Joan and I left Los Angeles on the “Windstar Express” carrying a load of chocolate at about 6 am on Friday morning headed for our favorite chocolate show—The Fourth Annual San Francisco International Chocolate Salon held at Fort Mason. We knew that we had won several more awards that had been pre-judged and already announced. On the trip up, I spoke with my editor, Geoff Stone, about the new adventures of Old Ed—an editorial device that is another way to describe some of my world travels in search of great chocolate to be featured in the upcoming Ed Engoron’s Choclatique by Running Press.
After checking in at the Hilton on Fisherman’s Wharf, we met up with my brother Roy and chef Wayne, fielded telephone calls from clients, customers and the office and finally took some time to have a great dinner at North Beach Restaurant and then to bed to prepare for the morning onslaught of chocolate lovers. The alarm went off at 5 am and it was up and at ‘em to set up for the salon. The doors opened and we served nearly five thousand pieces of chocolate and sold many more between 10 and 6. Then it was time to break everything down and pack up. Before collapsing for the night, we had a horrible dinner at Castagnola’s on the wharf—disgusting food and despicable service. After all, it is a tourist trap. What were we thinking?
Sunday morning we were on the road back to Los Angeles, arriving at 3pm, just in time to get caught in the Los Angeles Marathon traffic. When I got home, I had just enough time to change and repack my suitcase for two weeks in Portugal.
Monday morning Joan and I arrived at the office at 7am and spent the whole day taking care of everything that we didn’t do the week before while preparing for our client meetings in Lisbon. It was an all nighter on Air France to Paris and another two and a half hours to Lisbon. We had just enough time to check into our hotel rooms, clean up and meet our client for dinner.
I brought samples of CHICKS and Chocolate Almond Butter Toffee Bites—our best in show toffee. The next morning it was back-to-back meetings for nearly 12 hours. Our clients like to get their money’s worth. We visited Colombo, a beautiful upscale shopping mall for dinner before retiring for the night.
The next day and each succeeding day it was store visits, kitchen inspections, checking the competition and eating lot of traditional Portuguese food from the far north to the south like Duck Rice, Cozido (don’t ask) and Bacalhau. Bacalhau is made from salted Icelandic cod. The Portuguese claim that there are 1001 ways to make Bacalhau, but oddly enough, none of the recipes include chocolate.
On Monday we headed up to Braga near Porto to see their newest hyper store—a 3-hour drive in each direction. The entire trip was peppered with chocolate from Hustle, chocolate mousse from Pingo Doce and other chocolate delights from flans to brûlées and from truffles to tablets—everything chocolate.
The last day was preparing for a board meeting in a picturesque fishing village, Ericeira, about 30 minutes outside Lisbon. Many Portuguese families have summer homes there and why not… it is just what you would think Portugal should look like. We feasted on a lunch of Tiger Prawns, locally-caught steamed prawns, and char-grilled Dorado which my client claimed tastes just like lobster. It didn’t, but was good just the same.
The board meeting was cancelled at the last minute, but undaunted, my client and I found time to check out two more supermarkets and then find a great pizza joint that served wonderful Italian wines, fantastic chocolate tiramisu and a wheat berry cheese cake, better than Mario Batali’s; you can find my recipe in the recipe section of our blog. The only thing that would have made it a little better would have been a drizzle of Choclatique Prestige Milk Chocolate. Oh, by the way, the wood-fired pizza was pretty terrific, too.
So, after over two weeks on the road, here I am on Flight 063 Paris to Los Angeles, writing my adventures before I forget any of the details. Tomorrow it will be business as unusual (as it always is) and, of course, no day is ever complete without a visit to the Choclatique Chocolate Studios and a tasting of our latest production. This job is tough, but someone has to do it. Welcome home, Ed!