I’ve been a chocoholic my entire life. To me, there is no better cookie than the chocolate chip cookie. There is no better ice cream than chocolate ice cream with brownie pieces swirled in. There is no better morning beverage than fresh hot chocolate, and there is no better dessert than a dish of dark chocolate mouse eaten under the twinkle of city lights outside of a small restaurant in Paris.
(Photo from here)
My love for chocolate is not something that I hide, and it is a relationship that has been steadily growing during the past year or so. Friends & family have joshed with me about this my entire life, but its an obsession that just keeps on growing. When I visited Sydney last fall, I was mesmerized by the way chocolate seemed to be everywhere and by the sight of people so happily enjoying it. I began to do more research about chocolate – its origins, its health benefits, its myths, and its truths – and have found that I’m just barely scraping the surface of learning about this mesmerizing treat.
A few weeks ago I was having lunch at the Ferry Building and decided to stop into Recchiuti Confections for an afternoon treat. As much as I love chocolate, I haven’t spent nearly enough time doing ‘market research,’ and I’m ashamed to admit that was my first trip to Recchiuti’s shop.
(Photo from here)
I’d crown Chef Michael Recchiuti King of the SF chocolate scene. He’s been called the, “Picasso of chocolatiers,” and rightfully so. His extensive training combined with the right amount of creativity and respect for the craft make his confections some of the most sought after in the world. For my birthday Mom gave me his book, Chocolate Obsession, and it gives a deeper look into the ingenuity that this man brings to the industry.
(Photo from here)
I have always had a great deal of respect and admiration for this Chef/Chocolatier, and would love to someday learn a couple of his secrets.
That said, I wasn’t completely blown away by the chocolates that I tasted on that warm day back in April. I picked 4 chocolates to try: the 65% Colombian, the Lavender Vanilla, the Lemon Verbena, and the Fleur de Sel caramel.
The chocolates looked absolutely beautiful. Its difficult to tell from the photo, but the Colombian actually has the word “Colombia” scripted across the top in edible gold leaf. The Fleur de Sel was drizzled with white chocolate immediately after enrobing thus leaving a very fluid, milky feel to the finish of the chocolate. The Lemon Verbena was adorned with an edible transfer that mimics the leaves of a Lemon Verbena plant.
I enjoyed these chocolates at my desk during a 15 minute break. Since I wasn’t able to immediately blog my reactions, I scribbled down my thoughts on a, now well-worn, piece of paper. Here’s what I had to say:
65% Colombian: smooth, smokey, underlying spice.
This was an intense piece of chocolate, and probably my favorite of the 4 that I tried that day. The ganache had a very smooth texture and melted evenly on my tongue. The flavor was really really awesome… I wish I had a better way of describing that, but it was just… wow. Very powerful. The chocolate had a smokiness and a spiciness that I could definitely liken to Latin & South American flavors, and it made me feel very warm on the inside.
Lavender Vanilla: strong lavender flavor – very floral.
The Lavender Vanilla piece took me a bit by surprise. In one of the chocolate classes that I took, the instructor cautioned us to match our flavors to the types of chocolate that we would use in the ganache. In other words, she said to be careful with matching florals against darker chocolates because you have to use a decent amount of floral to balance the intensity of the chocolate. The resulting product, “ends up tasting like soap.” Her words, not mine.
Unfortunately, I kind of got that feeling when I bit into this piece. All I could taste was an insane amount of lavender followed by a rich chocolate, and then more lavender. I felt that the vanilla got lost in the ganache, and was completely overwhelmed by the amount of lavender that I tasted. I had a different flavor in mind going into the experience and was completely taken aback by the final result. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t give this chocolate a shot… just be aware that it is a very floral confection.
Lemon Verbena: Lemon grassey. Reminded me of Asian food.
Haha… this chocolate is one that, admittedly, I probably will not try again. I chose this piece on the recommendation of the retail employee working in the shop. They had boxes of this chocolate on promotion, and I think she was probably trying to get me to purchase a box of these rather than just one. Regardless… when I first bit into the chocolate there was a very strongggg lemon grass flavor. I’m pretty sure that I was expecting more of a citrus-ey flavor, so the lemon grass took me completely by surprise.
Note: It would have been smart for me to Google ‘Lemon Verbena’ before trying the chocolate, but unfortunately vision is all 20-20 in hindsight, right?
The ganache was a 70% dark chocolate base, and I found that if you ate the chocolate very quickly, rather than letting it melt on your tongue, that the lemon verbena wasn’t as intense, and much more manageable. I found that I disliked this piece the most when I let it melt on my tongue. Overall I was reminded of Asian food which isn’t usually a flavor that I think of when enjoying chocolate.
Fleur de Sel: Chewy, but not stick in your teeth chewy. Great burnt flavor.
According to my friend Keith, the Fleur de Sel caramel is one of the most popular flavors at Recchiuti and it’s not hard to see why. This caramel was fabulous!! The texture of the caramel was chewy, but it wasn’t so chewy that it aggravated my TMJ problem. There was also a great burnt smokey flavor under the caramel, and the salt accented the burnt caramel perfectly. A very well executed chocolate, and one I’d enjoy eating over and over again!
Note: Burnt caramel is actually one of Recchiuti’s signature flavors, and they have even created a Burnt Caramel chocolate using burnt caramel as the flavor of the ganache. I’ll tell you what I think of this chocolate in my next Recchiuti post. 🙂
All in all my trip to Recchiuti was satisfying, but again, I wasn’t completely blown away. I was very intrigued by the flavor pairings, and wonder how the flavors would taste if they were matched with a lighter chocolate. I’d also like to taste these flavors again someday when I have a more developed palate just to see if I still feel the same that I do now. One think I did learn was that I need to remove all preset expectations and ideas before I taste the chocolate, so that it has a fair chance.
What do you think? Have you tried any of these flavors before?? What’s your favorite Recchiuti confection?