Monday, March 31, 2008

March Dinner Pics!

As promised, I'm finally posting a review of the recent tasting dinner and the pics that Ben took at the event. I treated him to the dinner in return for all the lovely imagery. Thanks Ben! And if anyone enjoyed the dinner, I'd love to see some reply comments on your favorite (and least favorite!) courses.

Artisan Cheese and Charcuterie Platter, featuring Whisky Cheddar, Ewephoria, Drunken Goat, & Gjetost, shaved salami, marcona almonds, and a sugared Spanish torta. The starter- four artisan cheeses? It's a nice place to begin a meal:)

Buttermilk-Chive Biscuits with House-made Cocoa-nib Butter. This butter was a big hit in the last dinner, so I couldn't resist featuring it again. Pretty big hit! I also sell it in a jar.

Chopped Eggplant with Candied Cocoa-nibs on Endive Spears. Surprisingly well received. I thought the smoky flavors of the roasted eggplant "pate" would have been too deep for most people, but the nibs definitely brought this one together. And who doesn't love a few adorable endive spears? They are perfect little spoons.

Roasted Root Soup with White Chocolate Citrus Creme. Probably the most favored of the line-up. Served chilled, the soup was mellow and inviting, and nicely cut by the tangy creme on top (I used a yuzu vinegar).

Chocolate Tagliatelli with Roasted Garlic Bechamel and Wild Mushroom Ragout. Definitely the most challenging of the bunch, this entree was dark and very rich in flavor. The nearly bitter pasta was tempered by the creamy bechamel, and the ragout was completed with a red wine reduction and bittersweet chocolate. I couldn't resist adding a sage-butter fried morel to the plating, too!
Balsamic Pink Peppercorn Torte with Bruleed Crust. A good follow-up after the entree, this deep little gem was essentially a raspberry and balsamic ganache over a chocolate pastry base, studded with the peppercorns. With a bruleed top, it's a fun dessert to dig your fork into.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Mother's Day Brunch Menu

Our latest Chocolate Tasting Dinner was last night, and the 50 people we sat all seemed to have a great time. Ben took some lovely photos of the event, food prep, and completed platings, and I will be posting them here in a few days over which everyone can drool. In the mean time, I wanted to take this chance to announce the complete menu for the next dinner on Mother's Day. The final line-up is $35 a person and includes:

White Chocolate-Citrus Sparklers
Dark Chocolate Chip Waffle with Maple Syrup and Honeyed Creme Fraiche
Cocoa nib-Corn Bread with Red-eye Gravy
Quail Eggs Benedict with Chile-burnt Caramel Hollendaise
Azteca Buttermilk Cinnamon Roll with White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting

And for all of you meat-lovers out there, we have an optional farm-house meat platter as a starter. After all, what's brunch without the pork? It's an additional $14 and features:

Chocolate-rubbed Bacon & Cocoa Nib-Sage Sausage
If interested, I would act soon. Seatings are available on Saturday AND Sunday of Mom's Day weekend at 9am, 11am, and 1pm, though the Sunday 1pm seating is already sold out!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Chinese Five Spice Truffle

For about two years now, I've ordered all my spices organically from a co-op called Frontier. They come out with a new catalog every quarter and are usually pretty down with new spice trends. Not that "trendy" is always good, but it's nice to see what flavors are "up and coming". I was like a kid in a candy store (chocolatier in a spice store?) on my last order a few weeks ago and I'm finally getting around to a couple of unlabeled jars harboring new and exciting aromas. While I won't disclose what's next on my agenda (a girl's got to keep some secrets, right?), I'm proud to say I've finally decided what to do with my newly acquired Five Spice Powder and Szechwan Peppercorns.

Debuting this week is a new seasonal truffle appropriately titled: Chinese Five Spice. Featuring a curious yet traditional blend of five spices, the formula of which is based on the Chinese philosophy of balancing the yin and yang forces in food, the flavor of the infused dark chocolate ganache could be commonly mistaken as "pumpkin pie" spices to the uninitiated. My blend consists of star anise, cinnamon, clove, aniseseed, and ginger, and leaves a toasted woodsy aftertaste. Dipped in 61% dark chocolate, the finished truffle is topped with a couple of Szechwan Peppercorns. While not a true peppercorn, these rust-colored gems have a unique aroma and flavor that is not hot or pungent like black or white pepper, but slight lemony overtones and creates in the mouth a kind of tingly numbness. I certainly don't expect this guy to have a huge fan-base (at least not like nearly any of my salted goodies!), but it's a flavor profile well worth exploring. Personally, I find the numbing quality of the peppercorn completely fascinating!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Mother's Day Brunch

Sausage and mocha gravy with buttermilk biscuits? Eggs benedict with chile-burnt caramel hollendaise? Cocoa-rubbed bacon? These treats and more will be featured at our next Chocolate Tasting Dinner! But wait... there's more! This time it's a Mother's Day Brunch!

With no space left for our March dinner, I figured it's never too early to plan for the next meal. In fact, I've already taken 15 reservations from guests even though this is the first official notice for the event.

Menu pending, this dinner will feature five chocolatey courses that glorify all things brunch. And what's a proper breakfast without pork products? No fret, veggiephiles- there will be options for anyone not on friendly terms with our porcine brethren.

Also featured will be White Chocolate Citrus Sparklers- fizzy aperitifs of white chocolate blood orange cream and Pellegrino, though guests are encouraged to bring a bottle of their favorite Champagne to use instead.

This dinner will be $35 per person and we will accommodate 24 people at each of our seatings: Saturday AND Sunday of Mother's Day Weekend (May 10th and 11th) at 9am, 11am, and 1pm. RSVP ASAP by emailing or calling the cafe direct at 619.578.2984.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Extended Store Hours!

Choco-friends and -philes...

Great news! Eclipse Chocolat is now open later to serve your cocoa-compulsions! Our new hours are as follows:

Monday-Thursday 9am-10pm
Friday- 9am-11pm
Saturday- 10am-11pm
Sunday- 10am-6pm

Thursday, March 20, 2008

March Chocolate Tasting Dinner Update

Our second Chocolate Tasting Dinner in at the end of the month (Friday, March 28th) and I'm happy to say that we're nearly sold out. We have seatings at 7pm (all sold) and 9pm (8 spots left!), and I haven't even released the full menu yet. We will be taking a waiting list, so don't hesitate to call in for info (619.578.2984) because guests may cancel up to 48 hours prior to the dinner without a fee.

Here's the final line-up:
Buttermilk-Chive Biscuits with House-made Cocoa-nib Butter
Roasted Root Vegetable Soup with White Chocolate Blood Orange Cream
Chopped Eggplant and Cocoa-Nib on Endive Spears
Chocolate Pasta in a Roasted Garlic Bechamel Sauce with Wild Mushroom Ragout
Raspberry-Pink Peppercorn Truffle Round with Brulee Crust

Easter Baskets

Easter really crept up on me this year! As a chocolatier, you'd think I'd know better, but I don't exactly make decorative bunnies, either. Still, I just finished some very cute Easter Baskets. The large basket is $75 and includes:

Box of Eight Truffles (with Spring-time Seasonal infusions)
Triple Chocolate Toffee
Marshmallow Almond Rococo
Tarragon Candied Grapefruit
Salty-Sweet Walnuts
Set of Four Chocolate Bars

Small baskets for $25 also available!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Gingerbread Crumb Bar

Another review of one of my "old standards" comin' at ya! I started making my own gingerbread back in 2005 for the purpose of using it in my seasonal Gingerbread Spice Bark. The original bark went over so well, that it's no longer seasonal. Furthermore, in early 2007 I decided to take a similar flavor profile and toss it into a chocolate bar as well. Can't fix what's not broken, right?

My Gingerbread Crumb bar starts with, what else?, my house-made gingerbread. It's heavily spiced with a cacophony of flavors including ground ginger, Vietnamese cinnamon, African grains of paradise, cardamom, white peppercorn, and clove (all organic!). I also use dark muscavado sugar instead of the brown sugar (how passe!) for a fuller dark molasses flavor. After baking as a giant slab, the gingerbread is broken into small pieces and, along with more muscavado, is married with 55% dark chocolate. Mold, wrap, label, and we're done. BTW, did you know that all of our bars are hand-molded and hand-wrapped? Next time you're in, ask one of my baristas what they find themselves doing during our down time. There's never a dull moment around here!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Chocolate Anatomy and the Eclipse Pantry

Around mid-January, I started to respond to a few people who were looking to purchase high-quality chocolate and other ingredients that we use in our production line. Beyond taking a trip to Whole Foods and other specialty stores, it can be quite hard to source great chocolate for your own culinary needs. Let me tell you... what an upgrade I made when I was first able to place orders with chocolate-makers direct! Now my orders hover around 500 pounds with each delivery. Quite a lot of chocolate!

All the chocolate we use is couveture chocolate, meaning that it contains very high amounts of cocoa butter. Chocolate, if you are unaware, is an emulsion of cocoa liquor (the dark content of the cocoa bean), cocoa butter (the natural fat from the cocoa bean), sugar (cane, in this case), and trace amounts of vanilla and soy lecithin (a natural emulsifier found in all chocolate). If you heard me speak on These Day with Tom Fudge around V-day, you would have listened to me drone on about my personal interest in couveture chocolates and high-quality white and milk chocolates. Seriously... it's become a bit of a personal quest of mine to educated the world! I can't tell you how common it is for someone to stop into the cafe and try one of my white chocolates and respond that though they have always disliked it before, they just can't eat enough! Very briefly, milk chocolate has the same components as dark chocolate with the addition of milk powder, while white chocolate omits the cocoa liquor altogether which is why is has no chocolate color. Sounds easy enough, right?

Well the tricky issue is in discussing the cocoa butter content of these chocolates. When purchasing good chocolate, you should see a percentage listed on the package (and don't buy any without!). It seems pretty logical to take this percentage listed at face value and while that's a good place to start it's just a beginning. Most people will see a 60% or 70% and assume the higher the better, right? Well yes and no! The higher the number the darker the chocolate, but it doesn't necessary indicate quality at all. According to regulations set by the USDA, that percentage indicates the total cocoa mass of the chocolate, which is the combined weight of both cocoa liquor and cocoa butter. But then what?

The cocoa liquor contributes flavor and the cocoa butter contributes texture. So while higher percentages often yield better chocolates, you may inadvertently be purchasing chocolate with very little cocoa butter content. In fact, some low-end white chocolates even contain amounts of vegetable fats instead, which lends a tooth and texture to the chocolate that is usually considered "hard and waxy". Being that it is also used in high-end cosmetics, this natural fat is the most expensive component of chocolate and manufacturers who need to produce "cheap" chocolate just can't afford much of it in their formulas.

So all of the chocolate we use is couveture chocolate (French for coating, because it's very fluid when melted), and since cocoa butter melts at body temperature the resulting chocolate is very creamy and unctuous in the mouth. Delicious!

And where can you find such a chocolate for your own personal use? Why, the new Eclipse Pantry section! Find a selection of high quality chocolates along with many many other specialty ingredients including:

Cocoa Nibs
Brute Cocoa Powder
Organic Lavender Blossoms
Our house-made Tarragon and Vanilla Bean Sugars
Cardamom Pods
Grains of Paradise
Vietnamese Cinnamon
Pink and White Peppercorns
And much more!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Exotic Dessert Sauces and Spreads

Many of you raved over our house-made Cocoa-nib Infused Butter served with buttermilk biscuits. In fact, I was really surprised to hear that some even considered it the best of the five course dinner. We will be serving it again for the next dinner, but what about those of you not planning on attending?

Well fret no more! Our Cocoa-nib Butter and four other temptations are now available in convienent bottle form! Sold fresh, these babies should be stored chilled and enjoyed within 30 days. I've already got the butter and Chile-Burnt Caramel (from our cheese platter) ready to go, and hope to have the other three by the end of the week. Chocolate and caramel sauces are $10 each, or two for $16, and the butter is $15. Here's the lot:

Cocoa-nib Butter- Hand-made butter infused with cocoa nibs and a touch of sea-salt.

Chile-Burnt Caramel- Smoky burnt-caramel sauce infused with dried chiles, vanilla bean, and a touch of cayenne.

Kentucky Bourbon Caramel- Rich caramel sauce in 36% milk chocolate infused with vanilla bean and Kentucky Bourbon.

Lavender Vanilla-bean Chocolate Sauce- 55% dark chocolate sauce infused with vanilla bean, organix lavender blossoms, and honey.

Mixed Berry Merlot Chocolate Sauce- 61% dark chocolate sauce with mixed berries and fruity Merlot.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Lavender Sea-salted Caramel

Wow! 63 posts. Looking back on the first nine months of blogging, I can't believe that I've yet to mention some of my signature infusions. It's about time.

Most definitely my most popular infusion, Lavender Sea-Salted Caramel is also one of my most complex. Not to say that you need to be a sommelier to appreciate it, but it certainly has some subtle nuances to explore. Made from smoky burnt-caramel and 61% dark chocolate ganache, each truffle is hand rolled and dipped in 36% milk chocolate and topped with our house-made lavender-herbed grey sea salt. Quite a mouthful! While some of these flavors are more profound than others, the overall experience is very dynamic with each flavor hitting your palate at a different time.

Enjoy our signiture truffle in a box by themselves or design your own assortment of different exotic infusions; they are perfect for a picnic in the park, romantic evening for two, or as a hostess gift.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Free Wi-Fi. Really!

When I opened the cafe four months ago, I thought that I might be shooting myself in the foot by offering free wireless internet. After all, there are many other cafes in the area who offer free Wi-Fi and they mostly seem flooded with laptops. But as I sit here making chocolate and happily blogging away... I can't help but wonder where all the people are? Free Wi-Fi! Grab an espresso or tea, house-made pastry, or artisan truffle and internet away. Come and get it!

Plus, you get the added bonus of all the ambiance and atmosphere from the iTunes playlist in our production kitchen. Take a looksie at what's been playing. Then go download your own!

Rocket, by Au Revior Simone
Silver Lining, by Rilo Kiley
Percolator, Stereolab
I Feel It All, by Feist
Five, by Electrolane
Wrapped Up in Books, by Belle & Sebastian
New Slang, by The Shins
Paco!, by Ladytron
Red Dust, by Iron & Wine
Brothers on a Hotel Bed, by Death Cab for Cutie
Missile, Blonde Redhead
Red Right Ankle, by The Decemberists
Lollipop, by Mika
Dashboard, by Modest Mouse
Noah's Ark, by CocoRosie
Breathe Mia, by Sia

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Cranberry-Cocoa Nib Scone

I'm going to start this post by saying that I'm not really a scone person. I do love me some tasty pastry, but my experiences with scones have resulted in dry, crumbly messes in my mouth and hands. Granted, I've never made my own before (can you believe it?... but I'm a chocolatier, not a scone-atier). Still, I've yet to meet a scone that has knocked my socks off, though I've not exactly been on the look-out.

In pursuit of more tantalizing daily pastries, I've finally bitten the bullet and tried some out for myself. Knowing that the key to most any butter-based pastry is to prevent overworking, I was very conscious about mixing the dough until it just barely came together, hoping that the result would be light and airy like a nice pie crust. Good call, if I say so myself:)

New in the cafe this morning are Cranberry-Cocoa Nib Scones and at the moment they are still warm on the inside! Made from all butter and other all-natural ingredients (like everything else around here), these babies get their flavor from the addition of dried cranberries and cocoa-nibs that have been plumped in boiling water. Pretty simple, really... pop some dried fruit in a little boiling water and strain a few minutes later. The result are little burst of flavor that help keep the pastry moist and succulent. They are finished with a little milk-wash on top and a generous dusting of cane sugar before baked until golden. Fun!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

March Chocolate Tasting Dinner

If you lived in a cave or under a rock during the first half of February, you may not have known that the Eclipse Chocolat Team was throwing a fancy-pants dinner for Valentine's Day. As it turns out, the shindig was a wild success and sold out (at 90 reservations!) a whole two weeks prior to the actual holiday.

Most of the attendees seemed pretty excited about it, what with five courses to enjoy and all, and many asked when another such dinner would be planned. Well wait no more!

So we're giving it another go. Friday, March 28th at 7 and 9pm, we will be hosting another lucky 48 people for a fabulous tour of everything chocolate. From appetiser to dessert, RSVP ASAP to enjoy five courses of cocoa-concoctions, only one of which is actually a sweet course.

The first dinner was repeated for a second evening so we served 90 people in total. This dinner will not be repeated, so we expect it to sell out very quickly. We will be announcing the details in the upcoming two weeks, but call (619.578.2984) or email ( very soon to reserve your space. The cost will be $30 per person and all guests will enjoy 10% off retail chocolate for that evening.

Incidentally, did anyone out there reading this actually attend the dinner? There's got a be a few of you! If so, I'd love a few replies to this post as testimonials. Who wants to take my word for it anyway!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Spring Dessert Tasting Platter

It's finally here! The new Dessert Tasting Platter has debuted and will be available for the next 8 weeks. Don't miss out:

White Chocolate-Macadamia Pudding with Butterscotch Rum Sauce
[airy white chocolate pudding+toasted macadamia+burnt caramel & muscavado butterscotch rum sauce]

Curried-Peanutbutter, Marshmallow, & Milk Chocolate Panini
[masala curry infused peanutbutter+vanilla bean marshmallow+36% milk chocolate panini, grilled to order]

Frozen Chile-Burnt Caramel Semifreddo
[frozen chile-burnt caramel semifreddo mousse+dark chocolate brownie crumb crust+burnt caramel topping]

Dark Chocolate Brioche Bread Pudding with Creme Anglaise
[dense dark chocolate-chocolate chip brioche bread pudding, warmed+vanilla bean creme aglaise]

Dark Chocolate Butter Croissant

Now that we're out of the winter holidays, I can concentrate on bring forth better and more regular pastries. As the cafe becomes busier in the next few months we will be able to support more types of fresh pastries, but as they are all baked in house, I can only offer a few types each day. Typically, we've had our exotic brownie collection each day and another specialty pastry that rotates between a few fun things I'm whipping up,

A new one you will see here from time to time is the Dark Chocolate Butter Croissant. Baked fresh, these beauties are made from an all-butter laminated dough and stuffed with 55% dark chocolate. Personally, I feel that the typical American croissant is too blond and pale to really have a proper texture, so I bake ours to a deep tawny color.