Category Archives: Chocolate

Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 31

Cuban pork-plantain enchiladas from Aqui.
Cuban pork-plantain enchiladas from Aqui.

Aqui, San Jose, Campbell, Cupertino

Long before certain chefs in Southern California and on the East Coast were gaining fame for stuffing tacos and burritos with all manner of global ingredients, there was Aqui.

It was a forerunner to the novelty of folding flour tortillas around a filling of Thai peanut saucy chicken or tangy goat cheese to create something anew.

It opened way back in 1994 in San Jose’s Willow Glen neighborhood. I remember going there in the late ’90s, where no matter if it was lunch or dinner, you’d have to time it just right or risk not getting a table. Today, Aqui is not only still going strong, but it now boasts five locations in the South Bay.

It’s easy to see why it’s so popular. It’s fun, vibrant California-ized Mexican-inspired food in generous portions. Order the avocado dip ($7.49), and you’ll get enough tortilla chips to feed four handily, along with salsa fresca on the side for good measure. The avocado dip is essentially a chunk guacamole with habanero, lime, and cilantro. The menu says there’s mango in it, but it’s not readily detectable. The chips are very crisp and have a great rustic corn taste.

The Cuban pork enchiladas ($12.49) come three to an order, along with black beans and crunchy, mild tasting Aqui slaw. The enchiladas are filled with ground pork that’s been cooked with mashed plaintains, giving it a nice sweetness, before being napped with a red, nutty tasting achiote sauce. Squiggles of sour cream decorate the top.

Don't miss the flourless chocolate cake.
Don’t miss the flourless chocolate cake.

On the lighter side, the Southwest Caesar ($9.49) was a kaleidoscope of color with yellow, purple and red fried tortilla strips all over the top. It’s a simple mix of crunchy Romaine, pumpkin seeds, black beans and grilled corn, done up with a flourish of Asiago cheese, but really hits the spot.

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Discover The Unsweetened Tooth

Would you believe these decadent peanut butter mousse brownies have no sugar added to them?
Would you believe these decadent peanut butter mousse brownies have no sugar added to them?

Those peanut butter mousse brownies above are everything you expect — decadently rich, deeply fudgy, and loaded with irresistible sweet-salty, smooth peanut-butter goodness.

But they also lack something surprising — added sugar.

They are the creation of a unique Seattle bakery, The Unsweetened Tooth. As the name implies, this bake-to-order shop makes treats with no added sugar. Yet, they taste every bit as satisfying as their conventional counterparts — and minus the unpleasant aftertaste of so many sugar substitutes such as Stevia.

The bakery was started by Jude Sharp, who worked as an engineer in the tech industry in Silicon Valley with her fellow engineer husband, for years. But a health scare put her on a different path. After learning that she might become diabetic and lose her sight if she didn’t drastically change her dietary habits, she decided to give up sugar, and lost 100 pounds in the process.

Using her engineering know-how and love for tinkering, she built a commercial kitchen, and started coming up with no-sugar recipes after the couple moved to Washington state. In 2016, she launched The Unsweetened Tooth there.

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Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 29

The Crispy Chicken Sandwich from Winner Winner Chicken.
The Crispy Chicken Sandwich from Winner Winner Chicken.

Winner Winner Chicken, San Mateo

Chefs Jeremy Cheng and Chef Randy Magpantay couldn’t have been more excited to finally open their Winner Winner Chicken after conceiving of the Nashville-style hot chicken establishment in 2018.

Only, they opened it in March 2020 in San Mateo’s Hillsdale Shopping Center. Five days later, the pandemic put the kibash on it.

Fortunately, with the Bay Area seemingly turning the corner now in this health crisis, Winner Winner Chicken has been able to sling its specialties for the past couple of months. I was invited in by the fast-casual eatery a week ago to try some menu items gratis, which I ferried home as takeout.

It’s a family operation, with Cheng and Magpantay, and their wives, behind the counter overseeing the ordering and cooking. Cheng and Magpantay are veterans of the South Bay’s Avenir Restaurant Group, which includes Nola in Palo Alto, Milagros in Redwood City, and Town in San Carlos.

At Winner Winner Chicken, you can choose how incendiary you like it, from Classic (no heat) to Medium (starting to heat up) and Spicy (That’s hot) to Extra Spicy (Hot as cluck).

Crispy barbecue chicken spring rolls with a center of gooey cheese.
Crispy barbecue chicken spring rolls with a center of gooey cheese.

I went with medium, though I think Magpantay dialed it down a bit and gave me medium-light (which you can request, by the way) that offered up a modest amount of heat on the palate.

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A Mother’s Day Treat with Delysia Chocolatier

A truffle box that's part of the special Mother's Day virtual chocolate tasting from Delysia Chocolatier.
A truffle box that’s part of the special Mother’s Day virtual chocolate tasting from Delysia Chocolatier.

Pamper mom this “Mother’s Day” with a virtual chocolate and tea pairing from Delysia Chocolatier.

Having taken another virtual class recently by this Austin, TX chocolate company, I can attest that it makes for a fun and enlightening time, particularly when you learn that founder Nicole Patel is actually allergic to chocolate. Patel, who began making chocolates professionally after creating some for fun for her husband’s colleagues one Christmas, relies on a keen sense of smell to get her truffle flavors just right.

When the pandemic hit, she began offering virtual tasting events. On May 8, she’ll host “Tea Time with Mom,” starting at 4 p.m. CST, in which she’ll instruct how to pair her chocolates with various teas.

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Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 28

Bake Sum's inventive Croissubi.
Bake Sum’s inventive Croissubi.

Bake Sum, Berkeley, Plus San Francisco, Redwood City, and Oakland

Imagine impeccable French Viennoiserie with crisp, buttery layers to get lost in — but flaunting inspired Asian flavors.

That, in sum, is Bake Sum.

This Berkeley-based bakery, which has amassed a huge following during the pandemic, was co-founded by local baker, Joyce Tang, who had the wholesale bakery Chinoiserie, and previously supplied pastries to Boba Guys.

Each week, Bake Sum offers one set pastry box ($35) filled with about half a dozen treats, as well as a specialty bun box, Gochujang sourdough loaves, mochi bites, and cookies.

Sign up for its newsletter ahead of time because it drops Monday morning with that week’s offerings. It pays to be quick on the draw because the baked goods, especially the pastry box, sell out quickly. Pick up your order on Fridays or Saturdays at the Bread Project in Berkeley; Fridays at Golden Goat Coffee in San Francisco; Saturdays at Grand Coffee in San Francisco; or Fridays at Red Giant Coffee Roasters in Redwood City.

Yes, with Spam and nori tucked inside, it's like a musubi in croissant form.
Yes, with Spam and nori tucked inside, it’s like a musubi in croissant form.

Last week’s pastry box included a Croissubi, a unique riff on a traditional ham and cheese croissant that paid homage to Spam musubi. Just on its own, this was one beautiful croissant — shattering into deep golden shards upon the first bite. Add in the novelty of thin slices of Spam wrapped in nori, and get ready for your taste buds to take a French-Hawaiian ride. Crispy Parmesan cheese and flecks of togarashi dot the top to add more umami, savoriness and just a hint of spice. It is every inch like a nostalgic ABC Store musubi transformed into a perfect French croissant.

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