Dandelion Chocolates’ 12 Nights of Chocolate
Could there be a more wonderful way to spend an evening than indulging in chocolate, chocolate, and more artisan chocolate?
That’s just what Dandelion Chocolates’ annual “12 Nights of Chocolate” is all about. The San Francisco bean-to-bar chocolate factory celebrates everything chocolate in its 9th year of this festive event that benefits the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank.
I had the opportunity to experience night #3 when Dandelion’s pastry chef, Stephen Durfee, kindly invited me as his guest.
From the moment you open the door of the 16th Street factory, you are enveloped in the hedonistic aroma of chocolate everywhere. If only my house could smell this way all the time.
The factory’s loading dock was transformed into a wonderland for the event with chandeliers hanging over three long tables set with a line of illuminated candles. A piano player provided welcoming cheer next to decorated holiday trees.
For each of the nights, a quartet of guest chefs prepares the multi-course meal with guest sommeliers pouring wines, as well as non-alcoholic beverages. The price is an all-inclusive $250 per person.
For this evening, the star lineup included: Francis Ang of Abaca in San Francisco; Sarah Rich of Rich Table and RT Rotisserie, both in San Francisco; Elizabeth Falkner, the former Citizen Cake owner who is now Rosie O’Donnell’s private chef in Los Angeles, as well as a producer of the documentary, “Sorry, We’re Closed,” and founder of the soon-to-launch spirits brand, T’Maro; Dandelion’s Durfee; Cara Patricia, co-founder of DeCANTsf; Suhayl Ramirez of Napa winery Trois Noix; and Seth Corr, beverage director of Greens restaurant in San Francisco.
It’s was a chance for the chefs to incorporate chocolate in all forms in unexpected ways.
It started with passed hors d’oeuvres that included cocoa-dusted Chex Mix, and a chicken liver mousse tartlet by Rich.
A delightful floral-citrusy aperitif arrived next, a blend of Mommenpop’s Seville Orange, a Napa aperitif made with whole Seville oranges and Chardonnay wine, that was mixed with elderflower and infused with chocolate.
Dinner got underway with Ang’s first course of refreshing Norwegian trout kinilaw, akin to a Filipino version of ceviche, with the buttery slices of lightly cured fish in a pool of cocoa pulp seasoned with fish sauce and calamansi, and dabbed with habanero hot sauce enlivened with Dandelion’s 70 percent Costa Esmeraldas Ecuador chocolate.
Then came Rich’s chocolate-braised lamb pierogies, a dish so deliciously comforting that those around me concluded it ought have a place of honor on Rich Table’s regular menu if it doesn’t already. The seared, crescent-shaped, dumpling-like pierogies lay atop house-made whipped ricotta, and were garnished with a drizzle of dark chocolate sauce, cubes of persimmon, pomegranate arils, and crunchy bits of cacao nibs.
The main course was Falkner’s cocoa nib and pink peppercorn-crusted Wagyu beef loin with red endive, and roasted parsnips and potatoes. The beef was arranged over an almost mousse-like bernaise made with unsweetened chocolate. Truthfully, I could have eaten a bowl of that bernaise alone.
Instead of a cup of coffee after dinner, there was an espresso martini (decaf, thankfully) created by Causwells restaurant in San Francisco that was made with Lillet Blanc infused with Dandelion’s Ugana chocolate, PX sherry, a house-made banana liqueur, and a dash of salt. Rich, strong, and with a bitter edge from coffee and chocolate, it served as a boozy palate cleanser.
When Durfee’s play on S’mores was delivered to tables, it brought up some twittering in allusion to the finale of the flick, “The Menu.” But no deaths occurred here, just pure swooning over an entire bar of Dandelion Camino Verde set atop a perfectly sized graham cracker underneath that was topped by what looked like a single marshmallow but actually was ice cream.
What made this dessert even more remarkable was that the bar looked exactly like it would had you just unwrapped it. But it was actually chocolate custard enveloped in a very thin shell of molded hard chocolate. So, when you cut into it, what you expected to be a hard, solid bar of chocolate really was instead a spoonable, velvety, ganache-like treat that just melted on the palate.
This year’s “12 Nights of Chocolate” dinners are all but sold out, save for a few seats available at tonight’s event. If you can’t make it, be sure to mark your 2024 calendar for next year’s festivities. Or enjoy the Dec. 10 Dandelion Chocolate Holiday Market– featuring food producers, ceramicists, wineries, breweries, and printmakers. That event is free for general admission at 1 p.m or $25 for early access at noon to beat the crowds. Tickets are required, either way, and can be accessed here.