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Paso Robles resident Anne Marquat makes Sugar + Spoon caramels based on her great-grandmother’s recipe. K. Budge

Salted and vanilla-flavored caramels are among the options offered by Paso Robles’ Sugar + Spoon caramels. K. Budge

Cupcakes, caramels and chocolate salami: Paso Robles serves up sweet treats

November 7, 2016 - The Tribune

By Katy Budge

Seeking some sweet treats for the holidays? Check out these three locally handcrafted options from Paso Robles residents.

GinaMarie: Italian confections

Gina Dusi brings Old World charm to the table with her Panforte di Paso and Salame di Cioccolato. And yes, the latter does translate to “chocolate salame.” (Salame is the singular term for the European-style smoked meat sausage; the plural term is salami.)

“My GinaMarie business started in August 2015 from a request from (family at) J Dusi (Wines) to make chocolate salami,” Dusi recalled.

She’s the youngest granddaughter of Sylvester and Caterina Dusi, who planted some of the first zinfandel vines in the Paso Robles area.

A similar product had been served at one of J Dusi’s wine club member parties, “but I had no idea what the heck a chocolate salame was!” Gina Dusi said. After a lot of trial and error, she hit upon her recipe.

To make the Salame di Cioccolato, chocolate, nuts, cookies and fruit are combined and formed in the shape of a traditional salame, “then hand-tied and wrapped as if straight from the local butcher,” she explained.

Flavors for her Salame di Cioccolato vary according to the season and event.

The GinaMarie lineup includes Panforte di Paso, a fruity, nutty, honey-soaked cake akin to a cross between gingerbread and a noncloying fruitcake.

“It’s an Italian recipe dating back to the 12th century from Siena, Italy, known as the panforte capital of the world,” Dusi said. “My recipe … is a combination of Old World and New and a tribute to my grandmother Caterina Dusi.”

Made with roasted hazelnuts, almonds, glazed fruit, honey, spices and orange zest, and wrapped in edible paper, it’s an enticing accompaniment with wine or coffee, she said.

GinaMarie Salame di Cioccolato and Panforte di Paso are available at the J Dusi Wines tasting room on Highway 46 West in Paso Robles, near the corner of Arbor Road; It’s open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except for holidays. For information, visit www.jdusiwines.com.

Sugar + Spoon: handmade caramels

The origins for Anne Marquart’s Sugar + Spoon began in the kitchen of her great-grandmother Edith, who began making homemade caramels in the 1930s to give as holiday treats to friends and family.

“We have been making them in my family ever since,” Marquart said. “I am pretty sure she had no idea it would become a family tradition, but it did and here I am!”

In 2012, Marquart launched Sugar + Spoon, selling homemade vanilla-and-toasted almond caramels based on her great-grandmother’s recipe.

Other flavors soon followed, such as vanilla and fleur de sel (a salted caramel). Gingerbread caramels are available seasonally.

Marquart crafts the caramels in 5-pound batches, then hand-cuts and hand-wraps each candy in wax paper. The finished product evokes a nostalgic sense of family and tradition, both in presentation and taste.

Retail locations for Sugar + Spoon caramels are listed on www.sugarandspooncaramels.com; caramels will also be available at Studios on the Park in Paso Robles as part of their “Handcrafted for the Holiday” event running from Nov. 17 through the end of the year. Caramels can be ordered via the website, by email at anne@sugarandspooncaramels.com or by phone at 805-674-7579.

Clementine Cupcake Company & Cookie Café

In 2008, Sadie Agueda launched Clementine Cupcake Co., providing cupcakes, cakes and cookies for private events and wineries.

Last year, she expanded the concept, adding a full-service mobile dessert truck and adding “Cookie Café” to the business name.

“The cookie cart allows our customers to have a fuller experience with a complete selection of cupcakes, cookies, ice cream, hot coffee and cold milk,” Agueda said. “It enhances the event with the fun of a food truck where guests can walk up, order what they want and interact with the baker.”

Agueda uses organic, often local ingredients that are free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in her from-scratch goodies. (She bakes them the morning of the event so they’re as fresh as can be.) All other items served off the truck are organic as well.

Though Clementine Cupcake Company & Cookie Café doesn’t maintain a retail location, Agueda takes orders for cookies, cupcakes or cakes for special events. The minimum order is typically six dozen cupcakes, but exceptions may be made if time allows.

Custom cookie orders are available by the dozen, packaged in decorated boxes and delivered.

For inquiries, orders or event bookings, contact Clementine Cupcake Company & Cookie Café via email at clementinecupcakes@yahoo.com or via Facebook at www.facebook.com/ClementineCupcakes. More information is available at www.clementinecupcakes.com.