In our last edition of “multi-cultural ILM,” we explored two unique and authentic grocers—one that specialized in Russian and Polish items, and the other in Asian. For this portion of the series, which will continue throughout 2013, we will travel to France for sweets, and later to Italy for gourmet items and coffee.
South ‘n France
822 Orange St. • 762-6882
“Bon bons are like the cousins of chocolate truffles.” This is the way Pascal Siegler, co-owner of South ‘n France, describes his store’s specialty product. Bon bon is the word used to describe all kinds of candy in France. However, with his wife, Charlene Dupray, Sielger runs the only place in Wilmington that makes chocolate bon bons. The sweet confections stand alone and are rolled into a small ball before getting hand-dipped in chocolate.
“Most people have heard of bon bons, but have no idea what they really are,” Dupray says. “It’s great fun to teach people the definition of a bon bon, show them how they are made, and introduce them to a culinary experience they’ve not had before.”
While Dupray is a Wilmington native, Siegler grew up in a small village an hour away from Paris near the Fontainebleau castle. He moved to Paris as a teenager and met Dupray in 1993 while she was vacationing in Paris. Dupray noticed Siegler, who at the time was working in an ice cream parlor.
“I say it was destiny,” Dupray muses. “Pascal, of course, calls it ‘le destin.’”
The two eventually spent some time living in Manhattan where Siegler worked as a maître d’ at Chef Daniel Boulud’s restaurant Daniel. According to Siegler, being in the food industry has always been a part of his life—he’s worked as a sous chef, a saucier, a waiter, an ice-cream maker and now a bon-bon artist.
“My mother is a terrible cook—I think that’s why I got interested in food,” Siegler concedes. “When you’re French, food is in your blood, so to have a mother who doesn’t cook well is a tragedy! I wanted to eat well and I knew I was going to have to do it myself. Even as a child my favorite thing, whenever I had some pocket money, was going to the local butcher shop to buy a piece of dried sausage or salami.”
After years of living in New York, the couple felt an itch to return to the “sweeter, more relaxed lifestyle” in Dupray’s hometown. Siegler and Dupray have now lived in Wilmington making bon bons for the past seven years.
“We wanted a business that reflected both of our cultures,” Dupray tells. “Bon bons may be French, but our flavors have a Southern twist.”
Flavors run the gamut, from peanut “buttah” to coconut, chocolate-chip cookie dough to fudge brownie, cookies ‘n crème to pistachio, and café au lait to their seasonal favorietm, pumpkin (available October 1st through Thanksgiving only).
Seigler says creating bon bons is a very tedious process. First, they make the bon-bon centers, roll them and chill them. Then, they’re dipped in chocolate one by one. The bon bons are chilled again to create a chocolate shell (in French called a “croquant”), and then they’re wrapped in colorful foils.
“We do not use any special tools,” says Siegler. “We add no preservatives or stabilizers. Simple ingredients, lots of patience, and love—et voilà!”
South ‘n France sells their chocolates online and locally through Port City Java. They also host individualized bon-bon parties and offer “singing telegrams,” as each sweet treat comes with a song sung by owner Charlene Dupray.
Italian Gourmet Market and Café
22 South Front St. • 362-0004
It’s rare to find a store quite as inviting as the Italian Gourmet Market and Café in downtown Wilmington. When the weather is nice, its doors are always open, with soothing Italian music beckoning folks inside to taste the free samples on display.
The intimate store offers shelves and refrigerators filled with best Italian foods and products. Owner Frank Delia makes sure of it by traveling to Italy annually to hand pick foods and gift items. Delia says he enjoys looking for things that are hard to find, especially if the item brings some joy or memory to one of his customers, wherein he imports items directly from Italy. For example, the Mozzarella di Bufala (a type of mozzarella made from the milk of water buffalo) is flown in fresh from Naples each week.
Delia, who was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, is a first-generation Italian, meaning both of his parents hail from Italy. His father is from Calabria in southern Italy and his mother is from an island off the coast of Naples called Ischia.
“I was fortunate to have grown up in a community where much of the population was from European extraction,” Delia says. “That gave me an appreciation for other cultures and customs.”
Delia made his way to Wilmington when he began to approach retirement; he and his wife looked for a place near the ocean and eventually moved to Topsail Island from the D.C. area. His wife passed away a few years after moving and Delia decided to turn his house into a rental property for the summer months.
While looking for a different home in Wilmington, Delia found a vacant storefront. He thought it would be the perfect home for an authentic Italian Gourmet Market.
“I had thoughts of doing something like this for many years,” Delia explains. “I felt this was also a way of keeping my ties to my native land and have an excuse to go back there at least once a year, which I do.”
Delia has now been operating the market for some 13 years and is a favorite among tourists as well as locals. Right next door is its café, which serves freshly roasted espresso coffee, cappuccino, and a spectrum of baked goods ranging from croissants to scones, that are made fresh every day.
“Being downtown and catering to a lot of tourists, I felt I had to be different,” Delia admits. “My mother was a great cook and we ate well. Growing up, I felt the meal was the highlight of the day. Now that I have a market, I wanted to make sure I had all the things that I enjoyed eating and that started [my food appreciation].”
For first-time visitors of the Italian Gourmet Market, Delia recommends their variety of fresh and frozen ravioli—four cheese; spinach and cheese; lobster; red pepper and smoked mozzarella; and mushroom are just a few of the options for ravioli. Other customer favorites include an extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar combo from Sicily and a unique bruschetta seasoning from Bologna.
“We have had customers say they enjoy coming to the store, for it gives them the feeling of being in Italy,” Delia says. “Everyone is welcome, whether they just enjoy tasting our samples or just like to hear the Italian music we have playing.”