The second I saw the notice about this salt and chocolate event, I signed up. I think those two things work so magically well together, I even dreamed of them when I was pregnant with my son. That’s how I came to know about Recchiuti’s Fleur de Sel caramel chocolates. I had a dream about having salted chocolate, got out of bed, Googled salt and chocolate and found Recchiuti’s site. Two great things that taste great together. This class was a collaboration between Michael Recchiuti and Mark Bitterman. Both love to talk and played hysterically off of each other.
We started the event in the hallway outside of the Recchiuti kitchens with a drink that was a bit of a spin on a Bloody Mary. It is a blend of apricots, celery, and radish with Schramsberg Blanc de Noir. They weren’t shy with the champagne!! The combination worked really well, the celery added a savoriness that cut the sweetness of the apricot. It was a bit of a challenge to drink at first with the chocolate swizzle stick-like thing in it but we all managed! The chocolate was sprinkled with Murray River salt from Australia which we discovered and fell in love with when we were in Sydney, brought back a few bags for us and family and then not long ago found it at Stonehouse olive oil. Turns out we weren’t the only ones to love it.
Next we filed into the tasting room via a Himalayan salt block that was sitting on a hot plate heating it to 120° topped with a large block of 65% Sur de Lago chocolate. Grab a graham cracker, scoop up some melty chocolate and enjoy! The salt block thing absolutely fascinated me. Like I really needed another reason to love salt, the idea of cooking on salt itself (not encasing something in salt but using the salt as the frying pan!) is amazing. You can heat these blocks to 500° and seer your scallops on them and get this amazing caramelization process happening. You can freeze the ones that have been made into bowls and use them to make ice cream. These salt blocks are around 600,000 years old. Mark explained that when you taste the salt you were really tasting the ocean from the time before plants existed on Earth!
When the Tarte Tatin on the menu was brought to us it was topped by this beautiful nest of spun sugar and suspended in the sugar was a deep-sea harvested Japanese salt. Truly an enjoyable dish. Really you can’t go wrong with apples, caramel and salt (well, some can, but these guys can’t!)
The “Palette” cleanser (cute little play on words) was something that I would buy given the chance. A disc of single origin “Ocumare” dark chocolate topped with three caramelized and buttery pistachios, minced rosemary and roasted Korean bamboo salt. The salt is roasted in a bamboo canister in a furnace upwards of 1000°. This particular one was roasted three times and wasn’t overly funky or sulfuric. Apparently the nine times roasted becomes quite intense in a use-it-in parts-per-million sort of way.
Our frosty beverage was a chocolate milk that I could enjoy anytime. It was malted with a roasted barley malt, not too rich, not too creamy and the glass was rimmed with ground and sifted cocoa nib powder mixed with Iburi Jio Cherry Salt. It was another deep sea harvested and evaporated salt that was then roasted with cherry wood which gave it a very distinct flavor. It works beautifully with the nibs. It didn’t step on the subtle chocolate flavors, it just enhanced them.
At this point we all got up to take a tour of the kitchen. Michael’s got a lot of cool, fancy toys. The Windows XP-controlled squirter, the long conveyor belt cooler, the walk-in hot room that keeps the chocolate melted at 120°, and a giant copper pot full of boiling water to clean the floor (oh, and the giant pot also used for making caramel!). I’d love to be in there during production.
We returned to our tables that had been set up with a flight of six artisan salt caramels. From left to right it was a square of caramel, a square of chocolate covered caramel, and six squares of chocolate covered caramel each with a different salt sprinkled on top. Number 1, Pangasinan salt which is a fleur de sel very similar to what Michael uses regularly in his caramels. Number 2, Kona salt, similar to #1 but a fresher, lighter mouth feel. Number 3, Cypruss Silver flake salt was more intense because of it’s more geometric shapes. Number 4, Amabito No Moshio (aka algae salt) tasted a lot like iodized, table salt but without chemical aspects that table salt has. It does have a very high iodine level. Number 5, oak smoked salt that was not subtle on the oak flavors. It was like licking a salty barrel! And number 6 was my favorite with the caramels, Shinkai Deep Sea Salt.
We finished with an incredibly rich, creamy ice cream with Stonehouse olive oil drizzled on top making it even more rich and creamy. To sprinkle on top of that Mark provided a Haleakala Ruby salt and, as good as the ice cream was, I don’t think I could eat it without the salt. It was so rich, but not overly sweet, the salt really sliced right through all that fat and made it a wonderful closer to the tasting.
I’ve been a fan of Recchiuti for many, many years. I get the gift club subscription for Christmas every year. Every time we’re in San Francisco and we can make it to the Ferry Building we stock up and, if we can’t, we order from the website for any holiday we can come up with to give each other chocolates. Now I’ll have another site to frequent and somewhere else to visit when I’m in Portland: The Meadow. Michael and the entire Recchiuti staff and family were wonderful hosts. This only increased my love and hopefully their fanbase.