Saturday, February 28, 2009

Chuao Hot Chocolate

On days like this, I love to sit in front of the fire with a good book and sip some fine hot chocolate. So many choices out there. I tried a lot of hot chocolate, sipping chocolate, and cocoa at the San Francisco Fancy Food Show. One of my favorites was the Abuela Hot Chocolate from Chuao. It was smooth, rich with a lingering finish. I could have drunk the whole vat, but I was trying to leave room for all the other chocolate at the show.


(Photo of Frank Price, VP TeamBuilding Unlimited, and Chef Michael Antonorsi)

I'm not surprised I liked it so much, because I really enjoy Chuao Chocolate. We use the Spicy Maya Bar (pasilla chile and cayenne pepper) in our Chocolate Tastings as an example of the original Mayan chocolate beverage. Of course, the Chuao has sugar in it--much more palatable to our 21st century taste.

Chuao Chocolatier (pronounced chew-WOW) is the first Venezuelan Chocolatier based in the United States (headquartered in San Diego). Chuao was founded in 2002 by master chef Michael Antonorsi and his brother Richard Antonorsi, the company's CEO. Chuao Chocolatier is pioneering “fusion chocolate” by creating unusual, unexpected and delicious flavors using their secret blend of premium chocolate and fresh natural ingredients.

The Venezuelan born brothers, now San Diego residents, named the company Chuao Chocolatier after the legendary cacao-producing region of Chuao located in central Venezuela. Chuao does not boast of single-plantation beans or specific vintages, but they rely on Venzuelan Criollo beans. Chocolate is part of their roots, as their ancestors once ran a small family farm that was an important part of the criollo cacao plantation industry.

If you're not a purist, Chuao makes lots of different types of chocolates including truffles with unusual ganaches such as Zen with Green tea-infused ginger ganache (Talk about healthy!) and Muslu centred around cinnnamon and Grand Marnier (not quite as healthy but delicious). Unusual flavor combinations are at the heart of Chuao Chocolatier’s unique experience including: Firecracker, a chipotle caramel fudge truffle with popping candy, a hint of salt, and dark chocolate and Pan Con Chocolate, a dark chocolate bonbon filled with roasted Panko bread crumbs and olive oil ganache with a touch of sea salt.

But back to hot chocolate. Chuao offers three different types: Spicy Maya Hot Chocolate (pasilla chiles, cayenne pepers and cinnamon with their premium blend of dark chocolate), the Abuela Hot Chocolate (a family tradition made from Grandma's strict recipe blending the rich and deep flavors of Venezuelan bittersweet chocolates) and Winter Hot Chocolate (Venezuelan bittersweet chocolate with ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, clove and pepper). As I said, my favorite is the Abuela Hot chocolate. If you're a hot chocolate drinker, you must try this. A Real Wow From Chuao!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Cholive Chocolate Cocktail Garnish

Found this on DrinkoftheWeek.com: The Cholive Chocolate Cocktail Garnish.

Does your cocktail need some chocolate? A Cholive could be just what you’re looking for.

Cholive = chocolate + olive … get it? Don’t worry, they are not actually chocolate-covered olives.

They are olive-shaped chocolate truffles. Skewer them and you have a delicious cocktail garnish.

Here’s one recipe that sounds like a good use of chocolate!

Dirty Grasshopper
1 oz. Van Gogh Dutch Chocolate Vodka
1 oz. Green Créme de Menthe
1½ oz. White Créme de Cocoa
½ oz. Half & Half

Shake all ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker and strain into an old-fashioned glass with ice. Garnish with a skewered Cholive.

Of course, DIY folks out there could skewer any tiny chocolates and see how that works, too!

Photo and recipe courtesy of The Cholive Company (via Liqurious)

The cholive is shaped like an olive and made with Vermont whole cream ganache inside a 55% dark chocolate shell. Great for flavored martinis, cream based drinks, specialty coffee drinks and wine. I'm thinking a great Cabernet or Merlot. They come in jars, tins and bulk.

For other Cholive Ideas.

Chocolate Chip Pancakes for Pancake Week


Months of Edible Celebrations tells us that this is National Pancake Week!! You've already missed a few days of pancakes, but there's still time to make these fabulous Simple Healthy Chocolate Chip Pancakes posted at Treat a Week. More pancake info on both sites.

Want to make Double Chocolate Pancakes? Check this recipe at The Global Gourmet. How about Viennesse Chocolate Pancakes? Don't forget the Chocolate Syrup! And here's a final chocolate pancake recipe with raspberry sauce that's low calorie, low sodium and low cholesterol from Eating Well.

As always, use the best quality chocolate and cocoa for the best possible taste!

Lucy Pelt from Peanuts says it best, All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Home made Oreo Cookies

Although I'm a fan of high quality chocolate, I'm still a sucker for the standard cookie fare of chocolate sandwich cookies. Oreos are just about the most popular cookie in America. I'm a Hydrox fan myself, and I was glad to see that Kelloggs revived Hydrox cookies. Here's a Blog dedicated to my favorites: Hydrox Cookies. The official Hydrox site can be found here.

Want to try making a variation on these cookies at home? They won't be the same as Hydrox or Oreos, but they're really delicious. I found this recipe on the Food Network website. It comes from Trois Pommes Patisseries in Brooklyn, so if you can't or won't bake, you can always stop by the patisserie for these delicious treats.

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 32 cookies

INGREDIENTS
For the Dough:

1 1/3 cups cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Filling:

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Prepare the dough: Sift together the cocoa powder, flour and salt in a large bowl.

Using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla, incorporating each ingredient before adding the next. Add the dry ingredients and mix just until incorporated, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

Divide the dough into 2 pieces; place one piece between 2 lightly floured sheets of parchment paper and roll into a 1/4-inch-thick rectangle. Repeat with the other piece of dough. Refrigerate both rectangles, covered with the parchment sheets, until firm, at least 1 hour or up to several days.

Using a 2-inch round cutter, cut the dough into 64 circles. (You can reroll the scraps once.) Place the cookies about 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets and chill for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Bake the cookies until they are set and slightly darker around the edges, about 20 minutes. Cool completely on wire racks.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling: Using a mixer, cream the butter and shortening until fluffy. Beat in the confectioners' sugar and vanilla.

Flip half of the cookies upside down and top each with 1 level tablespoon of filling. Press the remaining cookies on top to make sandwiches.

Photograph by James Baigrie

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mardi Gras Chocolate

I've been meaning to write about molds. Chocolate Molds are so collectible, and they're really fabulous. At the Hillsborough Antique Show recently I spent a lot of time in a booth devoted to chocolate molds. Quite a few Mardi Gras molds.

I'll recount all my finds later, but since this is Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, I thought I'd mention some special Mardi Gras chocolate molds, Mardi Gras Chocolates and Recipes.
Mardi Gras International Chocolate Molds available from Amazon. Mask Lolly or Miscellaneous Candy Molds.

Chocolate Coins for Mardi Gras. Described as yummy money to add to any and all Mardi Gras Parades or parties. Comes in green, gold and purple. Perfect for tossing from a float. Each chocolate is individually foil-wrapped. Comedy & Tragedy Pops. Make of Milk chocolate are available in sealed clear bags from TCB Chocolat Shoppe.

Xocolaterre, fair trade organic chocolate, has a Mardi Gras Chocolate Set, Mardi Gras Fleur de Lis chocolate squares and Mardi Gras Fleur de Lis chocolate lollipops.

Chocolate Accents has a variety of chocolate candies in all shapes from crowns to drums to guitars.

Let them Eat Cake! Naturally it must be chocolate. Here's a recipe for Chocolate Doberge Cake, and here's an easy recipe for All Fools Chocolate Cake for Mardi Gras from Cooksrecipes.com. And, what's Mardi Gras without Bourbon? Here's a Chocolate Pecan Bourbon Cake recipe.

Enjoy!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Japan and Valentine's Day Chocolate

Valentine's Day is all about chocolate, and I blogged about it. However, here we are a week or so later, and I want to relate a Chocolate Valentine's Day tradition in Japan.

Valentine's Day in Japan is chocolate and female driven. Women profess their love on February 14 and give either handmade or expensive branded chocolate. Men who receive the chocolate can withhold their answer for another month. On March 14, now known as White Day in Japan, men are supposed to return chocolate to these women, along with an answer of Yes or No.

However, not everyone is lucky to have a great admirer who would put so much effort into the day. So to give mercy on all the men in Japan, women have defined two kinds of chocolate gifts that they offer on Valentine's Day. The first one is called "Honmei Choco" which describes the outcome of their true love. Another is called "Giri Choco" which could be translated as Obliged or Duty chocolates. To make sure there is no confusion, duty chocolates are often inexpensive and often distributed to multiple people. Most women in Japan buy both kinds. Honmei Choco is given to husbands or boyfriends, and Giri Choco is given to colleagues and classmates.

Interesting custom. Who profits from a double Valentine's Day?

To read more and get some chocolate sale costs in Japan.

I'll be looking for a story in the Japanese papers on March 14.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Amano Artisan Chocolate

In preparation for being a judge at the San Francisco Chocolate Salon on March 21, I held a mini-chocolate tasting today of three of the four 70% Dark Chocolates from Amano Artisan Chocolate.

Amano makes its chocolate from select beans (single origin) that they import from around the world, and handcraft in their own artisanal factory in Utah's Wasatch Mountain range in the Rocky Mountains. Amano is one of only a small handful of companies in the United States who manufacture their own chocolate directly from the bean.

Using vintage European equipment and techniques, Amano makes their artisanal chocolate in small handcrafted batches. Amano means "by hand" and "they love" in Italian. They source the world's very best beans and ingredients. They visit the plantations, buy from the growers, and when necessary work with them to improve their skill in properly growing, fermenting and drying the cacao beans to meet their exacting standards.

Through working with small, carefully controlled batches, they "seek not to be the largest chocolate company, simply to make the very best chocolate humanly — or heavenly — possible."

The Amano website describes how each type of chocolate bar contains its own set of unique flavor profiles. Since the cacao bean is the source of all chocolate (as grapes are the primary source of wine), its flavors come from a multitude of variables, such as topography, weather (e.g. rainfall, amount of sun, etc.), soil conditions (e.g. type, nutrient content, drainage properties, etc.), post-harvesting processing (e.g. fermenting, roasting, etc.), and of course genotypic properties. With so many variables affecting the flavor of just one chocolate bar, it's important to taste carefully so that you can extract the fullest flavor potential.


I started the Amano Artisan chocolate tasting today with the Ocumare 70% Dark Chocolate. This Handcrafted Chocolate is made from beans exclusively from the Ocumare de la Coasta Valley on the central coast of Venezuela. I found this a rich, smooth chocolate. I tasted raisin and smoke.

The next Amano Chocolate I tried was the Jembrana 70% Dark Chocolate.This is made from beans exclusively from the Jembrana Regency and its surrounding areas on Bali, Indonesia. This chocolate had a beautiful rich flavor that had a hint of berries, spice, and licorice. I didn't taste honey, myself, but my co-taster said he did.

The final Amano Artisan Chocolate I tried was the Madagascar 70% Dark Chocolate, and although I enjoyed the other two, I liked the Madagascar the best of the three. This handcrafted Chocolate is made from beans exclusively from the Sambirano Valley, Madagascar. At the end of the 19th century cacao trees from Venzuela were brought to plantations in Madagascar. Unlike the tasting notes, I found it an edgy chocolate. I tasted raspberry and raisin. Frank, my co-taster, picked up on the natural fruity flavor that this chocolate is said to possess. That would be the natural flavor component of these special Sambirano Valley cocoa beans. I can easily see myself using this chocolate in my flourless chocolate cake. Any baker will love this chocolate.

The Cuyagua 70% Dark Chocolate was not available to taste, and now I'm longing to try it. The Cuyagua 70% Dark Chocolate comes from the a small secluded valley known as Cuyagua near the Ocumare Valley in Venezuela. It is known for some of Venezuala's finest cacao. The folks at Amano have told me that there are no fruity notes in this chocolate. Rather, one will find a rich nutty chocolate with spicy notes that can be compare to white pepper.The bean from the Cuyagua Valley is one of the rarest beans in the world, so supplies are limited. I have to try it, and I will make a point to do that when and if it becomes available again.

The Amano Artisan Chocolate Factory was featured on the Food Network this month. Watch for reruns. In the meantime, have your own chocolate tasting with this amazing award winning chocolate!

February 23 an update: Just saw this article. Check out this tour of the Amano Artisan Chocolate Factory

Friday, February 20, 2009

Artisan Sweets: Tasting Chocolate

Thanks to Janet Appel for referring me to Ashley Rodriguez's Blog Artisan Sweets, a sweet journey told through artistically crafted desserts. Artisan Sweets is devoted to all kind of foods with an emphasis on desserts. Today's entry is on Tasting Chocolate. She describes a home chocolate tasting. Here are the categories for tasting each chocolate:

Each chocolate sample was tasted separately while examining all five of the following categories.

Appearance - What does is look like? Sheen, bloom, even texture, color. Color should be even with a nice gloss, no discoloration, spots or cloudiness.

Snap - What does it sound like when you break it or bite into it? Should sound clear, crisp - this is a sign of a proper temper. The chocolate should not bend or crumble.

Aroma - Similar to tasting wine. This is a matter of subjectivity. Fruity, spicy, floral, etc. Anything goes. Do you smell leather, tobacco, dirty socks? Say it.

Mouthfeel - Smooth, not grainy or gritty. It can feel velvety or creamy, or it can be waxy or greasy.

Taste - Descriptors similar to aroma. Allow the chocolate to slowly melt on the tongue. Different tastes will emerge at different stages of consumption.

I've bookmarked this page, and I've been enjoying reading this Blog. How did I miss it before? The Times Online selected Artisan Sweets as one of the top 50 Food blogs in the world! Fabulous!!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Chocolate Adventure Contest 2008 Winners


2008 winners of the Tuttifoofie.com Chocolate Adventure Contest have been announced!

Recipes entered: 1400+
States represented: 49
Cuisines: Southern U.S., Indian, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Mexican, French, Brazilian, Puerto Rican, Jamaican, and more
Most inventive protein: Moose meat
Most surprising beverage: chocolate beer, fermented from scratch

The judges pored over the entries. They selected finalists-although they couldn't limit to 15, since there were so many contenders. (They chose 18 instead.)

Sweet Category
FIRST PLACE
Carolyn Nugent, IL

SECOND PLACE
David Bridges, LA


Savory Category
FIRST PLACE
Erin Evenson, NY

SECOND PLACE
Susan Asonovic, CT

Beverage:
FIRST PLACE
Martina Nemling, CA

SECOND PLACE
Mary Shivers, OK

FINALISTS (with links to the recipes!) go to The Chocolate Adventure Contest 2008 Finalists.

Frank Price, our resident chocolatier at TeamBuilding Unlimited, entered the contest with his Poulet a l'Ivoirienne. I'll post his recipe in a future blog. He didn't win or place, but it's still a winner of a savory chocolate dish in my kitchen.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

San Francisco International Chocolate Salon

Just received an email with new chocolate additions to the 2009 San Francisco Chocolate Salon.

TCHO, Tifa Chocolate, Yelp!, Omnivore Books, The Sweet Beauty Organic Chocolate Spa, ARTworkSF, and PlayFirst's "Chocolatier" video games (Decadence by Design).

The Chocolate Salon is Saturday, March 21st, 2009 from 10am-6pm and is the premier artisan chocolate and confections event on the West Coast, with over 30,000 square feet of discoveries and delights at the Fort Mason Center's Herbst Pavilion in San Francisco.
Advance Tickets are $20 ($25 Door).

See the new Chocolate Television video from past Salons featuring L'Artisan du Chocolat, Quady Winery, XOX Truffles, and the San Francisco Chocolate Factory.

The Third Annual San Francisco International CHOCOLATE SALON participants include over 50 chocolatiers, confectioners, wineries and other culinary artisans, such as: Amano Artisan Chocolate, Jade Chocolates, Coco-luxe Confections, Guittard Chocolate Company, Saratoga Chocolates, Marti Chocolatt, The Tea Room chocolate, Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, Choclatique, TCHO, The Xocolate Bar, Dolce Bella Chocolates, William Dean Chocolates, Dove Chocolate Discoveries, , Omnivore Books, Sweet Beauty Organic Chocolate Spa,Chocolate Television, The New York Times and TasteTV, and many more. All this in over 30,000 square feet of Chocolate, Wine and Confections.

For Tickets: Contact: www.SFChocolateSalon.com

Chocolate Salon Author Book Signings:
Carole Bloom, "Truffles, Candies, and Confections"
Celebrity Chefs, "Sexy Dishes: A Guide to Who's Hot in the Kitchen"
Anita Chu, "A Field Guide to Cookies"
A.K. Crump, "The Cafes of San Francisco, 3rd Edition"

*** UPCOMING LUXURY CHOCOLATE SALONS **

- Seattle Luxury Chocolate Salon (July 12, 2009)
- Chicago Luxury Chocolate Salon (September, 2009)
- Los Angeles Luxury Chocolate Salon (October 2009)

For more info: www.ChocolateSalon.TV

Monday, February 16, 2009

More Valentine's Day Chocolate Drinks


Even though Valentine's Day is past, I noticed three more Valentine's Day Chocolate Dessert Cocktails on Chocolate Atlas. Kiss me You Fool, Chocolate Covered Cherry and French Kiss Martini. Add them to your list for next year or drink them now. It's always time for Chocolate!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Tcho: San Francisco's high-tech chocolate

Julian Guthrie, San Francisco Chronicle Staff writer, had an article on Tcho, artisan San Francisco chocolate, yesterday. Timothy Childs, a rocket scientist (yes! a former NASA technologist) and Louis Rossetto, the founder of Wired Magazine, are ready to introduce their latest chocolate. "Not just any chocolate, but TCHO Chocolate, where technology meets chocolate, Third World farmers get paid more and, the creators say, "the last good drug" just got better.

"We spent three years putting this together," said Rossetto, the silver-maned CEO of TCHO, who started Wired magazine in 1992 and sold it six years later for a reported $30 million. "Now, for me, it's like the first issue is about to hit the stands. We're in a magical moment."

As TCHO chocolates begin to reach the market, the 30-person company located at Pier 17 becomes the only maker from bean to bar of chocolate in San Francisco.

Tcho doesn't use percentage cacao or varietal as descriptors. Instead, its chocolates are packaged based on flavors: chocolaty, citrus, fruity, floral, earthy, nutty. Pretty unique, and I guess I'll need to try them all to make a judgement. The flavor comes from the bean's terroir, but another part is in how Child brings out the flavors in the roasting and fermenting process.

High tech is an important part of the Tcho process, no big surprise, but so unique. Soon Childs will be able to monitor fermentaria across the globe from his iPhone.

Read the entire article.

Tcho was at the top of the Chocolate Picks in Drink of the Week's Valentine's Day list.

The TCHO factory in San Francisco will open to the public for tours and educational events in the fall. The chocolates are sold at TCHO's store at Pier 17 at Embarcadero and Green and at www.TCHO.com, also available at select specialty stores in San Francisco, Berkeley and San Mateo.

Glad to see there will be chocolate tours in the Bay Area, especially after Scharffen Berger's Berkeley closing.

TeamBuilding Unlimited, a division of Murder on the Menu, is now offering a San Francisco Chocolate Scavenger Quest (groups only).

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Day Chocolate Cocktails

Oh my, how could I forget chocolate liqueur and chocolate cocktails. What was I thinking?

One of my favorites remains the Chocolate Martini, but you need to read Eric Felten's article in today's Wall Street Journal. He writes, "The Chocolate Martini has finally run its course. A bellwether of the fad for sweet, candy-flavored drinks served in Martini glasses, the Chocolate Martini started turning up at bars here and there a little over a dozen years ago and then hit its stride by 1998, when it was all of a sudden everywhere. Many were the Valentine's Days in the years since for which the Chocolate Martini was recommended as a felicitous accompaniment. Thankfully that particular dark age has passed, but it does mean we'll need to find another wooing cup."

His reasons for maligning the Chocolate Martini? "Let's start by understanding what the fundamental problems with the Chocolate Martini were: 1) The drink usurped the honorific "Martini" for a drink that had nothing in common with the original but the glass; 2) it was a one-note wonder, dominated by a single, sweet flavor."

So want to try something new? In today's Drink of the Week there was a great recipe for Godiva Royale. This drink is the perfect accompaniment to chocolate covered strawberries. I also found a recipe for a Chocolate Pinky Valentini. I'm afraid, though, that Mr. Felten would find this too sweet. Sounds good to me!

Of course, if you want to imbibe tonight, you can always get a great bottle of champagne and accompany it with high-end dark chocolate. They go together so well.

Chocolate Valentine's Day Decadent Gifts

Need a last minute present for Valentine's Day? Lots of ideas.

Starting off: Why not a gift certificate for a decadent chocolate spa treatment?

It's "Chocolate-Covered February" in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Hershey knows how to celebrate Valentine's Day, with specials on couples' massages and pedicures being offered at the The Spa at the Hotel Hershey. There are chocolate-spa treatments such as a whipped cocoa bath in foaming chocolate milk, a cocoa bean scrub, a c
hocolate-fondue wrap and many others.

Check out your local spa for chocolate treatments. You can probably order a gift certificate online and no one will know you waited until today! Be sure and add some chocolate to the card and gift certificate.

Barb Conley, BellaOnline's West Coast Travel Editor, has several suggestions for Valentine's Day Travel for Chocolate in the Western States. I've added a few of my own in the list below.

Visit a winery.
Several wineries are holding special Valentines Day events that pair chocolate and other foods with their wines. These can vary from casual day events to evening galas.

Take a Chocolate Factory Tour.
Get up close and personal with tons of chocolate decadence by taking a chocolate factory tour. Sadly Hershey's has closed Scharffen Berger in Berkeley. This was one of my favorite tours. Simple but informative. And after the tour, I would order a chocolate sandwich in the cafe. Three of my favorite food groups: chocolate, butter, and bread--and it was fried!

Go on a Chocolate Picnic.
Regardless of where you live, you can do this inside or out. Barb suggests packing a picnic lunch and including a chocolate treat or stopping for chocolate sundaes on the way home. My suggestion is to have everything in the picnic basket be chocolate based. It's cold outside, so you could even include a hot spicy African stew made with dark chocolate or a hot chicken mole. Take a thermos of cocoa, some chocolate cake, chocolate covered strawberries (you'll need some fruit for balance?) and chocolate truffles. So many choices.

Eat dessert first.
This is something my sister-in-law would enjoy. She always looks at the dessert menu before ordering dinner. Most restaurants on Valentine's Day will include a special chocolate dessert.

Enjoy the day, sip hot chocolate. Stay home, take a walk in the neighborhood or attend an art exhibit, visit a zoo, museum or science exhibition with a thermos of your best very own hot chocolate!

Other gift ideas?

Create a chocolate spa gift basket. Think chocolate scented candles, chocolate candy, chocolate lotion, chocolate perfume oil.

Take a chocolate class together or give a gift certificate.

Create a decadent chocolate dessert at home.

Give a cocoa massage or a classic Swedish massage with chocolate-scented massage oil.

So many ways for the chocoholic to indulge.

Valentine's Day Heart and Health

Valentine's Day should be renamed Chocolate Day.

Chocolate is one of the most romantic foods. Chemicals in chocolate affect levels of the body's mood-affecting chemicals, including serotonin, endorphins and phenylethylamine. This can bring a feeling of euphoria that enhances sensations of romance and love. Perhaps that's why chocolate has been linked to Valentine's Day?

O.K. so feelings of euphoria and love may be one reason to give your loved one chocolate today, but here's another. By giving chocolate, you're keeping your Valentine healthy because chocolate is good for his or her heart in both the physical and romantic sense.

According to several scientists, chocolate contains polyphenols -- chemical compounds renowned for their heart-helping properties. Polyphenols have been shown to prevent LDL cholesterol (the 'bad' cholesterol) from oxidizing into a form that damages arteries. Not only that, but chocolate has been shown to raise good cholesterol 10 percent, lowering the risk of heart complications by 20 percent.

Also, when you choose your chocolate, the darker the better when it comes to fighting cancer. Antioxidants are believed to fight cancer. The darker the chocolate, the more antioxidants. Not only does chocolate contain a large quantity of antioxidants, but chocolate also contains high-quality antioxidants.

So eating chocolate and natural cocoa will improve vascular health, blood pressure, blood flow, and skin health. According to studies by the USDA, just two tablespoons of natural cocoa have more antioxidant power than 4 cups of green tea, one cup of blueberries or one and a half glasses of red wine.

Flavanols, the compounds in chocolate found in the cocoa bean-increase blood flow, provides a protective effect against inflammation and subsequent cardiovascular disease, helping to reduce blood pressure, and even make skin look more hydrated.

Whether enjoyed solid, melted or stirred in beverages, chocolate will remain a perennial favorite. Go out and indulge today.

Friday, February 13, 2009

San Francisco Chocolate Tours

Today's San Francisco Chronicle has a story about San Francisco Chocolate Tours conducted by Gourmet Walks, a company founded in 2007 by Andrea Nadel. The tour, packed with info on artisan chocolate, is a three hour walking tour of the San Francisco waterfront/Union Square area and includes the background on the history of chocolate and how the best chocolate is made, tips on tasting, purchasing and storing chocolate, chocolate at each boutique, and more.

Want to create your own tour? Here are a few locations.

Chocolates

8 Westfield San Francisco Centre, 845 Market St., (street level), San Francisco. (415) 896-5222. www.cocoabella.com Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.


Ghirardelli Chocolate Shop, Union Square,
1042 Stockton St., (between Geary and Market streets), San Francisco. (415) 397-3030. www.ghirardelli.com, Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.


Fog City News, 5455 Market St., (between Fremont and First streets), San Francisco. (415) 543-7400. www.Fogcitynews.com. Hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday.


Scharffen Berger Chocolate, Joseph Schmidt Confections, 4 One Ferry Building, Shop #14, San Francisco. (415) 981-9150. www.scharffenberger.com. josephschmidtconfections.com, Hours: 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday.


Leonidas Belgian Chocolates, 650 Post St., Crocker Galleria (street level), San Francisco. (415) 956-2338, Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.


Recchiuti Confections, 3 One Ferry Building, Shop No. 30, San Francisco. (415) 834-9494. www.recchiuti.com.Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.


Richart Chocolates, 11393 Sutter St., San Francisco. (415) 291-9600. www.richart-chocolates.com Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.


Schoggi Swiss Chocolates, 787 Yerba Buena Lane, (on Mission, between Third and Fourth streets). (415) 243-4444. www.schoggi.us, Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.


Teuscher of Switzerland,9307 Sutter St., (between Grant Avenue and Stockton Street), San Francisco. (415) 834-0850. www.teuschersf.com, Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.


XOX Truffles, 1754 Columbus Ave.,San Francisco. (415) 421-4814. www.xoxtruffles.com, Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.


Tcho, 2 Pier 17, on the Embarcadero at Green Street, San Francisco, (415) 981-0189. www.tcho.com/store, Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Chocolate Pig

February is Chocolate Month. Not surprising then that the preferred gift on Valentine's Day is chocolate in all shapes, tastes and forms. This month has been filled with Blogs, Websites, Magazines and news devoted to chocolate. Today I received an email from Vosges Haut-Chocolat letting me know that decadent Vosges Haut-Chocolat can be in your hands in time for Valentine's Day. Lots of choices, but what caught my eye was their Flying Chocolate Pig. The Vosges chocolate pig is filled with applewood smoked backon, Alder wood smoked salt, and deep milk chocolate.

When my husband was wooing me, a quaint word wooing but apt for this story, I told him I'd marry him when Pigs Fly. I guess they're flying all around us, so I think I have to get him this Chocolate Flying Pig for Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Brownie Lava Dessert/Chocolate Cookbooks

February is Chocolate Month, and it seems like every newspaper, blog and magazine has a chocolate story. Well, the traditional gift on Valentine's Day is chocolate, so it comes as no big surprise to this chocoholic. Kate Shatzkin has a review of two new chocolate cookbooks in the Baltimore Sun with a fabulous recipe for Brownie Lava Dessert. As always I recommend using the very highest quality chocolate in any recipe. For the review, go here.

Brownie Lava Dessert

(Serves 4 to 6)
1/2 cup pecan pieces
3 1/2 ounces good bittersweet chocolate
1 stick unsalted butter, cubed
1 cup minus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put the pecan pieces into a baking dish and lightly toast in the oven for about 10 minutes. Let cool.
Meanwhile, break up the chocolate and put it in a medium saucepan. Add the butter and melt gently over very, very low heat, stirring frequently.
Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar, then gradually stir in the eggs, followed by the vanilla extract.
When those ingredients are thoroughly mixed, stir in the flour, then, finally, the nuts. When there are no more floury streaks, scrape down the sides of the pan and transfer the mixture to a greased, 7-by-2 1/2-inch round or oval baking dish.
Bake for about 30 minutes, until the mixture is set on top and there is a soft, gooey layer at the bottom. Serve immediately, alone or with light cream or vanilla ice cream on the side.
-- Adapted from "Heavenly Chocolate Desserts," edited by Celine Hughes

Monday, February 9, 2009

Godiva Chocolate Suite New York Contest

Janet Appel, blogger and chocoholic, sent me this link about a special February Month of Love Godiva Chocolate Getaway. Godiva loves Valentine's Day so much they're going to celebrate for an entire month -- granted, it's also the shortest month of the year.

Lucky couples who buy their sweet hearts Godiva chocolates for the holiday may get the chance to win a "fantasy weekend" which involves staying in a New York City hotel suite dedicated to chocolate. The lucky winners will not just get a box of chocolates; they'll be staying in a virtually chocolate-covered suite in the Bryant Park Hotel. Brooke Shields helped unveil this delicious room, designed by Jonathan Adler, so it's all ready for the winners. In addition, the love birds will be treated to a chocolate tasting, fine dining around Manhattan and other "surprises".
Those lusting for that trip to NYC can buy up all the boxes of Godiva chocolates between now and February 27, 2009. You'll know which boxes are the potential winners by the heart marking the store's display. When you open the box, look for an envelope and open it to see your instant win message. If it says, "Congratulations" -- you're the winner so follow the instructions on your card. And go to the official site for the specific rules.

Aside from the grand prize winner, 100 other first place winners will earn a year's supply of Godiva chocolate. Good luck!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Mystery of Ancient Puebloan Jars Solved/Chocolate Containers

From NYT, 2/3/09 by Michael Hederle.

For years Patricia Crown puzzled over the cylindrical clay jars found in the ruins at Chaco Canyon, the great complex of multistory masonry dwellings set amid the arid mesas of northwestern New Mexico. They were utterly unlike other pots and pitchers she had seen.

Some scholars believed that Chaco’s inhabitants, ancestors of the modern Pueblo people of the Southwest, had stretched skins across the cylinders and used them for drums, while others thought they held sacred objects.

But the answer is simpler, though no less intriguing, Ms. Crown asserts in a paper published Tuesday in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: the jars were used for drinking liquid chocolate. Her findings offer the first proof of chocolate use in North America north of the Mexican border. Continue reading.

Researchers believe ancient Pueblos used the jars to drink chocolate.

Tests of jars found in the ruins of Chaco Canyon in New Mexico confirmed the presence of theobromine, a cacao marker.

***
O.K. this is surprising because it's so much earlier, but there's so much more for us to discover about chocolate. So we now need to drop the date by 500 years.
***

Cacao, the staple of Valentine's Day chocolates and hot drinks by a cozy winter fire, made it to the American Southwest by AD 1000, centuries earlier than researchers had believed. Scientists said they had found traces of theobromine, the chemical that serves as a distinct marker for cacao, on pottery shards found in a multistory pueblo in northwestern New Mexico.

Previous studies had not placed cacao in what is now the United States until after the Spanish conquest of South America in the 15th century.

The nearest source for the cacao, which was made into a bitter beverage used in religious and other rituals, was more than 1,200 miles to the south in Mexico. Read Continue Reading L.A. Times.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Is Chocolate Recession Proof?

Is Chocolate Recession Proof? That's the question of the week. Last year, total chocolate-candy sales grew 2.1% to hit $7.5 billion. Chocolate was 80% of all candy bought last year. No big surprise to me! Of course, I buy chocolate, not candy. I know, I know. I'm a chocolate snob.

A headline this past week in The Wall Street Journal reads "Premium Chocolate Holds Steady in Tough Economy. More Selective Consumers Make Each Morsel Count with Emphasis on Ingredient Sourcing and Artisanal Production."

According to the editors at Gourmet, consumers that dine out less frequently to save money, will turn to wine and chocolate - since they are affordable luxuries. Both industries have seen an explosion of boutique brands and products over the past few years, especially at the high end.

The selective consumer will appreciate quality chocolate that's produced from bean to bar. I was introduced to several new artisan chocolates recently at the San Francisco Fancy Food Show including two chocolate makers that grow, harvest and make their own chocolate in the same place. More on that in a later blog. It is delicious, but it doesn't come cheap.

So with Valentine's Day coming up, my advice is go out there and buy the very best chocolate you can find to boost the economy. It's a stimulant!


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Chocolate News and Recipes

Valentine's Day is coming up, so I thought I'd have a mixture of Chocolate News and recipes this month.

The San Jose Mercury News has a long list of local chocolate makers today. The decision by Hershey Co. to close the Bay Area factories of Scharffen Berger and Joseph Schmidt leaves a void in the field of homegrown chocolate companies. As Valentine's Day looms, some suggestions for local options. Suggestions include Dolce Bella Chocolates in Saratoga, Recchiuti Confections in San Francisco, See's Candies, one of the longest CA presences, and several others.

Sunset Magazine has a list of 20 Ultimate Chocolate Deserts, starting with a Salted Chocolate Tart! They're all pretty sinful. Of course, my feeling is it's all in the chocolate, so choose the very best chocolate for your own adaptation of the recipe.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Recession: Eat More Chocolate

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article the other day that showed that the demand for chocolate demands strong despite the dismal economy. Although the prices of many commodities have fallen from their recent peaks, companies like Hershey's don't seem to be affected. In fact, shares of Hershey rose last week. Sadly, there's a slowdown in pricier premium chocolate, hopefully not for readers of this blog. The show-down (results) will be around Valentine's Day when high end chocolate companies make their announcements.