A few years in the past, a pal supplied my son a youngsters’s e-book, “Frederick.” The 1967 basic, by author Leo Lionni, is a few household of subject mice busily gathering corn and straw and berries for the winter forward. Frederick, one of many mouse youngsters, is busy, too: gazing at meadows, basking in sunshine. When his household reproaches him for his indolence, he defends himself: “I collect rays for the chilly darkish winter days,” he says. He additionally collects colors and wonder and phrases, he later explains.
Insofar as a human girl can establish with a rodent baby, I really feel Frederick is my spirit animal. Yearly round this time, with Toronto winter within the offing, I fear I haven’t spent sufficient time ray-gathering; I haven’t saved up sufficient color or delight to hold me by.
So, after I was requested to go to San Francisco and discover its ever-growing chocolate scene, it felt as very similar to an emotional intervention as a journey invitation — a method to squirrel away delight for the darkness forward. And that is how I ended up in California on what I can solely name a three-day serotonin bender, panic-lounging in each accessible sunbeam, greedily stockpiling magnificence, consuming chocolate.
I begin with truffles. I’m assembly with Jacky and Michael Recchiuti on the San Francisco Ferry Constructing, house to the couple’s 25-year-old jewel-box boutique, Recchiuti Confections. It’s late morning, and the fog that has simply minutes in the past beshawled town has evanesced, giving method to enamel-blue skies.
“San Francisco is so romantic,” Jacky says. “Intoxicating,” provides Michael, her chocolatier husband, closing his eyes, savouring simply the thought, as if town, too, have been a confection. And, in a means, it’s, with its cloud-skimmed Victorians painted in lickable shades of buttercream and lemon meringue.
A part of the attract of town, muses Jacky, is in its openness to innovation: “There’s this spirit of the unconventional right here.” Michael funnelled that spirit into handcrafting sweets with impressed flavour pairings. A quartet of truffles are tattooed on his forearm, and he enumerates every tenderly as he may his youngsters: star anise and pink peppercorn; lemon verbena; tarragon and candied grapefruit peel; burnt caramel and Piemonte hazelnut.
San Francisco and chocolate, too, have lengthy made for a really perfect pairing, largely by dint of geography. It is a port metropolis, providing entry to the world’s cocoa-growing areas, and its average Pacific local weather made it excellent for preserving and tempering chocolate.
San Francisco’s id as Chocolate Metropolis might be traced to Italian-American immigrant Domenico Ghirardelli, who based Ghirardelli in 1852. In the meantime, Frenchman Etienne Guittard, who fled to California throughout the Gold Rush, based Guittard in 1868.
Extra not too long ago, winemaker turned chocolatier John Scharffenberger, impressed by ideas of terroir and seasonality and nuanced flavour, co-founded Scharffen Berger in 1996 — thereby beginning the “bean-to-bar” single-origin chocolate revolution.
I’ve lengthy loved a love affair with chocolate (who hasn’t?) and likewise with San Francisco. I first visited within the early ’90s, in my mid-teens, and liked it with the form of passion you possibly can solely muster at that age. I had a household connection to town, too. My dad went to the College of California, Berkeley, within the ’60s, and I grew up listening to about his time there, tangling up the place in glamorous notions of youth and freedom.
By the point I beheld it, I had already cultivated an adolescent allergy to boredom, a worry of the routinized lifetime of the grown-up. There is no such thing as a romance in flatness. And town itself was a rebuke to flatness. San Francisco, with its moody climate and histrionic hills, should have spoken to my teenaged gluttony for melodrama and shock.
On that first journey, I keep in mind making a non-public vow with myself: Sooner or later I might reside in San Francisco. Someplace alongside the way in which, I broke that contract. Although I did find yourself buying and selling vows of one other kind: I bought married at San Francisco Metropolis Corridor, 10 years in the past. I haven’t been again since.
All of those ideas float, fog-like, by my thoughts after I examine into the Fairmont San Francisco, town’s grandest lodge, perched on Nob Hill like a topper on a marriage cake. I additionally consider my late paternal grandparents. My dad informed me that they had as soon as come to this Fairmont to dine and have been seated subsequent to Gregory Peck. That is the form of lodge, with its huge Corinthian columns, wraparound staircase and vaulted ceilings, the place you possibly can think about assembly the ghost of Peck wafting elegantly round.
As a substitute, I head out to fulfill Todd Masonis, co-founder and CEO of Dandelion Chocolate, a bean-to-bar, small-batch chocolate maker within the Mission District. I wend my means by Nob Hill, the place slopes are wrapped in cool puffs of fog and vacationers are wrapped in light-weight Patagonia puffers.
Each new nook rewards with a brand new slice of sky and mountain and sea past. It happens to me now that if the pandemic had despatched us to shelter in place in our personal personal Alcatraz, it additionally denied us the posh of (literal) perspective. San Francisco is a kind of Introduction calendar (truffle field?) of vantage factors. I attempt to smuggle a few of this angle into my reminiscence.
Masonis and I sit at a desk in Dandelion’s manufacturing unit over sizzling chocolate that’s so provocatively good, I could also be fascinated by it in one other 10 years. Behind us, melted chocolate swirls in big mélangers underneath cabinets shouldering gigantic, untempered blocks of chocolate.
Earlier than Dandelion, Masonis graduated from Stanford College with a level in symbolic techniques, began an organization (“a precursor to social networking”), offered it to Comcast, and went on an archeological dig in Pompeii. Then, with a pal, Masonis determined to attempt making chocolate in his storage. “We have been simply having enjoyable,” he says, including what strikes me as that the majority California of mantras: “We simply needed to see if it was potential.”
We tour the manufacturing unit, and Masonis fingers me a spoon of freshly floor cocoa from Belize (all Dandelion chocolate is made solely of cocoa beans and natural cane sugar). It’s so intensely flavourful, I really feel flooded with a heat, cheek-kindling, buzzing form of euphoria. I’ll always remember this spoon of chocolate for so long as I reside. I’ll need to head again to Metropolis Corridor and marry this spoon.
“Chocolate does include the ‘bliss molecule,’” Masonis tells me. He sniffs a sq. of chocolate, the way in which you may scent wine for its bouquet, then pops it on his tongue prefer it’s a hallucinogen.
After a couple of days of delight gathering, I head again to Toronto, blissed out on cocoa and wonder and chance and perspective. Although I worry not fairly sufficient for the chilly, darkish winter days. I ought to have stowed away extra hope, too.
Olivia Stren travelled as a visitor of San Francisco Journey, which didn’t assessment or approve this text.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION