Archive for August, 2007

Amano Cuyagua – Best Chocolate Bar Period (With Interview)

The local media likes to report that a chocolate movement has developed in the Bay Area but the most important story might be taking place in Utah. There, Art Pollard is creating the best chocolate in the United States, if not the world. That’s a bold statement that I can’t make with absolute authority, having not tried every chocolate bar out there, but the new limited edition Amano Cuyagua bar is that good.

Amano Cuyagua

Cuyagua is a small region in Venezuala that is known to have great Criollo and Trinitario beans. It’s located near Ocumare, the site of the previous Amano Ocumare bar. From the Amano web site:

If you follow birds in Venezuela in their annual migrations, they flock to a series of cloud-forest covered coastal mountains. At their base is a small-secluded valley known as Cuyagua — home to cocoa plantations dating to the early 1700′s and some of Venezuela’s finest cocoa.

(Image taken from ParksWatch.Org)

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Richart (Paris, NY, SF, Barcelona, & More) – Intense Citrus

It’s easy to mistake the San Francisco Richart store for yet another shoe store in Union Square – a generic window filled with a slew of white and gray boxes evokes the necessary minimalism to sell high heels. I walked by many times without a moment’s glance before someone told me it was a chocolate store. Intrigued, I bought boxes of the Citrus and Floral chocolates. One bite and I was instantly hooked – never had I had such clean, intense flavor in a chocolate before.

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The General’s Daughter (Sonoma, CA) – In the Right Direction

The General’s Daughter is a restaurant that is trying to stand above its Bay Area brethren. The restaurant’s web site and its reviewers promote its southern take on California cuisine but it’s the restaurant’s procurement philosophy that might be its greater point of distinction. In the land of fresh and organic ingredients prepared simply, The General’s Daughter (TDG) and its chef, Preston Dishman, want to take control of their supply chain and grow their own ingredients. This might be an early trend that a few iconic North American (and French) restaurants have started trailblazing with both philosophical and economic intentions.

Technically, TDG is not growing the vegetables themselves; they have partnered with Benziger Family Winery and “promise that 90 percent of the restaurant’s produce will come from Benziger’s biodynamic gardens.” Biodynamic farming is likened in many circles to voodoo and witchcraft but, despite the practices and philosophies behind it, a biodynamic farmer is likely to care for their land more so than the average farmer – respecting the inputs and outputs.

My main exposure to biodynamic vegetables, aside from that miracle bottle of 90 La Tache at Montrachet, is my (seemingly) monthly tasting menu at Manresa. While people will argue whether vegetables have terroir or not, there’s no denying the stunning achievements of those vegetables from the Love Apple Farm. Is it the land, the farmer, or the perfectionist chef? More likely, it’s a synthesis of the three but these are questions that will be asked as more restaurants try the model.

I’m unsure if TDG is where they want to be yet – I suspect they are early in the path they’ve chosen. Regardless, like any self-respecting Bay Area restaurant, they take their produce sourcing seriously. Here’s a video with their main forager.

Outside of philosophy, how was the meal and why was I there?

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Spain Calls and Random Tidbits

First, a welcome to any new StumbleUpon readers – quite a few visited yesterday. I hope you enjoy the site and stick around.

I apologize for the lack of posts recently – I haven’t eaten out much. I do have a slew of posts brewing, including, but not limited to:

The posts will begin trickling into the blog beginning next week; some are longer-term projects (it may be a long while til you read the 300 post.)

Meanwhile, I’ve been planning a short jaunt to Spain in Fall. The basic schedule reads “fly into Barcelona, race to San Sebastian on the cop-free desert road, run down to Madrid, stop & eat at El Poblet, and return to Barcelona.” Restaurants/food on the itinerary include:

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