Recchiuti Confections - San Francisco, CA

Nibs&News

April 2nd, 2013 | by Jacky Recchiuti


Springtime in Dogpatch

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.

- Jacky



February 12th, 2013 | by Jacky Recchiuti


The Chemistry of Recchiuti

chem•is•try
[kem-uh-stree]
noun, plural chem•is•tries.

  1. 1. the science that deals with the composition and properties of substances and various elementary forms of matter. Elements.
  2. 2. chemical properties, reactions, phenomena, etc.: the chemistry of carbon.
  3. 3. the interaction of one personality with another: The chemistry between him and his boss was all wrong.
  4. 4. sympathetic understanding; rapport: the astonishing chemistry between the actors.
  5. 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. 1. We compose substances and form our own matter through Chocolate.
  2. 2. We created a phenomenon in a chemical reaction when we carbonize sugar – Burnt Caramel.
  3. 3. The way our individual personalities interact – you can guess who the boss is, right? Hence, the chemistry is all right.
  4. 4. We form a rapport with our staff and customers. Chemistry to maintain daily interactions, can be astonishing.
  5. 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


Our Holiday Tribe

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
Lasagna noodles
Parmesan cheese
Salt
Pepper
Bolognese Sauce:
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
nutmeg
1 c. dry white wine
1 1/2 c. canned Italian plum tomatoes, cut up with their juices
Bechamel Sauce:
2 cups whole milk
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
Salt

Bolognese Sauce:
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.

Lasagna:
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


A Dispatch from Chocolate Lab

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.

-Jacky Recchiuti



June 27th, 2012 | by Jacky Recchiuti


I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike.

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’ “BicyclesBurnt 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.

http://www.recchiuti.com/calendar



May 14th, 2012 | by Jacky Recchiuti


Whoopie!

My first taste of a traditional whoopie pie was Amish country in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania outside of Philadelphia where Michael grew up. According to food historians, Amish women would bake these desserts (known as hucklebucks at the time) and put them in farmers’ lunch pails or lunch boxes. When farmers would find the treats in their lunch, they would shout “Whoopie!”.

When we first introduced the Recchiuti version of whoopie pies at our Ferry Building store in 2004, they were made with Michael’s famous devil’s food cake filled with a marshmallow crème center then enrobed with chocolate to keep the cake moist and the filling from oozing out. Needless to say, they took off like a rocket. Before long, as our chocolate business grew, we were unable to keep up with the various baked products we were offering as we had only one tiny convention oven. Since truffle making was our focus we sadly retired the whoopie pies, featuring them periodically when time and space allowed more baking.

Over the years, with Michael’s propensity to transform old recipes, the whoopie’s have taken many forms; traditional style aforementioned, then onto a daring pumpkin spiced cake, which eventually metamorphosed into a gingerbread cake. The whoopies of various flavors stayed true to the classic round pie shape. We reintroduce the devil’s food cake version, adding delectable bits of fresh candied orange peel and replacing the marshmallow crème with burnt caramel buttercream. As if burnt caramel buttercream wasn’t revolutionary enough, the next whoopie morph was to fill them with organic rose oil infused buttercream – sublime! No matter what transpired, our loyal following rolled along with the changes as Michael worked his magic into each version introducing something fresh and exciting in the way of familiar flavors.

This year the whoopie is transformed yet again – this time we created a genteel yet utilitarian appearance. A Whoopie “baton shaped” Cake, reminiscent of a more European-style cut dessert but with the practical American “hand-held” sensibility. As before, they are made with the candied orange peel topped devil’s food cake recipe and burnt caramel buttercream, painstakingly hand-made – each step a labor of love down to the final thin chocolate coating.

So the next time you treat yourself to a Recchiuti Whoopie Cake – feel free to let loose with a huge declaration of “WHOOPIE!”.



March 27th, 2012 | by Katie


Eggs Akimbo

Several weeks ago Recchiuti chocolatiers Pat Rebro and Adam Becker set out to create a show-stopping chocolate masterpiece. The Recchiuti arsenal of chocolate egg molds inspired them to experiment with the various textures and spectrum of natural colors that chocolate can take on.

Nearly 90 hours later, the team has composed an almost five foot high chocolate sculpture and taken Recchiuti Confections’ Ferry Building store Easter display to new heights. Literally. “Eggs Akimbo” is a series of stacked handmade chocolate eggs. Pat explained that the top egg represents the color of Recchiuti’s signature Burnt Caramel, the white speckled egg that of the Ginger Heart Truffle and shiny dark egg is reminiscent of the Force Noir truffle. Adam observed that the largest egg looks like a larger than life Burnt Caramel Almond drageé – the group had a good laugh over that.

Assembling a piece of such magnitude comes with, what Michael termed, a series of challenges that are “humorous only after the fact.” Temperature, size and fragility tested years of combined pastry and confection experience. In an incognito expedition Pat, Adam and Michael completed the final stages of the installation in the wee hours of the morning.

“Eggs Akimbo” will be on display at Recchiuti Confections’ Ferry Building Store from March 23 – April 8, 2012.

While you’re at the store enter to win a gigantic splatter-painted semisweet chocolate egg. The winner will be announced on Saturday, April 7th at 4pm.



February 21st, 2012 | by Jacky Recchiuti


Ready on set …

We’ve had a longtime affair with our photographer.  It’s been fourteen fun-filled years since we first met Tom Seawell. We work in an amazing community of businesses within Dogpatch – it’s a village really, where its residents sometime work and play together creating an extended family of sorts. That brings me to the subject at hand … the look and feel of Recchiuti photography. Without the intimacy of fraternity the richness of the photography couldn’t subsist. Like the binding nature of tempering chocolate – elevating the temperature to the perfect pitch bringing all together to coagulate, so is the being of our bond with Tom.

Tom and I have developed a dance over the years, unspoken steps to a tango if you will – each understanding the mood and personality of the product we are capturing based on the tone and color palette established by our graphic designer Dave Braden of The Engine Room (also part of our Dogpatch community).  A dance ignites the set in a blaze of inspiration. Music blares in the background elevating the energy  … Pearl Jam … Kings of Leon, espresso flows, with a little nibble of truffles we are primed and ready on set !

With my shot list in hand the styling begins, as I set up a medley of our confections, Tom and photo assistant Sarah Muser adjusts lighting and camera lenses as product and focus change. Spontaneity is potent a paced rhythm inhabits the studio as we all set into motion to attain the right semblance in our shot … Middle Brother plays heart wrenching ballads setting a new tone to the next shot … Chan Marshall atones tearful blues, we prevail and push forward to yet another shot, styling, restyling, lighting, emotions turning raw and almost subdued. The set takes on an illimitable vibe – we are deep into it now.

As our vigor begins to wane nearing the end of the shoot list – the doorbell rings, in strolls Michael with an arm load of Chocolate Art ready to become the featured star! We are rejuvenated … Michael brings lightness to set (you can almost hear Sammy Davis Jr, singing “The Candy Man” when Michael is around). The air shifts to a jovial, circus like air, Michael hams it up with Sarah and Tom, a little pastis is poured stepping up the party atmosphere while the works of art are placed on set. Click, click, click, click – the chocolate art is chronicled in a tic, suddenly it’s time to strike the set, break down the photo shoot.

The heavy drum beats of The Secret Machine brings us back to reality as Sarah and I disentangle the day’s efforts. Tom reviews the photos with Michael. The day is long but with the high jinx at the end it feels like just moment ago that we started the day. Much is emotionally driven, all for one goal – to induce the best possible environment while we work, to actualize the confections so all can visually savor … to entice, share the pleasures of not only the concocting of the truffles but the joy of initiating a picture so perfect you can almost taste it as you lick the melted chocolate off your fingertips.

The reward of our work together is illustrated on our website, in all collateral, even on You Tube. The warmth and care to create are evident in our photos. When you have a moment, stop, take the time to really look at the detail of the photography – this isn’t just pictures of food it’s a passionate dance  around music, food and people who genuinely work well together in capturing the “deliciousness” of what Recchiuti creates just for you.



January 23rd, 2012 | by Jacky Recchiuti


Art & Architecture

Drama. Gesture. Rapture. Foundation. These are the building blocks of inspiration – not necessarily in that order but definitely capturing the passions Michel and I share.  As craftspeople we like to take something with a simple gesture create a confectionary morsel so rapturous it imbues the drama of chocolate – that is our foundation.

While traveling we are rejuvenated by the stimuli we surround ourselves, we both tend toward visual nuances, it seeps into our pores and etches itself into our minds eye.

I’d like to share Michael and my love for art and architecture in a pictorial of inspiration … from our eyes to yours here are 28 images that you may find influence products or designs yet to come!



December 27th, 2011 | by Jacky Recchiuti


For the love of chocolate … and a touch of vino

We San Franciscans are a charmed lot. We have a longer season for fresh produce & fruits than other parts of the country. We have superior bread makers to accompany sublime local cheeses. We have vast choices of coffee roasters to keep us jumping for more java. Microbrewers to keep going from pub crawl to pub crawl for miles, well, at least 7 by 7 miles. Spirit distillers are a within arm reach to bring us warm cheers on cold foggy evenings. Mostly humbly we make wines that even fooled the French in blind tastings … indeed we are a charmed lot.

Michael and I venerate being in company of talented entrepreneurs and the healthiest appetites in all Bay Area, to have the fortitude to consume the best foods available at our finger tips and still leave room for chocolates; to be accompanied by winning wines makes it a slice of heaven!

Over the years we’ve had the great honor of incredible partnerships – Verite, Duckhorn, Sterling, Lambert Bridge, Willem Selyem, Schramsberg, J Winery, Hartford, Sutton Cellars, Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant, JC Cellars the list goes on and continues to do so this holiday season.

Chocolate is very much like wine – capturing nuances in the soil and other influences in its surroundings. Fermentation draws sapidity, timing in roasting as with the right moment of the crush reveal layers otherwise unnoticed. Personality, style and mien vary on unique inclination – following through from creation to creativity of the wrap (or bottle) it’s held within. We add idiosyncrasy to each strata just as in wines, we at Recchiuti have a choice for a multitude of preferences. Each calling to a particular palette be it truffles, a baked treat or bars with inclusions we seek partnerships that share the same principles.

Like the partnering wines our truffles capture the very essence, layers of flavor and complexity of the wines that make it the perfect pairing. Engage in a tasting with the Recchiuti Red Wine Pairing box or cavort in a selection of your own.  Like our varied alternatives of food here in the Bay Area the sky’s the limit – we have an ample offering of confections with a generous selection of wine partners.

This season we’ve partnered with Jaqk Wine Cellar, Cameron Hughes Wines and Lot 18 each have chosen diversions that suit the wines they offer. Ideal choices for the oenophile on your holiday gift list…



November 25th, 2011 | by Katie


A Chocolate Company is Born

In November 1997, Michael and Jacky’s dream to open up an artisan chocolate company was realized. Plans were solidified, licenses granted and Recchiuti Confections officially became a business.

I sat down with Michael and Jacky to talk about what the first days were like.

Michael and Jacky met in the late 1980’s and not long thereafter they began to discuss opening their own chocolate company. Planning started while they were both working at Twins Farms, an intimate country getaway near Woodstock Vermont. As they still do to this day, they divided and conquered: Michael refined recipes and Jacky defined the aesthetic vision for the business. Nearly thirty years ago, the US had little to offer in the way European-style truffles and confections so they drew lightly on European models for their market research.

Formaggio Kitchen a small specialty food boutique in Cambridge, Massachusetts, became Recchiuti’s first wholesale account. It didn’t take long for the word to get out and Bon Appetit ran a feature in their magazine!

The time had come. Michael and Jacky packed up their belongings and their drive to succeed, and moved to San Francisco. Jacky said neither of them was intimidated by the prospect. In fact, the potential and all the unknown possibilities were truly exciting.

Michael and Jacky moved into the American Industrial Center where Recchiuti Confections’ kitchen and offices are still located today. Back in 1997 they had one small room. Today, Recchiuti’s production kitchen, fulfillment, packing, warehouse and corporate offices all occupy spaces of their own.

The first years were riddled with trial and error for the new business owners. Michael recanted the story about the “gurgling and exploding” Ginger Hearts. The cause of these truffle casualties was a mystery until lab tests revealed that there was an abnormally high level of yeast in the building due to a neighboring bakery that recently opened in the building. The yeast was getting mixed up in the ganache which subsequently began to ferment. A new filtration in the production kitchen resolved the challenge.

Fourteen years have passed and one cannot speak of fine chocolates and San Francisco without including Recchiuti Confections. The two have become synonymous. Happy Anniversary to Recchiuti Confections!

In the spirit of commemorating Recchiuti Confections’ anniversary, check out this video filmed by photographer/filmmaker Tom Seawell and starring Michael. Originally, Michael made the video to honor his friend/extended family member Cajeton’s 70th birthday. Cajeton lives in Australia and Michael and Jacky were unable to attend; instead, they sent their best wishes the Recchiuti-way.

Two traits Michael is known for, his kind heart and endearing sense of humor are apparent from the video’s start to its finish. When asked, Michael said it fills him with good feelings to have been able to create this unique gift for his dear friend.



October 4th, 2011 | by Katie


Michael participates in the First Annual Ferry Building Cookbook Festival!

On Saturday September 17, 2011 the Ferry Building and CUESA (The Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) teamed up for the First Annual Ferry Building Cookbook Festival.  Michael was there to share in the fun, sign his cookbook Chocolate Obsession and demonstrate how to make his Rocky Recchiuti Brownies.  After the cooking demo, Michael popped over to the store to sign additional books, promote his Rocky Recchiuti Brownies (special for the day!) and converse with customers.

Here is a photo gallery of the event.  (Photos taken by Recchiuti enthusiast Barry Jan.)


Photo captions (Left to right, top to bottom):

1) Prior to the event, in typical Michael fashion, he decided to test how close he could get to the speakers with his microphone.  When he was just inches away, ear-piercing feedback screeched throughout the crowd.  Of course, Michael thought it was hilarious and it set the tone for the sort of spontaneous demos he is known for.

2) Sarah Henkin, Market Chef and coordinator of CUESA’s culinary events, introducing Michael’s demo.

3) Michael proudly displays his Forastero Cacao Bean.

4) Chocolate, as we know and love it, is derived from the beans within the pods.

5) Mise en place. Always striving to support local produce and vendors, Michael used walnuts from Alfieri Farms.  Alfieri Farms is a family farm in Ripon, CA that is committed to providing the highest quality nuts and fruits.

6) After the melted chocolate, butter and eggs are mixed together, Michael adds the dry ingredients.

7) The moment everyone has been waiting for!  Note how the marshmallows are nice and toasty brown on top.  This is achieved by adding them to the batter after it is poured into the prepared pan.  This technique creates a great visual, aids in even distribution and decreases the possibility of overworking the batter.

Rocky Recchiuti Brownies have been a hit ever since Michael introduced them at the Farmer’s Market many years ago.  This is an easy recipe for beginner bakers.  Use your favorite nut!

8)  Endnote: This picture brought smiles to the faces of many Recchiuti employees.  Michael’s response: “no comment”.



September 7th, 2011 | by Katie


Herbs & Sweets

One of the truly unique characteristics of Michael’s confections is his masterful use of herbs and spices.  Typically used for savory applications, Michael uses lavender, tarragon, and lemon verbena to formulate confections that are all his own.  These three herbs have become essential ingredients in three of Recchiuti Confections’ signature truffles.

Michael’s journey with herbs began in Philadelphia where he was first exposed to savory herbs and spices coupled with fruits (salted grapefruit; black pepper on cantaloupe), and in confections.  Michael described this as a “pivotal” moment in his professional development.

A few years later, and pre-Recchiuti Confections, Michael and Jacky worked at the exclusive country estate and spa Twin Farms.  Michael was the pastry chef and and Jacky, their Jane of all trades; it is no surprise that they stayed as long as they did.  Located in Barnard, VT, Twin Farms sits on three hundred plus acres of wildflower meadows, an ideal setting for Michael to cut his teeth on the exploration of herbs in pastry.  It was there that he would wander in the fields and harvest bundles of lemon verbena and lavender.  Michael “pushed himself to find something new” and incorporated the herbs into his sorbets and cakes.  His reason for it all: to discover appealing combinations.

Herbs and spices can be challenging ingredients and as Michael pointed out to me,“great things come from mistakes and disasters” and, of course, lots of trial and error.  There are many variables to consider: dry or fresh herbs, hot or cold infusions; the recipes should complement, not overwhelm, each truffle’s distinct flavor profile.  With the exception of Rose Geranium, Michael does not use flavored oils or essences.

When Michael and Jacky moved to San Francisco to open Recchiuti Confections, it made perfect sense to source local herbs to use in their truffles.  To this day, Michael procures lavender and lemon verbena from Eatwell Farm in Northern California’s Sacramento Valley.

Lavender’s prominent floral tones make it a suitable match for full bodied 70% chocolate.  Michael has determined that the species of lavender which meets his desired specifications is Lavandula augustifolia. For Recchiuti’s Lavender Vanilla Truffle, Eatwell cuts the plants ‘Grosso’ with the flowers still closed; this is preferred for drying.

Lemon Verbena’s strong citrus and floral aromas make it an ideal herb for perfumes, teas and of course, food.  For Recchiuti’s Lemon Verbena Truffle, the small, tender herb leaves are dried before they are steeped in warm cream. After that, the cream is allowed to cool and sit with the herbs for up to three days.  It is during this long, cold soak that the green, “chlorophyll” and herbaceous flavors are extracted.

Tarragon and grapefruit are two ingredients that, throughout the years, Michael has combined together in many recipes. The combination has found its way into cakes, an intermezzo sorbet and, of course, the revered Tarragon Grapefruit Truffle.  Tarragon’s licorice notes match perfectly with the tangy bite of grapefruit; when paired with dark chocolate a perfect harmony is achieved.  Recchiuti Confections buys tarragon from Mariquita Farm in Watsonville, CA.  Mariquita picks the tarragon to order which ensures the highest degree of freshness.

Recipes for all three of these truffles, and many more, can be found in Michael’s cookbook Chocolate Obsession.



July 20th, 2011 | by Katie


Q & A with Michael and Jacky about their 2011 trip to Paris and London.

Q: What was the purpose of your trip?

A: Primarily recipe and development.  We were seeking a new, proprietary formulation to be used as a dark chocolate ganache.  The end goal is to find a ratio that leads to a texture that is more “pudding-like” than the other Recchiuti blends and a “more stable emulsion” that does not separate.

[Valrhona, Recchiuti's primary supplier of chocolate, works with Michael to create blends that reflect his exacting preferences.  The process is meticulous and scientific.  Michael takes a sensory test using unlikely aromas like stone, soil, grass and metal. Once the data is captured, the proprietary Recchiuti blend is developed.  Additionally, the trip was an opportunity for Michael and Jacky to look for trends to inspire the upcoming Recchiuti café in Dogpatch.]

Q: Jacky, this was your first visit to the Rhone Valley (Tain L’Hermitage is the village Valrhona in) and to Valrhona.  What were your impressions?




A: It was reassuring to see that Valrhona, a company that is much larger than Recchiuti, uses manufacturing processes akin to ours (Recchiuti’s). There is no need for artificial flavorings and things of the like.

Valrhona has impeccable customer service.  They are always professional and warm.  Their etiquette is akin to the French version of “Southern Hospitality”.  The Rhone Valley is very rural and laid back; it is a tight family.

[This was Michael’s fourth trip to Valrhona and the visit was affirming for him as well.  It took Valrhona a total of six years to complete their panning room.  By choice, Valrhona uses a very old conching machine.   Not by choice, the machine has been known to break down and delay production.  They confront similar challenges that a small business (like Recchiuti) does.]

Q: What was (one of) your favorite meals?

A: Clarke’s in London.  The execution there was perfect and sublime.  The presentation was simple.  The asparagus was tender and perfect.  The experience was cozy, like one of our favorite San Franciscan restaurants, Delfina.  This meal was in contrast to the very formal, orchestrated, heavy and flavor-rich meals in Paris.  Wine was thoroughly enjoyed everywhere throughout the trip.

Q: What was the best smell during the trip?

A: (MR) The aroma of warm butter and yeast emerging from bakeries in the morning.  The drafts onto the streets almost seem deliberate (to lure in customers) and were familiar.

(JR) The clean, fresh smell of the Rhone Valley.

Q: Are there notable differences between the chocolate scenes in Paris, London and San Francisco?

A: Chocolate is a way of life in France.  Parisians seem to be more loyal to their chocolatiers and Americans seem to be more adventurous and shop for what is convenient.  Even in London, chocolate has more of a presence in London than it does San Francisco.

Q: Besides chocolate, what other food inspirations did you find?

A: (JR) At Dayslesford in London you could choose to have your soup either hot or cold; this was impressive.

(MR) The open air markets.  The vendors ask you when you will be eating your selection so they can give it to you at the appropriate ripeness.  Unpasteurized cheese was prevalent.

Q: What did you miss most about San Francisco?

A: The abundance of fresh vegetables greens and produce.

Q: Were there any noteworthy European fashion trends?

A: (JR) Surprisingly not.  It was disappointing to see that many clothing chains (Gap, Zara) have made fashion much more homogenized.  There were lots of Converse, Levis and baseball caps, more so than in previous visits.  Of course, people dress up more, as they do in NY.

Q: Did you come across any innovations in chocolate?

A: A marmite truffle made by Paul A. Young.

Answers are not direct quotes.





July 12th, 2011 | by Katie


Let’s Eat Cake!

Each year Recchiuti Confections selects a Creativity Explored artist whose work will be featured on an exclusive box of our signature Burnt Caramel truffles for an entire year.  To commemorate the launch of our fifth Creativity Explored Box, on July 1st, we held a celebration at the Ferry Building store.

This day, was particularly special, because we were also honoring the artist’s, Camille Holvoet’s Birthday.

The new Creativity Explored Box is entitled ‘Cakes’ and pictures four variations of Camille’s beloved  pastry.  Camille is an extremely talented artist who depictions of cakes bear resemblance to the American painter Wayne Thiebaud’s treasured works.


We thought a fitting kick off would be to invite our customers and friends down to the store to enjoy white cupcakes with truffle cream topping.  The scrumptious cupcakes were baked in our very own Recchiuti Kitchen and the recipe for them can be found in Michael’s book Chocolate Obsession.

Upon arriving at the event, Camille promptly asked to sample a box of the chocolates that depicted her art and a cupcake.  Michael sat at Camille’s side and throughout the hour they each graciously offered autographs to adoring fans.  Camille drew sketches for some 200 spectators and  looked at photographs in Michael’s cookbook.  In between laughs, Michael and Camille chatted about art and sweets.

Camille has a direct and contagious energy that draws you to her.  She also has a strong affinity for sweets of all kinds.  In one sketch she did that afternoon she wrote with a sharpie and big block letters: “I wish you could give me 200 boxes of candys.  I would like 200 boxes of candys in a big brown bag…Thank you Mikle.”  At one point, the crowd spontaneously sang Happy Birthday to Camille; a truly heartwarming moment for all.

For each ‘Cake’ Box that is sold, $2 goes directly to Creativity Explored so you can feel good about indulging in these Burnt Caramel truffles.  Jacky Recchiuti describes the continued partnership with Creativity Explored to be “fulfilling and inspirational”; we all look forward to sharing celebrations with our community to come.




April 11th, 2011 | by Leah Rosenthal


Recchiuti Confections & JC Cellars: We Salud You.

Things that get me out of bed on a Saturday morning: Bagels and salty lox, my cat’s relentless whimper… the always sense-sating Farmers Market. On a recent Saturday, something else lured me awake.  I was off to a much anticipated tasting of Recchiuti Chocolate paired with JC Cellars wines.  Chocolate and wine were to be breakfast, an unusual but delightful start to the day.

JC Cellars is in Lake Merrit, CA.  I liken Lake Merrit to the Dogpatch of the East Bay.  (The latter of which is home to Recchiuti.)  Lake Merritt is a few blocks from Oakland’s inner harbor and a few more from Oakland’s Chinatown.  In recent years this neighborhood has undergone a fair amount of development which has centered around the rebirth of Jack London Square and the demise of many chain restaurants that moved in during the 1970s.

This was only my second encounter with JC Cellars.  The first was a few weeks prior when Jeff Cohen (the JC in JC Cellars) came to the office with a few dozen bottles of wine.  Michael & Jeff disappeared into the conference room and painstakingly tested out numerous pairings.  Several hours later they emerged flushed and gleeful.  The menu for the upcoming event had been determined.

Upon entering the 15,000 sq. ft. warehouse of a wine cellar, I noticed the tables were set with many, many stems and no spittoons. Seven flights & no spitting would be a guaranteed way to loosen up the attendees and get them talking.

The tasting began with brief introductions by our hosts Michael & Jeff.

Michael is a self-made chocolatier.  He’s been conjuring sweets since his boyhood days in Philadelphia where he used to bake Italian wedding cakes with his grandmother.  As a young man, he was a pastry chef at the renowned restaurant Le Bec Fin.  Michael trained for three years under Alain Tricou; during this time that he developed his passion for chocolate as well as refined his palate and style.  Michael’s preference for the bold and innovative lead him San Francisco and to create Recchiuti Confections.

Jeff is the winemaker and president of JC Cellars.  Twenty years ago he cut his teeth in the industry as an intern at Boordy Vineyards in Maryland.  His credentials include an associate degree in culinary arts, a bachelor’s degree in hospitality and a master’s degree in agriculture chemistry, with an emphasis on enology.  After working for many years at Rosenblum Cellars, Jeff began his own label in 1996. Jeff travels throughout California in search of the finest fruit and the best vineyards.  His goal: to marry California fruit to the aspects of terroir and minerality that you would find in France’s oldest winemaking regions.

Wine excites Jeff as chocolate excites Michael.  There is an element of pleasure and enjoyment that drives them both.  Chocolate and wine need not be saved for special occasions they are small ways to treat yourself. The rapport between Michael and Jeff is jovial with a hint of friendly mocking.  As the touchés pass back and forth, the tasting begins.  There will be seven flights of wine, each paired with 2 or so pieces of chocolate.

Chocolate is no different than other foods that you pair with wine in so much that you want to match lighter-flavored chocolates with lighter-bodied wines, and more intensely flavored chocolates with more full-bodied wines.  You can either pair flavors that have similar notes or those that contrast.  By their nature, pairings will always be subjective.

Follows is a list of each of the flights, notes on the wine (with the help of JCCellars.com) and a brief description of the experience that emerged when paired with the chocolate.

Experience #1: 2008 Stagecoach Vineyard Marsanne with Honeycomb Malt and Butterscotch Caramel.  Stagecoach is aged 16 months in 30% new French oak and 70% one-year-old barrels.  Aroma: orange blossom, lemon custard, bitter almond, cinnamon and slightly sautéed vanilla bean in butter and glazed in heavy cream.  Tasting notes: Honeysuckle, acacia flowers and marzipan.  The mineral element of the wine gives way to a touch of dried apricot and peach.  The sweet malt infused white chocolate ganache of the Honeycomb Malt seems to diffuse the tannins of the wine. For many of the participants the Butterscotch Caramel has more affinity with the wine.  The salt in this confection highlights the mineral notes of the wine.

Experience #2: 2008 Imposter Red Wine with Spring Jasmine Tea and Cassis Strata.  Imposter is abundant with dark fruits and aromatics of spiced plum, wild game, graphite and dried currant. It gains depth and traction on the finish with complex minerality and chewy tannins.  The milk chocolate in the Spring Jasmine Tea off sets the acidity of the wine.  Furthermore, it pulls out a woodsy flavor in the wine.  The flavor of the Cassis Strata Truffle was a dead ringer for the fruit flavors in the wine.

Next up, we would do a lateral tasting of Stage Coach Syrah with the same two truffles to see how the vintage of a wine would alter the experience with the chocolate.

In both vintages, the extreme terroir of the Stagecoach Syrahs produces a wine of many extremes and intensities. Aromas of: graphite, mineral, roasted earth, blackberry preserves and floral components. Tasting notes: well-structured black fruits a mineral backbone, crème brûlée finish.

Experience #3: 2006 Stagecoach Syrah with Cardamom Nougat and Piedmont Hazelnut. Michael explains that the Cardamom Nougat Truffle was impart inspired by a tradition in Denmark to use cardamom in their pastries.  The ”nougat” in this truffle is actually a cacao nib crumble.  The cardamom nougat’s spice notes make it an almost a savory chocolate and its toasty tannins amplified the spiciness of the wine.

Experience #4: 2007 Stagecoach Vineyard ‘Isabel’ Syrah with Cardamom Nougat and Piedmont Hazelnut.  Blackberry preserves, spiced plum and graphite minerality.  This vintage is riper than the 2006.  The gianduja (milk chocolate and hazelnut paste) filling of the Piedmont Hazelnut Truffle causes this heavy wine to be even darker and richer.

Experience #5: ‘Buffalo Hill’ Rockpile Vineyard Syrah 2007 with Ginger Heart Truffle & Rose Geranium Caramel.

This wine has very low yields (63 cases).  On the pallet it offers a true French, specifically Hermitage, experience, a balance between soft finesse and minerality.  Cohn considers this wine to be the culmination of all wines that inspire the JC Cellars team.  With an espresso aroma, this wine is cassis driven, with sparks of mineral and wild cherry.  It’s rounded out with vanilla bean, brown sugar and cinnamon.

When experienced with the Ginger Heart the long finish is emphasized.  It is like a “big hug”.  This wine will only get better with time.  The Rose Geranium Truffle and Rockpile are pure seduction.  I was intrigues to learn that Hermitage is an appellation from the Rhône Valley of France, the same origin of Valrhona and the chocolates Michael uses to make his confections.

Experience #6: Misc. Stuff 2008 (44% Carignan, 25% Grenache, 24% Syrah, 7% Tempranillo) with Equador Varietal and Amarena Candied Cherry

This wine is JC Cellar’s first attempt at playing around with a Carignan blend. This wine has a delightful Spanish flair; a dance between Priorat and Cornas. Each of the components of this wine was aged in large formats with only 10% new oak involved. Cohn says his “goal was to have slow maturation and focus on the fruit and vineyards that were blended together.”  This wine is a mixture of grapes from warm and cool climates.  With so many interesting components, the name Misc. Stuff, just seemed to fit. This wine is exotic, decadent and truly rustic in its nature.

The straightforward intensity of the Ecuadorian varietal cocoa bean exhibits a persistence of flavor. Smokey tobacco notes, a hint of earthiness and a rich, coffee color.  The flavors in the truffle dance with the subtle but present earth components of the wine.

The candied and wild Italian Cherries are part of Recchiuti’s Dragee line.  It is drenched in dark chocolate and then dusted in cocoa powder.  Michael procures the wild candied cherry from a nearly hundred year old company in Italy that specializes in this unique and prized fruit.  The candied Amarena cherry matches with the bight black cherry aroma and flavor of the Misc. Stuff.

Experience #7 2005 Ripken Late Harvest Viognier (8% alc. 16.5% residual sugar) with Pear Lime Pate de Fruit and Kona Coffee Truffle

Viognier was selected to conclude the tasting.  It is a perfect dessert wine, typically from the Rhône Valley. This lush Viognier was harvested with a hint of noble rot that engenders tropical flavors: apricot, peach, nectar, beeswax and honey.

The Pear-Lime Pâte de Fruit is a wonderful compliment to the Viongnier; it is a welcome pallet refresher after so many flights of chocolate.  Again, and of interest, the fuits used to make the gelées are also from the Rhône Valley.

Rounding out the tasting is the Kona Coffee Truffle.  The 100% Kona that is infused into the semisweet chocolate has low acidity and strong berry components.  The truffles provides and intriguing contrast to the Viognier and is a wonderful finale to the tasting.

If you would like to host your own Chocolate and Wine Tasting party the Recchiuti Confection Red Wine Pairing Collection is a great place to start The box contains chocolates selected by Michael Recchiuti to pair with suggested red wines. It includes three pieces each of Star Anise & Pink Peppercorn, Spring Jasmine Tea, Force Noir and pairing notes. Try Michael’s wine suggestions or pair with a wine of your choice.  
Salud!



March 21st, 2011 | by Leah Rosenthal


Food From The Heart 2011 Photo Gallery.

Here’s a visual recap of  Eat The Paint 2011.  Conducted by Michael and artist Mark Alsterlind; this is one of our favorite yearly events!  Photo Credit: Katreece Montgomery




November 3rd, 2010 | by Leah Rosenthal


Say Cheese….Chocolate & Cheese Taste Project

The setting: The industrial, rust meets revolution Dogpatch district of San Francisco.  Spanning an entire city block, the building bustles with bohemian innovation. Creative business thrives here. The 2nd floor is dusted with the dreamy, intoxicating aroma of sweets in the making.  This is where the magic happens.

A Brian Eno iPhone App titled ‘Bloom’ generates chocolate spa music, not dissimilar to a planetarium playlist.  The tones mingle with soft voices of curious, awaiting guests.  Pastoral scenes from Toluma Farms are projected on the wall.  Butcher-paper lined tables and flickering votives.


I will be the first to admit that I was slightly skeptical of how this pairing would work.  I adore chocolate and can never have enough cheese.  But together?

The menu combines the forces of Michael Recchiuti, Laura Werlin & William Werner; all experts in their respective fields.  During his introduction, Michael made a distinction between pairing chocolate and cheese and using the two to accentuate their own unique and nuanced flavors.  He said that he didn’t want to mask the experience of the cheese on its own.

Laura has devoted her career to the exploration of American Cheese.  She can be credited with educating the public about the diverse and wonderful cheeses produced across our country.  She explained that for this Taste Project,  the selection of cheese was all American in origin and of primarily artisan production.  Furthermore, the US has become a leader in the cheese industry & has inspired innovations in what was a stagnant European market.  As the menu would reveal, cheese making is not exclusive to any one part of the US. It is everywhere.  Much like wine, a cheese’s unique flavor is in part a result of its terroir.



Course 1: Grilled Cheese

One of the pleasures of these events is that food becomes a medium for dialogue.  The audience was fascinated by every detail of each course.  In this case, the conversation turned to the brioche, a tender bread enriched with butter and eggs.  Michael’s recipe for brioche, one he has used for many years, was 43% butter.  In unison, the room sighed with approval.  The perfectly toasted brioche rounds sandwich two types of pasteurized cow’s milk cheese: Wagon Wheel and Foggy Morning.  Aged Wagon Wheel is an excellent cheese for melting.  Foggy Morning is a young cheese made in nearby Nicasio, CA; its tangy flavor is similar to that of fromage blanc.  Beneath the cheese lay a wilted tomato that had rested for over half a day in one of the warm chocolate rooms.  In place of mayonnaise, a Valrhona chocolate caramel spread.


The tomato push pop added more than whimsy.  Its refreshing, cool, just picked summer taste played on the contrasting temperatures and textures of the sando.  It was my favorite component of the dish.  I imagined a Bloody Mary, or BLT version.  This is that type of cuisine.

Course 2: Cheese & Chestnut Soufflé

Soufflé is one of those classic French dishes that consistently incites intimidation among novice chefs.  But, in fact, it is a rather simple method to follow and is made from a few staple ingredients.  This soufflé can be made in advance of service, which makes it suitable for entertaining.

The cheese in the soufflé is a fresh goat’s cheese called O Banon, which hails from a farm in ‘Kentuchiana’ on the border Kentucky and Indiana.  The cheese is wrapped like a present in chestnut leaves that have been soaked in Bourbon.  The liquor’s musky flavor only slightly penetrates the mild cheese and also serves as a natural preservative.  The cheese is drained and molded resulting in a crumbly dry paste.

The soufflé was postured like a velvet royal crown. Poofy & aloof.  Paper thin chestnut slices adorned her & she lay a top a brown butter and apple cider vinegar reduction.  Amber colored and slightly syrupy.  The knobby chestnuts were passed through a truffle shaver and thus gave the illusion there of.  The soufflé was draped in cocoa nibs (roasted cocoa beans separated from their husks & broken into small pieces) which gave texture and a subtle roasted flavor.

Course 3: Autumn Salad

I would add ‘Deconstructed’ to the title.  There were no greens or veggies as the name suggests.  This dish was a perfect marriage of fruit and cheese; in this case pears and cheddar.  Silky pear coulis dots the plate.  There are free form white chocolate twigs topped with crunchy nutty beads of praline.  Cabot cloth bound cheddar, robust and sharp, was the perfect savory partner.

Expressions around the room confirm delighted taste buds.  I remind myself of the behind the scenes brilliance that fuels these events.  Let’s talk about Chef William Werner.  Evoking a countenance of Justin Bierber, William seamlessly conducted the kitchen.  Everything on the plate is thoughtful.  He uses, what looks to be a hairdryer, to heat & soften pre-made tuilles in a leaf-shaped mold.  Then, he places curves and ripples in each by hand.  The delicate leaves were used to garnish the salad.

Werner operates his business Tell Tale Preserve Company from the same building that Recchiuti Confection is located in.  Tell Tale Society, a patisserie & delicatessen, is slated to open at 33 Maiden Lane sometime soon.  The society will deliver monthly burlap bags brimming with creatively inspired (sweet & savory) preserves, confections, cookies, cakes and the like.

Course 4: Toasted Barley Chocolate Truffle

From here, the tasting was moved to the kitchen.  The room, really a chocolate laboratory, is filled with culinary equipment and tools of all sorts.  It’s here, that RC melts, enrobes, covers, bakes, and creates all the confections.

Make it known that Michael loves fire.  A self-proclaimed ‘pyro.’ His passion for flame, flame for passion, translates gorgeously into RC’s signature ‘Burnt Caramel.’  Carmel is the result of heating sugar beyond its melting point so that it becomes a liquid.

It can be the platform for many additions.  In this case, cocoa nibs and toasted barley were added.

The now crunchy caramel concoction was spread out on a Silpat to cool and we proceed to build the rest of the truffle.  A cheese named Fenacho is to be the base.  It’s a semi-hard goat’s milk cheese and mimics aged Gouda.  It’s sweet and butterscotchy.  Fenugreek is mixed into the cheese and gives it a hint of celery.  This is my favorite cheese of the day.  A layer of ginger pâte de fruits coats the cheese and is sprinkled with barley. Finally, it’s run through the Willy Wonkaesque enrober, then passes through a slow & steady cooling tunnel where it sets.  Pure imagination.

Eating a truffle fresh off an enrober should be on everyone’s bucket list.  And, what makes this even better is that the unexpected flavors really do work together.

Course 5: Bayley Hazen Blue Chocolate Truffle

Michael’s shock & awe campaign of the day.  Although this truffle did not suit my personal taste, it was a honorable and fun experiment.  The cheese was Bayley Hazen Blue made of raw cow’s milk in Greensboro Vermont: a heady, creamy blue that I likened to stilton.  Complex and bold; this cheese is not for the faint at heart.  I would pair this beastly blue with a cold autumn night & an aperitivo with viscous legs.

Course 6: Grason meets Recchiuti

So much of our sense of taste comes from smell & this cheese was, to put it mildly, aromatic, prodigious, fragrant…stinky.  Pastoral smells, hoofs, and a ripeness that can literally knock you over.  Grayson is a washed rind cheese paying dues to a classic tellegio.  This cheese has layers of flavor and deserves to be tasted alone.  Sweet, pungent, buttery.  This course was paired with fresh figs, in season now, dark chocolate beads and one last show stopper, house made panforte.

So in the end, I was (happily) proved wrong.  Chocolate & cheese can mingle and delightfully so.



June 22nd, 2010 | by Jacky Recchiuti


When the spirits move you…

2010 Creativity Explored Private Taste Project

Jacky Recchiuti


A form of relaxation for Michael and me is sharing food and wine (no big surprise) with friends and family. We love entertaining in every possible form – intimate candle lit soirées, backyard BBQ, Champagne brunch, Philly cheese steak party … you get the picture, right?

Last year we were able to bring this kind of love for all things culinary to our beloved San Francisco foodies and create what we call the Taste Project. It’s very informal and intimate with low lighting – some ambient twinkly fairy lights, background music, at times creative percussion pieces Michael has recorded with musician friends, images from Brian Eno’s 10,000,000 Paintings morphing on a wall. The experience is tactile and very personal. Add to that recipe fortified wine and spirits, and it becomes… dynamic!

Some of our most favorite people in San Francisco are the staff and volunteers at Creativity Explored – a nonprofit visual arts center where artists with developmental disabilities create, exhibit, and sell art. We’ve developed a partnership over the last three years that has been amazing; and because of our deep love and commitment to them, CE has been a recipient of one of the Taste Project private tastings.

A long table is set with glasses – a selection of fortified wines and spirits are poured next to truffles for the pairings. For décor are bits of pink peppercorn and whole star anise, tiny illustrations of pears and cherries are drawn on the butcher paper lined table. Two large copper candy kettles now doubling as planters house black bamboo, the leaves and stalks casting feathery shadows against the walls adding to the ambiance, soon our guests will arrive.


As they enter, a heated rectangle of Himalayan salt block (from Mark Bitterman of  the Meadow in Portland) houses a bar of the custom Recchiuti Semisweet ready to be dipped into with our house made graham cracker, this is a little starter to open up the palette. When the first cracker breaks the surface of the bar – the heated chocolate is release from suspension… a creamy ooze of chocolate spreads across the salt block.

Michael roasts cacao nibs in a copper pan adding fragrance to the room; it is then poured out on a mat for an initial tasting of how cacao and its flavor develop in the roasting, elements of cacao making are discussed to highlight what we are looking for in the pairings.


Thus begin the pairings –

From St George Spirits:

Acqua Perfecta Poire eau de vie with Cardamom Nougat

· Spicy notes from the eau de vie was highlighted by cardamom

Acqua Perfecta Kirsh eau de vie with Cassis Strata

· Deep dark berries of the cassis & cherries capture the cherry profile in the Kirsh

St George Absinthe Verte with Tarragon Grapefruit

· Tarragon in both the absinthe and infused truffle created a nice balance of licorice

Qi Black Tea liqueur with Candied Orange Peel.

· Hand- made candied orange peel

Nettle infused vodka (made by Hangar One) pipettes pairing with Lemon Verbena

· Freshness from green chlorophyll  pulls the likeness of the nettle and verbena


Other stickies:

Broadbent Madeira with Fleur de Sel

· Toasty caramel  flavors from and aged Madeira marries with the deep caramel

Nocino by Della Christina with Kona Coffee

· The sweet-smoke of the walnut liqueur didn’t over power the richness of Kona coffee


Before the after party …



Being of a generous and convivial constitution our new CE best friends have selected a few libations to share with or without the select pairing of truffles.

Elizabeth Spencer Cabernet Sauvignon

Husch Cabernet Sauvignon

Etter Cherry Brandy

The Prisoner – something red and juicy.

It is clear to us (Michael and myself that is), we are playing with fire taken prisoner by these party happy rogues from Creativity Explored all bottles are emptied, wonderful stories and jokes are tossed around the table the tasting has taken a life of its own; colors are brighter, laughter deeper we have crossed the tasting Rubicon. The party travels (the after party) on to the private home of one of the attendees where the festivities continue until the wee hours involving more music and drinking.

Although we don’t always party all night with the attendees of our Taste Project we do offer a venue to relax and enjoy with friends or to make new acquaintances, it isn’t meant to be a lesson in culinary wonders, but more the sharing of culinary passions that we in the bay area live by.  Michael and I have created a place to bring people together and have fun while we share creations made by Recchiuti Confections and/or friends in the industry who also are driven by the fondness for food, drink, libations, and the company of people.

2010 brings a new set of Taste Projects, you’ll recognize some past themes and be introduced to new. We offer bookings online or call us if you are interested in a corporate buy-out or a small private party as we can provide space for only 25. Times and dates are limited.



June 10th, 2010 | by tsunami


Chocolate Malt Ice Cream

At our shop we usually have a display copy of Michael’s book, Chocolate Obsession, out on display. And somehow, more often than not, hot or cold weather, the book just happens to fall open on one of the gorgeous pictures and recipes for ice-cream that he loves to make. So it’s no surprise that we’re often asked, “why don’t you [Recchiuti] sell ice-cream?” Unfortunately, due to zoning, supply, demand, general practicality, and of course, our lack of refrigerator/freezer at the shop, we’re forced to suggest, “you can always try his recipe at home!”

It sounds hard, but really, it’s one of the simplest recipes in the book. This recipe is an adaptation from Michael’s standard Chocolate Ice Cream, using malt syrup and our custom blend of semisweet chocolate… and since it uses no eggs, it truly might be the easiest ice-cream you’ll ever make!

You can find the full recipe (and others) in the recipe section of our website.

We kept a little step-by-step photo-journal of the process to help you along the way…

The ingredientsP1070820Adding the sugarAdding the hot cream to the chocolateWhisking the chocolate and creamPrepping the mixture to coolAdding the chilled mixture to the ice-cream makerChurning the 'screamMichael's sundae best!

Michael topped his sundae with Cherries Two Ways and Peanut Butter Pearls. And of course, when there’s ice cream on hand, our fantastic staff was ready and willing to share their favorite sundae combos as well! Other staff toppings were Extra-Bitter Chocolate Sauce, Burnt Caramel Sauce, PEPs, Signature Truffles, and Candied Hazelnuts.



May 12th, 2010 | by tsunami


Shiitake Pots de Crème

Shiitake Pots de Creme

These delicious and unusual desserts are the brainchild of Michael Recchiuti from his mouth-watering 2009 Taste Project with Far West Fungi: Fungi & Chocolate.

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For the home cook, making your own (burnt) caramel can seem ambitious, and making your own pots de crème even more so. So we decided to take Recchiuti’s Recipe of the Month and do a step by step slide show of sorts to remove the mystery from the cooking process. We hope these images will encourage you to roll up your sleeves and try making your own. These silky cups of crème will earn you accolades from dinner guests, friends, your significant other, and everyone’s toughest critic: yourself!

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You can find the full recipe (and others) in the recipe section of our website.

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Steeping the shiitakes

Simmering the shiitakesMaking caramel (boiling the sugar and water)

Testing the caramel's colorAdding the cream and milk to the caramelAdding the cream-caramel mixture to the remaining creamMixing the shiitake cream and caramelAdding the cream-caramel to the egg yolksAdding the chopped chocolateStraining the mixtureFilling the 'pots'Putting the pots de creme in a water bath for bakingFinished pots de creme



March 24th, 2010 | by tsunami


When the Easter Bunny comes early…

Easter is around the corner, bringing in chocolate bunnies, colorfully decorated eggs, and of course, the ever dreaded, ever beloved Peeps. And since it is the season of pastels, chicks, Easter bunnies, and eggs, we thought we’d play a little with the classic Recchiuti form, have some Easter-y fun, and get into the swing of the season! We created enough Easter eggs to fill nests of all sizes, beautifully colored candied hazelnuts reminiscent of Robins’ eggs, and (no, they’re not covered in colored sugars, or cut out in animal shapes) trays of our fluffy, fabulous marshmallows!

We created giant chocolate Easter Eggs…Giant Easter Eggs

…miniature Easter eggs within eggs!

Small Painted EggsSmall Painted Eggs opened

…Painted Egg shells waiting to be filled (these are the shells holding the miniature eggs pictured above)…

Painted egg shellsPainted Egg shells

…our Force Noir Eggs…

Egg ShellsForce Noir Eggs

…Candied Hazelnuts…

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…and marshmallows!

Marshmallows

And while Peeps and boxes of Scotchmallows may signal Easter for many candy lovers, here at Recchiuti we tackle our marshmallows a little differently, opting for traditional handmade, hand-cut cubes of fluffy, vanilla bean infused deliciousness. The following is Michael’s marshmallow recipe from his book, Chocolate Obsession.

Tahitian Vanilla Bean Marshmallows

Old-fashioned candies are popular once again, and marshmallows are on top of the list. Michael began making these on a whim and soon Williams-Sonoma was ordering so many that Recchiuti Confections invested in an eighty-quart mixer to fill the orders.

These are puffs of sweetness on their own, or become S’mores when joined by graham crackers and a piece of intense chocolate. Cut into smaller pieces, they add lightness to Rocky Recchiuti Brownies.

You will need a 5-quart heavy-duty mixer to beat the thick mixture,  If you can resist the temptation to eat them right away, the marshmallows will be firmer and easier to cut if left overnight at room temperature.

Makes about 40

Flavorless vegetable oil for the pan

Candy thermometer

3 ¾ teaspoons (1-1/2 envelopes) unflavored gelatin

3 tablespoons water

2 cups (14 ounces) granulated cane sugar, divided into halves

1 ½ cups (16 ounces by weight) corn syrup

4 (5 ounces) extra-large egg whites, at room temperature

1 Tahitian vanilla bean, split horizontally

about 3 cups of powdered cane sugar for finishing the marshmallows

  • Line a baking pan 8 by 12-inches with parchment paper and lightly coat the paper and the sides with flavorless vegetable oil.
  • Put the gelatin in a small bowl. Add 3 tablespoons of water and stir. Set aside to soften.
  • Combine 1 cup ( 7 ounces) of sugar with the corn syrup in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Use an unlined copper pot if you have one.  Place over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the mixture reaches 240°F on a candy thermometer. If any crystals form on the side of the pan as the mixture heats, wash them down with a wet pastry brush.
  • Meanwhile, put the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the bowl.
  • When the sugar syrup reaches 240°F, start to beat the egg whites on medium speed. When the whites form very soft peaks, add the remaining 1 cup (7 ounces) of sugar and continue beating.
  • When the sugar syrup reaches 250°F, turn off the heat and add the softened gelatin. The syrup will foam up and triple in volume.
  • Switch the mixer to high speed and slowly pour the syrup into the beating egg whites, aiming for the side of the bowl. The whites will almost double in volume. Redude the speed to medium-high and beat until the whites (not the outside of the bowl) are lukewarm to the touch, about 114°F, about 15 minutes.
  • Scrape the marshmallow mixture into the prepared pan and using a small offset spatula, spread it evenly to the sides.  Let cool completely at room temperature.
  • To cut the marshmallows, sift about ½ cup of the powdered sugar on a work surface in a rectangle the size of a sheet pan.  Sift another 2 cups of powdered sugar into a large bowl. Run a thin-bladed knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the marshmallow. Sift about ½ cup powdered sugar evenly over the top.  Using a ruler to quire you and a lightly oiled sharp knife, cut the marshmallow sheet into 1 1/2 –inch squares.  It is easier if you use a pressing motion, rather than pull the knife.  After cutting, toss the marshmallows a few at a time in the bowl of powdered sugar, coating them lightly.
  • Store the marshmallows in an airtight container at room temperature, not uin the refrigerator.   They will keep for up to 1 month.

Variation:

If you have tempered chocolate on hand for another use, put some in a separate bowl and dip the marshmallows into the chocolate, covering half of each. Place on a work surface, chocolate side up, until the chocolate sets.



March 23rd, 2010 | by Katie


8 Hours in the Dogpatch

To prepare for Eat the Paint (Recchiuti’s special participation in Food from the Heart) Michael and his friend, artist Mark Alsterlind created edible artwork out of chocolate. They met the night before the event at our kitchens in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco, and for 8 hours created their unique chocolate art pieces. Here we have their work captured on film: 8 hours, 1 frame every 15 seconds, 2200 frame time-lapse, shot by Tom Seawell. The film was later projected on a wall and Michael and musician Jim Fairchild had a jam session and created original music to accompany the film. The slow tempo of the music complements the fast-pace time-lapse.

More Info:

Mark Alsterlind

Jim Fairchild

Tom Seawell



February 23rd, 2010 | by tsunami


Eat The Paint!

Sharing the love at the Ferry Building’s Food From the Heart event is always a joy. And love was in the air on Friday (Feb 12th) as Recchiuti Confections spread joy, and chocolate, for all the attendees of this Slow Food spectacular.

Love is all around

At our shop, passers-by were seduced by luscious chocolate devil’s food cake Whoopie Pies filled with fragrant rose-infused buttercream and enrobed in decadent dark chocolate… not to mention our mouthwatering selection of Valentine’s goodies. And in the atrium, Michael, and artist Mark Alsterlind were there to steal the show with Recchiuti’s famous “Eat The Paint” event.

Love is a pig

Mark flew in from Paris and created beautiful artwork from chocolate and colored cocoa butter, and Michael backed the images with an edible canvas of white chocolate (and re-enforced them with some delectable dark chocolate). These edible pieces of art were then sampled by the ravenous Food From the Heart crowd, ‘oohed and ahhed’ over by admiring spectators, and taken home by a few lucky art (and chocolate) lovers! They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so we’re giving you a little Recchiuti photo-essay. Enjoy!

Mark prepping art tilesBackstock art tiles and supplies: artwork from M&M, created the night beforeTempering white chocolateMichael backing the art with dark chocolate

Mark signing a tile for Ken and LizImages from Mark, awaiting chocolate from MichaelMark creating outlines with tempered chocolatePouring tempered white chocolate onto art frame

Michael pouring tempered white chocolate onto formsBacking the white chocolate 'canvas' with tempered dark chocolateRemoving Sil-Pats from chocolate art tiles!Displaying the edible artworkMark creating a little lobster love for SugeySetting up a makeshift galleryThe artists at workSharing the love i.e. sampling pieces of chocolate art to the masses!



February 16th, 2010 | by Katie


Recchiuti Hot Chocolate Recipe Contest

This January was full of firsts for us here at Recchiuti. We released our new 4 oz Semisweet Bar and Bar Quattro, introduced the Recchiuti Sampler, repackaged our Dark Hot Chocolate and Marshmallows, and last but not least, launched our first Dark Hot Chocolate contest!
Here we have the winning recipe from Kim S.

Kim's Banana Spiked Hot Chocolate

Kim’s Banana Spiked Hot Chocolate

Ingredients:

2 oz boiling water (or whole milk, for a richer drink)

4 oz Recchiuti Dark Hot Chocolate pistoles

1 shot Bailey’s Irish Cream liquor

1 tablespoons banana liquor

Whipped cream (for garnish)

Chocolate sauce, we used Recchiuti’s Extra Bitter Chocolate Sauce (for garnish)

Hot Chocolate:

Pour 2 oz of boiling water over 4 oz of pistoles. Whisk the mixture until the chocolate has melted and a froth has formed.

Add the Bailey’s and banana liquor and gently stir to incorporate.

Pour into a teacup, top with whipped cream, and drizzle with chocolate sauce.

Serve hot and enjoy!



January 28th, 2010 | by lush


Magnolia Pub

With San Francisco Beer Week coming up, and February ushering in Strong Beer Month in the City, it seems like the perfect time to revisit our Beer & Chocolate Taste Project from the fall…

The September 19th, 2009 Recchiuti Taste Project event featured beers from Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery, so I felt it was my cross to bear to go in and try some of their beers.  They call me “lush,” but I very rarely indulge in beers.   I enjoy beer, but usually gravitate towards cocktails and wine instead.  I tried three selections from Magnolia.  The first was their Cole Porter which had a beautiful, chocolaty aroma and taste with a smooth and creamy finish. I was very impressed, but suddenly had a craving for a big piece of chocolate cake.  I don’t even have a sweet tooth!   The Good Thyme Girl joined me for the tasting and agreed. She added that the beer seemed so soothing that it might even go well with spicy foods that require something to calm the tongue.

Cole Porter

The Good Thyme Girl ordered Bonnie Lee’s Best Bitter, a light bitter.  It lived up to its bitter name and we both enjoyed the taste of wheat and grains. Its yeasty aroma was like being right next to someone kneading dough. This beer was wonderful on its own.  I would have been happy to have had another if I didn’t have to try a third selection.

Bonnie Lee's Best

I finished the evening off with a New Speedway Bitter.  After my first sip, I thought that it would go perfect with something fresh out of the deep fryer like nicely battered fried fish or croquettes.  It was fruity and crisp.  My poetic companion called it the “champagne of beers.”   Just lovely.

Speedway Bitter

I’m looking forward to my next visit to Magnolia Pub.   Apart from the beers, their food is fantastic as well.  The people I was with got some delicious burgers, fried Miyagi oysters from Marin, and pork nuggets with a honey mustard sauce.  It all looked fantastic.  If you find yourself in the Upper Haight, definitely stop in.

Until next time.



January 28th, 2010 | by Jacky Recchiuti


Just in Time: Tasting Flights for SF Beer Week

This post originally appeared as part of Barley and Hops…

FLIGHTS  & TASTING NOTES

Blue Bell Bitter Cask Ale

Kona Coffee – pulls out the coffee & cream quality of the beer for a very confection-like flavor.

Candied Orange Peel – hoppy bitterness subsides from the citrus and chocolate, pleasantly light.

Proving Ground IPA Cask Ale

Cardamom Nougat – enhances skunkiness, spiciness in beer, bitter profile is highlighted.

Ginger Heart – white chocolate mellows the bitterness adding a creamy, mild spiciness from the ginger.

Star Anise Pink Peppercorn – beer and truffle balance each other, an interesting and pleasant surprise.

Weather Report Wheat Draught

Force Noir – the maltiness of the beer becomes pronounced as the cacao and vanilla is pulled from the brew.

Star Anise and Pink Peppercorn – bright spice notes appear, allowing the personality to shine from this beer.

Candied Orange Peel – a complex citrusiness comes forward, almost tasting like a “Shandy”

Prescription Pale Draught

Fleur de Sel –  the salty creaminess enhances the flavor of the brew.

Candied Orange Peel – draws out the fruit notes from the beer.

Big Cypress Brown Draught

Burnt Caramel – balances flavors and runs in tandem with beer.

Force Noir – vanilla notes are drawn, driving the chocolate tones out.

Burnt Caramel Almonds – nutty, caramel tones come through with the beer.

Dark Star Mild Cask Ale

Kona Coffee – expected  rich coffee flavors appear.

Honey Comb Malt – creamy, vanilla malt undertones are present.

Sesame Nougat – smokey, toasted nut and caramel flavors become pronounced.



December 22nd, 2009 | by tsunami


The All-Recchiuti ‘Gingerbread’ House aka the Holidays at Recchiuti

As the holiday season approached this year, we in the Recchiuti ‘family’ were thinking of a fun, festive way to welcome winter to the City. One of the benefits of splitting my time between the Ferry Building shop and our offices and kitchens in the Dogpatch neighborhood is getting to be around the fabulous Ferry Building as it is decked out for the holidays and coming into work where the kitchens’ many baking and chocolate-y projects perfume the entire building with tantalizing scents. For me, nothing warms the heart and home like the smell of fresh baked goods (and a decked out tree, of course). My favorite days at the office are when the kitchens bake the graham crackers and permeate the office and kitchens with the wonderful rich scents of cinnamon, brown sugar, and vanilla. So it seemed the perfect way to usher in the holidays would be to bake something spectacular to get us in the swing of things. And since baking wasn’t festive enough we decided to go a step further and turn our grahams into the ultimate ‘gingerbread’ house.

First things first, we needed to create a sturdy base for our house. Enter Angelica, Recchiuti’s wonderful Kitchen Manager, who led me into the great unknown (aka the Recchiuti Kitchens), to experiment with our Graham Cracker dough. After consulting my trusty Joy of Cooking I created some pattern-pieces for our house and tackled the rolling, measuring, layout, and cutting of the house. I learned the hard way that this delicious and wonderful smelling graham dough is a sticky adversary, and began the chilly, somewhat floury journey into cutting out my pattern pieces and prepping them for baking. Next was the all-important baking test: would the grahams hold up in a larger than normal size? Would they bake evenly? Would they bleed and grow? Would they break? Angelica, Peter (one of our chefs), and I had our doubts… After 16 minutes of anticipation the results were in, and the grahams passed with flying colors! Beautifully golden, perfectly crisp and strong, they were the perfect platform to construct our All-Recchiuti masterpiece.

Graham pieces

With the grahams cooling, I now got to move on to the fun part. With the oh-so-patient Peter watching me, I was set up a station in the kitchen to make a batch of Royal Icing so I could assemble our house. Oh the joys of professional kitchen equipment! (I made a second, successful batch at home, have no fear, beloved home chefs!) With icing in hand – that is, in a pastry bag – the building could begin. I used a spare cutting board covered in parchment as my base for the house, and after a few sticky icing overflows and one wall cave-in, I had a house!

Walls assembled... Just waiting for the roof!Putting on the roof!Last piece!Ready to decorate!

Now the hard part… waiting, for at least an hour, to decorate it. We took the time to come up with crazy and creative ideas for decking-out our Graham Cracker creation. I had wild notions of enrobing the entire house in tempered chocolate and then decorating on top of it (the sheer weight of all that chocolate might have collapsed the entire project!). Angelica suggested drizzling tempered chocolate for rooftop decorations and I (more reasonably now) was looking forward to a Candied Orange Peel log pile, Marshmallow snowman, and Pates de Fruit Christmas lights and stained-glass windows.  I finally tore myself away from staring at the house long enough to whip up a fresh batch of icing to decorate the house, and after an hour of not-so-patiently waiting, it was time to decorate the house!

All-Recchiuti DecorationsFrosting the roofEvery house needs a door!Back of the house

After frosting the roof, piping icicles off the eves, and plenty of frosting and Extra Biter Chocolate Sauce glue, (and a little snacking) we had  sweet creation. Just a few tips: if you cut the Pates de Fruit in half, the un-sugared side is marvelously sticky and requires no additional ‘glue.’ Marshmallows are great for anchoring unstable walls or for snowbanks, and also great as snowmen! And don’t be afraid to be creative, using non-food items to embellish your creation and add a personal twist to this holiday classic!

Almost there...Marshmallow SnowmanCandied Orange Peel log pileGraham Cracker House, Part I

We used: Recchiuti Graham Crackers for the walls and roof; Candied Hazelnuts for the border; Pates de Fruit for the windows; Recchiuti chocolate box pads for the door; a gold Recchiuti seal attached with some Extra Bitter Chocolate Sauce for the knob; a combination of PEPs and Cherries Two Ways for the walkway; Recchiuti Vanilla Bean Marshmallow for the snowman (his nose is made of blended Pates de Fruit, with buttons and eyes of Extra Bitter Chocolate Sauce coal); Candied Orange Peel for the log pile; Pates de Fruit for Christmas lights; and finally a Crimson Recchiuti Ribbon to top off our All-Recchiuti creation.


December 22nd, 2009 | by tsunami


RECIPE: Graham Cracker House

If your brown sugar is lumpy, push it through a sieve before measuring it. Also, refrigerating the dough for at least 3 hours before rolling and baking helps to relax the gluten and blend the flavors. If the graham shapes bleed or grow during baking, cut them while still warm to pit the pattern shapes. Once assembled, the house should sit for at least one hour for the icing to harden before you begin decorating.

Fresh baked grahams on a sheet pan

Graham Crackers
Yield: 2 12-inch-by-18-inch sheet pans

⅓ cup whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, preferably Madagascar Bourbon
4 tablespoons mild-flavored honey such as clover or orange-blossom
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons whole-wheat flour, preferably stone-ground
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
5 tablespoons unsalted butter with 82% butterfat, chilled, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 cup packed dark brown sugar

Royal Icing
Yield: about ¾ cup
2⅔ cups confectioners sugar
2 large egg whites

MIX THE DOUGH
•    Whisk the milk, vanilla extract, and honey together in a bowl. Set aside.
•    Sift both flours, the salt, and the baking soda together into the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and beat on medium speed until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Beat in the brown sugar until on sugar clumps remain.
•    With the mixer running on medium speed, add the milk mixture and beat until a smooth dough forms, 2 to 3 minutes.
•    Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and pat it into a 5-inch square. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

CUT THE PATTERN
Using parchment or butchers paper cut out and label your patter pieces as follows:
•    One 7-inch wide x 5-inch tall pattern piece for the sides of the house.
•    One 8½-inch wide x 6½-inch tall pattern piece for the roof.
•    One 7½-inch wide x 9-inch high pattern piece for the front and back of the house.
(To form the peak for the front and back of the house: fold the pattern piece in half lengthwise. Mark 5-inches up the side of the paper, two staggered sections. You will cut the shorter section (4-inches) to create the peak of the roof. Using a ruler, angle the ruler diagonally from the top of the folded side out to the mark. Cut along the ruler and unfold your pattern piece. You should now have a ‘house’ shaped pattern.)

BAKE THE CRACKERS

•    Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottoms of two 12-by-18 inch sheet pans with parchment paper.

•    On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough ⅛-inch thick. If the dough is sticky, lightly flour the surface of the dough before laying down the patterns. Place your patterns on the dough before cutting so you can map-out how to best use your space. Using a sharp knife, cut two copies of each pattern piece from the dough. If the dough gets too sticky, chill the dough for a few minutes and continue cutting.
•    Transfer your cut pieces to the parchment covered pans, spacing them ½-inch apart.
•    Bake on the middle shelves of the oven, rotating the pans 180 degrees halfway through the baking time, until browned on top, about 16 minutes. Cool completely on the pans on wire racks.
•    Store pieces in an airtight container until ready to assemble the house.

MAKE THE ICING
To glue your house together use Royal Icing. To make Royal Icing:
•    Using an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, mix together the confectioners sugar and egg whites on high speed until the icing is cool and holds stiff peaks. You may add more confectioners sugar until the icing is stiff enough. Transfer to a piping bag or press wax paper or cling wrap against the surface of the icing to prevent it from drying out until you are ready to use it.

MAKE THE HOUSE
•    You may use a pastry bag or a small spatula to apply the lines of icing. Working on a large tray or plate, lined with wax or parchment paper, start by putting the house front, sides, and back together.
•    Pipe a line of icing on each end of one side piece. Place it between the front and back, adjusting as necessary to make the house square. Repeat on the other side piece.
•    Working one side at a time, pipe icing along the angled front and back edges. Place the roof piece against the icing and gently press to lightly hold it in place until the second roof piece is added. Repeat for the second roof piece and pipe icing along the top edge of the roof pieces, adjusting them to fit snugly together to form a peak.
•    Reinforce seams of house with extra icing. Let the house stand for at least one hour, until the icing hardens, before decorating.
Decorating your house: remember, have fun, be creative, and enjoy!



December 9th, 2009 | by Jacky Recchiuti


Bittersweet … with a touch of bread starter

Bittersweet – it’s the pure emotional description of how I spent the weekend of October 3rd and 4th. This marked the finale of Recchiuti Confections 2009 Taste Project, clear blue skies with a slight chill in the air reminding me that summer has passed and the tease of winter is approaching.  This means to those of us who are in a seasonal business that we are slowly climbing up the roller coaster towards the peak before inertia throws us up and down the tracks eventually screeching the a dead halt.  So explains some of the feelings of bittersweet brought on by this last gathering.

Our final partnership is with Acme Bread Company. Monica Contois the heroine retail manager at Acme in the Ferry Building is joining Michael in what is now a define Recchiuti style in the project – we won’t simply be pairing bread with chocolate – we will also incorporate stages of bread making or re-purposing bread oriented foods into appetizing creations. A brainstorm meeting was held earlier at Zuni Café (hmm, I must have missed the memo to join them at that meeting) ideas are bounced back and forth, a menu emerges.

BREAD & CHOCOLATE MENU

Panzanella – A bread made with Acme batard, Far West Fungi chanterelles & glacier greens, finished  chili flakes, 64% semisweet Maris Otter dragées, oyster mushrooms, McEvoy olive oil and fresh mint.

Savory Tartine - Acme sourdough baguette open-faced sandwich of Ploughgate Creamery’s Willoughby cheese (Albany, VT), drizzled Valrhona 64% chocolate garnished with fresh rosemary and artisan finishing salt and pipette of McEvoy olive oil.

Pretzel – House made pretzel sticks made with Acme sourdough dipped in dark chocolate and garnished with artisan salt. A “refresher” drink of active bread starter, burnt sugar, balsamic vinegar with a touch of St George Spirit cacao brandy finished with a shot of seltzer water.

Dogpatch Pop Tart – A pop tart made with Michael’s buttermilk scone dough recipe. Filled with candied orange peel and semisweet chocolate.

Bread Pudding – Bread pudding made with Acme croissant topped with crème caramel and encased in a burnt sugar cage

Ice Cream Sliders – Cacao nib ice cream sliders made with Acme pain de mie served with a side of Recchiuti PEP (Peppermint Thins)

Dough 095 Finished Sandie118Acme133FinishedPretzels 164

Saturday October 3rd

The last of the Taste Project has proven to be somewhat of a family affair. Joining us on Saturday in service, is Hannah who from Boston adds a charming east coast edge to the retail team at the Ferry Building Recchiuti Store – she is also famous for coining the word “Delicious-ness”. Hannah uses it frequently with customers in describing various Recchiuti confections like the Candied Orange Peel and seasonal specials like the Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies, customers in turn nod knowingly; acknowledging how the newly inscribed word resonant with them. Alongside Hannah are Sugey (lived in Boston and speaks of it with much affections, big Red Sox fan) who spearheads Recchiuti Customer Service at 3rd St and Jessie also in customer service (our in house songwriter and joy spreader). Today Jessie is riding shot gun with Peter our last Tasting Project chef de cuisine as they both are culinary school graduates and are entrusted to plate the various savory and sweet concoctions about to unfold. 

Familiar faces dot the tables as we welcome people into the tasting room – many have attending multiple tastings and familiar with the routine. For those unable to attend here’s a peek at what we do…

The tables are set...

Lights are dimmed, tea candles are lit at each setting alongside the tasting menu, the tone is calming, warm and cozy, (well, as cozy as you can be with twenty-five people sitting in a U shaped table) – frequently we will have a  tiny cup of pre-tasting sample – in this case; un-milled wheat berries a precursor to bread. Movement catches the eye as a two separate walls are projected with silent  images; one is a day at Acme – dough is mixed, rolled out, cut and baked – this was filmed weeks before by Michael to allow Monica a reference point as these images typically ignite conversation or specific questions of curiosity. The other is an instructional CD from the award winning book Dough (again a bittersweet moment as this is the very book that beat our book Chocolate Obsession at the James Beard Awards). All this adds texture and further excitement to the attendees as education and information fills the room.

Enter Michael and Monica – with each course is served they both speak with excitement of what their passions bring to the dish placed on the table. Anecdotes and factual details are shared with everyone; it’s not only about what they know of bread & chocolate – it’s more than that, it’s what we in the artisan food industry live for, it’s what we eat, drink dream about and in the case of Recchiuti Taste Project what we share with those who want to catch the contact high from living the life we do here in the bay area. The love for food and drink and where things come from, how they are prepared give us the common bond for a short time this Saturday afternoon in Dogpatch. Throughout the courses Hannah, Sugey and I glide about serving and clearing and Jessie and Peter set up for following courses. Jessie, Sugey and I take turns taking photos to document for Sugey’s posting on our Recchiuti fan Facebook wall and for my writing of the Recchiuti blog.

Yeast Drink

During a short break which incorporates a tour of our kitchen with the making of a course tasting, as a side we have already baked off pretzel sticks made with Acme sourdough. The pretzel is to accompany a drink, a very special drink – Monica and Michael have concocted a beverage that includes active bread starter it is presented in with seltzer water that makes it look like a root beer float. The foamy drink has a syrup made with St George Spirits cacao brandy, balsamic vinegar, burnt sugar blend; the flavor is reminiscent of Saba  (currant balsamic vinegar) with notes of caramel, red berries, just enough bitter sourness from the vinegar  and foamy bread starter – it’s unexpectedly pleasant.

As everyone files back into the tasting room warm buttermilk scone in a Pop Tart shape filled with chocolate and candied orange is warmed and served, a nice palette cleanser for those who may not have enjoyed the unusual drink they just consumed.

Dogpatch Pop Tarts

We continue on through the next two courses without a hitch, Michael and Monica on-going banter out front, behind the scenes team Recchiuti work together in plating and finishing touched on the last two courses.

The first of the two day tasting goes by without incident – what little tension from anticipation has dissipated as well all know now what is expected for the tasting on Sunday. We quickly and efficiently set up and prep for the next day and off we go …

Sunday October 4th

We begin with a new service team – back are Peter and Sugey but to replace our Saturday gals:

Peggi a dear long-time friend who most  willingly replaced me in the break of dawn waking and tending of the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market  tent on Green Street all those years ago before the Ferry Building was resurrected. Peggi was referred to as the “market wife” as she and Michael would bicker from time to time like an old married couple as I snuggled into a sleep-in at home before heading into the kitchen to prep. It’s funny because to this day old Green St Market customers tell me at the store, that they were very close to Michael and his wife as they frequented the market back in the day – little do they know I’m Michael’s wife or at least the wife that was spared the bickering at pre-dawn on a Saturday morning.

Peter and Jacky plating the panzanellaPlated Tartine

Also on hand is Jason – he’s a very special family member … that is to Monica, another married couple in this ever growing Recchiuti family of characters. Jason is an extraordinary sales man; he has this deep low growling sexy Barry White kind of voice. We often send him out to conquer ladies who dismiss the female members of the team only to curry favor with Jason; purchasing armful of suggestions he has gently made. He is our James Bond, we make sure we shake him and not stir …sigh! Okay, focus – Jason is the welcoming host, he will take up the station of greeter and gatekeeper at the back entry. Sundays the building is locked down so we need Jason to guide people into the enclosed parking lot and in the building.

Peter is in for a surprise this morning– Unbeknownst to him Michael in his typical cowboy fashion has decided to make burnt sugar cages to top off the breading pudding course, this was not on the menu or planning. Peter’s eyes light up as this is the first opportunity for him to get direct mentoring from Michael; after a quick lesson they are both skillfully drizzling molten hot sugar over a ladle and creating an battalion of golden domes in sugar.

In the mean while I get a strained call from Monica – she calmly explain that her oven had gone on the fritz and Jason will be coming soon with as many pain de mie buns as they were able to make. Here’s where the previous mention of “heroine” part comes in Monica handles the emergency at the bakery with professionalism and efficiency then dashes over to fulfill her commitment to us – bloody hell! How she does handle all this in one morning and still shows up with such vigor to set up her live yeasty bread starter mise en place is beyond me!? But then again she is married to James Bond so it may be the prerequisite to have super powers.

Plated Panzanella

The energy is high and positive as we all take of prep and setting up for day two. The panzanella is the first course and works like clock-work since Peter has worked out the kinks for the first day, the smell of olive oil cooking up chanterelle mushrooms and toasting bread permeate the room. All goes well, on to the next courses and the kitchen break. Jason is running back and forth between assisting Peter and helping with serving.

Finally the bread pudding course is upon us – the sugar cages are gently placed on each of the plates. It looks like a miniature village of sparkling, golden castles. Peggi and I grab the first plates and head out to serve. As I turn back to get more plated sugar domes I see Sugey emerging from behind the curtain beaming with her bright smile – the addition to the dessert has set a wonderfully glowing feeling for everyone – it shows on Sugey’s happy face as she proudly sets down the plate. Michael made the right choice to add this extra bit on this last day of our project.

Burnt Sugar Cages

We finish off with comfort food – Michael’s amazing cacao nib ice cream atop a toasted pain de mie bun, if that’s not enough we add aside garnish of our newly launched long awaited PEP – Peppermint Thins. Michael has told a story of his favorite “American” candy as Junior Mints, for years he has been thinking of a way to capture the cool but not overpowering minty-ness balanced with just enough chocolate … he has succeeded! We now offer it online, at the store and in our pantry at home to enjoy when watching a movie projected on the wall – our version of a large screen as we have not owned a television for years, I’ll make a bowl of popcorn and Michael will nibble on PEP’s and that is how we will spend our weekends for now that the Taste project has ended we have the free time to rest, recuperate and plan for the 2010 Taste Project. Michael and I have been brainstorming on other ideas to make it interesting for the next round – who knows if you attend next year you may be served by a Market Wife, Red Sox fan or even James Bond … see you there!



November 18th, 2009 | by beats-n-sweets


Taste Project 411

1. How did the concept of the Taste Project series come to be?

This project evolved out of the idea that we could use our work space in an alternative way.  In the summer months the room that now holds our Taste Project events, doesn’t get much use.  After about the third class, where I was mostly just teaching and showing guests what I do, I decided to change it up and include other producers—people who are doing different things in the industry.  I wanted to find a way to incorporate all of the different elements that contribute to the processes of the food industry (farmers, retailers, artisans, writers), but not lose focus in educating people.  I didn’t want this to be the type of event that people perceived as a push to promote our products, but rather one that allowed everyone to see what’s going on in the Culinary world.  Ultimately, I feel like it’s a celebration of the person I’m collaborating with, and also a way to expose their product to Recchiuti fans.

2. Of all the Taste Projects, which has been your favorite?

Probably the salt tasting, which I know was also a favorite of our customers as well.    Salt has become really popular in the past couple years, so it was definitely a fun product to work with.  I also really enjoyed the beer tasting.  As the project has evolved and matured, we are able to deliver a bigger message and a more complex taste experience.  With the beer event, we deconstructed the product which allowed guests to taste the actual components of the beer and also better understand the process of what it takes to make it.  Because this is not something that can be done with all other products, I thought this event was so special.  In the end, I think this was one of the more educational events.  The guests seemed to be able to really understand beer because they experienced it.

3. What pairing would you like to do in the future that you have not yet done?

I really want to work with chefs in addition to producers.  With that in mind, I would like to do some meat pairings; one possibly with this fifth generation butcher I know from Switzerland.   I think it would be really cool to break down a whole pig and then celebrate all the parts of the animal.  If I were to do this type of pairing I would probably have several interesting items on the menu such as loin wrapped with ground chocolate and herb seasoning.  I was also thinking about something that would work with chocolate and part of the drippings—maybe a stock and chocolate lollipop.

I think it would also be interesting and fun to work with another chocolate maker or pastry chef.  This wouldn’t be a chocolate “throw down”, but rather an event that incorporates two different styles.  It would break the barriers and show that I really like these other people and appreciate their craft.

4. Every event focuses on pairing chocolate with another specific ingredient.  What is your favorite recipe from the Tastings? Why?

From the last tasting (Bread) I loved the sour starter with the balsamic reduction (balsamic vinegar and chocolate), and seltzer water.  The vinegar broke down the starter and the seltzer gave it some attitude.  It was definitely an unusual pairing that I really enjoyed!

Also, I thought the king trumpet mushroom tarte tatin was a unique, exciting recipe.  It needs a little work, but I liked how it looked visually and the fact that you’re crossing the barrier of a savory item and turning it into something sweet and unexpected.  The problem was that the mushrooms needed to cook longer—they were a little firm.  Ultimately, I thought it looked great and had a living quality to it.

5. What do you enjoy most about engaging in this type of event?

I really enjoy working closely with artisans and producers.  Also, having direct contact with people who’ve really supported us makes me feel good.  Now we can give back to them!  They have a chance to connect with US and can walk away with new knowledge about Recchiuti.  Then people go off and talk about it in a positive way.  The effort we put into these events is realized and appreciated.

6. If you could change one thing about the way the events are set up/executed, what would you change?

I would probably change the seating layout so that it was more service friendly and would bring people together in a more cohesive way.   As it is now, not everyone feels like they get the same kind of attention; some may feel more separated than others. However, we are very aware of this and try our best to be as inclusive as possible.  I think we will be able to fix the problem by using wireless microphones or changing the layout a bit.

7. When first coming up with a Taste Project menu, what are the things you consider?

I first consider a strong connection with whomever it is I’m hosting.  Sometimes there just are disconnects, but I try to work with it.  I ask myself several questions:  “how can I compliment their craft or product or passion?”  And “how does that translate?”  Once I think about these things, I start to create my menu.  Often times, if I’m not completely satisfied with the way something tastes, I will go ahead and make changes to the recipe; sometimes even the same week or day of the actual event.

8. Would you be interested in further exploring one of the pairings you’ve already done?

Yes. Probably more salt.  As I said earlier, salt is really popular these days and I think it would be worth revisiting.  Another cheese event would be cool too.  I’d like to have a cheese maker come in and maybe bring in a goat so that our guests can get a better idea about the cheese making process.

9. As this Taste Project series comes to an end, and you start to think about next year, what can Recchiuti fans look forward to in 2010?

I think it’s going to be a much more refined experience overall as far as the room, the service, and presentation go.  There will definitely be more interaction also—it will be a hands-on experience for everyone involved.  There will be more layers, more depth, and more stimulation to all senses.  I’m very excited for what’s to come.

Beer Tasting Chocolate Salt Cups Mushroom Tasting



October 1st, 2009 | by Jacky Recchiuti


Barley and Hops and Wort, Oh MY!

It’s eight-thirty in the morning at Magnolia Pub and Brewery, the glass windows are clouded and dripping with precipitation while the fog is cool and sits low in the upper Haight-Ashbury neighborhood where our newly favorite pub is located.

Beer drinking is relatively new to me, call me a snob, most of my legal age drinking years had been dedicated to spirits and wine – I would not touch beer if I were stranded on a deserted island with mountains of kegs as my only means to hydrate … let me explain, my first and traumatic relationship with beer was in high school back in Hawaii where I grew up – Primo beer; I liken this fluid to foamy, yellow, sour water. I recall swigging bottles of Primo with the rigor of an old sailor only to be spent for the rest of the evening into the early morning over a toilet bowl as the world around me spun like a carnival ride gone berserk!

Mind you I’m talking a million years ago in my youth – when I knew nothing about anything. Since then, although nary a bottle of Primo has touch these lips – it appears the brand has embraced everything about my place of birth that I find dear to my heart. So begins the healing process, purging me of the “Primo Incident”

http://www.primobeer.com/homePage.aspx

Although my first memories of beer is not of IPA or Stout or Lager or anything near the lesson I was soon to learn about artisanal brewing.

Michael and our friend Photographer/Filmmaker Tom Seawell are already in the thick of the process. I’m joining the Recchiuti Confections crew down in the basement of Magnolia where the brewing is done. Michael is filming as Tom multi tasks as film director and shoots still shots for my blogging purpose. Head Brewer Ben Spencer is a blur of movement, like a juggler in the midst of having a dozen balls in the air; he is focused and moving in a rhythm of familiar repetition – almost second nature in the routine of beer making. Sweat dripping off him as the sweet malt scent permeated the air, steam billowing and water running off the walls.

Quick synopses of brewing – as understood by the woman who went for years without drinking beer.

HEIRLOOM MALT

First step of beer making is cooking the malt (grain) this extracts the sugars needed to feed then yeast in the fermentation. Some of the types of malts used are Maris Otter Pale Malt, Crystal Malt and Chocolate Malt each offering its own distinct flavor profile.

 

WORT

Sweet wort (pronounced wert) means “Plant” in German. This is the flavorful sweet liquid that the cooking of the grain has created; creamy and malty in taste and basically like a cereal juice, the spent grains are kind of like over-cooked Irish oatmeal.

ADDING THE HOPS

After the sweet wort is made dried (which looks like little rabbit food pellets) hops are added to give depth of flavor, although always added in the brewing it lends itself to the style of beer, like IPA or Bitter Ale in that the amount and the blended type of grains establishes the profile. Either dried or highly perishable fresh hop can be used – with fresh hops, timing is everything, a small window of twice yearly is available to the brew master. More cooking is done

 

FERMENTATION

After cooking the sweet hopped wort, the liquid is drained, cooled and transferred to the barrels in the fermentation room, the final step is the addition of yeast.

 

 

Magnolia story continues…

In rolls Dave Mclean the visionary of Alembic further up Haight Street the neighborhood and Brew Master for Magnolia Brewery. He is an encyclopedia of beer information; not only of method in brewing but history and science of it. His passion and love for what he does is clear, any question thrown at him opens up yet another anecdote of the brewing history or a brewing experience which has lead Magnolia to the various flavor profiles developed over the years. Dave is funny and engaging but at the same time he has one eye locked in on Ben as a friendly repartee is being batted back and forth between all of us. Dave doesn’t miss a beat, he checks in periodically to be sure the Recchiuti crew is not distracting Ben too much as this is liquid gold in the works … there are many a fan who will be depending on the perfection of the brewing. Still Dave makes the time to tell us more tales …

Here’s one he shared;
Twice a year in the rare chance of getting fresh hops timed just right with a the brewing of sweet wort, it’d critical that the hops are cut, shipped and added to the wort within hours; the wort waits for no one.  A call comes in that freshly harvested hops are on its way via UPS courier to Magnolia, the timing couldn’t be more perfect – that is until the early morning deliver of hops is a “No Show”. In sleuthing for the missing hops, it is discovered that the USDA has suddenly deem this particular shipment of hops interesting enough to delay for inspection, much to their chagrin the hops will not be delivered until possible the next – this is too late by then mold and other  impurities will have manifested itself and no longer any good for the wort. YIKES the wort! Ben scrambles to find some dried hops to add to the ready and waiting wort and a brew they affectionate refer to as “the USDA” has been born. Eventually fresh hops gets re-sent to Magnolia, the old (formerly fresh) hops also get delivered with not a single explanation as to why it was delayed, Hmmm? I say “Beer Nuts!” to the powers that be.

Back to tales from the brew …

Dave has just taken a sip of a sample Ben has pulled from the cask room for quality control (sure, yeah, of course!) – “Not bad” says Dave, he’s just tasted the USDA,  if nothing else this somewhat traumatic incident has turned in to a fun legend for Magnolia to share.

Michael and I bellied up to the bar to conduct an unlikely pairing of chocolates (Recchiuti Confections chocolates to be precise), we asked for a flight of beers and we were off and running, here’s what we came up with.

 

 

FLIGHTS  & TASTING NOTES

Blue Bell Bitter Cask Ale    

Kona Coffee – pulls out the coffee& cream quality of the beer very confection like.

Candied Orange Peel – hoppy bitterness subsides from the citrus and chocolate, pleasantly lighter.

 

Proving Ground IPA Cask Ale

Cardamom Nougat – enhances skunky, spiciness in beer, bitters are pulled up in the profile.

Ginger Heart – white chocolate mellows the bitterness adding a creamy, mild spiciness from the ginger.

Star Anise Pink Peppercorn – beer and truffle balances each other, very interesting and pleasant surprise.

 

Weather Report Wheat Draught

Force Noir – the maltiness of the beer becomes pronounced as the cacao and vanilla is pulled from the brew

Star Anise and Pink Peppercorn – bright spice notes appear allowing the personality beam from this beer    

Candied Orange Peel – a complex citrusiness comes forward, almost tasting like a “Shandy”

 

Prescription Pale Draught      

Fleur de Sel –  the salty creaminess enhances flavor

Candied Orange Peel – draws out the fruit notes from the beer

 

Big Cypress Brown Draught   

Burnt Caramel – balances flavors runs in tandem with beer

Force Noir – vanilla notes are drawn, driving the chocolate tones out

Burnt Caramel Almonds – nutty, caramel tones come through with the beer

 

Dark Star Mild Cask Ale        

Kona Coffee – expected  rich coffee flavors appear

Honey Comb Malt – creamy, vanilla malt undertones are present

Sesame Nougat – smokey, toasted nut and caramel becomes pronounced

 

 

TASTE PROJECT MENU

First Course

HEIRLOOM MALT

-          Chocolate Malt, Crystal Malt, Maris Otter Pale Malts (presented as a pure tasting)

-          Malt Dragées; Maris Otter Pale Malt covered with layers of  Recchiuti 64% Semisweet Chocolate

-          Caramelized Barley Malt Mendiants(also 64% Semisweet)

 

Second Course

WORT

-          Wort Soda garnished with Malt Foam Cube with a “Pipette” of Fresh Wort. A reduction of sweet wort is added to ice, finished with seltzer water. Frozen malt foam as a garnish is pierced with a pipette

 

Kitchen Tour

HOPPED WORT

-          A reduction of Hopped Sweet Wort is folded into White Chocolate Ganache. A casted shell of Recchiuti 64% custom blend by Valrhona holds the ganache filling.

 

Third Course

FLIGHT

-          Blue Bell Bitter with Candied Orange Peel

-          Spud’s Boy IPA with Star Anise and Pink Peppercorn

-          Big Cypress Brown with Burnt Caramel

 

Fourth Course

STOUT

-          Smokestack Lightening Stout Shooter, Chocolate Stout Tort (see recipe below) and Stout Gelée

 

Fifth Course

FLOAT

-          Recchiuti 64% Semisweet Chocolate Ice Cream floating on Magnolia’s Dark Star Mild

 

 

Whoever said beer didn’t go with chocolate has been proven absolutely incorrect. The mastering of both chocolate and beer making has proven equally challenging, the complexity of blending, the perfection in timing parallel each other – how long to brew, when to add the hops vs.  roasting cacao and tempering curves.

For someone who avoided beer drinking for decades, I have to admit I have come to see the light – thrown in a cabana boy with cold towels to wipe the sweat off my tanning forehead I just might think about cracking into a bottle of Primo on the white sandy beaches of Hawaii … this could be a follow up story to this beer thing. I’ll get right on it!

Adding HopsBen checking gageBen making wortBen pulling draughtBen scooping grainsBrew Master DaveDensity checkDraining Sweet Hopped WortFermentation tanksFilmingFlight MenuFlitering wortFreshly pulled beerHeirloom MaltKegsMagnolia labelsMalt BagsMalt deliveryMichael & DaveMR FilmingOn draughtOn TapQuality controlSteam from BrewerySteam KettleTalking about beerTap Beer



September 28th, 2009 | by Katie


Taste Project: Beer & Chocolate

Stay tuned for more updates on this event including a play-by-play of the tasting and a behind the scenes look at Magnolia Pub’s Haight Street brewery. In the meantime quench your thirst with some delicious photos and a peak at the menu from the September 19th Taste Project with Michael Recchiuti and brewmaster Dave McLean from Magnolia Pub here in San Francisco!

 

Heirloom Malt

A tasting of three (chocolate, crystal, maris otter pale malt ) heirloom malts, malt dragée and a barley mendiant.

Beer & Chocolate with Magnolia PubFirst Course: Heirloom MaltHeirloom Malt with Malt Mendian and Malt Dragee

 

Wort

A refreshing wort soda garnished with a malt foam cube.

Wort syrup in glasses for Wort SodaSecond Course: Wort SodaHannah checks the soda for proper flavor

 

Hopped Wort

White chocolate ganache flavored with hopped wort encased in Recchiuti’s 64% Valrhona chocolate.  

Tasting of koelsch and stout hopped wortsThird course: chocolates filled with wort ganacheMagnolia Pub Brewmaster, Dave McLean

 

Flight

A flight of three Magnolia brews paired with Recchiuti chocolates…

Blue Bell Bitter with Candied Orange Peel

Spud’s Boy IPA with Star Anise & Pink Peppercorn

Big Cypress Brown with Burnt Caramel

Fourth course: flight of Magolia brews and Recchiuti chocolatesBlue Bell Bitter, Spud's Boy IPA Big Cypress Brown (from L -R)Hannah and Jacky try the pairings

 

Stout

Smokestack Lightening Stout shooter, chocolate stout tort and stout gelée.

Peter pipes rosettes of white chocolate ganache on stout cakesMagnolia's Smokestack Lightening StoutFifth course: Stout Cake with stout shooter and stout gelee

 

Float

Chocolate ice cream float made with Magnolia’s Dark Star Mild beer.

Magnolia's Dark Star Mild BeerHead of Dark Star Mild BeerChocolate Ice Cream Float with Dark Star Mild Beer



September 23rd, 2009 | by Katie


RECIPE: Chocolate Stout Flourless Cake

Recchiuti's Chocolate Stout Flourless CakeRecchiuti's Chocolate Stout Flourless Cake

This recipe produces a very moist, chocolatey cake that’s not too rich or heavy. The addition of the chocolate stout gives it an interesting complexity and flavor. It can be enjoyed ungarnished or with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream.

 

2 ¼ sticks (255g) unsalted butter, softened

9 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

3 ounces unsweetened dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

6 extra-large eggs

¾ cup (150g) granulated cane sugar

½ cup (125g) chocolate stout

 

Yield: 8-10 servings

 

Start by preheating your oven to 325°F. Grease a 9-inch cake pan or ring and cut a circle of parchment paper to fit the bottom.

 

Using a double boiler melt the chocolate in a stainless steel bowl. Set aside.

 

Place the eggs and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Using the same double boiler used for melting the chocolate, whisk the eggs and sugar by hand until warm to the touch. Place the bowl of eggs on the mixer and beat at medium speed until the eggs have just about tripled in volume. This stage is also referred to as the ribbon stage. If you pull out the whisk and drizzle the whipped eggs on top of themselves the lines should not sink back into the mixture too quickly.

 

While the eggs are whipping bring the stout to a boil. Stir into the melted chocolate.

 

Once the eggs have reached the ribbon stage turn the speed of the mixer down and add the chocolate mixture.

 

Be sure that your butter is very soft but not melted. If the butter is melted the texture of the cake will be grainy. Add the butter to the eggs and chocolate and mix until just combined. Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan, filling it a little more than half way. Bake on the medium rack of the oven for 30 minutes or until a paring knife or skewer removed from the cake comes out with a few crumbs. Remove to a cooling rack and serve at room temperature.

For a printable version of this and other recipes, visit the recipe section on our site.



August 26th, 2009 | by good-thyme-girl


The Chocolatier’s Apprentice

It all began one foggy San Francisco morning when Chantal, Recchiuti’s finance whiz and all-around admin star, sat me down and told me about Spark.  It’s a program that, in Spark’s own words, “… inspires middle-school youth to pursue their interests, create bonds with their communities, and develop a lifelong passion for learning”.  Recchiuti was going to host an Ice Cream Social fundraiser for Spark at the end of August and in order to be fully participatory in the spirit of the thing, did I want to take on a middle school apprentice for a month and teach him or her the ropes of chocolate making?  Well, did I?

Gino...our 12-yr old apprentice from the Spark programGino had to change his gloves every time he licked his fingers!The Recchiuti kitchen crew with Gino

Now, summertime is a slow-ish time for us at Recchiuti and therefore a good time for experimenting, but the thought of a twelve-year old guy or girl running amok in the chocolate kitchen made me a wee bit nervous.  But Chantal gave me that gooey, smiling, hopeful look she gets when she’s excited about something and I caved.  How could I say no to a face like that? So I was fingerprinted, interrogated, poked and prodded (well, sort of…) in order to determine if I was fit to mold and shape the youth of today.  Apparently, somehow, I passed the test and found myself pacing the kitchen a few weeks later, waiting for my apprentice to show up.  All I knew about him was that his name was Gino, he was twelve, and he wanted to be a chef or a comedian.   Off to a good start, but I was still nervous.  I haven’t been twelve for, oh, 16 years or so.  What if we have nothing to talk about?  What if I’m too old and he’s too young?  The scenarios that Spark presented during our orientation were a bit daunting; what if he asks me to buy him a pair of shoes or he talks on his cell phone the whole time?  What if he always seems bored?

Here's me and Gino filling chocolate moldsGino had to wash his hands...alot!Here's Gino getting the hang of this chocolate thing

Turns out Gino is a perfect gentlemen; well-mannered, polite, attentive, and smart.  He’s also hilarious, curious, and loves chocolate.  His first day here he was peppering me with intelligent questions; “How do you get the designs on top of the chocolates”, “How do you get bacon in the toffee” and my favorite, “How many chocolates did you make last year?”  All this from a twelve year old?  But that’s not all!  He also rocked some serious knife skills (tucking in his fingers, carrying his knife point down,) and was using a scale like a seasoned chef.  Show Gino something once, and you most likely won’t have to show him again.

Gino and Pat inspect the Candied HazelnutsGino and Gabriel catch caramels as they come of the beltGino and S'mores Bites

Our first couple days together he weighed out and cooked a buttery orange caramel filling, used his math skills to scale down a recipe for a small batch of ganache, weighed, mixed, backed and cut a ganache, and weighed and cooked a batch of bacon toffee.  Impressive!

Gino learns to cut chocolate ganacheOrange caramel for Spark Discovery NightGino learns the benefits of a clean, organized kitchen

Now Gino and I are cooking up ideas for his presentation at Discovery Night — a gathering at the end of the apprenticeship where he and all the other apprentices can get together and share what they’ve been working on.  Will it be a ganache, or caramel apples, or bacon toffee?  Or maybe just bacon?  Gino loooooves bacon.  Stay tuned as we explore the possibilities and prepare for Gino’s big night!

Gino cleans the chocolate molds before knocking them outGino fills the chocolate molds with orange caramelMe (Angelica) and Gino at Spark's Discovery Night



August 20th, 2009 | by Katie


RECIPE: APPLEWOOD SMOKED BACON GOUGÈRES

We recently served these tasty little bites at a Taste Project and they filled the kitchen with a heavenly aroma. The base technique for this recipe is a dough called pâte à choux. Pâte à choux is used to make a variety of pastries such as profiteroles and éclairs. As you can see this dough is not limited only to the sweet side of the kitchen, but lends itself to the savory side as well.

 

 

½ cup (115g) water

½ cup (135g) whole milk

1 stick (115g) unsalted butter

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup (150g) all-purpose unbleached flour

5-6 extra-large eggs

3 ½ ounces (100g) gruyere cheese, shredded

4 strips thick cut applewood smoked bacon

1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Pinch of Nutmeg

 

 

Yield: 2 – 3 dozen

 

Start by pre-heating your oven to 450°F and dicing up the bacon. Cook the bacon on medium heat in a sauté pan. When the bacon is done, drain the fat and set the bacon aside. Place the water, milk, salt, and butter in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the flour and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon over low heat. Keep stirring until the dough is soft, but not sticky. A good sign of when to stop is when a skin forms on the bottom of the saucepan.

 

Place the dough mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer and, with the paddle attachment, start the dough on medium speed. Mix for 2 minutes allowing the dough to cool just slightly. Start adding the eggs one at a time. Be sure to allow each egg to be fully incorporated before adding the next. After adding the fifth egg, stop the mixer and check the consistency.  To check, run your spatula down the middle of the dough, creating a crevice. The sides should start to fall in on each other. If they do not, you may add another egg and then test again.

 

Once the desired consistency is reached, add the Gruyere cheese, Bacon, and Black Pepper.  Fill a pastry bag with the finished dough. On a parchment lined sheet pan, pipe the gougères to about the size of a golf ball. You should be holding the pastry bag perpendicular to the sheet tray, not at an angle.

 

Place the gougères in the oven and turn the temperature down to 400F. Cook for 10-15 minutes until puffed and a dark golden brown. If you do not bake them enough they will collapse. Gougères are just great out of the oven on their own or you may create filling and pipe it into the gougères.

 

For profiteroles or éclairs just omit the cheese, bacon, and pepper from the recipe, and pipe to the desired shape. Baking times will vary depending on size.

 

Please post your reviews, questions and comments for this recipe!

 

Applewood Smoked Bacon GougeresGougeres by Michael Recchiuti



August 20th, 2009 | by Jacky Recchiuti


There’s something about … donuts

What is it about fried things that is so appealing that you wake up at the crack of dawn (pre-dawn to be exact) to find? Mind you I am absolutely not an early bird who likes to wake when still dark. I tend to go the other direction engrossed reading through the night until the birds are chirping to wake.

 

The alarm woke us at 3 a.m., no really, Three Oh Clock in the morning – If you didn’t get that let me repeat it to you in francaise; il est trios heures. One reply to that … Merde! Pardon my French.

 

So I find myself up while the stars are still barely twinkling (may I add – before sunrise) heading over from Dolores Heights into the Mission to watch how donuts are made at Dynamo Donuts. Sarah – the creator of these addictive heavenly fried morsels – was once a student of Michael’s at the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier Vermont. They share the same quirky cheery humor and appear to be unscathed the un-Godly hour (go figure?).  I, on the other hand stumbled my way into the kitchen as I slowly wakened by sipping my first cup of coffee for the day … there were many more that day.

 

Why were we doing this? Well, Michael was fixated with the idea of taking a step further with Sarah’s Maple Bacon Donut – adding a poached egg with hollandaise sauce (a là Eggs Benedict). Hmmm. Get back to you on that one.

 

I thought it would be interesting to document Michael’s effort but found myself drawn to the siren call of the pure donut instead. This has nothing to do with our chocolate business, but greatly to do with how we tend to entertain ourselves with our friends assistance so please bear with me …

 

So, at the Recchiuti store in the Ferry Building, we frequently need to explain to customers the method of hand making chocolates; the minuet details of process – we even present it in the blog (see below “Marshmallow musings”). I am not without knowledge of the unglamorous job of being in the food industry – well let me tell you what an eye opener I had with donut making …

 

-          First you mix the dough

-          Knead it.

-          Then you must proof it for 45 minutes to an hour

-          Roll out the dough

-          Cut out circles of dough

-          Lay out to sheet pans

-          Cut out the center

-          Fry dough, flip fry other side of dough

-          Set on to cooling rack

-          Either ice or dust in sugar, spice or whatever one fancies for the day.

 

Simple you say? Mais non! That’s only describing one kind of donut – I haven’t even mentioned the filled donuts in the process! There are a lot of friggin’ steps to this dough frying thing …

 

Try doing four to six different kinds of donuts at the same time. It’s like watching a juggler with eight balls of different sizes going at one time.  It can’t be easy especially on a day an eccentric San Francisco Chocolatier filming you, whipping up hollandaise sauce and his wife/half asleep sidekick snapping photos of anything that moves.

 

Sarah is a saint for putting up with us. She had a happy staff exchanging banter with each other while systematically going through each donut until finally  they are ready to be packed up for delivery on a bicycle or plate up at the café for our eating pleasure.

 

At the end of the morning watching the production of donuts isn’t that different from watching chocolate production; it just looks harder from the other side.

 

Michael and Sarah did get down to eating the Maple Bacon Donut Benedict … palatable, not great.  No surprise there – it was a fun process to film.

 

As an homage to the Maple Bacon theme (and popular request); we at Recchiuti Confections have a Maple Bacon Toffee box at the Ferry Building store for the month of August – come on down while supplies last, you’ve got just a few weeks to get them! They taste of real maple syrup and real bacon from Niman Ranch (you know piggy -ness  and not a smoke in a jar flavor) encased in our buttery toffee (much like our Fleur de Sel Caramel, only crunchy & porky) finished off with our 64% Semisweet chocolate and toasted pecans.

 

Meanwhile my dear (obsessive) husband Michael Recchiuti and our friend photographer/film maker Tom Seawell are editing the documentation of the life cycle of the Maple Bacon Donut. Look for it on You Tube shortly. Beware Michael’s still fixated on improving the MCD Benedict – there may be more to this story yet!

Hobart mixing dough at Dynamo DonutsMichael Recchiuti shooting video at the donut shopDonut delivery vehicleProof the donut dough for 45 minutesSarah at Dynamo Donuts mixing doughDonut making is a full-contact sportBegin rolling out the dough onto work tableRolling out dough for chocolate Dynamo DonutsRolling the doughChocolate donuts at DynamoChocolate donut doughAlways wondered how donut holes were born...Dynamo Donuts getting their oil bathFryalicious...backstage at Dynamo DonutsDynamo Donuts Hot from the fryerhClose up of a Dynamo DelightMichael Recchiuti...still shooting his donut vidThe finsihing touches at Dynamonaked donuts at DynamoDynamo Donuts with a dusting of heavenLoading up trays of donutty deliciousness from DynamoJunk in the trunk from DynamoDynamo Maple Bacon Donut with fried egg and hollandaiseMichael and Sarah at Dynamo Donuts



August 13th, 2009 | by beats-n-sweets


Inside the Chocolatier’s Studio

25 things you didn’t know about Michael Recchiuti

What is your favorite dessert? Carrot Cake.  I love it at room temp so the cream cheese frosting is gooey and soft.  The cake has to be moist with carrots and not too many walnuts.

 

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be? Australia.  I like the fact that it’s really big and there aren’t a lot of people there.  Plus, 18,000 miles of beach doesn’t sound too bad either. 

 

What is your biggest pet peeve? I hate it when I go to see a really good band and they’re slacking.  I feel like it’s a total waste of money, especially when I know what they’re capable of.

 

If you had one day left, how would you spend it? I would spend it with my wife and a few close friends in a hot air balloon, with a wonderful, delicious meal.  I see us just floating in the balloon over beautiful scenic landscape…preferably in the fall over Vermont, if I had my way.

 

What is your favorite movie? “Mostly Martha” is a German film about this woman who’s a chef.  She’s going through some extreme life changes such as her sister dying in a car accident and a new Italian Chef coming to work in her kitchen.  I really love the Italian Chef, he’s a great character.  Overall, it’s a good food movie.

 

What do you like to do with your free time? I really enjoy the outdoors.  Just walking through the city and seeing people at different restaurants and bars is fun for me.

 

What is your favorite childhood memory? Feeding an elephant peanuts and the Philly Zoo.  I was really young, I think around 3 or 4, and my father was holding me up.  I remember the elephant’s nose being soft and it was much gentler than I thought it was going to be.

 

Looking back on your life from age 18 to present, which year do you think was the most FUN (not necessarily the best or most eventful/productive…just the most fun)? I was 18 when I took a 4 month road trip across the country in our Volkswagen Carmengia.  We camped and hung out with friends.  Did whatever we needed to do to get by.

 

What is your favorite holiday? Thanksgiving, because I think it’s more about food and family—unlike Christmas where there’s more pressure to buy the perfect gift for all the people in your life.

 

How would you most enjoy spending your birthday? With friends, my wife, just hanging out.

 

What is your favorite time of year? I like the fall.  It’s different on both coasts—on the East Coast I enjoy all of the leaves and autumn colors and in San Francisco we have an “Indian Summer” with warm nights.

 

If you could have a different job, what would it be? I would definitely be a drummer.  I think it would be awesome to play music professionally.

 

What is the one job you would never do for a living? Clean porta potties.  Gross.

 

Do you have any pets? I have 3 cats. Sienna, Rufus, and Jesper.  Jesper was named after  a friend of mine from Sweden.  Jacky named Rufus after Rufus Wainwright.  And Sienna is the color of burnt sienna.

 

What is your favorite restaurant? L’Express in Montreal.  It’s a delicious Bistro with really unique stuff and is open from 11am-3am.  The dessert I always get when I go there is the floating island.  It’s so good.  They also serve super hot mustard and cornichons on the table for patrons to snack on.

 

If you could have any superpower, what would it be? I would be able to fly, because then I would miss all the traffic and be able to travel anywhere in the world.  Or maybe time travel where I could explore parallel universes.

 

What was your favorite childhood TV show? I remember I always liked “Lost in Space”.  The family is great.  The pilot got me hooked because I liked seeing everyone in their tinfoil outfits.

 

Are you a collector of anything? I collect cookware—old copper pots and cooking tools.  I also like collecting rare vinyl.

 

You’re given 1 million dollars, what do you spend it on? I would travel, but at the same time do things I wouldn’t normally do, such as take care of different business matters to wipe the slate clean.  I know it sounds boring, but it would be an efficient use of the money.  Before, when I was younger, I would have had a big party and just bought a bunch of stuff.

 

What’s your favorite thing to do on a Saturday night? Stay away from all the bridge and tunnel people.  I think the fun nights to go out are Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

 

If you could have 3 wishes granted, what would they be?  Have a full head of hair to have all sorts of goofy hair-do’s, live abroad (3 different areas throughout the year) and live a long, healthy life.

 

What activity always makes you lose track of time? Listening to music.  If I’m driving and I hear something I like I’ll pull over and write down the name of it.  Sometimes doing this has made me late to a meeting because I’m so involved in listening that I forget what time it is.

 

What activity gives you the most energy? Running or riding a bike.

 

If you could have lunch with 3 people, dead or living, who would you have lunch with? My mother & father, Isabella Rossellini and Brian Eno.

 

What is your favorite word? Unctuous.



August 10th, 2009 | by good-thyme-girl


Cheese and Chocolate; a six-course culinary exploration

Friday July 31st

Having waited all week with bated breath to hear what Michael had up his sleeve for the Cheese and Chocolate tasting this weekend with the lovely and knowledgeable Doralice Handal (owner of The Cheese Shop in Healdsburg), I found myself salivating last night as he described the ice cream he was developing for the Tasting.  Stella raw goat’s milk cheese, chestnut honey, burnt caramel, vanilla beans; pretty drool-worthy but just to be sure, we mixed up some of the Stella with a pint of ice cream we had on hand and drizzled chestnut honey all over it.  Quality assurance is the cornerstone of every good—oh who am I kidding?  It was an awesome excuse to eat ice cream with cheese and honey, and it tasted fairly transcendent—a combination of flavors from sweet hay and goat-y barnyard to vanilla cream and buttery caramel.  Wow.  And that’s just one of six courses!

Prep List for Cheese & Chocolate TastingSix courses of cheesePlanning meeting with Michael in the kitchen Today we’re gathering all the menu items together and making or doing “mise en place” (i.e. getting everything for a recipe together beforehand) for all the recipes.  The Stella goat cheese and chestnut honey ice cream has been churned (and tasted, of course) and we’ll soon pipe it carefully into Michael’s adorable little push-pop molds.  It’ll be served with a piece of the unadorned Stella cheese, so folks can taste it both blended with other flavors and completely unadulterated.  Michael also made bread sticks brushed with olive oil and fleur de sel, for people to snack on throughout the tasting. 

Michael Recchiuti rolling out breadsticks

Scaling Chestnut Honey for Ice CreamChurning goat cheese and chestnut honey ice creamBurnt Chestnut Honey and Stella Goat Cheese Ice CreamStella Cheese with Ice Cream Push PopIce Cream Push Pop with Stella PairingMichael and Peter are prepping and baking Michael’s take on a classic apple pie—a pithivier made with Michael’s delectable puff pastry dough, caramelized apples, a piece of Amano 70% chocolate and some grated Serena goat and sheep’s milk cheese.  Thanks to the mini-convection oven Michael just bought, we’ll be serving these pithiviers warm and gooey, with a nice salty piece of the Serena cheese on the side.

Pink lady apples for pithivierSliced apples on rounds of puff pastrySerena cheese to pair with pithivierMichael pulls piping hot pithiviers from the ovenApple, chocolate and cheese filled pithivierFlaky crust and warm, melty center of chocolate and cheeseThe next course we’re making is a small, fluffy soufflé made with a creamy Robiola Bucaneve cheese and a light dusting of finely ground cacao nibs.  It will be served hot, on top of a vinaigrette-dressed sea bean salad (from Far West Fungi- we’ll be doing a tasting event with them September 5th!), with a spoon of the Robiola on the side.  Luckily, we ended up having some leftover soufflé batter, so we baked up a little staff meal for the tasting crew on Sunday…breakfast of champions!

Robiola to pair with souffleSerena Cheese souffles coated in cracked pepper and cocoa nibsPlating sea bean salad and spoonfuls of Serena robiolaSugey tidies the plates before service3rd Course..minus the souffle3rd Course: Robiola soffles with sea bean asalad and robiola pairingAfter a lot of discussion and theorizing, the production crew came up with a feasible method for slicing the blue cheese for the next course- a square of the Blu del Moncenisio topped with one of our candied Italian cherries and enrobed in bittersweet chocolate.  We attached the cherry to each piece of cheese with a dollop of chocolate, wrapped them up tight, and hid them in our walk-in refrigerator (“No eating before the tasting!”); the confections will be enrobed in front of the folks at the tasting during their kitchen tour.  They’ll then take their chocolates back to their seats and try them alongside a slice of the Blu del Monceniscio and a glass of St George Spirits Kirsch Eau de Vie. Moncenisio blue cheese for chocolate cherry pairingRound of moncenisio cheeseMoncenisio cheese topped with candied Amarena cherryMichael Recchiuti loading enrober with cherry topped blue cheeseBlue cheese and cherries after the chocolate waterfallChocolate covered Amarena cherry atop Moncenisio blue cheese

Michael also baked off his signature brioche recipe this morning and mercilessly filled all of the Recchiuti rooms with the tantalizing smell of yeast and melting butter.  The morning of the tasting we’ll slice the brioche, tomatoes, lettuce, basil and the Barely Buzzed cheddar cheese for our Recchiuti-style BLT.  The finishing touches will be to fry up some bacon, panini-press the brioche slices, and whip up some extra bitter chocolate mayonnaise!  They’ll be served hot out of the oven, skewered with a bamboo sword and a side of the Barely Buzzed cheddar to taste.

Barely buzzed cheddar for BLTBrioche rolls for Recchiuti BLTMichael slices his not-so-secret-recipe brioche

 

 

This brioche will be grilled and spread with chocolate mayonnaiseRecchiuti BLT complete with Trader Vic's skewerApplewood smoked bacon, Barely Buzzed Cheddar, heirloom tomato and chocolate mayoThe last course provided the another puzzle for the kitchen to mull over- a bittersweet chocolate lollipop filled with a luscious burrata cheese and topped with candied, ground pecans.  The molds were tricky and Michael, Peter and I spent a long time trying to figure out just how put the whole thing together.  After a few failed attempts (too lumpy with nuts in the chocolate, too-thick shells, lollipop sticks that won’t stay in place) we finally figured out how to get a nice thin shell of chocolate that could support all the creamy burrata filling without cracking or leaking.  The pops will be served with a little ramekin of the fresh Gioia burrata, a pipette of Spanish olive oil and a glass of pink, sparkling Bracchetto d’ Acqui from Abbruzzo.

Burrata from Gioia in Los AngelesChocolate lollipop shells waiting to be filled with burrataMichael and Angelica dip burrata pops in melted chocolateTeasing of any excess chocolateBurrata pops are finished with a topping of caramelized hazelnutsThe finale...a sampling of Gioia burrata and chocolate burrata popAnd After….

With so many courses and so much prep work, the tasting crew was fairly bushed by the end of the second class on Sunday.  Good thing we had leftovers of everything, including the pink sparkly stuff, to fortify us for the trip home!

Team Taste Project: Cheese & ChocolateMenu for Cheese & Chocolate

One for the road...Bracchetto



July 31st, 2009 | by cupcake gama


Vincent Jackson & Michael Recchiuti…Meet ‘n’ Greet at the Ferry Building

Artwork by Vincent Jackson on display at the Recchiuti storeCreativity ExploredBoxes of chocolates featuring art by Vincent Jackson

To celebrate our newest featured artist (Vincent Jackson) from Creativity Explored, Michael decided to head down to the Ferry Building store and host a meet and greet with Vincent. To make the event extra special Michael created an apricot, celery & radish smoothie just for the occasion (not everything he creates is chocolate but it is always tasty). Customers popped in to meet both of our artists, grab a smoothie and get their chocolate box signed by Vincent himself!  The new box by Vincent is entitled “Toys” and features bright images of summer. We were thrilled to have Vincent at our store on this day to explain to customers what the inspiration for his art was. With every purchase of this box, $2 goes right back to Creativity Explored. If you have not had the chance to visit their artist studio in the Mission you should make it a point drop by and support a great community organization.

Creativity Explored III by Vincent JacksonMichael hanging a sampling of Vincent's artworkVincent's art on display at the Recchiuti storeArtwork by Vincent JacksonWeddingMichael's apricot smoothieMichael RecchiutiCreativity Explored artist Vincent JacksonVincent Jackson moving productDesiree, Alex and Jacky Recchiuti



July 23rd, 2009 | by Jacky Recchiuti


So …did I mention it was Michael’s birthday?

This past spring Michael was a featured chef at Piccino Café  our neighbors here  in Dogpatch. The menu consisted of old Recchiuti family recipes that Michael remembered growing up in Philadelphia. The evening was such a fun and relaxed collaboration we quickly began brainstorming on partnering in another dinner. Over many glasses of wine Michael announces to Wayne , Sher (co-owner of Piccino) and me that Sunday July 19 would be the perfect date … Huh?

“But it’s your birthday!” I exclaim.

“Exactly, I want to cook dinner for everyone on my birthday, that’ll be my birthday present” Michael replies, I could see by the far off look in his eyes that the menu was already being formed in his head.

So began the planning to celebrate Michael’s day of birth …by having him cook for us.

Very early on Sunday July 19, 2009 … Michael Recchiuti’s birthday

-          The day began at 6:00 am to mix the bread dough for dinner – years ago (in another food lifetime) in Vermont, Michael developed a Como bread recipe he resurrected specially for this meal. With Tiffany’s  (Piccino pastry gal)assistance loaves after loaves are baked off.

-          Sweet cherry tomatoes had been roasted the night before to go with the pasta – “Cavetelli” – which Michael spent an entire weekend back in Philly learning to properly “cav” the pasta from his older siblings David and Lynn. Michael conducted an all nighter “caving” with Ellie (Piccino chef) earlier in the week.

-          Another Recchiuti family specialty “Eggplant Parmesan” was made in ramekin size portion s for the finishing salad course.

Every course is orchestrated and conducted in symphonic precision just as a conductor by Food Maestro Michael Recchiuti (okay, ask me another time about the other Maestro Recchiuti in the family).

Team Piccino alongside Maestro Michael works into the day preparing for the grand feast to come … so I did say this is actually Michael’s birthday, right?

Late Afternoon July 19

A speed rack filled with prepped food in varied stages is rolled to Piccino, a big copper kettle and burner is installed in front, nearby the farmer’s market tent is being erected, a long family style table is set outside while more intimately set deuces and four tops are nestled near each other in the café , beautiful hand painted (by Sher) menus are placed at each setting alongside the loaves of Como bread  – party time is fast approaching.

Party time – you know, Michael’s birthday …

Antipasti Festa: Upon arriving guests  are urged to cozy up under the tent at the “antipasti ” table filled with spinach, roasted red pepper  & pecorino encased in Michael’s famously fabulous puff pastry, spicy breakfast radishes fill a giant bowl, a  mélange of olives top a earth ware urn  next to a piles of roasted artichoke & pardon peppers . Marin Sun Farm’s pork shoulder prepared  in a wood-oven is accompanied by caramelized peach compote, salsa verde & aioli.

2008 Coteaux du Languedoc Rose, Domaine du Poujol fill glasses and mellowness sets in with the party guests as they settle into the first course nibbling.

A lone saxophone player plays eclectic jazz in the hot, moist balmy summer evening – okay, okay, it’s July in San Francisco – cool but comfortable, light fog mists the city as we in Dogpatch are spared  … The Sax player is real though and just the right background  ambience to the celebration.

Primo: While all are enjoying conversation & libation, Michael has the big copper kettle filled with water at a roiling boil – in goes the cavatelli, once done the roasted tomatoes are incorporated, we plate up  the pasta, drizzle McEvoy Ranch Olive Oil and off we all go (“we” as in Jeff, Cambria, Sher & me ) like buzzing drones of bees swiftly serving the bowls of Recchiuti family style pasta. Paired wine – 2007 Rosso Toscano Monteleccio Sesti is poured  – a lovely red not too over powering for the fresh pasta.

Intermezzo: Watermelon & Tarragon Granita is served as a palate cleanser, wonderfully refreshing watermelon with the nice touch of tarragon, much like our Tarragon Grapefruit truffle (which is my personal favorite, I digress, back to the dinner – you know, Michael’s)

Secondo: As everyone had been enjoying the intermezzo – Ellie & Ginny  were busy poaching to perfection California White Sea Bass served with roasted peaches and romanesco accompanied by 2008 Vin des Gaules, Marcel Lapierre, Beaujolais. Ahhhh – says it all, but wait, there is more to come.

Verde: A composed Chervil salad topped with  Recchiuti family Eggplant Parmigiano  finished up the savory courses. Pierced with a pipette loaded  with McEvoy Ranch  Olive Oil.

Pre- dolce we set out bowls of dragees – Burnt Caramel Almonds, Cherries Two Ways, Burnt Caramel Hazelnuts – I’m sorry to say I was unable to rustle up our Peanut Butter Pearls to make it a complete mix of the Asphalt Jungle. No matter even after so many courses the party revelers dive into each bowl with much vigor and enthusiasm – groans of pleasure is heard over the saxophone (Yeah, that loud ! Boy what a little bit a vino will do to loosen up a crowd.)

Dolce: Michael’s (the birthday boy) Ice Cream Bar – in the dimming light Michael scooped three delicate servings each of Meyer Lemon Buttermilk ice cream, Burnt Caramel ice cream and a Santa Rosa plum and white peach sorbet. Naturally the Meyer lemon and signature burnt caramel ice cream recipes are from our book Chocolate Obsession. The sorbet inspired by seasonal stone fruit from the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market. Some guests stealthy passed their bowls back to the ice cream table for a second heaping of burnt caramel ice cream

Late after the party ends: Tables are broken down, tableware and glasses wash and put away by Sandra-Marlene,who did an amazing job keeping up with us all evening as we scrambled to re-set flatware or find extras bowls. Jeff and Cambria are harmonizing in falsetto – hitting notes which would make a Castrati go green with envy as they restock glassware. Sher & Wayne presented Michael with his birthday presents (to be added to the great bootie he’s received from many dinner guests).

Jeff tops off the night asking – “Michael if you work this hard cooking for yourself on your own birthday, what you do when you throw someone else a party?”

To that end I’ve decided to make Michael  birthday wish come true – for his big Five-Oh next year ; we are booked for a trip to  Australia where new  adventures await us down under …

Piccino Cafe sidewalk sceneReserved table for Michael's dinnerMichael Recchiuti plating dinnerTable spread at Piccino Cafe

Olive Oil Pipette in Eggpant ParmMichael Recchiuti's birthday dinner



July 15th, 2009 | by good-thyme-girl


Taste Project: Olive Oil & Chocolate

After a few quiet weekends off, Michael and the kitchen crew are gearing up for another exciting tasting event, this one featuring the knowledge and expertise of Fran Gage; food writer, former bakery owner, olive oil aficionado and author of many books including her most recent publication, “New American Olive Oil”.  Fran and Michael have been dreaming up ways to introduce our tasting attendees to the myriad delicious American olive oils available on the market today.   Fran is going to lead folks through a tasting of five different oils in the first half of the class and then, after Michael leads everyone on a tour of our chocolate kitchen, Fran and Michael will introduce people to the wonderful world of olive oil cooking.  As Fran’s book is positively bursting with innovative and mouthwatering recipes, we will be riffing off those same recipes for all our pairings.

Olive Oil & Chocolate Prep ListOlive Oil Push-Pop

Savory Loaf and Minted Corn Salad

What, you ask, will the kitchen be whipping up for this event to capture the subtleties and unctuous textures of the various olive oils on offer? Well!  Michael is very excited about the ice cream maker he’s borrowed from a friend, so we will begin by making Fran’s recipe for olive oil ice cream, using McEvoy’s extra virgin olive oil.  Inspired by his recent trip to Manhattan and that city’s endless variety of food and restaurant supply stores, Michael has decided to make olive oil ice cream “push-pops”!  They’ll be served with caramelized cocoa nibs and a green olive toffee.

Olive oils for Taste Project with Michael Recchiuti & Fran Gage

McEvoy Olive Oil Ice Cream Push-Pops McEvoy Olive Oil Cce Cream for goodie bags

Michael and co are also making two different olive oil ganaches, both recipes for which are found in “New American Olive Oil”.  The first ganache, made with California Olive Ranch extra virgin olive oil and Michael’s 64% dark chocolate from Valrhona, will be placed in a dollop on top of a warm, toasted baguette (see Fran’s recipe for “Pan Con Chocolate” in “New American Olive Oil”.  ).  All the Recchiuti folks who tried this ganache were amazed at how the spicy, green olive flavor stood up to the richness of the chocolate and cream.  It’s a wonderful sweet-savory treat on top of a hot, crusty piece of bread.

Making Olive Oil chocolate ganache

Making cacao nib macaron batterMichael pipes olive oil ganache into cacao nib macarons

The second ganache, made with blood orange olive oil from The Olive Press, will be put to two different uses.  First, it will serve as a filling for Michael’s signature cocoa nib macaroons, which will be presented to the tasting folks along-side  the pan con chocolate.  Then, the remainder will be cut into little squares which we will enrobe during our kitchen tour.  Tasting attendees will be able to scoop the freshly-coated pieces of blood orange ganache right off the enrober and pop them into their mouths!   

Blood Orange Olive OilBlood Orange Olive Oil Chocolate GanacheCutting Blood Orange Chocolate GanacheLast, but by no means least, we are making Fran’s “Savory loaf with sheep’s cheese and olives”.  Michael picked out some lovely Manchego cheese and green olives for this recipe and, using Apollo Mistral extra virgin olive oil, whipped the batter up the day before the class.  Then, while the loaves were in the oven, Michael shucked corn and chopped veggies for Fran’s “Corn Salad with Mint”, which was then tossed with Bozzano A2 olive oil and will be served along-side two toasted pieces of the savory loaf.  We are planning to finish the loaf slices off in Michael’s Panini press right when folks get back from their kitchen tour.  They’ll be greeted by the scent of toasting cheese and olives!

Slices of savory loaf in panini pressMichael shucks corn for salad

Michael dishes up corn saladNeedless to say, the leftovers of corn salad, savory loaf, and ganache were savored and sampled by all.  It’s a rough job…



July 1st, 2009 | by cupcake gama


Creativity Explored Dance Hall Fundraiser

Creativity Explored has done it again and pulled off an absolutely spectacular annual fundraiser. This year’s theme was, Dance Hall Party. I was informed that from 1908-1926; 3245 16th Street (the current location for CE) was in full swing as ‘Findlay’s Dance Hall.’ It was not surprising to hear that Findlay’s quickly became the gathering place for raucous entertainment and offered dime-a-dance girls to men from every walk of life. So, in light of their building’s history, the group behind this Creativity Explored decided to turn their gallery & studio into a glittering dance hall for this special one night event.

  

As I walked in the doors, I was amazed by the transformation of the space. Twinkling lights were everywhere, a disco ball twirled up above, everyone was dancing in their best outfits. Suddenly it felt like the 1920s again. They offered delicious appetizers, beer, wine and the ever intoxicating Absinthe. The artist’s work was displayed proudly on the walls and each piece was tempting from every angle. I thought the ceramic cupcakes were especially tasty looking!  The evening went on to include a live auction and much more drinking and dancing and finally ending on a sweet note with some of our brownies. Everyone involved did an incredible job. If you have never had the chance to visit Creativity Explored, I highly recommend it. It is an experience unlike any other and the artwork is truly phenomenal.

UPDATE: Recchiuti Confections is thrilled to announce the release of a new collection of art-adorned chocolates. The third in the Creativity Explored series features the work of Vincent Jackson. As with the previous two collections, $2 from each sale goes directly to Creativity Explored, a Bay Area nonprofit visual arts center where artists with developmental disabilities create, exhibit, and sell art.

Creativity Explored III will be available July 1, 2009. (8pcs; $21)

Click here to get involved!

Click here to donate!



June 27th, 2009 | by good-thyme-girl


Serious Chocolate-y Goodness

We were gearing up all last week for another Taste Project event. This time it was our second installment of “Serious Chocolate”, a class about chocolate, for chocolate-lovers and featuring chocolate recipes and techniques from Michael’s book, Chocolate Obsession.  It was basically an all-out choco-fest, and the attendees got a chance to glimpse Michael in his element—mixing, molding, tempering, and getting generally elbow-deep in chocolate.

As people arrived in front of our kitchen for the tasting, we greeted them with a few scoops of Recchiuti Burnt Caramel Ice Cream that they had the option of pairing with some Stonehouse Olive Oil and Iburo Jio Cherry smoked sea salt from The Meadow in Portland.  Class assembled and ice cream devoured, folks then headed into our tasting room where Michael was grinding some cacao nibs, cocoa butter, vanilla and sugar to make chocolate, which he passed around for everyone to try.  Then everyone wiped off their chocolate mustaches, settled into their seats where a copy of Chocolate Obsession was waiting for them and got down to business.

Adding butter to chocolate ganacheAdding cream to chocolate ganacheMaking chocolate confections is a fairly involved process, with many steps happening over the course of several days. The idea with the class was to make a few Recchiuti chocolates from beginning to end in order to give folks a really cohesive and seamless look at confectionary work.  Michael began by making a star anise and pink peppercorn ganache, followed by a smoky rose caramel filling.  Then came a rich lemon verbena ganache, and finally a piedmont hazelnut and milk chocolate gianduja. With each ganache and filling he explained the various techniques involved (“Don’t let your hand blender incorporate any air when emulsifying your ganache!”, “Be sure to taste your infusions for flavor before straining them”, “Don’t be afraid to make that caramel smoke a little”).

Michael Recchiuti decorates Rose Caramel moldAfter a quick break, the class moved over to the kitchen where Michael worked on the various steps required to house the fillings he’d just made.  He began by decorating a rose caramel mold and a piedmont hazelnut mold; spraying and striping them respectively, and then molding them out in tempered chocolate.  He then filled them with the fillings he’d made earlier in the class, taking care not to over or under fill them and being sure not to get any filling around the edge of the molds, which affects how well they are sealed off later.  Finally he used dark chocolate to seal off the molded chocolates and carefully unmolded them.  Eh voila—two finished molded chocolates from beginning to end!

Michael Recchiuti molds Rose Caramel in El Rey white chocolateRose Caramel cavities filled with caramel

Michael uses squeeze bottle to fill Rose Caramel molds

Michael used the star anise and pink peppercorn ganache he’d made earlier to pipe beautiful chocolate dollops onto small tempered chocolate disks.  These he set aside while he took a slab of lemon verbena ganache, backed one side of it with a thin layer of dark chocolate, and cut it into squares on the guitar cutter(resembles a very large egg slicer and named for its many wire strings).  Then Michael loaded up the enrobing machine with the lemon and star anise confections and the folks in the class watched as the little treats traveled under a rippling curtain of dark chocolate, under a fan that blew off the excess chocolate (as if there could be such a thing) and then onto a conveyor belt that took them through a cooling tunnel. Some of the class members even helped Angelica, the production manager, put the white willow leaf transfers on the tops of the lemon verbena chocolates.

Catching enrobed Lemon Verbena chocolatesBoxing up chocolatesTying bows on chocolate boxesOnce the chocolates emerged from the cooling tunnel, they were collected on a sheet pan and brought to a table where boxes, candy cups, and ribbons were laid out.  Every member of the class packed their own boxes with the chocolates Michael had just made, and then went back to the classroom for a little Q&A session with Michael.  The class wrapped up with Michael signing books and talking chocolate shop!



June 26th, 2009 | by lush


The Old Cuban at Nopa

Back in 2006, Michael Recchiuti helped the team at Nopa in San Francisco create some of their signature drinks.  One that sticks out in his memory is The Old Cuban.   It’s a vibrant mix of Flor the Caña rum, mint, sugar, lime juice and cava (Spanish sparkling wine).  I went last night to Nopa, thirsty and with my camera to remember what an old Cuban can really do.  It was a long June day and the remaining sunlight shined through the champagne flute in which the Old Cuban is served, illuminating the emerald cocktail in a most enticing way.  The aroma of mint and crisp white wine wakes you up.  Upon first sip, you enjoy the crisp blend of cava and fresh mint.  The Flor de Caña rum forms a nice base, but its delicate flavor doesn’t overpower.  Sugar is listed as one of the ingredients, but thankfully the drink isn’t sweet.  More than anything it refreshes and invigorates.  A perfect first drink of the evening.

Old Cuban cockatil at Nopa in SF



June 22nd, 2009 | by Katie


Spirits & Chocolate tasting…almost as good as being there yourself.

Taste Project attendee Lindsay Ferguson provided the play-by-play for Spirits & Chocolate with Lance Winters (St. George Spirits/Hangar One) and Michael Recchiuti.

Upon entering the second floor of an unassuming industrial building, the echoing cement halls lead to a warm welcome spread. Tastefully laid out, the spread featured thyme-black pepper gougeres, cheeses (Roaring 40′s Blue among others), salumi, fresh fruit and bowls of Recchiuti’s new chocolate dragée line. The delicious offering betrayed nothing of what was in store behind those black double-doors.

  Jacky Recchiuti preps the Welcome Spread of gourmet goodies

Michael Recchiuti and Lance Winters, chief distiller from St Georege Spirits (well known for The Taste Project Room before the doors opentheir Hangar One Vodka) have outdone themselves in the preparation of this particular Taste Project…Spirits & Chocolate. While the guests take their seats around a large U-shaped table, Michael and Lance explain the first offering before us:  The Cherry Bomb–a miniature cordial made with Aqua Perfecta Kirsch Eau de Vie and topped with an Amarena cherry. It is a delightful confection of sour cherry cordial topped with the chocolate-encased cherry. Lance notes that the entire cherry is used to make the Kirsch, including the pit, which gives a slight nuttiness to the liqueur. When married with the Venezuelan chocolate, the chocolate-cherry-nut flavors of the tiny bite evoke hushed, delighted murmurs from the guests. 

 Next comes the Ovaltini—a crowd favorite—a chocolate cocktail made with Test Kitchen Cacao Nib Brandy, Venezuelan chocolate sherbet and barley malt syrup. It’s garnished with a chocolate cigarette, Olvatine rim and a pipette filled with cacao nib brandy! Guests are invited to add a little or a lot to their cocktail for an extra kick. Lance discusses how very special this Test Kitchen Cacao Nib Brandy is…clear as water but if you get up close and put your nose to it, a wave of rich chocolate hits you. Lance goes on to explain that it was very important to him to preserve that warm cacao nib flavor when distilling his brandy. To do so, he used 25 pounds of cacao nibs to create just one liter of the brandy. Michael picks up the thread and recounts the labor-intensive steps behind the creation of the Ovaltini, parts of which took two days to complete. The end result was a decadently rich drink, made better by the chocolate cigarette proudly adorning the delicious concoction.

Michael Recchiuti tests the final blend of cacao nib brandy and chocolate sherbetCubes of "foam" dusted in cacao nib for garnishOvaltini garnished with chocolate cigarette and a pipette of more brandy

Next we move on to the Six-Barreled Shooter: A flight of Agua Azul (Cristal, Reposado, Añejo) with matching chocolate poppers, served with lime wedges and artisan salt from The Meadow in Portland. Lance’s anecdote lightens up the hard-hitting “tequila” and he explains that since his Agua was not made in Tequila (Jalisco, Mexico), it is not technically tequila. It is however 100% agave…like tequila. This launches Lance into recalling his endless battle with the infamous agave plant–the spiny fruit from which the distillate is made. While it gave Lance quite a bit of trouble, the agave piñas (the tough core of the agave plant) woes gave every guest several laughs as he describes using everything from machetes to chainsaws to dogfood mills to extract the juice for the still.

Lou Bustamante pours St George Agua Azul CristalSt George Agua Azul flight with chocolate poppersTasting #2: Agua Azul Reposado

Clearly their efforts paid off. Our tasting featured a flight of the hard won distillates served from light to dark. The Cristal is as clear as water and made from steam-roasted agave piñas. It best represents the pure essence of agave. The Reposado (rested), made from smoked agave piñas,  has a fuller, almost caramel taste and pale gold color. Finally, the Añejo (aged) is fermented and aged in oak barrels which impart a deep gold color and a woodsy flavor. To go with each Agua of the flight we sample matching chocolate poppers filled with each of the three Agua Azul. A dash of salt. A squeeze of lime. And we’re ready to move on to the next adventure.

 

A brief intermission and tour of the Recchiuti kitchen give everyone a chance to settle their taste buds before being hit with Michael’s next creation, the Raisin’ Cain Panini: Zinfandel Grappa-soaked raisin and chocolate brioche filled with goat cheese, battered eggplant and a shallot-flamed grape-raisin compote. The complex, unlikely flavor combinations were incredible! A perfect balance of savory and sweet that soared when paired with a one-ounce pour of straight St. George Grappa.

 

The tone of our next course is set as Lance reaches for the ominous monster-sized beaker filled with green liquid which has been perched behind Lance and Michael all afternnoon. It has drawn curious curious looks from some and now is its time to shine. To highlight the occasion Michael presents a cacao nib macaron filled with Absinthe Verte and star anise buttercream. The whole thing is skewerd with a pipette of the green liquid.  The liquid, Lance explains, was test kitchen Stinging Nettle Brandy. He holds it up joyfully while we sample small drops of Nettle Brandy from the pipette. It begins smooth, like some brandy, but once it gets a chance to interact with your tastebuds, it goes crazy and may not be for every palate. Stinging nettle is the perfect way to describe the sensation this brandy creates. Sharp, licoricey, medicinal. After sampling the brandy on its own we are instructed to inject the remaining pipette into the Absinthe & Star Anise buttercream of the delicate cacao nib macaron. Once done and carefully dispatched to one’s mouth,  the nettle loses its sting, and compliments the sweet macaron with a slight spice. The Absinthe Verte’s licorice flavor, very smooth and soothing, is just the trick to calm the tastebuds down from the Nettle Brandy.

Michael Recchiuti decants Stinging Nettle BrandyPipettes of Stinging Nettle brandy for Absinthe macaronsCacao nib macaron with St George Absinthe-Star Anise buttercreamThe Recchiuti Taste Project wrapped up with as much panache and delight as it began. Michael rolls out a cart ladened with a gas stove, cornmeal crepes and a frozen container of olive oil ice cream for the “En Fuego”–cornmeal crepes flambéed in Agua Azul Añejo and topped with a citrus-vanilla bean compote. We revisit the Agua Azul Añejo once more as a pairing for the dish. Each of the 29 guests receives their own crepe made right before their eyes—a tall order for any chef! The cornmeal crepe compliments the Añejo, while the olive oil ice cream deliciously meltis into the compote, mellowing out the intense flavors of the vanilla bean and citrus. The best way to go out is in flames, and that’s exactly what Michael and Lance did with this amazing Taste Project.



June 17th, 2009 | by lush


I’m a chocoholic…for booze

Michael Recchiuti and Lance Winters in the St George Tasting room

Lance Winters and Dave Smith at St. George Spirits in Alameda took Michael Recchiuti and me on a beautifully boozy ride today.   The sold out Spirits & Chocolate class is only days away so Michael and Lance are putting together the final touches on their “syllabus” for the occasion. 

I was lucky enough to taste some of cacao brandy that was specially made.  In its simplest form, it’s a brandy infused with real cacao nibs.  Like most dark chocolate on the market, the first inclination is to add vanilla and sugar.  We taste this delicious elixir with different proportions of those ingredients.   Michael’s aversion to overly sweet things and his love for cacao leads him to opt for the liquor in its simplest form, sans sugar and vanilla.   He’d rather let the lucky consumer decide how they’d like to doctor their beverage.  This is truly a treat, the mastermind of chocolate confections and the distilling king together mixing their expertise and I get to watch!  

Cacao Nib brandy from the St George test kitchen

Mixologist in action. Dave Smith blends brandies.

 

Lance and Dave show us their beautiful distiller in action.  They were working on a batch of orange peel infused liquor.   I saw for myself the real orange peel mixed with brandy, brought to a boil and run through the copper cylinders and out through a small spout.  We got to taste the batch as it poured out, taking note how the batch evolves in flavor as it emerges in a small, steady stream.  I find it delicious at every stage, but that’s the kind of lush I am.  Sometimes the alcohol numbs your tongue and the orange flavor comes after. Other times the orange pops out and the alcohol is tamed.  Truly fascinating.   The batch all goes into the same barrel where the flavors age for a few months. I can only imagine what a few months of age will do to this already heavenly liquor.  While the distiller was heating up, Dave and Lance let us taste one of their recent projects, a foie gras liquor.  Dave cleverly describes it as a happy journey that starts with one liver and ends up in another.  

Giants copper stills at St George in Alameda, CA.

Making brandy from orange peel

Orange peel brandy emerges

Michael, Dave and Lance talk shop

We leave St. George with a nice bottle of cacao brandy that Michael is going to use to develop cocktails for the very lucky guests of Saturday’s Taste Project.   I have a feeling this class will go down in Recchiuti history.



June 12th, 2009 | by good-thyme-girl


Tasting Countdown: St. George Spirits & Chocolate

As the week draws to a close, Michael Recchiuti and the kitchen crew are gearing up for the next Taste Project event–a Spirits and Chocolate tasting with the folks from St. George Spirits. We’re really excited about this event and the kitchen is working with Michael to prepare a host of sumptuous goodies for people to taste. Here’s a blow-by-blow look at the days leading up to the tasting:

Tuesday 6.9.09

Michael goes to St George Spirits in Alameda and picks up two boxes of lovely booze for the kitchen to play with. Among the offerings are three Tequilas, Zinfandel Grappa, Kirsch Eau de Vie, Absinthe Verte, and a spectacular cacao nib brandy made just for us!

Tue_Nettle-BrandyTue_Bottles-of-boozeTue_Michael-gets-close-to-nib-brandyWednesday 6.10.09

Today we’re making Tequila Shooters featuring St George Spirit’s Cristal, Reposado and Añejo Tequilas and Cherry Bombs–a combination of St George Spirits Kirsch Eau de Vie and Recchiuti Italian candied cherries.

Wed_Empty-Cherry-Bomb-ShellsWed_Finished-Cherry-Bombs

Thursday 6.11.09

We’re finishing off the Tequila Shooters today (we’re making extra for folks to take home) and finalizing the details of the tasting menu. We’re really excited about the menu, and those of us who will be working the event are going to have a hard time not hitting the sauce in between platings. The cacoa nib brandy alone is enough to tempt even the most disciplined of our crew to stray from the path. Pair that with the killer brioche Panini Michael’s developed and you’ve got a meal fit for a king!

Thurs_finished-Tequila-Shooters

Friday 6.12.09

Today is our big prep day and we’re making cornmeal crepes, star anise buttercream, cacao nib macarons, citrus compote, milk chocolate straws, and much more. Michael was here late last night perfecting his recipe for the chocolate cocktail we’ll be serving, and also whipping up a batch of brioche with chocolate and grappa-soaked raisins. We baked off some tests of the brioche today and tasted it, you know, for quality assurance. Sigh, life in the kitchen is pretty grueling.

Fri_Whipping-buttercream

Fri_Peter-the-crepemasterFri_Michael-makes-BriocheFri_citrus-compote

Tomorrow is showtime! Michael and the tasting crew will be prepping all morning for the event. Once we’re all set we’ll have a sip of the chocolate cocktail and then open our doors to the public! Pictures and a full report to follow. Stay tuned!



June 10th, 2009 | by beats-n-sweets


The King of Chocolate on Kings of Leon (and other music stuff)

On Monday, June 8th I sat down with Michael Recchiuti to talk music.  As a loyal fan of Kings of Leon, I couldn’t help but pick Michael’s brain when I heard he’d recently seen them play. You might not think that a man so passionate about chocolate would have any room left in his life for other passions. You’d be surprised.  This self-trained master chocolatier of Recchiuti Confections is also a classically trained jazz drummer and avid live and local music fan.  Here’s what he had to say on the subject.

I heard you went to a Kings of Leon show here in San Francisco at the Bill Graham. I know you’re not that familiar with them, so how’d you end up seeing them play?

Our friend Tom Seawell (who also does all the Recchiuti photography) is a fan and invited my wife Jacky and me to join him. We rarely turn down an invitation to a show.

Have you seen KOL before?

Nope.  I’ve only heard a little of their music but  I was excited ‘cause I’d heard good things about their live shows.  

So, how was the show?

I liked that even though I don’t really know their music well, they were still able to draw me in.  Their performance seemed genuine and musically organized.  Everything was very put together, but they still found a way to improvise.  I was happy because the band really sounded great…the Bill Graham doesn’t usually sound that good.

The crowd was a good mix of people.  It reminded me of when I was in high school in Philly and there was a “show of the year” that everyone went to.  Yeah, it was like that, everybody went to Kings of Leon.  The crowd was really into the band.  And the encore was long, five songs I think!

Do you have a favorite KOL song?

I wasn’t too familiar with any in particular, but they definitely had some songs that were big hits—they were good!  Maybe if I knew which songs were big radio hits I wouldn’t like them as much. Fortunately I don’t really listen to the radio, so I don’t know which ones are hits. 

How do you feel about the music scene in SF?  What is unique about it?

The music scene is good here because bands want to play in San Francisco and there’s every type of venue.  You get really big bands that’ll play in a huge venue like the Warfield and then the next night play in a smaller one like the Independent.  Performers seem to like the fact that the city has a lot to offer.  I’ve even found that sometimes the headlining band is in the audience watching the opening band play before their set, which is cool for everybody!

Any upcoming shows you plan on attending?

Tonight I’m going to see Low Red Land at the Elbow Room.  Peter, who works here in the kitchen, turned me on to them.  They’re a local band that’s kind of got a singer-songwriter feel but with a hefty rock-edge, and every once in a while a country twang.  Loud and noisy—energetic live.   They released a new album that’s about 8 months old.  I like supporting local bands, I think that’s key.  There are just a lot of great local bands. 

I’d really like to see a lot of other shows.  I’m heading to NY at the end of June so I’m sure I’ll go and see a show or two there. 

How does your knowledge of music affect your experience at concerts, such as KOL?

I don’t think it does.  I try to set the analytics aside and not criticize the way the drummer is drumming.  If the vibe’s good and they’re playing well, then I like it.  On the other hand, if I don’t like or connect to the music, I get a little bored and start analyzing. My enjoyment of a band is really influenced by the vocalist and how well their voice suits the style of music they’re singing. If the voice doesn’t match it can ruin everything.  For instance, I may really dig what the band is doing but if the vocalist is a female with too willowy a voice for what they’re playing, I just can’t get into it.  I guess do analyze quite a bit after all.

Aside from chocolate, I know your other passion is music and that you’re known to leave your gourmet chocolates behind for the bands.  Do you really do that?

Yeah, if I really like the band I bring them chocolate.  Even if I don’t get a chance to see them I leave a note and a box.  They’ll sometimes respond with hand written letters—that’s really cool.  Both parties are sharing something that they love. 

I originally saw this one band, Earlimart, at the Bottom of the Hill 8 or 9 years ago.  I dropped a bag of chocolates at the bottom of the stage and the singer ran after me.  We’ve kept in touch ever since, and it’s turned into a friendship.  I’ve had them over to my house and cooked dinner for them.  The lead singer got married last year and Jacky and I baked a cupcake wedding cake for them.  

Check out Between the Buns Special Report featuring Michael and his cupcakes:

http://earlimartmusic.com/cgi-bin/WebObjects/PWDA.woa/wa/page?id=8500

 Is there anything else you want to add?

Well, I’m really looking forward to setting up the room next door to the Recchiuti kitchen for my drums.  Some friends are going to drop off a PA. A keyboard. Some amps.  It will be a great “release” space within the world of Chocolate.  Long awaited.  Stay tuned for an update on this development.



June 1st, 2009 | by Katie


First Master Class a Sweet Success

Michael Recchiuti, master chocolatier and owner of Michael Recchiuti Confections, led twenty-four pastry-loving members and guests in an exploration of new techniques, recipes and methods to kick off our official SFPFS Master Class series. To combat the excessive heat, Michael’s wife, Jacky, greeted us with an intriguing cold drink made with raspberries, radishes and a lemongrass “foam.” We knew we were in for an innovative and palate-expanding afternoon!

Read the entire article here. http://www.sfpfs.com/calendar/recent%20events/masterclass_chocolate.htm 

 



May 29th, 2009 | by Michael


Chocolate-Maker Michael Recchiuti’s Taste Project Flirts With Savory and Sweet Flavors

“This has everything to do with stuff I’d like to do, but could never do on an industrial level,” said chocolatier Michael Recchiuti last night as panini fungi of shiitake chocolate-malt ice cream on grilled brioche were served….

 

http://blogs.sfweekly.com/foodie/2009/05/recchiuti_launches_the_taste_p.php

 

 



May 29th, 2009 | by Michael


Chocolate and [Insert edible noun here]

http://foodwishes.blogspot.com/2009/05/chocolate-and-insert-edible-noun-here.html 



May 29th, 2009 | by Michael


Menu for Salt, Caramel and Chocolate Tasting

Here’s the menu for the tasting I’m doing tomorrow with Mark Bitterman.

The Taste Project—Salt, Caramel & Chocolate

May 30, 2009

Welcome Cocktail

Champagne Apricot Freeze made with Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs

Dip-It-Yourself Breadsticks

Featuring Recchiuti’s housemade graham crackers and single origin chocolate on a Himalayan salt block.

A Classic Opening

Tarte Tatin garnished with Sel Gris de L’ile de Re.

“Palette” Cleanser

Single Origin “Ocumare” by Amano Chocolate. Topped with pistachios, rosemary foraged from Michael’s street and Roasted Korean Bamboo Salt.

Frosty Beverage

Chilled Chocolate Malt drink made with El Rey 41% Milk Chocolate and organic roasted barley malt from Oaktown. Finished with a rim of Iburi Jio Cherry Salt.

Intermission

Salt Flight

A comparison of six artisan salt caramels.

One Last Dance

House-churned Olive Oil Ice Cream from Fran Gage’s New American Olive Oil. Garnished with a drizzle of Stonehouse Olive Oil and Haleakala Ruby Salt.

And to take home…

Your very own box of salt caramels to share (or not) with friends.

Menu by Michael Recchiuti and Mark Bitterman



April 9th, 2009 | by Katie


Only 8 seats left…Chocolate, Cheese & Port (Apr 18)

Step inside Recchiuti Suite 227…a warehouse converted into the Taste Project Room. We ask you to leave your established ideas on taste outside and enter with an open mind and a willingness to explore. You’ll be greeted by the scent of fresh-baked puff pastry matched perfectly with an offering Roaring 40’s Bleu Cheese and Recchiuti Burnt Caramel Sauce. (We want your tummy to be properly *primed* for the trip you’re about to take.) From there we’ll take you on an taste exploration of some of the world’s most luxurious flavor sensations: chocolate, cheese and port. This interactive experience will delight, surprise and challenge your palate, so get ready for a ride. Your hosts for the afternoon will be Michael Recchiuti and wine educator Marni Rubin, C.S.W. They’re there to ensure your comfort, enjoyment and education.

Your journey will include a rare peak into Michael Recchiuti’s personal stash of limited estate grown and origin chocolates from around the globe. These very special chocolates will serve as the focal point for taste experiments with fine cheese and dessert wines. Gould Campbell Vintage Port with Raspberry Chocolate. De Bartoli Tawny Port with Salted Caramel. 5-Year Aged Gouda with Amano Ocumare Chocolate. Some will be a transformative experience…others will not. Discovering which is which will be part of the trip, but we invite you to join us and to find out for yourself.

April 18, 2009 (2:00 – 4:30pm) $75 in advance; $85 at the door. Attendees will also recieve an 8-piece box of Recchiuti Chocolates to take home.

This event will be held at the Recchiuti kitchens in San Francisco (address and directions to be provided after completing registration.)

Register today!



April 7th, 2009 | by Sugey


Festa di Primavera–Spring Celebration in San Francisco

What better way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon than sampling some of our city’s finest foods at the San Francisco Ferry Building. We were lucky enough to participate in the first annual Festa di Primavera last Sunday (April 5th, 2009) giving us a chance to showcase and sample our new Dragée line.

The second level of the Ferry Building was transformed into an Italian Spring festival with Italian flags and rosemary and lemon flower arrangements at your every turn. Many of our loyal customers showed up to support the event along with many new faces that were eager to be a part of the celebration.

Oysters, spreadable meat, cheese, chocolate and wine all while dancing around to The Hot Frittatas, Northern California’s liveliest ensemble for international café music. The event was such a success that there are already plans for next year’s Festa. Be sure to keep an eye out for it and Happy Spring!

 



March 27th, 2009 | by Katie


Chocolate, Port Wine & Cheese…research

Hello, chocolate fans…

 

Marni Rubin here and want to thank Michael for inviting me to post on the Recchiuti blog. I’m a wine educator and I recently met with Michael for a nearly two-hour chocolate, cheese and wine pairing session to get ready for a chocolate and dessert wine paring we’re holding at his kitchen in San Francisco on April 18th.   Our mission:  find heavenly combinations of Port, dessert wines, cheese and chocolate. I brought the wines and cheese, Michael provided a tray of amazing chocolates, and we were off and tasting…

 

Some pairings were fairly obvious (and delicious!), like combining a silky Raspberry chocolate ganache with a raspberry-scented Ruby Port.  And the chocolate-covered Candied Orange Peel was a taste explosion when we paired it with a 10 Year Australian Tawny.  Then, some pairings really surprised us.  The fruity Cassis Strata chocolate paired amazingly well with goat cheese, and reminded Michael of a raspberry blintz.  A 5 year aged Beamster Gouda cheese was great with milk chocolates.

 

One important thing we really hit on:  it’s not just about matching flavors, but textures and acidity, too. The Burnt Caramel Chocolate was terrific with an 8 Year Tawny, but it wasn’t so much the flavors, as the texture and mouthfeel that made this pairing so great.   Another fun thing to note:  Michael suggested we throw in lots of different taste and texture combos so that we not only see what works together, but what DOESN’T work and why.

 

We still have one big challenge:  the Tarragon Grapefruit Chocolate!  What will THAT pair with best?    I’m hoping we get a big crowd to help us explore and find out. Learn more about or register for the upcoming April 18th tasting here.



February 15th, 2009 | by Michael


It’s been too long…

Phew.  It’s been a crazy season over here in the kitchens at Recchiuti. My apologies for being away for so long.  We’re working hard to launch some new products and recover from the holiday and Valentine’s Day seasons.  It’s been a great couple of months and I hope you all have had a chance to enjoy it as well.  More to come soon…



December 22nd, 2008 | by Michael


And off they go

Wow…it’s been really busy here at the Recchiuti. Our holiday orders are pouring in, and we’re working extra hard to fulfill everyone’s requests. It’s fun to see the mountains of packages go out the door every day. It makes me happy to see so many of you enjoying our confections. I’ll write more when I have another breather!



December 8th, 2008 | by Michael


Getting in that holiday spirit

Jac and I took part in the annual Holiday Open House at Williams-Sonoma in Union Square last Wednesday. We were sampling our champagne truffles and bittersweet truffles – which are both exclusively available via web and catalogue at Williams-Sonoma (along with our chocolate covered apple slices and a box of our assorted hand-cut chocolates). It was a great crowd…a packed house actually…and we were among some awesome culinary artists including Candace Nelson of Sprinkles Cupcakes and Jean-Yves Charon from Galaxy Desserts. I’ll be doing the same event at the Columbus Circle location of Williams-Sonoma this Thursday…I can’t wait to do it again. (If you’re in the area, stop on by!) Meanwhile, check out a few snapshots I took from the SF event.

Jac and I chatting with an attendee:

The gals of Sprinkles, serving up their red velvet cupcakes:

Check out the crowd:



December 2nd, 2008 | by Michael


Leftovers…not turkey, but chocolate

I had an eventful Thanksgiving weekend of food, food and more food. We ate a ton, and froze what we couldn’t polish off. Speaking of…did you know you can freeze chocolate to preserve it as well? If you have too much chocolate, you can place it in air-tight container and place it in the freezer for up to two months. When you’re ready to eat it, place it in the fridge and then bring it out to room temperature to gradually restore the chocolate to optimal storage/consumption temperature: the high 50s to mid 60s (Fahrenheit). This is essential the same temperature wine should be stored at.

You will notice, though, that the appearance won’t be as interesting and the mouthfeel won’t have the same textural experience as if you just bought it. Why? When you freeze chocolate by throwing it into a Ziploc bag, there is still a lot of air around the chocolate. This lack of an air seal allows water crystals to form on the exterior of the chocolate. The water crystals will eventually melt and break down the sugar, causing white streaks…and sugar bloom (per my previous posting!). Don’t worry though, the chocolate will still be fine to enjoy. If you can, vac pack it and suck all the air out. By doing this, you have a better chance of preserving the chocolate to its original state by limiting the air (and thus the condensation on its exterior), which is the root cause of the changes. Now you can see the variety of outcomes of chocolate due to poor handling or temperature fluctuations…everything comes full circle.



November 27th, 2008 | by Michael


Happy Thanksgiving!

On behalf of the Recchiuti family, I’d like to wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving. I’m off to Philadelphia today to spend some quality time with my sister and good friends. On Friday, I may be teaching a class at Foster’s Kitchen…and then at night, I’m off to my 30th high school reunion. All very fun events!



November 25th, 2008 | by Michael


Fat bloom

Now that you’re an expert on sugar bloom, let’s introduce you to another cause of discoloration in chocolate: fat bloom. One of the first steps to chocolate making is tempering. Tempering is the process where chocolate is slowly melted to 115-120 degrees and then cooled to a workable temperature of 87-90 degrees. This allows the sugar and fat crystals to align. When chocolate is not recrystallized properly, the fats and/or the migration of a fat from the ganache center to the chocolate layer will cause fat bloom to develop. This results in a grey or white-ish film on the chocolate. When tempered correctly, though, the finished product will have a nice exterior snap a silky mouth feel.

In general, fat bloom can be caused by:

  • Extreme temperature difference of ganache interior and coating chocolate
  • Incorrect storage conditions, such as extreme temperature fluctuations.
  • Fat Migration. The fat in the center (especially liquid oils) seeps from the ganache, and migrates to the shell. The chocolate will become soft and porous, which will cause the interior dry out and harden over time.
  • Excessive touching with hands, which warm the surface and soften the fat.


November 20th, 2008 | by Michael


What is sugar bloom?

Last weekend we had some amazingly warm weather in San Francisco…78 degrees in November! It was wonderful for my friends and I…but not so good for my chocolate. Why? Well, when chocolate is exposed to extreme temperature fluctuations and humidity, coarse white streaks may form on the surface of the chocolate. This is called sugar bloom. Sugar bloom is mainly caused by condensation, the moisture which settles on the surface of chocolate, which dissolves the sugar in the chocolate. When the water evaporates, patterns of sugar will appear on the exterior. These are the white streaks. Sugar bloom normally develops with warm weather and high humidity. It may occur if the chocolate is moved back and forth between a fridge and a warm room. Sugar bloom also shortens shelf life and gives chocolate a coarse, unpleasant mouth feel. So, the moral of the story is – protect your chocolate from temperature variance!



November 15th, 2008 | by Michael


Pictures!

I thought I’d stay a little mum today on the blog and share a few photos from the show, now that I’ve had a chance to upload everything.

At The Food Emporium; Cocoa dusted/cacao nib truffles

Derek and I demo-ing;  Prepping for our second demo

Derek and I tag team a cooking demo

Another glamour shot;    Book signing at the show



November 12th, 2008 | by Michael


More Chocolate Show action

The Chocolate Show wrapped on Sunday, and my head is still whirling from all the events. My cooking demos with Derek went well…think Lucy and Ricardo teaching chocolate lovers how to make burnt sugar marshmallows, caramelized white chocolate, balsamic and strawberries, xocopili crabcakes, and sesame tuile. For those enterprising chefs out there, we’ll link you to the recipes once they are available.

On Sunday, we teamed up with Longchamp to host a classy affair at their beautiful Soho store. Olivier and the team at Longchamp were amazing partners for this event – thanks! About 300 guests were treated to our signature Burnt Caramel chocolate and sweet basil chocolate martinis…definitely a nice Sunday afternoon pick-me-up.  You can make it yourself – the recipe is here. By the way, I must take this time to extend my deepest gratitude to Gourmet Garage and its plentiful supply of fresh basil. The day before, I faced a near crisis when someone accidently put my basil in the freezer at the Institute of Culinary Education (where I completed all my prep work). Frozen basil does not make for a good infusion so hallelujah to local markets!



November 8th, 2008 | by Michael


The Chocolate Show

I’m in NYC right now for The Chocolate Show and it’s been a busy, busy three days. I’m hanging with the folks at Valrhona…I’ve partnered up with them to do a few things here including the creation of a chocolate outfit for Thursday’s opening night fashion show and two cooking demos today, both with Derek Poirier, Valrhona’s pastry chef. I spent all of yesterday in the kitchen with Derek prepping for our demos and let me tell you…I am wiped! I love being here though…it’s always a blast working with Valrhona, and NY is one of my favorite cities. The show is over tomorrow, so when I can find another moment of down time, I’ll tell you a bit more about my experiences. Stay tuned! In the meantime, take a look at the Lara Croft-inspired outfit Derek and I put together for the fashion show:

 



November 3rd, 2008 | by Michael


Sweets, sweets and more sweets

Last Tuesday, I participated in a sugar junkie’s heaven…Sugar Rush, a night of desserts from local pastry chefs, patissiers and chocolatiers at the very cool San Francisco art gallery/bar 111 Minna. The event was a fundraiser for Spark, a SF non-profit that provides real-world opportunities for Bay area youth. The Recchiuti fam has always had a soft spot for good causes, so we jumped at the chance to participate and brought along our signature Burnt Caramel chocolates, featuring designs from the folks at Creativity Explored.

With so many amazing desserts to choose from, it’s hard to single out a favorite…but I will give a special shout-out to my new friends over at Kara’s Cupcakes. Their mini vanilla and chocolate cupcakes were just heavenly…I couldn’t help but gobble down three! Even nearing sugar comatose towards the end of the night, I had so much fun chatting with all the guests and would definitely do this again.



October 31st, 2008 | by Michael


Two peas in a pod: chocolate and wine

One of my favorite things to do is meet our chocolate fans out there…and last week I got to do just that through an intimate wine and chocolate pairing at Luce, in the Intercontinental Hotel. Amy, Luce’s lovely and talented sommelier, selected six wines which we matched with 12 of our chocolates and confections. Our very engaged audience (was it the wine?) sampled everything, providing me with valuable feedback on the chocolates. I love hearing directly from you guys, and this night was a perfect opportunity!

Here are two photos from the event: The first is the table set-up (it’s ok to be jealous if you missed it); the second is a shot of me mingling with the crowd.





October 27th, 2008 | by Michael


From the sand dunes of Saudi to chocolate pools in SF

Life is so busy. As we fly through each day with our cell phones buzzing and emails pinging, you suddenly realize that years have gone by. It’s cool to take a minute to see how everything around you has transformed, so I thought it’d be nice to chat a little about something other than chocolate…but just for a minute. Many on the Recchiuti team have been with us for years. Jacky and I are blessed to have been able to watch these guys grow and change as we have with our business. I thought I’d introduce you to one of the most important in the Recchiuti fam…our Production Manager, Angelica. She oversees our teams who make all of our products from tempering chocolate all the way to tying the perfect bows on each box.

Like many of the characters that work here at Recchiuti, Angelica has an equally full life outside of her work day. Born in Japan, she grew up in Saudi Arabia where she spent most of her time playing outdoors in the sand dunes and neighborhood pools. She went to high school and college in New York, but like me and Jac, the pull of good food couldn’t keep her from San Francisco. We met about 7 years ago when Angelica did an apprenticeship with me in the kitchen and eventually became one of Recchiuti’s first sales associates when our store at the Ferry Building initially opened. And over the years, she’s made her way back to the kitchen…where it all began. Her tap dancing outbreaks and explosive bursts of operatic covers of rock songs only add to the many reasons why we need her in the kitchen and with the Recchiuti fam. Thanks for sticking with us.

Miss. Angelica on the left at the lake with her big sister



October 14th, 2008 | by Michael


Party on Block 18!

A few weekends ago we all got to hang out at the Block 18 party that celebrated one of SF’s favorite neighborhoods…18th street over in the Mission by Dolores Park. We were originally going to pan almonds but it was one of those ridiculously beautiful yet hot…hot…hot weekends in the city, so we changed it up last minute and went with a chocolate smoothie–Recchiuti style of course!  We took our extra-bitter chocolate sauce, burnt caramel sauce, added it to some cream and ice then blended the crazy thing together. The whole event was so fun and allowed us to enjoy this great Mission community that Jac and I have been a part of, in one way or another, for years. We may have had to make a last minute revision to our menu but the whole event was a so cool, especially since a lot of the Recchitui fam showed up to chill a minute and of course….eat!

Michael hard at work….

Some of the Recchiuti Crew…Anthony (Production Manager) Angelica (Kitchen Manager) Me, and Sugey (pronounced Sue-hay, from our Outside Sales Team)


 
 



October 3rd, 2008 | by Michael


Cupcakes, candles and lots of smiles

Cupcakes, candles and lots of smiles

We love celebrating birthdays and this week we had three. Happy Birthday to Angelica, Ana & Deysi!



September 25th, 2008 | by Michael


Eat the Paint

Not too long ago I teamed up with my good friend Mark Alsterlind to revisit something we really love… chocolate painting. We’ve posted earlier when we did a similar event at Food For the Heart.  We got a group of folks together, split them up into teams, gave them the theme of “growth” and all the chocolate materials they could want in order to paint away.  It was an awesome event because it wasn’t only doing something really cool and different with chocolate but it was a team building event for all involved. Of course, the best part was that all the materials were chocolate, down to the frames and paint (made from colored cocoa butter)…so we got to eat all the art at the end! Check it out!

First Mark and I painted out some chocolate frames for everyone to paint in…

This is one team starting to paint about the theme “growth”…

Here Mark and I are handing out colors….everything is colored cocoa butter or dark and milk chocolate.

When everyone was done painting we flipped them over and backed it all with white chocolate. It’s similar to when a painter gessoes a canvas.

When it dried they became chocolate canvases…

Here this team’s leader explains their illustrations of growth…and then we got to eat!

 

 



September 9th, 2008 | by Michael


S’mores Bike…

The other week SF was full of folks attending Slow Food Nation and wandering the streets that had been closed to cars. It was an awesome site to see. If all the amazing food and nice weather wasn’t enough, David Gartner sent over these pics of his S’mores Bike. He made S’mores by attaching propane torches to the handlbars and used our handmade marshmallows. It was so cool and one of those moments you can truly only find in San Francisco. Take a peak!



August 18th, 2008 | by Michael


Honeycomb Malt…where are the bees?

We get a lot of questions about our chocolate processes and what the little details are. One of the biggest stumpers is our Honeycomb Malt. So I thought I’d take a sec and give you an insider’s peak because this guy isn’t really what you think. So first, if you reach back into your candy archives you might remember honeycomb favorites like Crunchie and Violet Crumble? The Recchiuti approach is just a little different. We take your basic ingredients of sugar, water and baking soda to create a porous, crunchy candy…more similar to those old school candies I mentioned, not actual honeycomb. After it has set, the candy gets crumbled with a rolling pin and then sprinkled on top of the white chocolate ganache. One trip through the enrober covers them perfectly with milk chocolate and the final product is ready to eat. Here’s some photos…

A closeup of the honeycomb candy.

Rolling the honeycomb into the ganache.

Viola…the grand finale…our Honeycomb Malt!




July 24th, 2008 | by Michael


San Francisco Farmer’s Markets

One of my favorite things about calling San Francisco home is being able to frequent its many Farmer’s Markets. You know, it’s how Jac and I got our start..before we had our permanent spot inside the Ferry Building we sold our chocolates out of the back of our car at the weekend market. It is amazing to see how the area has developed over the years with the Ferry Building and all, but it’s great to see how the Farmer’s Market has remained such an integral part of the area. Here are a couple of my favorite shots.

The early morning sun as it ignites the Ferry Building skyline

Locals and visitors bustle through the fresh produce



July 11th, 2008 | by Michael


Red, White & Goo…

This is a great time of year because we get to hear about all the summer adventures folks at Recchiuti are having. You know…those summer BBQs that go late into the night, the trips all over the world, and Fourth of July festivities. It’s also when we play in the kitchen…and bring our Smore’s Bites back. They’re tough to make, but they are such a labor of love we can’t let them go. One bite of these babies and the fireworks won’t just be in the sky this summer!

homemade vanilla marshmallow gets placed on top of a homemade mini graham cracker

Perfectly enrobed with dark chocolate and ready to go



July 1st, 2008 | by Michael


Au revoir to Chocolate and the City of Lights…

What would we be with work and no play? David Lebovitz tells this story best, but I did happen to be standing next to Mort Rosenblum when he dropped his phone in the Seine. A great night overall. And how better to end reflections of Paris than with thoughts of good company and even better chocolate… all under the glitter of the Eiffel Tower.



June 17th, 2008 | by Michael


Paris part deux.

We started off in this particular morning catching up with friends at Les Deux Magots for an espresso, croissant and a few laughs. Time to hit the streets, and check out a few more chocolate shops. One of my friends who lives in Paris, gave me a present from his collection of wooden duck toys from the 30’s. I decided to take the duck on a road trip, starting off in Paris. Next stop was Normandy, with the duck, of course…..

Les Deux Magots…a great way to start the morning.

Me and Jac…

Our new travelling companion.



June 15th, 2008 | by Michael


Chocolate Inspiration in Paris

The last moments of Spring are perfect to inspire new ideas and a little creativity. Jac and I were in Paris recently looking for just that….inspiration. Now that I’ve had a minute to reflect back on the trip and head into the kitchen, I thought I’d share some of what we found.

After a grueling flight over to Paris, via Zurich for a five hour layover, we finally made it to Paris. The list came out, and we began to embark on a tour around the city for some chocolate inspiration and of course a few sites along the way. Here’s a little sample..




May 15th, 2008 | by Michael


Welcome our Semisweet Bar…

I wanted to share a little slice of the production of our new 64% custom blend chocolate made by Valrhona, exclusively for Recchiuti. Recchiuti is the first in the US to have a custom chocolate formulated by Valrhona. The bars are also available at all Peet’s Coffee & Tea shops nationwide. Enjoy…

Here’s Peter mixing the blend in our melter.

Our molded Semisweet Bar, hot off the trays.

Packing the bars off to Peet’s…

Tada! Finally…please welcome Recchiuti’s newest…



May 7th, 2008 | by Michael


A Day in the Life of William Selyem

With an absolute perfect spring weekend nestled into the rolling hills of Healdsburg, Jacky and I took part in the annual wine pick-up party at one of my favorite wine-makers, William Selyem. The weekend consisted of loyal Selyem collectors/followers who were out for the weekend to stock up on their precious cases of ’07 releases, who at the very least got a taste of some carefully crafted, and aged library vintages.

Recchiuti Confections was present with a table of our chocolate confections for tasting and sale during this annual party. I snapped a few pics for you to savor.

Enjoy…

Recchiuti Confections table at William Selyem



April 23rd, 2008 | by Michael


Making Chocolate…

Springtime in San Francisco is unlike anywhere else. Between the flowers, beautiful weather and amazing light, it’s really also a season for fresh ideas. So of course, we’ve been spending a lot of time in the kitchen experimenting with new chocolate flavors, infusions and some other surprises. The two pics here are a little peak into the kind of processes we have going on right now. One shows some mixed nuts we’re about to chop up so we can test out a new recipe and the other photo is of chocolate ganache setting. I can’t even tell you how rewarding it is to see the smiles on everyone’s faces here at Recchiuti when they get to taste test all of the new surprises we’re cooking up.

Chopping Nuts in Recchiuti\'s Kitchen

In the Kitchen at Recchiuti



April 13th, 2008 | by Michael


An Early Spring Day with Dear Friends

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I must confess, I was extremely flattered to receive an invitation to the much anticipated tulip extravaganza on display from loyal Recchiuti customers, turned dear friends of mine, Lee & Missy Isgur.

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Let me share with you a little background regarding my relationship with the Isgurs. I originally met them during my Farmer’s Market days on Green Street in San Francisco, which lasted from 1998 to 2003. Lee and Missy would visit my chocolate booth every Saturday, and made sure to spend some time chatting with me at my chocolate haven, which, back then, consisted of a card table, pop-up tent, and of course, a full display of Recchiuti Confections. We were there rain or shine. In fall of 2003, Recchiuti moved into its home and permanent shop located in the Ferry Building Market place, where we are still frequented by our loyal fans/customers, who have become our extended family.

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All right, back to the Lee & Missy part of the story. For years, we would hear tales from other people who’d visited their home in Woodside and had witnessed first hand, the most memorable display of heirloom tulips from every possible rare, and exotic genetic from around the globe.

I tried to capture the eye candy for you to enjoy.

Cheers-Michael



March 30th, 2008 | by Michael


Recchiuti Chocolate Pairing and Underground Dining

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I’ve been meaning to write this story sooner, versus later. But I’m still recovering from a serious food hang-over. I was sworn to secrecy by the hand of the Dissident Chef, who will remain anonymously “the chef/guy,” only seen in photos with eye coverings in order to maintain his underground status.

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I must say, this guy can throw down some serious chow to a complete group of strangers gathered together in a dining venue that is always changing, and to top it off is a total secret to the diners up until the day of the feast. Myself included, we had to wait anxiously for our marching orders to arrive via email from the chef himself. Once, I received my orders, and luckily had saved my appetite as best as one can do, I headed off to this top-secret location in anticipation of the feast we were about to experience.

The one bit I left out was that each course was accompanied by a Recchiuti chocolate and paired with a great wine. Our palettes were exposed to a savory/sweet contrast, which to my surprise complimented each other in the most mouth-watering and stomach-pleasing way.

Here are a few of the 9 courses we were served with such precision. Check it out….

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-Green Garlic Soufflé with warm butter egg yolk on wheat toast paired with a Recchiuti Fleur de Sel caramel and ’06 Madigan Chardonnay

-Mediterranean Bronzino w/ Braised Fennel, Spring Onion and Pork Belly, served Pomelo Nage with a Recchiuti Tarragon Grapefruit Truffle and ’03Ehrhart Herrenweg Riesling

That’s all, I’m stuffed just writing about this stellar meal.

Cheers, Michael



March 20th, 2008 | by Michael


Easter at Recchiuti

First off, Easter is sooner verses later this year, March verses April. I never really gave it as much thought as when the actual date Easter falls on. I realize it’s a very important chocolate day on a global level. Not to disregard the true meaning of Easter, but it seemed to magnify itself when our loyal chocolate fans would ask what Easter chocolate we were creating right after Valentines Day has passed, especially when it’s two weeks earlier this year. Now it’s time to scramble, and bust out those Easter chocolate molds, polish them up, and fill them with a variety of wonderful ganaches, deposited into a shell of pure 64% Madagascar extra bitter chocolate.

Our staff has been hard at work putting on their Easter chocolate egg heads and shedding their hearts in a brisk transition from molded fine chocolate hearts to fine chocolate eggs, and bunny motif chocolates. In addition to our Easter chocolates, we created a few larger decorative eggs for our shop in the Ferry Building Market place. The shop is so festive and the kitchen is abuzz with bunnies, chicks and all of those yummy Easter pastel colors.

I snapped a few pictures for all of our loyal fans outside of the Bay Area to enjoy.

Happy Easter-

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March 20th, 2008 | by Michael


A Peek at our Recchiuti Store at Easter

The holidays are always fun here at Recchiuti. The staff really gets into dressing up the chocolates, the store and even us, from time to time. Here are a couple shots of the special chocolate treats we’ve created just for our Recchiuti Store in San Francisco.

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February 22nd, 2008 | by Michael


Recchiuti @ California Table on Valentines Day

Just when I thought I was over the hump with one of the biggest chocolate days, Valentines Day. I decided to work with Liz Bills, founder and chef extraordinaire of California Table. In between consuming significant amounts of dark chocolate and fleur de sel caramels we put together a wine and Recchiuti chocolate pairing, along with Liz’s scrumptious savory bites before we got started.

We snapped a few pics for you to enjoy and savor.

Cheers, Michael

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February 11th, 2008 | by Michael


Food from the Heart 2008

I wanted to share a few pictures of Food from the Heart 2008, which took place on Friday, February 8th. The event was very successful with a strong turnout of locals and some tourists, a touch confused.

Enjoy the pics and have a Happy Valentine’s Day…

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February 10th, 2008 | by Michael


Food from the Heart: A Brief History (pt 2)

Chocolate Painting Live

Well… after a bout of friendly banter, Mark Alsterlind and I decided that we could actually work together without killing each other or making too much of a mess. During a long evening of painting with chocolate, which turned out to be a lot of fun and extremely productive, Mark and I decided to take the show on the road and set up a chocolate painting studio near Recchiuti Confections retail store in the Ferry Building Marketplace. We created in fine chocolate amid the live Valentine’s Day crowd for the first annual “Food from the Heart” event in 2004.

Chocolate Painting - Food From The Heart

The event is a Valentines Day celebration (the weekend before February 14th) in the Ferry Building, including local farmers in the interior walkways, and set up carts laden with their fresh seasonal produce, musicians scattered throughout the building, and even a salsa and tango dancing demo, and lessions. We created chocolate paintings that related to individual food shops, such as brightly colored swimming fish for the fishmonger, dancing cupcakes for an organic bakery and so forth.

Mark Alsterlind - Chocolate Painting

The Ferry Building was swarming with pre Valentines onlookers curious and excited about what was happening in the building, and the bonus was that everyone was able to watch us create fine chocolate paintings right before their eyes; afterwards, we would smash the paintings into bite size chunks allowing the crowd to taste the delicious chocolate.

Painting On White Chocolate By Recchiuti

We had no intention of saving the chocolate paintings, using the highest quality chocolate, I wanted people not only to experience what can be created with chocolate, but also to relish the great tastes resulting from these jovial and beautiful paintings.
Happy Valentine’s Day!



February 8th, 2008 | by Michael


Food from the Heart: A Brief History (pt 1)

Hangar One At Food From The Heart

It all started when we opened our store in the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero in San Francisco in summer of 2003. What happened was a random visit from a gentleman visiting our store, who lives in France. Ex-patriot, and fine artist, Mark Alsterlind figured out a way to get thru to me, at my kitchen, we agreed to meet that same day. When we met, Mark described his colorful journey with painting with fine chocolate as a new medium rather than the oils & pastels he usually works with. He was curious to see if I would be interested in collaborating with him someway he proposed that we “hang out” for an evening, and work on some chocolate paintings. The symbiotic relationship developed since I too worked in fine chocolate for many years making towers of chocolate boxes over wedding cakes or chocolate sculptures using neon lighting pierce through the center – it seemed a good fit. He also inquired about my technical expertise in fine chocolate since it was new to him.

Michael Recchiuti And Mark Alsterlind

Mark has been living in France for 20+ years, and has been teaching art history at university and has studios in Paris and South of France. He befriended a chef/owner at a Michelin rated restaurant and worked on one of kind edible chocolate paintings to accompany plated desserts served at this ultra chic restaurant in Paris.

Michael Recchiuti Painting With Chocolate

So after a long day of production at Recchiuti; Mark and I got to work creating and sharing our discoveries in using fine chocolate to create very elaborate paintings. With a little vodka to loosen thing things up … we created pieces featured at a pre Valentines Day event at our store in the Ferry Building Marketplace. The event, called Food from the Heart, is celebrated annually the weekend before Valentine’s Day, February 14th. Enjoy the process pictures, and I’ll get back to you with the second part of actually working with fine chocolate and painting live in front of a full audience.

Check it out….



January 31st, 2008 | by Michael


Hot Chocolate on a San Francisco Trolley

Yes it’s true, and documented with a few of my buddies, photographers Tom Seawell and Craig Flax. My thought was to illustrate how easy it is to make our Recchiuti hot chocolate, so easy, it can be made on a trolley moving thru the streets of San Francisco.

I rounded up Tom and Craig to do the camera work, and all three of us jumped on the F-Line trolley at Castro and Market Street without any permission, just passion. I won’t go into much detail, because the video on YouTube, says it all.

I hope after watching this video, one would be inspired to make Hot Chocolate on a trolley, in a row boat or anywhere for a special Valentine, on Valentine’s Day; what a treat … unexpected, fun, and leaves you feeling warm all over.

Enjoy-Michael



January 28th, 2008 | by Michael


Preparing For Valentine’s

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With the busy 2007 holiday season behind us, and January on its final days, it’s time to shift gears and focus on another brisk chocolate day, Valentine’s Day. Since we focus on freshness by making our confections as close to the holiday as possible, you will never see any Valentine’s Day chocolates in our store, or our website the day after Christmas. As most Valentine’s Day chocolate givers and receivers are adamant about the gift being received on the actual day, we feel as though they should at least receive something that has been made as close to the holiday as possible, and not months prior.

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That being said, we’re beginning to make our Valentines chocolates, along with some fun chocolate paintings. The paintings are made of solid chocolate decorated with various Valentines motifs our production team has created. We basically took a day off from our normal chocolate production and set aside a relaxing day for our talented chocolatiers to play, and create Valentines inspired chocolate paintings. The paintings will be displayed at our store in the Ferry Building. I posted a few pictures of some of the finished pieces and tools used to create, and inspire. We will be selling the pieces at the store, but they are one of a kind, and limited edition creations.

Enjoy,
Michael



December 26th, 2007 | by Michael


Recchiuti Holiday Chocolate Truffle Class

What’s happened to the month of December, only a few days remaining until Christmas, and I’m just starting to come down from the Thanksgiving craziness.

Well they tell me, better late, than never at all, and so I went ahead, and created a little Holiday Chocolate Truffle making class for all of you to enjoy, and perhaps you may have some time to actually take a stab at making truffles for the holiday season. What I did was get together with a few of my creative buddies, and spent last Saturday, shooting a chocolate class in a different venue, as opposed to my kitchen, since there was no room to work in my own kitchen, due to the heavy holiday chocolate madness, taking up every square inch of our production kitchen. I had to plead with the production team to borrow a few pans, whisks, and a few other small-wares, in order to pull this truffle demo.

Well enough chatter on my end, here’s the YouTube link for my class. Enjoy the class, and Happy Holidays.

Enjoy,
Michael



December 11th, 2007 | by Michael


Photo Caption Contest

I don’t know….it could be a little darker…
“I don’t know….it could be a little darker…”

I’m planning to start a “Caption That Photo” contest in the new year. Here is the first photo to get you started – leave your suggestions for caption as a comment to this post. I’ll be sending out a Black Box assortment out to the author of my favorite one. Check back here on December 18th to view the winner and claim your prize. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Happy Holidays from everyone here at Recchiuti!

UPDATE: Hi all and Happy New Year! Thanks for all of your caption ideas. It was a really tough decision but the winner of the contest and the Black Box assortment is…

“I don’t know….it could be a little darker…”# Posted by: A.: December 11th, 2007 at 7:15 pm e

Look for caption contests in the coming months….



December 6th, 2007 | by Michael


I’m Back and Straight into the Mad Rush for Holiday Chocolate

Hey, did you think I dropped off the face of the earth? Well I came pretty darn close after some serious running around–all in the name of fine chocolate research, of course!

It all started when I returned from Italy, and then the craziness began to happen. I had a few days back, and then I was off again, this time to the beautiful northwest, Portland Oregon. This will be another story which I would like to share with everyone in greater detail, but not right now. What I would like to mention is my trip to France.

With only a few days to recover from my Portland chocolate week at the Heathman Hotel, I found myself back on a plane, only this time to Paris. I know this sounds like such a drag, oh, poor Michael, when will he take a break. I must say it was all for the love of my craft, and of course the never ending passion for fine chocolate. This particular trip included a visit to Salon du Chocolat, and some time spent with Valrhona, down in southern France nestled in the Rhone Valley to taste origin cacao at a specific percentage level for future product development. My trip was all about chocolate, and constantly educating me about how fine chocolate is made, tasting various single origins, and origin blends, to get a sense of what is happening in the land of cacao.

What I discovered, is that there is so many gems of cacao, in places we have not focused on as well fermented, extremely balanced in fruit forward flavor, and with the right amount of tannins to allow the finish to stay with you, and linger with pleasant overtones of yellow fruit, and hints of mahogany. That’s right I did say mahogany, which is a flavor profile that I experience, is freshly cut dry wood. Perhaps it’s years of working with wood–sanding, cutting, and planning, have burned a specific aroma into my memory, and scent sensors. This is one way I relate to fine chocolate and when tasting chocolate at Valrhona, they were a bit surprised to hear me make reference to a flavor profile of hardwoods. The next time you taste pure, high quality chocolate, think of freshly sanded, or cut wood.

I have to go; I’m running the night shift at the kitchen, so it’s time to get off the computer, and back to the pots.

Later, Michael



November 13th, 2007 | by Michael


A Special visit from our Relatives

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My conscience was getting the best of me, knowing that our relatives eight hours north of Sutri, will be driving all the way from Trieste to visit with us. By Italian standards, an eight hour drive is a haul for Europeans to make, especially since they were to stay for only a few days, and then back to Trieste. Where I started feeling guilty, was the fact that they would have preferred we drive back to Trieste with them, to visit with the rest of the Italian posse. We wanted to drive up, but our main goal for this trip, was to relax, and slow down and enjoy the mellow country pace.

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This should be very interesting, meeting up with Flavia and Alvise, after our last visit with them in Trieste, six years ago. We have a lot in common when it comes to eating, music, being silly, and exploring the country-side. When they phoned on Wednesday to confirm their itinerary and arrival time in Sutri, the only detail we had to negotiate, was where to meet in Sutri. I said, lets meet at the piazza around noon on Thursday, this sounded fine, and we left it at that. The one thing that slipped my mind was, there’s many piazzas’ in Sutri of various sizes, and so when Alvise rang me on his mobile, he said they were in the piazza waiting for us. They actually found the mini piazza directly outside the place we’re staying. Okay, next time, I will be more specific, and mention the central piazza, which seems to be the place where everyone meets.

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Prior to their arrival, Jacky and I put together a little lunch for all of us to enjoy before we begin touring the country side. We prepared batter fried eggplant, fresh chickpeas, sautéed local Porcini mushrooms, Roasted pepper and a basil frittata, salume platter, mixed greens, and of course, plenty of wine that Alvise schlepped down from the Collio region, which is not to far from where they live in Trieste. A whole case should help us wash down all the food we’ll be consuming in the next few days with the kin-folk. I’m ready for a nap after our mid-day snack, which turned into a full blown meal. But, now is the time to press on, and get out, before we all crash, and miss the rest of this beautiful day.

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Their agenda for us, this visit was focused around visiting a lot of crypts from the Etruscan period which is around 7-8th century B.C. When Alise and Flavia arrived, we tried to convince them to take a stroll around Sutri, and have a look at the local crypts and amphitheatre just minutes away from us. They seemed determined to tour us around to some more substantial Necropolis’s which were about 70k from Sutri in an area called Cerveteri. I was a little put off at first, thinking, huh, they have no interest in our local sites, and now we’re have to jump in a car and see some crypts elsewhere, how much better can they possibly be than what’s happening right at our back door. Well I was completely wrong on this one; the crypts in Cerveteri, http://www.cerveteribb.it/tutti/en_necropoli.htm were nothing I’ve ever experienced on this planet. Once again I had to realize that I need to relax, and let the locals trek us around to places they believe would be the most spectacular within the Lazio area. My one suggestion is; when traveling with, or being toured around by locals, let them take charge, unless it’s something you have no interest in seeing, I’ve always had a more in-depth sightseeing experience than on my own.



October 12th, 2007 | by Michael


Out on the Town, in Sutri

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Let me re-phrase that, out for a stroll in this tiny village. The piazza is of course the heart beat of the village, with the locals sharing all of the day’s details and other juicy gossip. As I mentioned, we arrived in the middle of this major event which appears to be a religious version of our Labor Day weekend. The piazza is jam packed with folks from adjoining towns and of course peppered with some weekend visitors from Rome. I thought, wow, this town is pumping with folks! Perhaps it’s not the sleepy little town I was imagining with a huge stage set up in the central piazza and a variety of performers. This was such a surreal experience, for which I was not prepared.

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Jacky and I were still recovering from our long flight, and severe jet-lag, which made us act like zombies for the first couple of days. I decided to make my way to a variety of small shops to stock up on provisions for the week. To my surprise, I found a choice of butchers, cheese shops, salumi producers, and of course enough Gelato and bars to keep San Francisco stocked. These folks don’t mess around when it comes down to making sure there is no shortage of food and drink. My one problem was that I wasn’t thinking in terms of Italian lifestyle, which is; buy what you need for the day, not the week. I found myself laden with bags full of all sorts of super heavy bottles of wine, milk, olive oil, jam, fruits, cheese, espresso, meats, and my favorite, blood orange juice. Well, it was definitely spot the tourist with me, I found myself with at least six packed bags with enough food to feed all of Sutri. I would walk about 100 meters, and then would have to stop and re-arrange the bags, and then allow the blood to circulate back to my fingers before moving on, talk about eyes bigger than your stomach.

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Meanwhile, back to the activities in downtown Sutri, Jacky and I wander off to the piazza to catch a great Italian, pretty boy singer, with a powerful and quite pleasing set of lungs, backed by canned music. I think this was an Italian version of karaoke, but the songs seemed to be all originals, not covers. So I guess one could say he was doing covers of himself. This was one of those perfect nights, folks singing along, having a gas being out on this beautiful piazza with all of their family and friends. We felt as if this group of total strangers brought us into their happy vibe, which was being put–out, in a big way.

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The following day, which was a Monday but felt like a Saturday with all of the activity happening in this little gem of a town, was the grand finale, ending with a staggering 20 minute fireworks display set off from an 8th century amphitheatre. The problem with living in San Francisco is that every 4th of July, when its time for fireworks, the fog conveniently rolls in and kills all visibility, only leaving spectators with a few flashes and explosions. I question if this is San Francisco’s form of karaoke fire works, smoke and mirrors, with canned sound effects.

Well you can always go to Sutri for the real thing.



September 28th, 2007 | by Michael


Where the hell is Sutri?

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I’m not quite certain what to expect, but I decided to book a place in Italy for two weeks in a medieval town, just 50k north of Rome, in the province of Lazio called Sutri. After a grueling flight over from San Francisco to Rome, with a few plane changes along the way, we finally arrived in Rome. The next leg of the journey is to collect our luggage, and then locate our driver we arranged to pick us up at the airport, and drive us to our secret getaway in Sutri. Since we booked the rental, along with the pick-up at the airport, a few months back. We are relying on a little faith, and a lot of luck, for this to happen in a seamless manor. Well, I’m relieved to see our bags, and two large shipping boxes filled with Recchiuti fine chocolates, roll off the conveyor belt with ease and I must say, quickly. Now that we’ve gathered our gear, we are ready to venture off in search of our Roberto, our ride to Sutri. Without a hitch, we cart our belongings towards the pickup area, and low and behold, there he is; Roberto is waiting with his Recchiuti sign, chatting with someone, arms moving as fast as he’s conversing with another fellow driver.

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This is the beginning of our adventure into the unknown country, Italian style. Packed up in Roberto’s car, off we go, towards our days of relaxation at our 13th century grain house, converted into a secret hideaway. Mental preparation allows for only a snippet of what to expect, only time will tell what expect with a site unseen home base.

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Driving out of Rome seems somewhat anti climactic, until we exit off the A2 towards Viterbo, which affords us a more relaxed pastoral setting of what I imagined Italian country side would be like. Roberto is focused and determined to chauffer us to our destination in one piece, safe and sound. There it is! A small sign for Sutri, ah, this place actually exists, and we have begun our ascent into this sweet little town. Only one problem, Roberto mentions, we have to park away from our house, due to a festival happening all weekend, going all the way thru Monday, we had to park on the other side of the piazza and schlep out boxes and bags and chocolates to our rental. Whew, we made it, and the only thing I can think of, is a walk around, and then a serious siesta, or two.

More to come, from Sutri….



August 17th, 2007 | by Michael


Some Delights in a Slow Club Style

Slow Club

I totally agree that we should pay attention to our bodies and how we fuel our personal temple. What I don’t agree with is that we have to do this at a snail’s pace.

The Slow Club kitchen

That is exactly why I agreed to host a chocolate party at the Slow Club with my dear friends Erin Rooney, the lovely owner, host, and hands-on kind of girl when it comes to getting her hands dirty and taking care of her customers, and with her talented executive chef, Chris Kronner, who is extremely enthusiastic and not slow, by any means. Chris and I will be combining our passions to churn out of casual savory bites, along with a bombardment of chocolate inspired goodies, from yours truly. What I love about everyone at the Slow Club is they move fast, pay attention to detail, and we all have a great time enjoying what the Slow Club posse is putting out.

The Slow Club bar

For those in the Bay area who’d like to join in on the fun, here’s the posting for the event I will be hosting on August 26th,

http://app.e2ma.net/campaign/43e90f71f10008d4299b7d345b57b45d

You won’t leave hungry and after you’re fed, you’ll experience the true meaning of the slow and cozy part of the evening.

Cheers,
Michael



August 7th, 2007 | by Michael


1 to 3 then 3 to 1 and back to 3 Cats

 

I must be crazy, because, prior to meeting my wife Jacky, back in 1988, cats were definitely not on my radar. My only relationship with cats was when I was a young boy growing up in Philadelphia, I was deathly allergic to the cats I came in contact with. As far as I was concerned cats had no place in my life because of my reaction: severe runny nose and sneezing attacks. This only made me want to run as far away as possible for fear of chronic sneezing episodes. I would avoid any social events at people’s houses that would have the company of cats as part of the party mix. I really started to hate the little buggers, which led me to believe that all cats were evil.

 

Well it all shifted in a big way when I started dating Jacky. Not only to discover she had simply a cat, but the biggest, fluffiest, prissiest long haired angora calico I’d ever laid my eyes on. My normal reaction when dating women with cats was that I would blame the cat and that the relationship was dangerous for me to continue in a healthy manner. In this case for some reason I decided to hang in there when I met Jacky’s cat to see if it was possible to beat this curse. Naturally the furry beast decides to like me, to nuzzle up to me and demand my attention. She must have sensed my fear, because this kitty was having none of my frosty behavior. She wanted to be fondled, and make sure she got all of her precious dander under my finger nails to savor for a delayed allergy attack at a most inappropriate moment, such as a movie theater, followed by a symphony of sneezes, red eyes and a runny nose to share with the whole theater.

 

And then something shifted, my ultimate fear and exhausted series of sneezing turned into a less traumatic experience of less sniffles and fewer sneezes whenever I hung with Cali and Jacky, and then the magic of acclimating to cat dander started taking effect, I was fine with even nuzzling these furry creatures without a sniffle or an earth shattering series of sneezes. Finally cured, this enabled me to actually interact and have a meaningful relationship with a women and a cat, without running off in blurry tears and runny nose.

 

Then I started going overboard with kitties. Every time I would run into a cat on the streets or someone’s home, I had to make some sort of connection with the creature. The obsession really got out of control, when Jacky and I ended up acquiring two other cats; a big grey tabby; Mac and Sienna, a burnt orange colored Manx (tailless cat bred from the Isle of Man UK) while living in Vermont. Now we had a household of three kitties, and for me it was a sneeze free environment. I was beside myself with joy, to go from “run and hide”, to having three cats sleep in the same bed with me.

 

Since then, we have lost two of the kitties; Cali and Mac. Just after Mac passed away, I found myself wandering into the SPCA in San Francisco to take a peek at some other kitties in need of a good home. Damn, I found one; a goofy mustachioed black & white short hair and proudly carted him home to meet up with our lone cat Sienna. Shortly after I found Jesper from the SPCA, Jacky showed me a small clipping in the paper for a . I have always been intrigued with these cats with almost no ears or at least what’s left of its tiny ears are folded forward onto its head, and large round eyes that make them look like an owl. I decided to drive 2 hours south of San Francisco to check this little guy out. Well, I fell in love with this cat, which has a sweet and gentle demeanor. I made the two hour trek back to the city with Rufus, to complete our new posse of three cats, again.

 

One thing I’ve learned, in the past I really thought that cats and chocolate didn’t mix well in my life … since then I’ve gone from one to three, then three to one and back to three again. Who would have thought I would become a cat person?

Cheers, Michael

Our cat SiennaJesperRufus...our Scottish Fold cat