiled Again! Chocolate Coins are as good as it gets. But we’ll leave that to you to decide. All chocolate coins are not created equal!

Feelin’ Hot Hot Hot: Summer Shipping & Chocolate

Man, it’s hot. And while heat is essential for chocolate during its tempering and molding phases, it’s the arch-enemy of the finished product. So how can you be sure that your order will arrive to you in the condition it was shipped and not a big puddle of chocolate?

During warm weather months we ship using a patented insulated shipping cooler system and include frozen gel packs inside to keep your chocolate cool as a cucumber. This is done at no extra cost to you. We monitor the weather daily for the destinations of all outgoing shipments and adjust the amount of ice accordingly. We guarantee that your chocolate will arive to you in absolutely perfect condition. Or we’ll replace it free. Pinky swear.

That being said…if we’re talking “standing on the sun” hot, we highlyrecommend choosing an expedited shipping method such as Next Day or 2nd Day shipping. We’re happy to advise you about the safest, most cost-effective way of getting your chocolate to you in great condition.

“Seventy%” Website Showcases a World of Fine Chocolate

Seventy%I recently came across a terrific website for discovering the latest on the subject of fine chocolate. Seventy% is devoted to the complete “bean to bar” experience, showcasing the world’s best chocolate finds.

Named for the seventy percentage of cocoa considered to indicate better quality chocolate bars, the site contains in-depth reviews of chocolate bars from a wide variety of regions as well as history and production practices of renowned international chocolatiers.

According to the UK-based site, “Seventy% started playing a crucial role in connecting people and helping consumers better understand the difference between fine chocolate, made of fine cacao, and commercial chocolate made from bulk cocoa.”

For the foodie looking to learn more about the qualities and features of the world’s finest chocolate, Seventy% offers a wealth of information and a great read.

Seventy% Top 5 Dark Chocolate Bars
Michel Cluizel – Hacienda ‘Los Ancones’ (90.2/100)
Valrhona – El Pedregal (87.2/100)
Potomac – Upala 70% (86.0/100)
Pacari – Raw Chocolate 70% (85.5/100)
Bonnat – Apotequil (85.4/100)