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The Starter: The Newest Sweet Spots Around Town
Annie Tittiger and Sara Deseran | Photo: Sang An | November 14, 2012
Brought to us by some serious experts, three new chocolate meccas are opening in San Francisco. Here’s what choco-philes have to look forward to.
Before there was Bi-Rite Creamery’s famous salted caramel ice cream, there was Michael Recchiuti’s equally famous burnt caramel ice cream (which used to be sold at Bi-Rite Market itself). Recchiuti’s ice cream is now available again, this time at the Chocolate Lab—the renowned chocolatier’s Dogpatch café, which is set to open by the end of this week. This time it’s fashioned into a sundae designed for adults, topped with tuiles of chocolate, burnt caramel almonds and hazelnuts, cubes of toasted housemade marshmallows, and crunchy little chocolate-covered pearls, all served with a ready-to-pour mini-pitcher of warm, extra-bitter chocolate sauce. Your only job—if you can call it that—is to spoon it all up before it melts.
Here's the rundown on Recchiuti's latest and two more places where you can satisfy your craving for cocao:
Chocolate Lab, 801 22nd St. (at Tennessee St.)
Who’s behind it: Recchiuti’s confections are known for intricate details and uncommon flavor blends like grapefruit and tarragon. After 15 years in the business, Michael Recchiuti now has his Ferry Building flagship and the new Little Nib, two doors down from his also-new café.
The new digs: The 40-seat café is equal parts Dogpatch industrial and Paris chic. (It was inspired by the Cuisine de Bar café—a Paris favorite of Recchiuti and his wife and business partner, Jacky.) Think metal stools, a communal table, and a counter made of California elm wrapped in steel.
The goods: While offering plenty of chocolate goodies, the Lab also serves up an array of savory treats, including tartines made with Firebrand bread, made-to-order soufflés, charcuterie, and cheese.
Dandelion Chocolate, 740 Valencia St. (near 18th st.)
Who’s behind it: In 2008, Todd Masonis and Cameron Ring sold their social media startup Plaxo to pursue making bean-to-bar chocolate. Their hope? To fill the void left by artisanal standard-bearer Scharffen Berger when it sold to Hershey’s in 2005. Today Dandelion produces 1,250 painstakingly handmade, single-origin bars a week, sold everywhere from Boulder to Amsterdam.
The new digs: In the heart of the Mission, Dandelion’s café and factory (which opens today) reside in an old brick auto-repair garage with sky-high ceilings. In the back, the roaster is in action, transforming the musty smell of cacao beans into toasty, chocolaty goodness.
The goods: With more space and equipment in its new factory, Dandelion will be widening its selection of single-bean bars while retaining classics like the Rio Caribe. All of them will be for sale in the café, along with a few hot chocolate varietals. “We’re trying to do with hot chocolate what has been done with espresso,” says Masonis.
Charles Chocolates, 535 Florida St. (near Mariposa St.)
Who’s behind it: Chocolatier Chuck Siegel has been making excellent confections, chocolate covered almonds, and more for his company Charles Chocolates since 2004. Though his last factory was in Emeryville, he’s now settling into a brick-and-mortar in San Francisco.
The new digs: Siegel’s chocolate factory plus café is in the old Potrero Brewing Company building, in what’s now known as Mission Creek, right across from the new Heath Ceramics. A covered outdoor patio has communal picnic tables where you can watch the entire production process through floor-to-ceiling windows, from enrobing (covering the filling with a “robe” of chocolate) to panning (nut-coating). “It’s really about expanding people’s knowledge of chocolate,” says Siegel.
The goods: The café functions as a retail shop where you can buy Siegel’s peanut butterfly chocolates or triple-chocolate almonds, as well as seasonal made-to-order items like s’mores.
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