Archive for March, 2011

Meet Me Next Sunday at the San Francisco International Chocolate Salon

Thursday, March 31st, 2011
Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique
Author of Ed Engoron’s Choclatique, Running Press, 2011

Sunday, April 17th
The San Francisco International Chocolate Salon

My brother, Roy, wouldn’t put a price on the luscious chocolate truffles he nibbled on at last year’s International Chocolate Salon at Fort Mason in San Francisco. After all, it’s difficult to quantify bliss.

Hot, Hot Cocoa TruffleAlthough the troubled economy has forced many Californians to economize, there is still one must-have indulgence—chocolate. Coming soon on Sunday, April 17th, this year’s 5th Annual Chocolate Salon will offer hundreds of sweet treats, a very worthwhile expenditure. Chocolate, says my brother, simply puts you in a happy place.

Colorful Chocolate StackRoy isn’t the only one willing to swap cash for some tasty chocolate truffles or cup of hot chocolate. As a number of other industries declined in recent years, “Sales for chocolate continue to be sweet,” said Susan Smith, spokeswoman for the National Confectioner’s Association.

Industry annual chocolate sales have steadily risen three to four percent in the last several years, with artisan chocolate sales even higher. Overall, retail chocolate sales in the United States are currently at about $16 billion. It seems with chocolate, people can savor a small luxury without shelling out a lot of money. Chocolate is a gourmet product at a value price. You can still enjoy a little taste of happiness and indulgence that remains quite affordable.

Last year about 4,000 people purchased tickets to attend the one-day Chocolate Salon where you can graze from table to table in some of the finest chocolate and wines California has to offer. You can find chocolate at most any price point, and most everybody who visits does leave with at least one box.

The International Chocolate Salon showcases an assortment of treats for sale from local chocolatiers, demonstrations and classes by noted chocolatiers, and competitions for various important industry awards.

Advanced purchase tickets are $25. Tickets purchased at the door are $30. But forget about the money… just one bite of the sweet stuff helps melt away people’s everyday concerns. A little piece of chocolate can make you feel like a million bucks.

San Francisco International Chocolate Salon

SF International Chocolate SalonGeneral Ticket Information
Adults: $25 Advance Purchase
Adults: $30 Door
Children under 6: Free*
Children, 6 to 12: $10
*Applies to 2 children per adult. Each additional child under 6: $10

For more information:

Ed Engoron is the ChocolateDoctor heard on A Million Cooks Network

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Which Came First, The Easter Chicken or the Easter Egg?

Thursday, March 24th, 2011
Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique
Author of Ed Engoron’s Choclatique, Running Press, 2011

Giving baby chicks at Easter is a tradition that has its roots in ancient history. Eggs are widely recognized as symbols of new life, and are often included in various spiritual traditions. As symbols, they are most familiar to Western culture as Easter decorations and treats. Eggs and baby chicks are as prevalent as the bunny at Easter.

An egg is also a symbol of the rock tomb from which Christ emerged when he arose again. Likewise the chick, hatching out of the egg symbolizes new life or re-birth.

It is the influence of traditional spring rites that makes Easter so egg-special. And myths coming down to us from an incredibly distant past have shown man’s relationship with the egg to be very deep seated. This is caught in the old Latin proverb: “Omne vivum ex ovo,” which means “all life comes from an egg.”

From ancient India to Polynesia, from Iran, Greece, and Phonecia to Latvia, Estonia, and Finland, from Central America to the west coast of South America, there are myths that the whole universe was created out of an egg. Thus, it is not unusual that in almost all ancient cultures eggs have been held as an emblem of life. The concept of all living beings born from an egg is also a foundational concept of modern biology.

Eggs were viewed as symbols of new life and fertility through the ages. In early Christian times, the egg was a symbol of new life just as a chick might hatch from the egg. The Easter egg tradition may have celebrated the end of the privations of Lent. It is believed that for this reason many ancient cultures, including the Ancient Egyptians, Persians, and Romans, used eggs during their spring festivals.

The coloring of eggs is an established art, and eggs are often dyed, painted, and otherwise decorated. Eggs were also used in various holiday games: parents would hide eggs for children to find, and children would roll eggs down hills. These practices live on in Easter egg hunts and egg rolls. The most famous egg roll takes place on the White House lawn every year. The oldest tradition is to use dyed and painted chicken eggs, but a modern custom is to substitute chocolate eggs—solid or hollow, the latter filled with confections such as jellybeans. Candy Easter eggs can be any form of confectionery such as hollow chocolate eggs wrapped in brightly-colored foil or delicately constructed of spun sugar and pastry decoration techniques. The ubiquitous jelly egg or jellybean is made from sugar-coated pectin candy. These are often hidden, supposedly by the Easter Bunny, for children to find on Easter morning.

At Choclatique, we pay homage to both the chicken and the egg with our chocolate Chicks. Chicks are a delicious change from traditional Easter candy. These exceptional chocolates truffles have been hatched just in time for spring with an array of vibrant colors and luscious flavors. Chicks are the perfect choice for a special Easter basket addition or even a baby shower.

Strawberry & Cream ChickEveryone marvels over our delicate chocolate eggs cracked in the middle with a tiny chick emerging from within. Our Chicks are made with our premium quality, great-tasting chocolates and wonderful truffle fillings. Chicks are individually hand-painted and decorated by our talented artisans in our Chocolate Studios. Flavors include Cranberry Bog Chick, Sticky Almond Chick, Triple Chocolate Chick, Strawberries & Cream Chick, Chocolate-Marshmallow Chick, Chocolate Mousse Chick, Mint Chip Chick and several other chirping delights.

Chocolate Marshmallow ChickChocolate lovers are peeping with joy over Choclatique Chicks with the unique blend of gourmet chocolate and flavorful fillings. For those of you who like their Chicks unadorned and without fillings, we also offer Naked Chicks, solid chocolate tweets available in our premium Private Reserve Dark, Heritage Milk, Snowy White or a mixture of all 3! Chicks have become a new family tradition and a favorite for many Easters to come.

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Global Issues Are Driving Up the Price of Chocolate

Thursday, March 17th, 2011
Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique
Author of Ed Engoron’s Choclatique, Running Press, 2011

Volatile stock market prices, political unrest and export bans are the very serious world issues we might like to take a break from with a couple of Choclatique truffles. But now some of those headlines are affecting our very escape and my business.

It started in the major growing areas of Africa and because of political issues and an export ban in the Ivory Coast, which produces nearly half of the world’s cocoa beans, there has been a domino effect of rising costs. Cocoa prices have hit their highest in more than 30 years. When Joan and I Joan first started Choclatique in 2003, cacao was priced at $1,800 a metric ton; recently, the price soared up to $3,800.

Now we are forced to ask ourselves: How much do we really love chocolate—enough to pay more? While Choclatique has experienced a gradual rise in its prices, we have resisted passing them along to our customers. But even with record Valentine’s Day sales, we are reluctant to increase our prices to keep up with the rising costs due to current gas prices and the continuing troubled economy.

You might think that increased prices really have no effect on what price we sell because people love our chocolate, but that’s just not the case. We realize that consumers, unlike the government that prints money whenever it needs it, have a finite amount of money they can spend for even affordable luxuries and people are reluctant to pay even a little bit more for them. However, we have been monitoring price spikes and future hikes coming, and if it gets more dramatic, it could be a problem.

The concern isn’t just for us little guys, either. The whole chocolate and confection industry is facing some pretty severe cost pressures this year. If prices stay at these levels, then you should expect that it will get passed on to the consumer, either with some price increase or package size reductions.

At this point, chocolate is not a prohibitively expensive luxury like caviar, although some experts say that day is coming. Right now, even the cost of artisan, handmade chocolates hasn’t gone up everywhere.

We haven’t raised prices because we are just trying to keep everybody happy with Choclatique. We’re making a little bit less, but we are keeping people in the habit of still purchasing Choclatique Chocolate. While it’s eating into our margins, we are hopeful that chocolate prices will come down over the next six to 12 months.

We have enough inventory of chocolate that it won’t be a big concern for Easter or Mother’s Day. We have all the chocolate we need through May. But down the road, it could be a serious issue as we approach the year-end holidays.

For now, whenever the woes of the world and the economy here at home start to get you down, just relax, take a Choclatique truffle and let your mind wonder for a few minutes. Trust me, I am the doctor, the ChocolateDoctor, you’ll feel better… take two truffles and call me in the morning.

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The Great Santini

Thursday, March 10th, 2011
Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique
Author of Ed Engoron’s Choclatique, Running Press, 2011

Last month when I was in Europe I went to Santini. Now, when you think of a name like “Santini” most people conjure visions of “The Great Santini” which sounds a lot like the Great Houdini with illusions of terrific magic. But that’s not the case unless you are looking for the magic of great Italian-style ice cream proudly made by a Greek family in Lisbon, Portugal.

There are many great ice cream shops in Lisbon, but ask anyone which is their favorite and they’ll most likely name one outside the city. That one would be Santini—in the suburb of Cascais—which has been serving tempting Italian-style ice creams since the late 1940s. Customers used to travel to Cascais about 40 kilometers outside Lisbon for their frozen treats, but now there’s one in the Chiado District in the center of Lisbon. It opens its doors at 10AM and unlike the shop in Cascais, it does not close in winter. So for the lucky city-siders there is Santini ice cream throughout the year and so much more accessible than in the past except for the lines that wrap around the block even during the chill of winter.

What Makes These Ice Creams So Special?

To start with there are no artificial flavorings (if it says it’s of a certain fruit, it really is) and they’re all made on that same day. They’re so good and so tasty it’s hard to even describe. For the Lisbon branch there will be new flavors such as Ginger and Purple Passion Fruit to add to the Cinnamon, Green Tea, and other old favorites such as Raspberry and Mango. My favorites are Chocolate, Milk Caramel, Lemon, Toasted Almond, Coconut and Old Fashion Vanilla. Yes, I tasted them all. More great news is that they also serve the best chocolate cake in the world which has become a popular choice on the colder days. I tried that ala mode. On those winter days it is also likely to be accompanied by Nespresso coffee. The service is quick and efficient and the prices are very reasonable.

Santini Ice Cream
Rua do Carmo, 9
1200 Lisboa, Portugal

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Chocolate is Brain Food

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011
Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique
Author of Ed Engoron’s Choclatique, Running Press, 2011

White HouseWith all the nutritional news coming out of the White House these days, I only have one thing to say to Michelle Obama, “There is no evidence to implicate cacao bean consumption with obesity.” Cacao beans contain no sugar and only between 12 and 50% fat depending on variety and growth conditions.

Cacao is remarkably rich in sulfur and magnesium. In fact, the nutritional aspects of cacao show the beans to be the number one source of magnesium of any food. This is likely the primary reason women crave chocolate during certain times of the month. Magnesium is known to balance brain chemistry, builds strong bones and is associated with increased happiness. What’s more, magnesium is the most deficient major mineral in the Standard American Diet—with over 80% of Americans chronically deficient in Magnesium!

Cacao is also high in the “beauty” mineral sulfur. Sulfur builds strong nails, hair, shiny skin, detoxifies the liver and supports healthy pancreas functions. Anecdotal reports indicate that cacao consumption can detoxify mercury because it is so high in sulfur content.

Cacao contains small amounts of natural caffeine and theobromine. However, experiments have shown that these stimulants are far different when consumed raw than when processed.

Cacao seems to diminish appetite, probably due to its monoamine oxidase enzyme inhibitors (MAO inhibitors). These are different from human digestive enzyme inhibitors found in most nuts and seeds. According to Dr. Gabriel Cousens, MAO inhibitors also facilitate staying younger longer and even have powers of rejuvenation. Does this mean a chocolate fountain is the fountain of youth? Well, the jury is still out on this claim.

Phenyethylamine (PEA) is found in chocolate. PEA is an adrenal-related chemical compound that is also created within the brain and released when we are in love. This is one of the reasons why love and chocolate have a deep correlation. PEA also plays a role in increasing one’s focus and alertness.

Recently, a neurotransmitter called anandamide has been isolated in cacao. Anandamide is also produced naturally in the brain. Anandamide is known as the “Bliss Chemical” because it is released while we are feeling great. Cacao contains enzyme inhibitors that decrease our bodies’ ability to breakdown anandamide. This means that the natural cacao anandamide may stick around longer, making us feel better longer when we eat chocolate.

And don’t be so worried about chocolate allergies. A recent study showed that only 1 out of 500 people who thought they were allergic to chocolate actually tested positive. Allergies to chocolate are quite rare. It is typically that the person is in fact allergic to nuts, milk and dairy products rather than chocolate.

Q-91 IngotSo, you see there are lots of great reasons to include chocolate in a well balanced diet. At Choclatique, we all enjoy an Ingot or two a day of Q-91, our functional chocolate that is low in sugar and has many of the health benefit listed above.

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