The makings of an artisan root beer float at Bloom cafe inside Dandelion Chocolate factory in San Francisco.
There are ladies who lunch.
And then there are ladies who chocolate.
Count me in the latter category. And from the looks of a recent weekday afternoon at Bloom Chocolate Salon, I am hardly alone.
The spectacular chocolate salon by San Francisco’s Dandelion Chocolate certainly provides plenty of eye candy. Melding industrial with a chic European aesthetic, it is a chocoholic’s Shangri-la come to sweet life.
Established in 2010 by techies Todd Masonis and Cameron Ring co-founded Plaxo, San Francisco’s only bean-to-bar chocolate factory expanded big-time in April — spending five years on construction to turn a 107-year-old mattress and printing factory into a chocolate factory, retail store, and chic dessert salon.
The historic warehouse.
Customers filing in for coffee and pastries.
Enter the brick building, as I did recently when I was invited in as a guest of the cafe, and on your right is a store with shelves loaded with pottery, books, and Dandelion chocolate bars (with sample cups holding broken bar bits to try).
Cherry pie time.
A little piece of me dies when businesses like the Milk Pail in Mountain View and C.J. Olson Cherries in Sunnyvale shutter.
I know, I know, it’s all in the name of progress in the Valley of Heart’s Delight, where tech companies have long ago supplanted farms and orchards.
Tech may (or may not) make my life easier. But quaint family-owned farm stands and gourmet open-air markets make my spirit soar.
In too short of a time, C.J. Olson Cherries went from being an expansive cherry orchard to a small fruit stand in a spanking new retail mall to merely a mail-order company now whose products are also stocked at a couple of local stores.
A heap of filling inside.
When it still existed as a fruit stand, I would buy not only fresh cherries but other stellar locally grown fruit. And at least once a year, I would splurge on one of their famous cherry pies. They were not inexpensive. But once you tasted one, you realized they were worth every penny. While other pies may be filled with a lot of sugary jam or nondescript pureed fruit, Olson’s featured nothing but whole, pitted Bing cherries — and a ton of them at that. As a result, it was a pie that celebrated cherries exuberantly.
Raspberries and matcha flavor this unique mochi butter cake from Republique.
When Campanile restaurant and its adjacent La Brea Bakery closed in Los Angeles in 2012, I admit I shed a tear.
After all, Chef Mark Peel and Pastry Chef Nancy Silverton (then a married couple) together had created two of the most landmark establishments in the city, with the Wolfgang Puck-proteges turning out stupendous California cuisine, and extraordinary artisan breads and baked goods. In fact, the bakery was always my last stop, where I loaded up on pretzel bread and ginger scones before flying or driving home to the Bay Area.
But the iconic Spanish building that Charlie Chaplin supposedly built couldn’t have gotten better new tenants than Walter and Margarita Manzke. The couple lovingly remodeled it, maintaining its spirit, to open their Republique in 2013. It even features a bakery in the exact same spot that La Brea Bakery once operated, only now it is fully connected to the restaurant.
If you’ve ever visited the bakery, you know it’s nearly impossible to take your eyes off the front-and-center glass case overflowing with cookies, tarts, cream puffs, breads and assorted pastries of about 50 varieties. And if you’ve had the pleasure of sinking your teeth into any of them, then you know just how skillfully they are made.
Buttery, toasting tasting kinako shortbread cookies.
Vancouver, BC has always captivated me. It reminds me so much of San Francisco with its compact size, distinct neighborhoods, cultural diversity, and great eats. Plus, let’s face it — it’s way cleaner than The City By the Bay, and the exchange rate is usually quite favorable to visitors from the States.
I mean, what’s not to like?
Get to know this wonderful city even more in “Vancouver Eats: Signature Recipes from the City’s Best Restaurants” (Figure 1, 2018) by Vancouver food writer Joanne Sasvari, of which I received a review copy.
The cookbook includes 80 recipes that are sure to whet your appetite, from “AnnaLena Chicken Skins” (dipped in chocolate, no less) from AnnaLeana restaurant named for Chef-Owner Michael Robbins’ grandmother, and “Poached Lamb Shoulder with Butternut Squash-Ricotta Gnocchi” from The Dirty Apron Cooking School to “Morel Mushroom and Stinging Nettle Tart with Brie” from Forage and “Vikram’s Bone-In Goat Curry” by celebrated Chef-Restaurateur Vikram Vij’s new My Shanti.
Since I’ve been on a kick baking and cooking with Japanese soy flour, I had to try my hand at “Kinako Brown Butter Shortbread.” The recipe is from Betty Hung, owner and head baker of Beaucoup Bakery, a Parisian-inspired patisserie.
Take a taste of the three new flavors of Sante Nuts. (Photo by Carolyn Jung)
Santé Nuts New Candied Flavors
The South Bay’s maker of gourmet nuts, Santé Nuts, has debuted three new flavors: Chocolate Almonds, Pumpkin Spice Pecans, and Bourbon Pecans.
The family-owned company was started by single mom Sara Tidhar, who parlayed her home-made recipes for candied and spiced nuts into a booming business. Her son and daughter now both work in the company, too.
I had a chance to try samples recently. What I especially love about all these nuts is that they maintain a pronounced crunchiness even with their coatings.
The Chocolate Almonds are a nice change of pace from the usual hard-shelled, candy-coated chocolate almonds. Rather than a shell of chocolate, these almonds get a coating of sugared crackling cocoa powder. That means the flavor of the almonds still sings through loud and clear without getting overtaken by the cocoa that adds a nice deep dark chocolate accent. There’s also a touch of salt that adds perfect balance.