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TCHO New American Chocolate
NEW AMERICAN CHOCOLATE

Remembering HotWired

This is a picture of my desk at TCHO.

Notice the HotWired mousepad that the tormented saint Carl Steadman gave me. Carl was the co-creator with Joey Anuff of Suck, the first blog ever, and for years the arbiter of the Web. Suck was born at HotWiredHotWired was the first website that combined original content (as in, not repurposed) and Fortune 500 advertising. It did it 15 years ago last week. I and about 20 other intrepid souls were in the room in the Wired building in SOMA when Brian Behlendorf flipped the metaphorical switch to make us visible to the Net, the first click arrived, and we served our first page.

It’s hard to imagine now what life was like just before we served that first page. As we stood there, we were wondering exactly what would happen next. Because until then, the Internet was ferociously anti-commercial. Mosaic, the first Web browser, had only been released the year before. There was no such thing as Web media with original content. There were no Fortune 500 ads on the Web. Indeed, “www” meant precisely nothing to the vast majority of the planet. What was running through our minds was: would the Internet throw up on us, shun us, make us outcasts, kill our baby – and maybe take downWired with it?

The whole HotWired project was a huge leap of faith. When we launched Wired 21 months before in January 1993, we carried not one word about the World Wide Web. That happened in the second issue, two months later, when John Browning wrote a small piece about Tim Berners-Lee’s invention at CERN in Switzerland. Wiredwas on the Net from the beginning, serving pages via FTP. Then we created a presence on AOL, but that was truly an unhappy experience, since all site maintenance had to be done by AOL, and putting stuff up took days if not weeks.

We were finally inspired to think about moving to the Web by the rude shock of waking up one fine morning, in the Fall of 1993, to discover that all our issues were suddenly available on the Web – thanks, it turned out, to a couple of young engineers in Singapore. That was about the time we ran a cover story by William Gibson about Singapore called “Disneyland with the Death Penalty.” Turned out the engineers had wanted people to have access to our material, even if the government had banned our issue, so they had sucked down the content that had been available via FTP and put it on the Web. We purchased the site back from them, then let it lie fallow.

That didn’t end our interest in the Web, however. We put Vice President and CTO Andrew Anker in charge of creating a business plan for our own website, dubbed HotWiredHotWired was amibitious: we didn’t want to put Wired on the Web, we wanted to make content specifically for the Web, that took advantage of the new medium.

Meanwhile, Jane and I had been continually raising money since 1991 to fund Wired. At the end of beginning of 1994, the year after our launch, we finally secured a $3.5M investment from Condé Nast, and were thrilled that we could finally stop raising money and turn our undivided attention to building our business.

One of the conditions of the investment, that we had insisted on, was that Condé Nast would not have control of Wired. And Condé Nast was okay with that because they had studied our business plan and had figured that we couldn’t possibly accomplish the publishing program we had outlined, and would have to come back to them for more money, at which point they would then get control.

The funds clicked up in our account in January. In February, we won the National Magazine Award. In March, we began direct mail to grow circulation, dropping a million dollars on our first mailings. And then in April, we approved Andrew’s HotWired business plan – earmarking money from the Condé Nast investment. HotWired had not figured anywhere in Wired‘s original business plan. Condé Nast had not been told about the HotWired project until after we launched it. They certainly didn’t approve it.

Even internally, people were skeptical – our first business wasn’t profitable yet and here we were starting another? In effect, we were taking the money that Condé Nast had given us for growing Wiredcirculation and investing it a completely unknown, untried, potentially dangerous project to invent Web media.

The 20+/- person HotWired team set up shop in loft space at Third and Brannon in what was to become the center of the Web universe, South of Market, San Francisco. We then beavered away round the clock, drawing on a diverse collection of talents to shape our offering. We met with advertisers to convince them to take a flyer on what we promised would be the future of media. In the end, we actually secured a dozen big advertisers.

Since we didn’t have the capacity to also produce the ads, we handed that off to Jonathan Nelson at his fledgling (soon to become Web powerhouse) Organic. I still remember sitting next to art directorBarbara Kuhr fiddling with the dimensions of what would later become the first, hated but essential “banner ad.”

The target launch date came and went, despite my urgings that “Media was software that shipped on time.” Pressure mounted as Jane watched the costs increase. People at Wired not involved in the project became even more skeptical. The new launch date slipped to the end September. And then finally to October. Would we make that date? And how could we have justified ever taking our Condé Nast nestegg and placing it all on the turn of the roulette wheel calledHotWired?

Reminded me of the scene in Lost in America where David (Albert Brooks) is appalled that his wife Linda (Julie Haggerty) had just gambled away their nest egg in Las Vegas:

David: Maybe I didn’t explain the nest egg to you. If you had understood … You know it’s a very sacred thing, the nest egg, and if you had understood the Nest Egg Principle, as we will now call it in the first of many lectures that you will get, because if we are ever to acquire another nest egg, we both have to understand what it means. The nest egg is a protector, like a god, and we sit under the nest egg and we are protected by it. Without it, no protection. Want me to go on? It pours rain. Hey! The rain hits the egg and pours off the side. Without the egg? Wet. It’s over. But you didn’t understand it and that’s why we’re where we are.

Linda: I understood the nest egg …

David: Please do me a favor. Don’t use the word. You may not use that word. It is off-limits to you. Only those in this house that understand the nest egg may use it. And don’t use any part of it either. Don’t use “nest.” Don’t use “egg.” You’re out in the forest, you can point – the bird lives in a round stick. And … and … you have things over easy with toast.

Building a business is never easy. Everyone who does it faces enormous threats — financial, commercial, physical, human, emotional, existential even. The end is always near, success is always subjective, and the feeling of accomplishment always fleeting, as the next, life-threatening challenge looms. Finally, the 20 of us were huddled around Brian’s screen, months of night and day work had come down to this moment – then the first hit on our server arrived, we served our first page, and sheer relief, then exhilaration swept the room, before we realized that, holy shit, we’d have to do this insane effort every day until the end of time.

Fifteen years later we can appreciate the dimensions of what was unleashed that October day. HotWired took off like a rocket. For the first six months, we had more than fifty percent of all web advertising. By 1995, HotWired had more employees than Wired. Even by 1996, our revenues were larger than our nearest rivals Yahoo, Excite, and Infoseek.

This was HotWired’s office; there are 125 Web pioneers in this picture:

And pioneers they were. I never thought we were inventing a new medium. The medium was born with all the genetic traits it would ever have – our job was to discover them, like Lewis and Clark didn’t invent the West, they discovered it. We didn’t know where we were going, all we knew was we had to explore every possibility. The room was a hive of energy and creation – as Gary Wolf put it, people felt they had permission to be bad.

By 1997, our search engine HotBot had been selected as the best of the Web by the computer books. That same year, headcount peaked at 170. By 1998, Wired Digital had more than $20M in revenue, and was cash flow positive. By 1999, Wired Digital had been absorbed by Lycos. And now, 15 years later, Wired Digital is once more part of the Wired brand, now owned by Condé Nast (and yes, they did end up with control, but that’s another story). Oh, and that banner ad we’d been fiddling with? – responsible for a $24B business, and counting, including killing newspapers and inspiring new forms of banner ads like this introduced by a German company:

All of this was brought to mind by an email from Andrew Anker last week inviting me and other HotWired alumni to a reunion drink at one of HotWired’s favorite watering holes in the day, Hotel Utah, to celebrate HotWired’s 15th birthday. Great seeing old friends, catching up, remembering that amazing time.

People sometimes ask me what’s the connection between Wired and TCHO? And sometimes I answer that maybe chocolate was always my destiny, and Wired as the detour. Recently I’ve been wondering whether I should reply that I was once involved in reinventing media, and now it’s chocolate. Or maybe I should just admit that spinning that roulette wheel and sharing the exhilaration and terror of business creation with twenty fearless souls is something I’m genetically incapable of resisting.

Happy Birthday, HotWired, and thank you, each and every one of the wonderful adventurers who were part of that amazing moment.

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How do you build a chocolate brand?

From Edenspiekermann, our talented design firm.

VIDEO WORKS, JUST DIDN’T TRANSFER

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21C: Voted #1 Hotel in U.S.

21c Museum Hotel: Voted #1 Hotel in U.S. and #6 in World in Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards 2009

I told you they were cool, didn’t I? You heard it here first!

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21C Museum Hotel offers TCHO some downright legendary Southern Hospitality

21C Museum Hotel listed as one of best places to stay in the world by readers of Conde Nast Traveler Magazine

Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown know how to do things right. For one thing, they’re really good at collecting contemporary art, and they love sharing their collection with art lovers and art novices alike. They’re really good at attracting smart and interesting people to collaborate with, mentor, etc. And they’re extremely good at hospitality, as their award winning and ultra popular boutique hotel in Louisville, KY proves. 21C Museum/Hotel is pretty much the hippest thing happening in my old hometown. And I was back there last week to help usher in TCHO for their turn down service.

The happy and ultra helpful staff were all wearing TCHO Tshirts the day of the launch, and there were huge bowls full of TCHO at both the front desk of the hotel and the restaurant. Nice touch!

That night, Steve and Laura Lee hosted a dinner in honor of Ezra Kellerman, Daan Roosegaarde and Leslie Lyons, three artists participating in the Ideas Festival, a sort of Southern-style TED conference. The dinner featured a 5 course, chocolate infused extravaganza created by Executive Chef, Michael Paley, from the hotel’s restaurant, Proof on Main. The menu consisted of:

  • Amuse Bouche: roasted fresh bacon (yepper, bacon and chocolate, check!), watermelon, blu di Bufala, 68% TCHOPro, and smoked cocoa powder
  • Early Autumn Pumpkin Soup: creme fraiche, pecan bread crumbs, shaved TCHO chocolate
  • Tuscan Cured Swordfish: eggplant stewed with chocolate and cinnamon, cucumber pine nut gazpacho
  • Roasted Lamb Rack: braised Swiss chard, panelle, TCHO mole
  • Poached Asian Pear: TCHOPro and caramel gelato, shortbread cookie

It was an inspired meal and oh so flavorful.

Steve WIlson congratulates Michael Paley on an inventive and exquisite dinner:

The dinner guests were an inspired and inspiring lot themselves. Kulapat Yantrasast, architect for the new wing of the Speed Museum, was there along with Lisa Resnik, the head of the Speed’s capital campaign.

Luyanda Mpahlwa, of MMA Architects in Cape Town, was also at the dinner. He was on hand to accept the CurryStone design prize, awarded during the Idea Festival last year. But because he was once an antiapartheid fighter imprisoned with Nelson Mandela, he has never been able to get a US visa until this year. I tried to convince him that all of America was just like Steve and Laura Lee’s Louisville, but he wasn’t buying it. Now he hopes to spend lots of time in the US, and to come see the TCHOcolate factory next time.

Local architect, entrepreneur and a dear old friend of mine, Mose Putney, is also an investor in TCHO. Shown here with Dorka Keehn, a San Francisco activist, artist and all around fabulous female, and Lindsay Moreman, another fabulous female, lifelong friend since high school, and designer/stylist/artist.

Steve Wilson on the left, Alice Grey Stites, director of the Art without Walls project and wife of my childhood tennis partner (!), Laura Lee Brown, and Tiffany Shlain (with hat), San Francisco filmmaker, new mom and IT girl, who opened the Idea Festival with a screening of her work in progress, Connected: A stream-of-consciousness ride through the interconnectedness of humankind.

We all went back to our beds that night to find 2 fabulous pieces of TCHO chocolate on our pillows. What a perfect match, 21C + TCHO!

The next morning, Daan Roosegaarde gave a fabulous talk about his beautiful and engaging interactive work and had a wonderful installation on Main Street.

On Saturday, I rode out to Woodland Farm, where Steve and Laura Lee go to decompress, ride horses, raise bison and grow the vegetables they serve at Proof on Main. I got friendly with one of their charges:

Private chef Schoen, who was just at the TCHO factory in San Francisco earlier in the week, got more than friendly with another bison and served it to us for lunch with a fabulous red wine and pepper sauce, beans from the garden, freshly picked salad, and of course an apple tart with TCHOPro for dessert! Turns out bison is the leanest red meat there is, with no more cholesterol than chicken. And it’s mighty tasty, too…

My friends in Kentucky, and especially at 21C are way into good food, slow food, locally grown, seasonal produce, etc. Here’s their prize winning country ham.

And here are some shots of the art and atmosphere at the hotel. Even though my parents still live in town, 21C is TCHO’s home in Louisville!

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Got a migrane?? Try a TCHO-A-Day!!

Cocoa Enriched Diets May Be Beneficial In Treatment Of Migraine

For several years, researchers have been interested in the value ofTheobroma cacao in treating a variety of disorders. A new study presented at the International Headache Society’s 14th International Headache Congress hosted by the American Headache Society (AHS) in Philadelphia, has provided the first evidence for the value of cocoa as a dietary supplement in repressing inflammatory responses within the trigeminal ganglia which are thought to play a role inmigraine.

“It appears that a cocoa-enriched diet in rats can repress the proteins that are associated with the promotion and maintenance of inflammatory responses such as migraine,” said Paul L. Durham, PhD of Missouri State University’s Center for Biomedical & Life Sciences, an author of the study.

“Although this is an early animal study, it shows promise in helping researchers understand more about how migraine can be prevented and treated,” said Michael Moskowitz, MD, President of the International Headache Society. “So much more research is needed in understanding this devastating disease that robs millions of Americans of a productive quality of life.” Some 36 million Americans suffer with migraine, more than either diabetes or asthma.

More than 400 scientific papers and posters are to be presented during the IHC/AHS meeting which is expected to draw some 1,200 migraine specialists and scientists from around the globe. The meeting is the world’s largest professional conference on migraine and headache-related diseases.

Source
International Headache Society

I’m just sayin…

TCHO-A-DAY 30
$20.00

 

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Très Chouette

I’d read about them, but now I’m holding them in my hands and actually smelling them — the chocolate stamps La Poste (France) issued this summer. (Thanks and a tip of our hat to my Paris buds the Patricks — Ian, Veronique, and Lea). Oh, and they smell like milk chocolate.

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TCHO Gateux Royale

Some of us here are bakers and whatnot, so when I was asked to try Emily Luchetti’s flourless chocolate cake recipe with our TCHOPro 68%, I jumped at it.

As you can see, it came out looking great! It was very tasty and absolutely sinful. Everyone attacked it and it was gone in a flash.

Next, TCHOcolate and Mint ice cream which is hardening in my freezer as I type this…yay!

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We can see clearly now

For the first time ever, according to this report, scientists from IBM Research Zurich have used an atomic force microscope to image all the atoms in a single molecule.

The molecule is pentacene, used in solar cells, and is made up of 22 carbon and 14 hydrogen atoms. This is how it used to be imagined in the good old days:

This, by the way, is the structure of theobromine, one of the active ingredients in chocolate:

And this is the structure of a substance that theobromine is often confused with, caffeine:

You’ll note that the structures are almost identical, except that, at the top left, theobromine lacks one carbon and two hydrogen atoms.

You might say that theobromine is not just the food but the designer drug of the gods, since by removing those carbon and hydrogen atoms, theobromine becomes a muscle relaxant (perhaps why it is good for the heart) as well as a brain stimulant instead of a central nervous system stimulant like caffeine.

Can’t wait to see it under the atomic force microscope.

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tchOSCARS!

In the middle of a foggy and cold San Francisco summer, we held the first ever “tchOSCARS”, an in-house competition for TCHO employees dreamt up by our team-builder-in-chief, and VP of Operations, Laurel Collier, and executed by two of our interns Ting and Kaileen Kelly. The event was a blast and allowed employees to express their creative talents using our chocolates and have some fun together as a company.

My acceptance speech will have to wait for next year but I had good fun creating a savory dish with our chocolate. Here is the recipe, obviously not fully refined… and some fun product placement shots.

“Pork Tenderloin Lollypops with a TCHO Drinking Chocolate – Chipotle Rub and Chocolate-Bourbon Dipping Sauce”

TCHO Drinking Chocolate – Chipotle Rub

1 C. TCHO Drinking Chocolate
1 ½ tsp Garlic Powder
1 ½ tsp Onion Powder
½ tsp Ground whole Allspice
1 pinch Sage
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Fresh Ground mixed peppers
1 tsp Chipotle chili powder

Mix ingredientsin a food processor to mix well and grind more finely the drinking chocolate

Cut 2 pork loins (about 2.3 lbs net) into cubes and marinate in 2 oz. of good quality bourbon (your choice, no sponsors yet!) along with a dash of high end balsamic vinegar. I let this sit while I made up the rub. Drain off remaining liquid and mix in the TCHO Drinking Chocolate Chipotle Rub, making sure to cover the cubes well. Cover and let sit overnight.

Skewer the cubes at the end of long, 8” wooden skewers. Get your grill “clean, hot and lubricated” ‘kause this stuff could stick! A good trick is to place 6” of folded tinfoil in the front of the grill in order to not burn the skewers and still get the meat over the heat of the grill. Cook covered for 5 minutes at medium – high heat, turn and cook another 5 minutes.

TCHOPro 68% Chocolate – Bourbon Barbeque Dipping Sauce

2 cups TCHOPro 68% Dark Chocolate

¾ cup Roasted–pureed heirloom tomatoes (or tomato paste if you do not live within walking distance of one of the greatest farmers markets in the world…

2 tbsp Butter

½ cup packed brown sugar

2 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar (the good stuff…)

½ cup Bourbon (also the good stuff…!)

¼ cup Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp Honey mustard

1 ½ tsp lime juice + zest

½ tsp Salt

½ tsp Pepper

½ tsp Onion powder

½ tsp Garlic powder

¼ tsp Chipotle chili powder

OK… now for the fun part! Melt the butter in a large sauce pan and add the brown sugar. Let the sugar melt well over a medium flame, stirring gently. Raise the flame until the sugar is almost burning and hit it with the ½ cup of Bourbon…! When the flames hit the cupboard above the stove, remove the pan really carefully and try not to burn down your new apartment the night before the tchOSCARS…!

Once the flames are out and the fire alarm has not gone off, you can relax and the rest of the ingredients. I melted the chocolate in a crockpot, added the rest of the mixture and let it cook slowly, covered at the lowest setting.

I think the kicker would have been to adjust the thickness and the sweetness with the magic of Dr. Pepper… Maybe next year!

 

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Going back to Texas.

I’m at the Oakland airport and still a little sleepy. I notice an unusually high number of the classic burnt orange “TEXAS” and longhorn symbols (that are associated with the University of Texas) on Tshirts, sweatshirts, hats, keychains, etc.

It was then when it hit me, “I’m going back to Texas!”. (I usually don’t make the mental transition of going to another place until I’m on the plane and taking off.)

So I’m going back to where I was born, Texas. (Dallas) Yes, I AM a Texan and proud of it! (BTW, “W” is not really a Texan. He’s really a East Coast born WASP so please, none of the usual comments.)

I’m going to the land of Bevo to present a Chocolate and Cheese pairing to a few hundred people at the American Cheese Societyconference in Austin. I’m really looking forward to the event.

Many times when I bring up pairing chocolate and cheese together people are a bit taken aback, but chocolate and cheese, paired right, is incredible.

Rob, my past business partner in Cabaret Chocolates, was the one who got me hooked on this seemingly absurd combination. Think about it. What are the two primary “tastes” in chocolate? Bitter & Sweet. And for cheese? Salty and Sour. When combined, you get the all four of the (western) tastes–bitter, sweet, salt and sour.

Further, if you combine it just right, you come up with some very provocative and mouthgastic combinations. And for fun, I sometimes make pairings that actually cancel all the flavors out to become this surprisingly neutral tasting, in-mouth “fat bomb” that goes off. The possibilities are endless.

To get ready for this event, Peggy Smith (from Cowgirl Creamery) and I (w/ Shiao furiously scribbling down our findings) put together a bunch of knock-your-socks-off pairings a few weeks back. At the Cowgirl Creamery Ferry Building store, we developed cheese pairings for each of our chocolates–each of our single origin, flavor eating chocolates as well as the conventional TCHOPro blends.

After the event, I’ll post up to the blog the pairing suggestions we developed.

For those who maybe reading this and will be attending the event, I will be breaking out some of the alpha Fruity 2.0 chocolate as one of the two chocolates we will be presenting. So that’s sure to get some good oohs and ahhs.

All this typing about food is making hungry. Luckily, I’ve already been compiling my list of my favorite and hopefully soon to be favorites, TexMex and BBQ joints around Austin.

I’m salivating at the thought of sinking my teeth into my first order of fish tacos at Gueros.

-timothy

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