Tuesday, October 21, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Choc-a-lot! San Francisco’s International Chocolate Salon serves up sweet treats

Chocolatique offered samples of these hatching chicks, hand-painted, then brushed with edible gold to add luster in a four-day process. Mel Welcher/Courtesy photo

By
April 29, 2011 |

By Christy Corp-Minamiji

It is possible — though just barely — to eat too much chocolate. However, there are worse martyrdoms.

Pearly salt fog, lapping waves, the chatter of seagulls, the smell of chocolate, the silky glide of that chocolate across the tongue — these are the sensations of the San Francisco International Chocolate Salon. Though the lofty ceilings and ethereal light of the Fort Mason Center Festival Pavilion dwarf the exhibitors’ tables, one can lose much of a day in this show.

Too much chocolate?

Even for a pair of devoted chocoholics, the array of cocoa-based products presented at the April 17 San Francisco International Chocolate Salon posed a challenge. Several samples into the morning, my photographer Mel Welcher and I seized sample cups of “Bacon Caramel Corn” at the Plumeria booth.

The woman next to me muttered, “Can you taste the bacon? I think I’ve had too much chocolate.” as she walked by. Too much chocolate was indeed a danger, but oh, what a danger!

While Taste TV, the producer of the Chocolate Salon, advertised “over 70 participants,” in their promotional emails, Mel and I agreed that the actual number of exhibitors (primarily chocolatiers and wineries) was reduced from last year, and in fact, the judges’ ballot held the names of only 43 companies. Downsizing notwithstanding, there was plenty of chocolate to go around.

Chocolate diversity

Bars, truffles, caramels, discs, drops, marshmallows, wine and vodka: You name it, if it could contain chocolate or accompany chocolate, it was there. Chocolate came in almost any form, and was processed in almost any manner.

Traditional blends, roasted in house, single-varietal chocolates (yes, cacao comes in varietals like coffee or grapes), stone-ground chocolates, minimally processed chocolates: from comfort to haute, chocolate-covered Oreos to chocolate-dipped, goat-cheese stuffed figs, we saw it and tasted it. (Well, sadly not the figs; Goat Milk Candy was out of samples when we stopped by.)

Some of the ingredient combinations offered might horrify a purist, but for flavor-seekers or those of the “I’ll try anything once” school, the chocolate permutations were a thrill. Although a chevre truffle at Marti Chocolate (not to be confused with truffled chevre) was a sad disappointment, the lime with tequila truffle from Gateau et Ganache made me smile wide enough that my photographer asked if I wanted to be left alone.

“It’s like a tiny margarita inside chocolate!” I answered.

Other unorthodox combinations that worked surprisingly well include a favorite of mine from the 2010 Salon, a peppered rosemary orange truffle from Dolce Bella, and a tamarind “unprocessed” chocolate from Momotombo.

Chocolate nouveau

Once upon a time, all truffles looked more or less identical: round nuggets of rich ganache among which visual variation was limited to dipped or rolled, drizzles of white or contrasting chocolate, or the occasional stray espresso bean dotting the top like a pompom.

Today, however, chocolatiers produce sculptural jewels. Hand-painted, molded confections nestle in their boxes like gemstones or porcelain ornaments.

Amano displayed rack after rack of chocolate gems, flavored only with fresh fruits and herbs, while Chocolatique produced what may be the cutest chocolates ever — hatching chicks, hand-painted, then brushed with edible gold to add luster in a four-day process. I ate my chick in three bites.

Roughing it

Though the precious was well represented from elegant to cute, chocolate also showed its rugged side. Taza displayed its stone-ground, minimally processed chocolate in thick disks designed for melting as drinking chocolate or simply for breaking and nibbling. Here, we also found the robust side of flavor.

Though spice/chocolate combinations date back to the Mayans, these “hot” chocolates have definitely expanded in the last few years. Taza had a wide array of chili- and cinnamon-accented chocolates. The Guaillo Chili Mexicano disk that I sampled had an earthy heat that complemented the intensely gritty flavor and texture of the stone-ground chocolate. This was not chocolate for sissies.

Over at Pure Dark, macho chocolate continued to make an appearance in the form of sample chunks broken from their thick slabs with an implement resembling a truncated, stainless-steel pitchfork. The 70 percent slab with nibs and coarse sugar had a granular texture and slight berry overtones.

Partnering with Pure Dark was one of the day’s speakers, Candice Kumai, known on television and through her website as “The Stiletto Chef.”

Sweet treats

Though Pure Dark’s display may have leaned toward the rough-and-tumble, both model-turned-chef Kumai, and her new cookbook “Pretty Delicious,” were all-girl. She demonstrated two recipes from the book: “Chocolate Banana Bonbons” and “Homemade Chocolate-Peanut Butter Crunch Cups.”

Kumai’s table décor may have been shabby-chic floral, but I didn’t see any men shying away from the peanut butter cups with their heavy-duty chocolate shells.

Her presentation and cookbook lean toward the informative girl-chat, touting an indulgent-sensible attitude toward food. Kumai said she wanted to show people that you could have a “healthy and fun, and still lean and lovely lifestyle.” Too good to be true?

Perhaps, but Kumai addresses the need for a change in attitudes toward food: “It’s not about dieting anymore. It’s about making a lifestyle change.”

Throughout her presentation and sprinkled through her book are references to FWBs — “foods with benefits.” Kumai says, “Everything you eat should give back to you in one way or another.”

If you tire of chocolate

While chocolate, with its high antioxidant levels, is an ultimate “FWB,” there were plenty of other giving foods at the Chocolate Salon. From Plumeria’s exotic caramel corns (I could taste the bacon, and I still maintain that the seaweed caramel corn would pair well with beer) to Leonardo e Roberto’s Gourmet Blends (“Oh thank God, olive oil!”) and Nicole Lee’s rainbow of macaroons, the non-chocolate was well-represented.

The 2005 Estate Cabernet from Eden Canyon won my happy face as the representative poured it from a carafe marginally smaller than my youngest child in answer to my request for a Cab on the “bolder, spicier” end of the spectrum.

The perfect ending to the day? A chocolate-free late lunch at the Ferry Building, sipping clam chowder and watching barges pass before Treasure Island as whitecaps kissed the waters of the Bay.

Upcoming Luxury Chocolate Salons in Northern California are scheduled for June in Napa and November in San Francisco. See http://www.sfchocolatesalon.com for updates.

————

The local scene

One need not leave town to find artisan chocolate. Davis supports a burgeoning chocolate industry. Anchoring the local chocolate scene are five chocolatiers: unique, but united by a single trait — passion.

European master: Ask Albert Kutternig, chef and owner of Konditorei Austrian Pastry Café, what led him to make his chocolate truffles, and you receive mild disbelief and a simple answer, “There’s something hanging on the wall, and this is a master’s degree …”

In Europe, Kutternig says, the provision of truffles by a pastry shop simply reflects good training. Don’t be misled. Chef Kutternig is far from blasé about his truffles. Discussing his selection of chocolate (Guittard) and flavoring liqueurs (Grand Marnier, Cognac, strawberry, and rum) Kutternig’s confidence shows in the passion that drives his work.

“I am passionate about everything … even cleaning … Everything goes hand-in-hand.”

Amateur turned entrepreneur: “Amateur” derives from “lover,” and Kate Hutchinson, owner of Ciocolat, is the ultimate amateur who turned a whim into a career. “I loved chocolate. I saw this place was for sale, and I thought it sounded like fun,” she said.

She describes the two-day, laborious process of hand-crafting truffles as if recounting a party. Her enthusiasm carries into sourcing ingredients: Callebut chocolate from Belgium and fruits from the Farmers Market (chocolate-dipped figs, anyone?). Hutchison’s passion for chocolate, and for Ciocolat, manifests in a love of flavor.

Raw enthusiasm: Five minutes with Joy Jaco-Pope and Taylor Pope of Joy and Taylor’s Raw Chocolates confirmed my private view of chocolate as medicine. The couple began their foray into raw chocolate after determining that the sugar in processed chocolate contributed to Joy’s headaches.

Now, they purchase heirloom cacao from Ecuador and, using raw agave as a sweetener, produce chocolate packed not only with intense flavor, but thanks to low-temperature processing, with antioxidants.

Joy and Taylor speak of their business as a vocation. “Why are we being called to this kind of work? Life is short. You need to do what you have to, no matter what.”

Joy and Taylor’s Raw Chocolates can be found at the Davis Food Co-op.

Girls with cause: The Yummy Dummy Chocolate Company members spend their days not in boardrooms but in junior high and high school classrooms. Stream, Risa, Bay, Sedona, Rachel, Rowan and Sara began Yummy Dummy five years ago, producing 37 bars in a 12-hour day.

With their girl- and parent-engineered equipment, they now manufacture 750 bars (marshmallow, almond, espresso, cherry and toffee) in six hours. Yummy Dummy, which sells its chocolate at the Farmers Market and through its website (http://www.yummy-dummy.com), donates all proceeds to charity.

A local favorite: The Candy House of Davis hand-makes its pyramid-shaped truffles as well as its fudge and chocolate-dipped fruits. One of its hallmarks is chocolates shaped like people’s hobbies — pick up a solid chocolate guitar, piano, violin, keyboard or tennis racket . The Candy House owner, Osman Sunny Maiwandy, has designed colorful lotus bowls made by forming 85-degree chocolate over a balloon … a true work of art.

Comments

comments

Special to The Enterprise

.

News

 
So much more than a cute baby store

By Bob Schultz | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Suspected arson fires worry neighbors, firefighters

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Winters homicide case enters jury-selection phase

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1

 
Fill the Boot for the hungry

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

Existing home sales rise in September

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
For the record

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

Democrats love seeing minimum wage on the ballot

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Pets of the week

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2 | Gallery

 
Apply now for community mediation training

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Paws for Thought: Pets for Vets: matches made in heaven

By Evelyn Dale | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
‘Tokyo Kill’ author will visit bookstore

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

Sierra Club gathers for morning walks

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

 
DPNS has play group, preschool openings

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Yolo Knitters Guild plans fall meetings

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Local farm products found at hospital market

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Tax tips offered for sole proprietors

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Beer dinner set on Co-op patio

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Walkin’ the Dawg through the park

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
 
Essay contest winners will be honored Tuesday

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

Volunteers sought to make veggie bags

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Library hosts after-hours teen movie nights

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

First-time home buyers get free advice

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Psychiatric clinic hosts open house

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Forum eyes impacts of raising the local minimum wage

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

 
NAMI-Yolo family support group meets Sunday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

To save the birds, look to the fish

By Kat Kerlin | From Page: A7 | Gallery

 
Birding field trip planned Saturday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A12 | Gallery

.

Forum

Ready to go, whatever happens

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
Where there’s a will …

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

She’s innovative, passionate

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
An accidental fan becomes a baseball devotee

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

U.N. steps up to lead Ebola response

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

 
John Cole cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A8

These three are the best

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
Sunder has bold vision

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

Archer, Nolan are my picks

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
.

Sports

Villegas wonderstrike powers Devils

By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
DHS golfers take the title

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

Devil defense regresses in football loss

By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1

 
UCD’s Wegener is the engine that drives the train

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Sports briefs: Top-end tennis talent helps DHS girls grab a win

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Junior Blue Devils: Regular slate ends with 2 Davis teams playoff bound

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

After running the gridiron gauntlet, can UCD regroup?

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B8 | Gallery

 
.

Features

.

Arts

 
Stories on Stage Davis presents tales by Lescroart, Montieth

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11 | Gallery

 
.

Business

.

Obituaries

Peggy Belenis Swisher

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Comics: Tuesday, October 21, 2014 (set 1)

By Creator | From Page: B5

 
Comics: Tuesday, October 21, 2014 (set 2)

By Creator | From Page: B7