Thursday, July 21, 2011

Battle of the Bay for Chocolate Supremacy

Posted By on Thu, Jul 21, 2011 at 1:10 PM

click to enlarge BEN NARASIN
  • Ben Narasin

When my friend Kelly asked me for a recommendation for exquisite chocolates to serve at the end of a meal in lieu of dessert, my immediate recommendation was Recchiuti. Best in the Bay, I said. But I realized I made this statement without any stringent, methodical, scientific methodology.

Clearly something more controlled was needed before I declared Michael Recchiuti king of all things chocolate in the Bay, and what's more logical than a head-to-head battle between my top three contenders?

Summoned to war were:

Recchiuti: San Francisco producer and retailer of fine chocolates. Ferry building shop. Know for unique flavors and exquisite truffles. Also makes a mean hot chocolate which the eponymous owner sometimes pitches on cable cars to strangers. Faction: Local Troops.

CocoaBella: SF based retailer with two locations, Union Street and Westfield San Francisco Centre on Market. Owner, another Michael (Freeman), travels the U.S. and Europe looking for the best chocolates. Faction: US & European Elite Fighters.

Christopher Elbow: Kansas City chef turned Chocolatier. His Hayes Valley store, one of two in the country, is actually managed by CocoaBella owner Michael. Focuses on artisanal chocolates. Faction: Occupying Force.

To put everyone on an equal footing each was asked to field their best fighters, and all were brought to the field, fresh and ready at the same time.

All three sides fought valiantly. Elbow's forces fell first. Elbow's peanut praline was among the strongest on the field, but his collected troops were overwhelmed.

With one opponent eliminated, the remaining two stretched the fight significantly. Both demonstrated outstanding freshness. CocoaBella's European recruits were impressive. Its cappuccino, from Switzerland, is as pure a sip of European coffee and cream as you'll find in solid form. And the praline noisette is a taste of New Orleans.

But Recchiuti's single origin truffles showed as strong as ever: thick, lush, dense, buttery bliss with a lightly tannic finish. His lavender vanilla and spring jasmine tea chocolates taste like flowers in full bloom. Rose caramel surprised with its dripping goodness, belying our limited expectations for white chocolate.

Ultimately, Recchiuti came out victorious as his warriors' intensity (of flavor) distinguished themselves. But the battle was close enough that surely more will follow before we learn the final winner of the war. It's dangerous, but we plan to continue being camp followers.

click to enlarge BEN NARASIN
  • Ben Narasin

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