Friday, September 16, 2011

Gourmet Walks at Christopher Elbow

Just as the weather is getting sunny and warm-ish in San Francisco, shops and restaurants are telling us it's fall. For my local Starbucks, that means the return of the outrageously sweet Pumpkin Spice Latte. At Whole Foods, Gravenstein apples and pumpkins replace the gourmet S'Mores displays. Most Bay Area chocolate shops do not switch up their flavors very often, with the exception of our Hayes Valley favorite, Christopher Elbow. On Thursday 9/16, Kansas City based chocolatier Chris Elbow unveiled his fall chocolate lineup, along with an exciting new ice cream line and a Chocolate Ale.

Christopher Elbow was a pastry chef for many years before specializing in chocolate, and this shows in his approach to flavor development. Elbow explained that he looks for taste combinations he enjoys in food and then attempts to replicate them with chocolate, using a proprietary Valhrona blend for his couverture. As for bizarre flavors, he said "If I try something and don't want another, it's a good sign the combination doesn't work." (Yeah, just take a look in my Chocolate Drawer, where bacon/mushroom/olive bars languish for months.) Gourmet Walks tour guides found the Pumpkin Spice, Brown Butter & Molasses and Banana Curry perfectly balanced and, as always, perfectly lovely. The Banana Curry was my personal favorite, based on his popular Bananas Foster but made a little more exotic with a touch of curry. The Brown Butter & Molasses was rich, sweet and creamy - just the thing for a foggy SF evening, perhaps with a tawny port.

Since we know the magic Christopher Elbow creates with truffles, the most exciting part of the night was sampling his new Glacé Artisan Ice Cream. Elbow worked hard on his ice cream concept this summer, opening up two different shops in downtown Kansas City and a new production facility. His Glacé ice cream shops are separate from Christopher Elbow Chocolates, with distinct branding, and regularly feature about 22 different flavors. Just as with his chocolate, the ingredients are high quality, fresh, local and organic. On the menu for Thursday night was a Fresh Mint Chip, Goat Cheese & Honey, Rosemary Caramel, Venezuelan Spiced Chocolate and a Pineapple Cilantro Sorbet. My favorite was the Goat Cheese & Honey, followed by the Sorbet - a flavor inspired by a taco!

When will Glacé be available to San Francisco ice cream lovers? (A spoiled bunch we are, despite summer fog and wind that make pots of tea more appealing.) The Hayes Valley shop plans to start selling pints beginning in October or November. Eventually, Elbow hopes to add scoops as well as a Sundae Menu. Thinking hot fudge and maraschino cherries? Oh no, gourmet toppings more in line with Fraiche and some of the city's other high end yogurt shops, I'm guessing.

The last treat we sampled at Christopher Elbow was his new Chocolate Ale. Elbow collaborated with hometown brewery Boulevard to make just 1600 cases of this special beer. The beer is initially infused with nibs, and then cacao beans are added for more flavor in the fermentation tank. The Chocolate Ale was a huge hit in Kansas City, selling out quickly all over town. And it's not as strange as it sounds. Mainstream beer makers (like Sam Adams) are now adding chocolate to their stouts and Recchiuti's chocolate and beer pairing box is one of his most popular. We enjoyed the Ale, but as Chocolate Tour guides, we were already thinking about getting our hands on more Banana Curry truffles.

Have you tried the new Christopher Elbow fall flavors? Let us know what you think!