Thursday, August 28, 2008

Exotic Gelato- Part Tre

Two more Exotic Gelato flavors comin' your way. It's been fun pumping my favorite flavor profiles into an iced format. Did I mention how yummy the Milk Chocolate & Sea-salt Nib is? Well it is... and how!

Today I am debuting another salty treat that is near and dear to my heart. Last fall I started making Salty Peanut Butter Toffee, and everyone seemed to love it. It quickly became one of those things that even I find myself sneaking snacks on. Well the flavor profile found its way into a cupcake months later which also seemed to be well appreciated. So I ask you, the cocoa-crazed masses, how can I NOT stuff this stuff into ice cream, too?

Salty Peanut Butter Toffee Gelato is pretty much all it claims to be. I start with my Buttermilk Vanilla Bean base, and upon freezing I fold in premium peanut butter, my house-made Peanut Butter Toffee, and Maldon sea-salt. No chocolate in this one, folks, but with all that's going on here... well who needs it?

The other gelato launched today is Mint Chocolate Chip-Brownie Chunk. Again, with the heady title no one should be surprised on this one, either. Peppermint-infused 61% dark chocolate chips and our house-made Double Dark Chocolate Brownies stud the creamy vanilla base. It's got an intense mint flavor and is two tons of fun packed in a little pint.

These and our other six featured gelato concoctions are available frozen by the pint. Don't forget to stop in during our Spectacular for your free samples!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Exotic Gelatos- Part Due

More gelatos! Fun! And since I spent my last blog series indulging in French, we're moving to Italian this time. Besides, it's gelato... Part Due it is!

I've had my new gelato freezer running all day for the last 48 hours, and there's no end in sight. I will be taking advantage of the rest of the week to prep for our upcoming Spectacular. Today I made two new flavors: Chile-burnt Caramel & Mango and Azteca Cinnaroll.

Chile-burnt Caramel & Mango begins with a burnt caramel gelato base and is finished by folding in chile-rubbed candied mangos when it's frozen. Have you ever had those chile-mango slices popular in Latino mercados? Well imagine that concept in gelato form. It's smoky with lots of different chile hints and a throat spice to follow. Not for everyone, but I find it intriguing as an iced dessert.

Azteca Cinnaroll is one of our special edition gelatos, meaning that it won't always be available, though I'm afraid many of you will be knocking down our doors to get some. It also begins will a burnt-caramel gelato base and is finished with (you guessed it) pieces of day-old Azteca Cinnamon Rolls. If you have had those babies before, you'll know they are yeasty, buttermilky, Vietnamese cinnamony, and a little cayenne-y (yes, though are all words). And in gelato form, it comes out like a bizarro bread pudding- with a rich custard texture that is frozen instead of baked. It's pretty frickin' amazing if I do say so myself.

Check it:

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Exotic Gelato Spectacular

If you missed it, we ran a big cupcake promotional back during July 4th weekend. In short, it was an Extravganza. Lots and lots and lots of Crème Fraîche Cupcakes were baked and sold and much fun was had by all.

So what does a well-to-do chocolatier do after such a success? Throw a Spectacular, of course! (said with a Latin accent, like a Sabado Gigante commercial). And since Labor Day Weekend is just around the corner, what better time than the present?

This Monday, September 1st, kick off the holiday in style and join us at Cafe Eclipse for all the Exotic Gelato you can eat. When did they start making gelato, you ask? In fact... just this week!

Made from premium ingredients in small batches, our gelatos contain less than 15% incorporated air, half as much as traditional ice creams. This results in a denser and creamier product that showcases out fresh and all-natural flavors.

Sold by the pint, we will regularly stock eight exotic infusions including: Buttermilk Vanilla Bean, Salty Peanut Butter Toffee, and our signature Milk Chocolate & Sea-salted Nib. They are all pretty tasty, but last one makes quite a statement. Made from a base of burnt-caramel gelato, we swirl in milk chocolate ribbons, candied cocoa nibs, and our lavender-herbed grey sea-salt when its finished. If you've visited us before, you've seen this flavor profile in many of our other temptations and its always a hit!

So, stop in on Monday to see us in full swing for our Exotic Gelato Spectacular. We will be sampling various gelato infusions and guests can take home these babies for just $7 each (or two for $12). And for good measure we'll throw in some cupcakes, too. Exclusively for Monday, enjoy our Crème Fraîche Cupcakes in Boxes of Nine for just $20 (normally $27). We will be showcasing all our top 18 flavors.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Pan-Asian Yumminess

Last night Zach, Nicole, Albert, Jen, and I slaved away and delighted 80 lucky guests with our Pan-Asian Five Course Chocolate Tasting Dinner. Actually, the delight was enjoyed by all; it was a pleasure on both sides of the counter. My delight is largely due to the fact that these guys helping me continue to be on-point in making these special events more special with each new engagement.

This was our sixth dinner and I was really happy to hear the reactions. My friends Bob and Anna-Marie (cafe supporters and all around cocoa-crazy rock stars) have attended all but one of our feasts. It's exciting to see them return time and time again, and I've become accustomed to their feedback as a sort of measuring stick. Bob claims that this was our best soup course to date, and both loved the beef entree. Thanks for the support, guys! I'm always happy to see you both wander in each week.

Before the pics, allow me this chance to introduce our next event, a Southern Comfort Dinner, on September 20th. It's a Saturday, so seatings will be at 4.5, 6.5, and 8.5 again. Don't wait to reserve your space; the last dinner sold out about a week before the date. Check it:

White Chocolate Biscuits with Sausage Gravy
Butter Beans with Cocoa-Glazed Duroc Bacon
Sauteed Southern Greens with Candied Cocoa Nibs
Cornmeal-Crusted Chicken and Chocolate Chip Waffle with Chile-Maple Syrup
Sweet Potato Pie with Milk Chocolate Gelato

There will also be an optional starter platter of:

Coconut-Crusted Shrimp with Chile-Burnt Caramel Dipping Sauce

If you're wondering why you are missing the dinner announcements, email us ( and ask to join the mailing list. You'll never be out of the loop again.

Until then, check the shots on the all-foods Asian feast (pics courtesy of friend and local food blogger, Roger)
Starter: Chicken Satay with Chile-Burnt Caramel Peanut Sauce
Vietnam: Fresh Spring Rolls with Spicy Black Bean-Chocolate Sauce

Thailand: Curried Carrot Soup with White Chocolate Five-Spice Creme

China: Stir-fried Long Beans with Cocoa Nibs

Japan: Sake & Cocoa-Glazed Beef with Black Sesame Rice

Indonesia: Black Rice Pudding with Milk Chocolate-Cinnamon Creme

Friday, August 15, 2008

Sake & Cocoa-Glazed Beef with Black Sesame Rice

Zach and I treated ourselves to a tasty lunch this week of Sake & Cocoa-Glazed Beef with Black Sesame Rice. What's a chocolatier and his wing-man doing eat ting such tidbits, you ask? We've been busy recipe testing for our next special event: Five Course Prix Fixe Pan-Asian Dinner.

Exclusively for Saturday, August 23rd with seatings at 4.5, 6.5, & 8.5pm for $35 guests will enjoy our newest prix fixe concept. This dinner is organized by country and looks like this:

Vietnam: Fresh Spring Rolls with Spicy Black Bean-Chocolate Sauce
Thailand: White Chocolate-Coconut Milk Curry Soup with Lemongrass and Tomato
China: Stir-fried Long Beans with Cocoa Nibs
Japan: Sake & Cocoa-Glazed Beef with Black Sesame Rice
Indonesia: Black Rice Pudding with Milk Chocolate-Cinnamon Creme

We are 85% sold on this event already. Only a few tables remain for the 4.5 and 8.5 time slots, so don't wait to make your reservation. Email or call 619.578.2984. We hold tables with a credit card and accept cancellations up to 48 hrs prior to the dinner without a charge.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Cacao Azteca and Blackberry Goat Cheese

Two more truffles comin' your way!

Cacao Azteca is an old standard of ours, and originally debuted with the initial 16 in our truffle tasting guide. I'm mentioning it now because I haven't had a chance to make this baby since Valentine's Day, so chances are you haven't seen it before. Featuring a center of chile-infused burnt-caramel ganache, enrobed in 61% dark chocolate and topped with a mild chile blend, this unassuming gem packs a wallop. The particular chile that I chose to use in the infusion is quite spicy and yields a very delayed heat that burns only in the throat. The typical response goes something like "Hey, this isn't spicy at all", to which I calmly wait a prolonged 5-second pause and rebuttle with "How about now?". When enjoying a box of our infusions, try this one last!

The second infusion of note this week is Blackberry Goat Cheese. I personally love goat cheese, especially in chocolate. Anyone who disagrees with me is crazy. Simply put. Also in 61% dark chocolate, this ganache features part goat cheese with the cream content, the product of which is tangy and slightly fluffy in texture. It's a nice compliment to the fresh blackberry puree and the desiccated blackberry garnish that complete its flavor profile.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Macadamia Orange Peel

Up and running in the truffle case (as of today!) is an old favorite of mine that hasn't made an appearance since the cafe opened last October. Macadamia Orange Peel is one my two original white chocolate truffles and arguably among my most popular.

"Blah! White chocolate! That's not even real chocolate", I hear some of you boo and hiss. Oh contraire, my couveture-coated friends, white chocolate is among the creamiest and smoothest chocolates around. In fact, properly made, by definition it IS the creamiest chocolate... or at least should be. Allow me to explain:

The chocolate pod, or Theobroma Cacao, is split open in the fields and allowed to ferment and dry on the spot. It is then shipped to chocolate manufacturers who process it to yield batches of finished chocolate hundreds of pounds at a time. Our manufacturer, Guittard in San Francisico, refines the cacao upwards of two weeks (!) before yielding very fine couverture chocolate which we purchase in large quantities to create our signature truffles and exotic chocolate bars. But I digress...

When a manufacture receives the cacao beans, among the first steps towards chocolate bliss is to press the cacao to divide it into its two primary parts: Cocoa Liquer and Cocoa Butter. While these components are later recombined to create the finished chocolate, this is done first so that the portions of each can be manipulated to yield chocolates with specific properties. Under great pressure the beans are squeezed until they literally bleed the preciously unctuous Cocoa Butter.

It is at this point where the value of chocolate is determined. Cocoa Butter, because it is all-natural and melts at body temperature, is not only coveted by chocolatiers, but also by those titans of the skin care industry. It is this supply-and-demand factor that separates the good chocolates from the bad. Premium chocolate, or couveture chocolate (meaning coating in French), contains very high percentages of Cocoa Butter, while low-end chocolate-makers frankly can't afford the costs. Very low-end chocolates sometimes even replace the Cocoa Butter with vegetable oils. Yuck! This is how bad chocolate is often described as hard and waxy.
"What does this have to do with white chocolate, already? (grumble grumble)"... I'm getting to it!
Dark chocolate contains Cocoa Liquer (the darkness from the bean) and Cocoa Butter (the fat), and the combined weight of these components is referred to as Cocoa Mass. When you see a chocolate bar with a listed percentage, such as my 60% Blackberry Sage bar, you are, in short, eating a chocolate that is 60% derived from the cacao pod and 40% sugar. In comparison, baking chocolate (or unsweetened chocolate) is literally 99% Cocoa Mass.

Milk chocolate contains these two components, but also relies on milk powder for creaminess. Therefore my 36% Mango Masala bar is roughly 36% from the pod and 64% sugar and milk powder.

White chocolate is the exception. It contains no Cocoa Liquer, but instead contains very high proportions of Cocoa Butter... at least it should! My Macadamia Ginger bar is listed as 31% cacao content, which makes it nearly one-third Cocoa Butter, and thus VERY creamy. In comparison "bad" white chocolates can contain cacao contents as low as single-digits, or none at all (think veggie oils). Yuck!

So what makes my Macadamia Orange Peel truffle so popular? The fact that it begins to melt the moment it hits your tongue. I promise with the high percentages of Cocoa Butter and heavy cream packed into these little babies, you will love them, too.

Oh, and they are infused with orange peel and topped with toasted macadamia nuts. Yum:

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Custom Monogrammed Chocolate Mendiants

As many of you know by now, I've never been one for decorative chocolate. Chocolate bunnies? Xmas Santas? Pink hearts? Absolutely not. I don't even approve of molded bon-bons. Not in my shop. Everything here is concerned with the experience of taste. Kind of ironic when you consider my background of an MFA in sculpture... but then again, I didn't do decorative arts then either. Form following function is the motto here, and that leaves no room for pretty little chocolates. Don't get me wrong, I'm very concerned with visual appeal, but I consider my chocolates stunning because they are hand-made, reflect the hand of the maker, and are garnished with the beautiful ingredients which are featured in the flavor profiles. I suppose that makes me easily dismissed as an arty-snob, but take me or leave me, that's me!

So when a prospective client came in asking for some custom-monogrammed chocolate rounds to spice-up the plated dessert for their wedding this weekend, I must admit, initially I frowned (at least on the inside). "Piped lettering and colored chocolate isn't really something we do here", I responded. But he was a sweet guy with a glimmer of stress in his eye, so I gave in. After all, I am a sucker for weddings. And his was in 48 hours.

So I chose to make Chocolate Mendiants, and I must admit, even I was excited about how cute they turned out.

Literally meaning "beggar of alms" and referring to the four orders of mendicant monks, Mendiants are classically garnished with almonds, raisins, hazelnuts, and figs to represent the white, gray, brown, and purple robes worn by the friars of each the the four orders of monks. In a more secular fashion, mine are garnished with delicious things like lavender-herbed grey sea salt and candied cocoa nib because I'm the chocolatier and that's what I find tasty.

He came in asking for a 4" diameter discs of chocolate with his and his husband-to-be's initials piped in pink. Pink! Again with the frowning. But despite my stubborn nature, they turned out adorably fashionable.

We settled on a price and compromised on the concept: I was happy to offer the piped lettering as long as I could present the Mendiants in one of my signature flavor profiles. And he chose Sea Salt-Nib. Fun!

Take a look! They were reverse-engineered on acetate sheets, the result of which is a shiny chocolate disc with the monogram in flush lettering. On the reverse side is the exotic garnish. I photographed them on a martini glass filled with Champagne Grapes, and what's classier than that?

Sounds interesting? We will consider custom monograms like this in orders as little as 50, though we prefer two weeks notice!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

It's Been a Long Road, Chica

The days have been long and hard in the shop lately, which is weird since we're doing less and less business now that there are no more holidays. Still, the occasional wedding and tasting event keeps me quite busy in between lulls. Lulls? Did I really type that? Zach (my assistant and professional wing-man) and I are spending so much of our energy insuring that we are prepared for this autumn and then winter holidays that there doesn't seem to be a moment to breath. There are no lulls when you own a business. Life is fun that way!

Still, at times like these I find myself reviewing my professional accomplishments in search of reassurance that I am, indeed, moving in the right direction. The blog is great fun to personally review, especially in the context of my personal voice and POV, but Eclipse has a much deeper history than that.

In fact, Steffanie, woodworker and furniture designer extraordinaire and maker of the custom displays and tables in the cafe, was just commenting on how she gave me my first break as a fledgling chocolatier. She and I were in art school together when she commissioned me to make her truffles as wedding favors back in the fall of 2003. Seems like a lifetime ago.

And so Eclipse began. Within a week of doing her favors I set out to photograph and design the Truffle Tasting Guide (our pamphlet that goes into each box of truffles) and I found myself considering chocolate as a legit career.

A week later I found this on my sculpture studio workbench, and odd gift from an encouraging friend. It features a Xerox photo of a Mexican pin-up, who's name escapes me right now, but I've been assured that she is very recognisable.

If you can't quite make it out (reading between the chocolate stains and cocoa butter spots) it reads:

A Personal Testimonial-

"Eclipse truffles are great for my figure- they give me the strength to hold in my stomach muscles"

Virgina "Cha Cha" Gusterwiller

Funny, even with the extra syllable in my last name. I think she wrote it out like that as a joke, but also because she wasn't quite sure how to spell Gustwiller at all. Still, I love it and it keeps me going. Thanks to everyone who keeps coming back from more!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Summer Seasonal Dessert Tasting Platter II

Our last dessert platter is official gone, and so we have a brand new collection of four to enjoy!

I tried a few new things this time, including a frozen ice cream sandwhich. And given the rising temperatures outside, who can complain about that? I'm also particularly fond of the creme caramel; its burnt caramel bottom is smoky and rich!

Check out the info I posted earlier on the bread pudding and grilled cake features here. And the full platter description here:

Dark Chocolate Chip-Salted Cocoa Nib Ice Cream Cookie Sandwich-
[salted dark chocolate chip cookie+cocoa nib & vanilla bean gelato]

Summer Berry & White Chocolate Bread Pudding-
[custard-soaked brioche bread pudding with white chocolate & summer berries+creme anglaise]

Cocoa Nib-Infused Creme Caramel-
[chilled cocoa nib-infused creme caramel+burnt caramel sauce]

Grilled White Chocolate-Almond Kumquat Cake-
[grilled cake of almond meal & kumquat puree, studded with white chocolate chips]