Ok, so the results of the flavored caramel experiment were interesting and not entirely unsurprising.
The caramels I made with only smoked sea salt came out tasting, of all things, a bit fishy. They didn't taste like fish, but there was something vaguely reminiscent of smoked salmon. It wasn't strong, but it was definitely distracting in a bad way. If I was eating them and didn't know what it was, I probably wouldn't be able to figure it out, but I would be annoyed by the flavor.
The chocolate caramels were a total failure based entirely on the fact that I thought I knew enough about the properties hot sugar and chocolate to successfully merge them, and I was wrong. The taste was actually ok - rich, sweet, buttery - but the chocolate broke and never incorporated into the cream correctly. When I poured the messed up chocolate/cream mixture into the sugar, it... I don't know.. fried the chocolate or something. As it cooked, it didn't boil and bubble and steam up like regular caramel. More like, it sizzled in the pot. And it smelled awful, like burned sugar and burned chocolate (which is basically what it was). I poured it out and in a few hours it had set into a greasy block of smelly chocolate cement. Totally inedible, but I'll try them again at some point.
Of course, the regular caramels came out wonderfully well.
I took all these to the Ace Hotel for Ashton to pass out. Hopefully I'll get a chance to redeem myself with those fine folks who bought them last time and couldn't eat them.
I think I'm also going to make some marshmallows this week, too. Maybe I'll really do the Valentine's gift boxes again. People seemed to like those.
I've got another batch of caramel I'm going to have at Nowhere Bar this Monday (and Tuesday, if I have any left). Swing by and say hi and try some!