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TCHO New American Chocolate
NEW AMERICAN CHOCOLATE

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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Go Forth

Levi’s has recently launched this campaign, which I became aware of the other day when I passed huge posters with the words below hanging in Levi’s Plaza near our factory here in SF. Don’t think this is a perfect campaign. For one thing, it’s singular rather than plural, which I think is the real ethos of the new Millennium. Also, though the words are strong, their TV ad, which uses a poem by Whitman (in his own voice, from an old recording!), is actually very Bruce Weberish in depicting kids playing instead of working. While this campaign is just not deep or evolved enough to be completely right, it is, nevertheless, a harbinger and (good) sign of our times.

 

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A visit to the Mast Brothers in Brooklyn

After the Fancy Food Show, Jane and I went to Williamsburg to visit the Mast Brothers in Brooklyn. To get there, you take the L train that runs across lower Manhattan. Bedford Avenue is the first stop on the other side of the East River. A quick trip; great for all the artists and crafts people who live there, and the geeks agawking, like us, who want to visit them.

As one observer put it, with Manhattan officially dedicated to the super rich, Brooklyn has become the designated Art Borough.

Even the street markings for road work are artistic.

The nice thing about the art I saw in Brooklyn, as far as I’m concerned, is that you don’t need an essay by some art critic to understand what’s going on. This piece by Jonathan Schipper at The Boiler, for example, is composed of two Detroit muscle cars on a hydraulic sled that slow-motion crashed them together over the period of the installation—like the slow-mo wreck of the US auto industry.

Not that all the art in Williamsburg is so conceptual; this was on a roll up garage door of an industrial building:

And, for sure, not all of Williamsburg is art. Here’s the national pastime on an asphalt playground on a summer afternoon.

And I didn’t know it before, but Superman lives in Williamsburg too.

But you can’t escape the art. The Painted Word this ain’t—which is why I like it.

After that delightful stroll, we arrive at the Mast Brothers. Here’s the outside.

And here’s the inside. That’s Rick Mast on the left. And you’re looking at where the Mast Brothers make their chocolate, from bean to bar. About 1500 of those bars a week, plus some blocks for restaurants.

Rick is smart and has a bushy red beard he enjoys stroking, as well as a joyful laugh, which he deployed readily as we discussed our mutual, visceral fear of huge trade shows like the Fancy Food Show, which we attended and he didn’t.

Rick’s also laughing because he’s clearly reveling in this moment. Which is making pretty great chocolate as if he were doing a jazz improvisation. We did Beta releases, varying elements of the process and getting your feedback to come up with our final formulations. Rick seemingly doesn’t believe in final formulations. Every time he makes a batch of chocolate, he’s changing stuff. Changing the roast, the grind, the sugars. He obsesses on what he can change. Cure the liquor in old bourbon casks, even.

You gotta love what the Mast Brothers are doing. This is quick and nimble chocolate-making with an emphasis on playfulness. They make a batch of chocolate during the day, then invite friends over in the evening to sit around a big table and wrap the bars by hand, sharing a bottle of wine. They winnow beans right out on the sidewalk in front of their store.

They are keeping a lid on output, even though they have a waiting list, according to Rick, of 500 stores that want to carry them. Heck, they don’t even open their own store in the front part of the factory during the week, only on weekends. They are working hard, experimenting like crazy, own it all without bankers or investors breathing down their necks, and are having fun—and building a savvy myth based on passion, quality, non-marketing marketing, and the kind of scarcity that itself creates insatiable demand. Although Rick shyly admits to a dream: a bigger factory someday over in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Thanks, Rick, nice visiting with you. Come see us next time you’re out in SF.

After bidding Rick adieu, we repair to the beer hall a couple of doors down—where our waitress is a dancer from San Francisco who just returned from Slovenia—for a cold mug of Czech draft.

Nice place this Williamsburg.

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Momentum

Lots of things have been getting going lately.
Thanks to our esteemed factory team—who I cannot fathom how they are able to get the things done they have—we have a functioning factory now complete with our molding line. I tell you to go from shipping these little kraft packages filled with our beta chocolate, molded on our mini-molding line, to seeing molds cranking out of our full-sized molding line is amazing. Going from a production team comprised of Rick, Laurel, myself, and one or two others—Emi/Zohara/Rob/an intern or two depending on the day—to a team of ten or eleven dedicated production members…. crazy how a year can change things.

Lots of things going on.

February here in the Bay Area is “Strong Beer Month” —8% or higher I believe— this past Strong Beer Month, TCHO paired up with the local brewery 21st Amendment on one of their strong beers—21a’s “Ripple” aged with our “Citrus” nibs. Myself coming from a background working in the home winemaking/ home beer-making industry got extremely excited about the pairing. I essentially saw this an opportunity to connect two things I feel extremely passionate about: my new found love for amazing chocolate, and amazing beers. I’ve written about my recent experience at the NHC—National Homebrew Conference—but didn’t really delve into the entire experience. Wednesday I attended the Brewing Network’s “BNA4”, anniversary party at Linden St. Brewing—Linden St. was officially launching their flagship “The Urban People’s Common Lager.” The four or five hundred people –both local and from around the country— signaled the beginning of the conference. Thursday was Pro-Brewer’s Night, having somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,100 attendees. We paired up with Triple Rock Brewery (Berkeley, CA), who had aged their “Stonehenge Stout” with our Ecuadorian nibs. Needless to say the whole night went swimmingly; there was a steady stream of eager tasters—for both the beers and chocolates. Myself, I didn’t mind too much not getting the chance to fully experience all the beers—from the 52 different breweries—solely because of the amazing responses I got from people. I met people from all over the country, Alabama to Hawaii, many experiencing TCHO for the first time. I spoke with quite a few brewers about usage of nibs in beer, and informed a few of our Saturday session. Late-night hanging out with my friends from the Cellar crew—headed by “Tasty” McDole of Longshot fame, and Randy G. from MoreBeer!—dragged myself back home to get a couple hours to recoup.

Saturday, our Chocolate-Maker/ Mad Chocolate Scientist Timothy Childs, myself, and Roger Davis (head brewer from Triple Rock) spoke during one of the afternoon seminar sessions. Ours, aptly named “Chocolate and Beer”, was an amazing experience for me. Granted I’m not much of a public speaker, but I still really enjoyed connecting with interested homebrewers. I gave out some nib samples for people interested in making their own chocolate-infused beers—we even had so many people interested I ran out before everyone got a sample. The whole night was capped off by Sean Paxton’s amazing dinner where each course was paired with chocolate, and included a Rogue’s beer as an ingredient.

Perfect ending to a long four days, but a beginning to something else.

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Welcome to the modern world of high tech chocolate…at 32,000 feet.

So, we (Shelley and I) are in the air right now, flying from San Francisco to New York, to further TCHO’s “going big” at the Fancy Food Show.

At the same time, John and Ann, two of TCHO’s “Bean Team”, are down in the jungles of Peru setting up a TCHO FLavorLab, as well as participating in a ground-breaking ceremony of the new cutting-edge fermentaria that the BeanTeam co-designed and are helping to build. (John and Ann are furthering our TCHOSource efforts in Peru right now, which is a major step forward for TCHO and the farmers and suppliers with which we do business. This story alone warrants a number of blog entries from them when they get back).

While down there, John shipped a sample of beans from the latest batch for us to test through roasting and grinding into cocoa liquor (aka cocoa mass). We started the grind late last night and I molded it up early this morning for tasting and approval on the plane. (I seem to taste a lot of beans, liquor and chocolate during air travel.)

And as an important aside, we are flying Virgin America, a corporate role model for TCHO. It is their attitude, business philosophy and success which we aspire to emulate. Which is, if you’re going to do something, do it with style, passion and a touch of whimsy.

Mike Milliorn, our completely “with it” inflight host, (who happened to remember us from the inflight tasting we did with the Virgin crew on their inaugural SFO–>Boston flight a few months back), just offered me another absinthe, but custom stylized it his way, the “Mikey” way. (He, like everyone else I’ve had the pleasure to meet with this airline, is one of the many reasons I readily support Virgin’s world domination plan. (Here are some of Shelley’s photographs from the inaugural flight.)

So here’s where it all starts to fuse together.

Sipping absinthe, listening to super current mashup beats from the UK on Virgin’s Red inflight system, while looking out the window and appreciating the great clouds from 32K feet, I pull out my trusty MacBookPro to connect to a different type of cloud–the internet.

The ceremony in Peru is about to start. John and Ann really want to announce our findings of the current bean samples and hence, our commitment to move forward, during the big ceremony. The clock is ticking to get them our answer in time.

So at breakfast at the airport, I tried the new liquor and loved it. I noticed a few changes, though, that will need to be tweaked, but nevertheless, it’s great. I called John before boarding but he was, as I found out later, doing an hour long presentation to all the Peruvian big shots and couldn’t be interrupted.

Ok. So what now? Text isn’t sufficient to discuss the subtleties and variances in bean cut tests and sensory analysis. I remembered back to the inflight tasting we did on Virgin where we did an inflight video Skype call (now forbidden) between the plane and our team back at TCHO during the tasting.

So it was worth a shot to try to connect to John in the jungle from 32,000 feet over Utah via Skype Out. After a couple of attempts, bingo! Not only were we able to discuss the beans and approve moving forward, just in time, but we were able to get a quick update of the pioneering work John and Ann are doing in Peru. Go BeanTeam! Now here comes the very subtle but exciting realization that can only be happening in this modern time. From deep in the jungle, reading the day to day company email, John was able to feel the momentum building as the rest of the BeanTeam and TCHO gets ready for the Fancy Food Show. So I’m high in the sky on my way to help the TCHO team rock NYC, while John and Ann are rocking Peru, and we are CONNECTING about this from plane to jungle, in real time, wishing and encouraging each other’s luck and success. What an amazing time we live in.

What a great moment to participate in.

For TCHO, the internet, (and knowing how to harness it), is one of the main reasons we are able to move as fast as we are to make really great chocolate and build a really great company. Hopefully Louis can expound on our feelings of why the internet and this modern time is why TCHO can actually do what we do; which is being a San Francisco-based, disruptive newcomer, rocking the chocolate world, with our partners, in real-time across the globe.

It’s feeling really good to be part of TCHO in this stage of our history.

Next stop, New York.

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Keeping myself occupied…

So it’s been a bit since I’ve written much of anything outside of emails and texts, I figured it’s about time to get back into action.

So I’ve gone to some football games….

…Gone to an old friend’s wedding (congrats Lisa & Theo)

…Seen a milestone or two pass…

…But most recently…

Thanks to Joe Ruvel for his photo (www.beeratjoes.com).

This was the dessert from the NHC (National Homebrew Conference), made by Sean Paxton also known as “the Homebrew Chef”—homebrewchef.com—with a 50-50 blend of our “Nutty” and our 60.5% TCHOPro Blend also using Rouge Ales Hazelnut Porter I believe. He did an amazing job with all of the food; this was an incredible finale—I’ll make certain to get the recipe added to our repertoire. As a side note I highly recommend matching our “Citrus” with Rouge’s Imperial Chocolate Stout—Think liquid fudge brownie!

The entire conference was an amazing experience, with around 1,100 homebrewers, beer enthusiasts, and about 50 breweries. The whole thing started with the Brewing Network’s 4th anniversary party at Linden St. Brewing, and ended with the Awards Banquet—That’s where the dessert was— Needless to say after 4 days of beer-tastings, amazing food, and some great times I’m reinvigorated—and slightly delirious from lack of sleep—in my brewing efforts. I’m thinking an American Brown Ale in the works….More coming soon…

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