Want some Scharffen with your berger?
Wednesday April 02nd 2008, 12:39 pm
Filed under: Life

Picture Carole King singing, “C’mon, c’mon and doooo, the cocoa-motion with me.” This is the still-stalled hot cocoa-inspired shawl of hand-dyed Malabrigo baby merino, waiting its turn in the knitting lineup.  I’ve got the pattern ideas all written up, I just have to finish actually doing it.Malabrigo shawl start

And yes, I do like my mug of hot cocoa in the brisk foggy mornings here. No worries about lacking cocoa anti-oxidants.

When my husband was living in France for two years as a missionary, he learned to appreciate blue cheese, Brie, and good European chocolate (not necessarily together), and the waxy Hershey’s type never had the same appeal for him again. Gradually he got me to see the light. And then, after we moved to California, two men decided that their latest start-up venture was going to be collecting antique chocolate manufacturing equipment from Europe a la Sandra Boynton‘s book “Chocolate: the Consuming Passion,” (you have SO got to get that little book, we laughed till we cried, over and over), to research the process, select the best cocoa beans, ferment them in the sun longer than Hershey’s lets theirs do, and to create the best chocolate in the world. Beat Valrhona! Go team go! Yay!

And so they did. Scharffenberger was set up in a building in Berkeley built just before the 1904 earthquake–how it survived that, I’ll never understand. Our friend Tom gathered up I think it was 30 interested people (it wasn’t hard; free samples?  Twist our arms) to carpool up together by appointment one Saturday as an official tour, and they opened the factory doors to us and took us through.

At the time, they had an employee whose job was to wrap every bar by hand: they’d bought a wrapping machine and been unable to fit it through the doors of the old place. Oops. Looking up at the ceiling, it wasn’t flat across, but rather an artsy wavy line in an up-and-down pattern, the likes of which I’ve never seen anywhere else–made entirely of bricks. I just heard everyone in California wince. Yes. Bricks crumble in earthquakes. Watch your head. And this is close to the San Francisco Bay, where the sandier land is more likely to amplify the shakes.

Anyway, I thought I’d never touch a Hershey bar again. But I took the kids on a tour of the Hershey plant in the Central Valley, where you pass by almond orchards on the way there, and I do have to admit that an extremely fresh Hershey almond bar eaten in the context of such an intensity of chocolate fumes is quite good.

I was at Trader Joe’s after Scharffenberger finally got a bar-wrapping machine going and their sales volume was markedly increasing, and a worker was wheeling over cases of the very first-ever Scharffenberger bars they were going to sell in that particular store.  Just as soon as the guy got those boxes open. I stood next to them, waiting (standing guard, if you really want to know) while he ran for a box cutter, and I got the very first bars to come out of the very first box.  Mine!  The guy handed them to me with the biggest grin on his face, watching me: I was like a little kid on Christmas morning. Timed that shopping trip right!

Later, trying to break into the upper-end chocolate market, Hershey’s, after swearing absolutely not to touch Scharffenberger’s way of doing things, bought them out, so I guess my Hershey count is greater than zero after all, not to mention that Sandra Boynton was right again. So far, though, still so good. So very good.  My daily morning mug would be Scharffenberger, too, but I can’t afford it.  Gotta leave some yarn money in the budget.

17 Comments so far
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I remember watching a Food Network show on Scharffenberger several years ago, and going in search of some. I am a chocolate snob, I admit it. My favorite chocolates come from the place down the road from my husband’s office–they make their own. But LA Burdick (in Boston and NH) is so good I can’t come up with anything to describe it besides cliches.

Comment by amy 04.02.08 @ 1:05 pm

That box with the mouse on the LA Burdick link. I got gifted with that once. It was very, very good. (Thanks, RobinM!)

Comment by AlisonH 04.02.08 @ 1:09 pm

I was never a chocolate fan until I had some dark, DARK chocolate from my nephew (he lives in Germany). From then on I was a chocolate snob too.

Wool snob, chocolate snob …. it’s ALL good!

Comment by Dee 04.02.08 @ 3:51 pm

Is it Green & Black brand that makes that dark chocolate, hazelnut, and currant bar? O, my Lord, I think I need one of those RIGHT NOW…or one of their milk chocolate almond bars. Either one…or both, or…

I should be realistic and get back to winding skeins. LOL.

Comment by Paula 04.02.08 @ 5:19 pm

Slobberin’ & Diggin’ frantically in the cabinets for you know what….thanks a lot, Alison!!
🙂 😉 🙂

Comment by Toni 04.02.08 @ 6:02 pm

Oh, you know, I’ve already eaten my chocolate ice cream for the evening. Two kinds…darn good stuff. I’ve got my heavy duty high quality Belgian chocolate in reserve, too. 🙂 I’ve been feeding a young knitter friend lately. She showed up at lunch time (of course) and looked hungry. She’d never had an omelette, and I thought she was putting me on until I saw her eat my freshly made cheese omelette with local eggs and -with British cheddar- and cut up organic orange slices. Some things, like her expression, can’t be faked. It’s always good to help a 17 year old build her good tasting experiences, right?!

Comment by Joanne 04.02.08 @ 7:17 pm

Well I am with your husband. I lived in Italy for four years and love blue cheese, brie and most European cheeses, and European chocolate of course. I figure any chocolate is good chocolate if it puts a smile on your face and warms your heart.

Comment by Vicki 04.02.08 @ 7:52 pm

I love moldy cheese and stinky cheese and I love good chocolate but I keep telling you there is just something about a Hershey Kiss – my day isn’t complete without one or two ….

Comment by rho 04.02.08 @ 9:51 pm

forgot to add – could you just imagine how it woudl be if that wonderful chocolate yarn you are using actually smelled like good chocolate 😉

Comment by rho 04.02.08 @ 9:53 pm

Oh, honey, then it would really never get done, I would keep interrupting the knitting for a dash to the chocolate stash in the kitchen or a sip from the mug. Joanne, the Belgian-chocolate pudding in the fridge took a hit after your comment. Jocelyn, I tried out a whole bunch of different cocoas at once and have bought the Bergenfield in bulk ever since.

I think Paula’s comment did me in the worst, though–I’ve been craving Green and Black’s dark chocolate mint ever since. I bought four bars of it at Christmas and they lasted me two months: one careful square at most a day, a chip off the old block at a time.

Comment by AlisonH 04.02.08 @ 9:59 pm

Hmm. I am vastly intrigued by Amy’s comment on LA Burdick.. I walk by their Cambridge store fairly often. Definitely need to stop in for a hot chocolate…

Comment by RobinH 04.03.08 @ 5:16 am

Brian would love that Chocolate. Me, I like Chocolate just not as much. Guess I need to broaden my Chocolate Horizons a bit more so I can appreciate the goodness.:-)

Comment by Danielle from SW MO 04.03.08 @ 6:15 am

I have my tin of Scharffenberger cocoa powder waiting patiently in the cupboard. I enjoy chocolate, but Oscar is the real chocofiend. I plan to use the Scharffenberger to make a rich decadent chocolate cake for his birthday this year (shh, don’t tell)

Comment by Diana Troldahl 04.03.08 @ 8:12 am

Nothing like REAL chocolate. the cheap crap is, well, crap….

Comment by Carol 04.03.08 @ 8:59 am

There’s nothing in the world like GOOD chocolate, but EVERY chocolate has its place. I love that Malabrigo…

Comment by Channon 04.03.08 @ 11:13 am

Catching up…I do love chocolate but I’m more a chocolate gourmand than a gourmet — I’ll eat almost any chocolate. From the smoothness of highly conched (yes I have the boynton book too) Lindt to the rough high sugar low conched Brachs chocolate stars. I don’t have a favorite — although there was a time when I kept tins of Valrhona on my bedside table.

Comment by Jocelyn 04.04.08 @ 3:30 pm

Some people just can’t seem to live without chocolate. Chocolate makes their mouths water and some would even say that it comforts them whenever they feel depressed. I happen to be one of those people who absolutely adore chocolate.

Comment by hershey chocolate 04.17.08 @ 4:09 am

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