April 2nd, 2013 | by Jacky Recchiuti
As we look forward to the season of growth – anticipating farmer’s market finds in the way of asparagus, spring peas & onions or the first warm day to enjoy a glass of rosé, Michael and I long to enjoy our backyard garden again.
We captured a few snapshots last year, holding on to them through the winter and dreaming of getting our hands back into the soil to refresh the garden with the hope to entertain again this year. We haven’t enough sun to grow food; instead we created a secret hideaway where we have friends over to smooth out the creases from a hectic week of work, within the peaceful presence of our copse of white birch. We barbecue meats from Olivier’s, toss greens from our favorite farmers (Martin & Mariquita), indulge in cheeses from La Fromagerie drizzled with honey from our very own Susan Eslick (who lives above us along with her apiary of honey bees) and pour wines from DIG. Even without a vegetable garden of our own, we live in a village where we can eat and drink as we like, plucking from the diversity of other small businesses in Dogpatch.
After a backyard meal we venture out to walk away the fullness. The trees are blossoming with magnolia and dog-fennel is growing in wild patches as we walk up and over Potrero Hill. Then we stroll down into the Mission, where we cross through the energy of enthusiastic young hipsters waiting to get into the newest and best of Gourmet Ghetto restaurants. We keep walking towards our old neighborhood of Dolores Heights. When we circle back around Dolores Park, we retrace our steps back up the hill, and as we hit the peak we come upon an awe-inspiring vista. We take a moment to enjoy the distant show on the Bay Bridge – LED lights raining patterns up, down, back and forth, never repeating the same impression twice.
As we return to the quiet dark of our back garden at night we flick on the circus lights strung around the back to create a halo of glowing bulbs. Here we sit again to reflect on how the simplest of pleasures are in our lives to enjoy. Cooking, eating, drinking – which reminds me… I go back in to grab a pair of glasses and a bottle of El Maestro Sierra Amoroso (which we pour at Chocolate Lab), we sit to enjoy the sherry and relax into the pleasure of being out of doors in the cool freshness of a spring evening, sated by a good meal and grand walk. Springtime.
February 12th, 2013 | by Jacky Recchiuti
noun, plural chem•is•tries.
- 1. the science that deals with the composition and properties of substances and various elementary forms of matter. Elements.
- 2. chemical properties, reactions, phenomena, etc.: the chemistry of carbon.
- 3. the interaction of one personality with another: The chemistry between him and his boss was all wrong.
- 4. sympathetic understanding; rapport: the astonishing chemistry between the actors.
- 5. any or all of the elements that make up something: the chemistry of love.
By definition all the above holds true to Michael’s and my relationship – in work, in play, in the building of Recchiuti Confections, Little Nib and Chocolate Lab.
- 1. We compose substances and form our own matter through Chocolate.
- 2. We created a phenomenon in a chemical reaction when we carbonize sugar – Burnt Caramel.
- 3. The way our individual personalities interact – you can guess who the boss is, right? Hence, the chemistry is all right.
- 4. We form a rapport with our staff and customers. Chemistry to maintain daily interactions, can be astonishing.
- 5. We’ve been combining our elements for years – LOVE.
Tough thing, this chemistry maintenance business …
Michael and I work hard to keep all points of our relationship fresh. Twenty-two years together takes much effort in any marriage, much less as business partners. It hasn’t been an easy road, we’ve had to grow up quite a bit – even take a break from it for a couple of years. Still we’ve persevered.
We can be stark contrasts in personality and likes; Michael, a typical East-Coaster who will walk up to anyone and start a conversation. Me? A respect the others privacy type of gal; typical of my upbringing in Hawaii. Michael loves moderate temperatures and shade in sunny weather. Me? Bring on the sun and humidity (well okay, as long as there are trade-winds, as in Hawaii). Michael likes soft chocolate chip cookies. Me? Crunchy! Michael loves cycling. Me? Climbing. Michael likes spending his free time in a music store. Me? Lingering for hours in a bookstore.
We aren’t completely without mutual likes – we both love East-Coast summer thunderstorms, working in our garden, cooking (and eating) with friends, our three cats – Jesper, Rufus and Sienna, long hours in museums, music & theater in every form and culture, rigorous hikes in the countryside, snowshoeing in Vermont, urban city walks – not only here in the Bay Area but all the cities we have traveled through, the list can go on …
“Love is when differences make no difference” Now that’s chemistry!
December 8th, 2012 | by Jacky Recchiuti
Fifteen years ago when Michael and I created Recchiuti Confections, we ecstatically envisioned bringing joy and much cheer to the masses with our truffles. Over the years we’ve gathered a tribe of fellow entrepreneurs who also experience the holiday tummult. We convene to swap stories of long hours and enormous volume while nourishing ourselves with fortifying food and drink.
As an annual event this food tribe assembles for a traditional dinner of… wait for it… lasagna. Yes, indeed, Marcella Hazan’s fool-proof recipe (see below) is a Christmas Eve tradition with our friends Mary & Michael Gassen of Noe Valley Bakery. The Gassens took pity on us years ago when we started the business, feeding us generously after countless hours transporting truffles or baking loaf after loaf of bread. In the early years, Mary toiled over the range with each step of the beloved recipe; but now Mary has handed the baton to her pre-teenagers, so the next generation can assist in the process. The dinner has expanded to other friends, family and the ever growing kids who gleefully command the rolling out of fresh pasta, the layering of béchamel, Bolognese and cheese. We stagger out satiated from good food, wine and stories.
Without the love and care of our tribe we would not be rejuvenated at year end to pick up our weary selves and break into the New Year with vigor and hope. We connect, we share, we love—to eat. The best part of it all is the deep and restful slumber we fall into after months of hard, but heartfelt and rewarding work.
(Oh, by the way, ask us sometime about the year the tradition was broken— it didn’t sit well with Michael. In fact to this day he tortures Mary by calling ahead to ensure lasagna is still being served.)
Marcella Hazan’s Lasagna
1 Tb. oil
3 Tb. butter
1/2 c. chopped onion
2/3 c. chopped celery (I left this out)
2/3 c. chopped carrot
3/4 lb. ground beef chuck (not too lean)
1 c. whole milk
1 c. dry white wine
1 1/2 c. canned Italian plum tomatoes, cut up with their juices
2 cups whole milk
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
1. Put oil, butter and onion in pot and turn heat to medium. Cook until onion is translucent, then add celery and carrot.
2. Cook for 2 min.
3. Add the ground beef, a large pinch of salt, & a few grindings of pepper.
4. Crumble the meat with a fork and cook until beef has lost its raw, red color.
5. Add the milk and let simmer gently, stirring frequently, until it has bubbled away completely.
6. Add about 1/8 tsp. nutmeg and stir.
7. Add the wine, let simmer until evaporated, then add the tomatoes.
8. When tomatoes begin to bubble, turn the heat down and cook uncovered at the merest simmer for a long, long time (no less than 3 hours!).
9. Stir from time to time.
10. If it starts to stick, add 1/2 c. water whenever necessary.
Bechamel Sauce: (make just before you need it, not ahead of time)
1. Put milk in a saucepan, turn heat to medium, and bring to the verge of a boil.
2. While heating milk, put butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and turn heat to low.
3. When melted, add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon. Cook, while stirring constantly, for about 2 min. Do not allow flour to color.
4. Remove from heat.
5. Add the hot milk to the flour/butter mixture, no more than 2 Tb. at a time.
6. Stir steadily and thoroughly. Once the first 2 Tb. have been incorporated, repeat this process 2 Tb. at a time until 1/2 c. has been incorporated.
7. Then, you can begin adding milk 1/2 c. at a time until all incorporated.
8. Place the pan over low heat, add salt, and cook, stirring constantly until sauce is like thickened (like the consistency of sour cream).
9. When done, you can keep warm on top of a double boiler and remove film if one forms on top.
1. Preheat oven to 400.
2. Prepare lasagna noodles.
3. Thickly smear the bottom of your lasagna pan with butter and 1 Tb. of bechamel.
4. Line the bottom of pan with one layer of noodles.
5. Combine the bolognese and bechamel sauces and spread a coating on the pasta.
6. Sprinkle some grated Parmesan, then add another layer of noodles.
7. Repeat the procedure of spreading sauce and Parmesan and noodles.
8. Leave enough sauce to spread a thin layer on top at the end.
9. Sprinkle with Parmesan and dot with butter. (This can be made up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated.)
10. Bake on top rack until golden crust forms on top, about 10 or 15 minutes.
11. Remove from oven and allow to settle for 10 minutes before serving.
September 9th, 2012 | by Jacky Recchiuti
There is a moment in time when so many thoughts, images, ideas and actions converge that the sensation is that of warp speed and slow motion, simultaneously … we’ve met this marker with Chocolate Lab on the corner of 22nd and Tennessee Streets in Dogpatch.
We’ve been gathering our test kitchen team, silently working behind the tantalizing posters affixed to the windows of our dessert café. Curious passers-by have squinted through the shaded café glass front in an attempt to catch a quick glimpse of what we may be concocting within the former pizza space of the “little” Piccino. Open transoms whisk voices outside to spawn further wonder. Mysteriousness and inquisitiveness, building together to pose the question: What will it be?
The concept of a dessert-oriented café has been long been a dream of Michael’s and mine: When the opportunity arose to take over the pizzeria space, we jumped at it! The timing was perfect, as was the location and the neighborhood which supports it. With that in mind, we’re creating a local hang-out for people to sip wine or beer or a cup of freshly pressed coffee, accompanied—naturally—by an array of desserts. Some are pulled from our Chocolate Obsession cookbook, other items have been developed through repeated trials, until we find just the right balance. For those inclined towards a less sweet palette, we’ve got a few distinctive savory surprises to choose from. Michael and his team of artisan chefs are busy concocting sweet & savory options to be unveiled once our café is built and ready to share with you.
We are also working with another team of artisans, the builders, who are busy formulating a comfortable world in which Michael and I can serve you. A microcosm which includes: blown glass intermingling with glowing Edison lights, fallen California Elm hand-crafted into walls and tabletops, iron and wood merging to fabricate a dining dessert bar, and ebonized oak flooring. All of our local craftspeople were tasked with bringing together their interpretations of what we see as our kind of laboratory; the science of testing food, drink, people and pleasure.
All this and more to come this fall when we draw you into our corner hideaway to delight the kids with an afternoon treat or to meet friends in a casual place for a bottle of wine, nibbles, and a Recchiuti-conceived dessert. If patience is a virtue, then Michael and I hope to reward you for diligence with a neighborhood escape.
June 27th, 2012 | by Jacky Recchiuti
Freddie Mercury of Queen once sang “Bicycle! Bicycle! Bicycle! I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike! I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride it where I like!”
Here in San Francisco we have a city of cyclists – as tourists, commuters, exercise buffs, competitors, you name it. We all take pride in the freedom of riding not only where we like but how we like … especially in the small village of Dogpatch; here we have a very tight community of bike riders of every type. Like-minded people sharing like-minded interests; we all share a deep belief in keeping the environment, mind and body sound by cycling our way through the city, indeed, with rolling hills and all! The city provides the arena to collect as a clan, with safer options to getting around the urban terrain www.sfbike.org.
We have an assemblage of Recchiuti family & friends. Three of our cycling family members are Mike Costifas, Dave Braden and Doug Ridway, The Engine Room – graphic design team. Not only has The Engine Room helped actualize the Recchiuti brand, but they’ve been an integral cog in the wheel of our growth, both personally and well as professionally since the late 90’s when we all gave birth to our businesses. I caught Dave & Doug as they returned from lunch …riding off the burritos they had just consumed. With my little Sony Cyber-Shot in hand, I played paparazzo as they kindly stopped long enough for me to capture the talent duo before they whisked back up to their office. Augmenting the creative feat of the Recchiuti brand, Dave & Doug are participating in the Death Ride in the California Alps this July, thus extending their passion for riding to the State of California, well beyond just Dogpatch for a burrito. We’ll send them off with cheers and maybe even a few Peanut Honey Batons as the new “energy bar” of sorts.
Next up to the race line is our neighborhood friend Rickshaw Bagworks. I have to admit I have an addiction for their bags; I do own a couple sizes of Zero messenger bags (one for daily work use and the other for smelly wall climbing stuff), folios (again for personal and business), Tote and Commuter backpacks (actually the Commuter is awesome storage for our projector). Rickshaw offers a diversity of designs that cater to Michael’s and my everyday biking, climbing & hiking needs. As if it’s not enough to manufacture and sell cool bags, they have authentic rickshaws scattered about their factory store as a hip means of merchandising.
When you need a fix of verdure, is an oasis in the city to escape to. Surrounded by lush vegetation, you may hide away under the shade of palms, ferns or bamboo, cool San Francisco fog misting around while sipping a cappuccino from Ritual coffee, giving in to a few hours of contemplation of all the simple pleasures we can reach out and touch here in the Bay Area. Flora (yes, there is a real Flora who it’s named for.) and her adroit team have transformed bicycles and tricycles long past their practical use into works of art, intertwining nature and elements which once came from natural resources – metal, rubber and foliage. When you have the chance, hop on your bike and cycle down to Flora Grubb to alleviate the stresses of city life and take a breather with all things good in nature.
Lastly but never least, Michael, with whom I’ve shakily ridden alongside, is a collector of as many bikes as I have Rickshaw bags. F-O-U-R (count ‘um) bikes … well … okay, one of the folding bikes belongs to me. Nevertheless a bit obsessive perhaps, but he rides them all (including my bike) constantly around this diminutive but challenging city – to run errands (even to the East Bay) or to hear music at Outside Lands or Hardly Strictly Blue Grass, to shop at various farmers’ markets or for pure pleasure. He loves bopping around the city; no doubt bringing back youthful memories of his days as a bike messenger in NYC (well before the years of making chocolates). He loves the wind blowing through his hair – oh, strike that; let’s call it the cool breeze on his face shall we? What’s there not to love about being out of doors?
In honor and wonder of the Bay Area tribe of bicyclists, we launch Creativity Explored artist James Miles’ “Bicycles” Burnt Caramel Truffle Box. James, like our other family & friends, is able to visage worlds beyond the everyday use of bikes and we are proud to feature his artwork on our confections. We celebrate on Saturday July 7th from 11am to 2pm at our Ferry Building Store by offering all riders and non-riders of bicycles an invitation to meet with James along with his cycling side-kick Michael Recchiuti.
Visit our calendar for more information about the event and Bicycles Box.