Roman is the sous chef at Bloom, our chocolate salon inside the San Francisco 16th Street Factory.
The most important thing a chef can do to improve is to travel. Luckily, Dandelion Chocolate is founded by people who appreciate and foster these experiences. My journey into menu development for Bloom happened way before our 16th Street Factory was complete. In 2017, Chef Lisa and I had just finished off the last of the pastries for our pop up in New York and we were finding some peace in the quintessential “Christmas in New York” landscape. That’s when Lisa told me that I was chosen to live and work at our Dandelion Chocolate location in Kuramae, Tokyo for five weeks! My perspective and palate were about to change.
The Japan experience was wonderful in so many ways. I met friends with whom I still keep in contact and I learned a bit of Japanese. In our Kuramae café, they have a hot chocolate with hojicha (roasted green tea) . The tea is unsweetened, slightly smoky, and milky with just enough chocolate. Nothing like this existed in any of our San Francisco cafés and it’s purely a product of our Japanese union. I wanted to bring it back to the states as an ode to my time there, and as a familiar flavor for when our Japanese friends visit us. When guests visit Bloom here in San Francisco, they can order a pot of Hojicha Hot Chocolate to enjoy. Our version is lightly sweetened for an American palate, but the essence of what I loved in Kuramae is present.
Japan lit a fire in me to travel and explore other parts of the world. What flavors, textures, and cultural norms could I introduce with a Dandelion Chocolate twist? This past summer I staged in Copenhagen for a month. Just like in Japan, they value simple food preparations, and seasonality with a comforting and hearty sensibility. The Danes have a word–hygge to describe the concept of peace, comfort, and cozy vibes. I experienced hygge biking on the docks during sunset and starting my day with a bowl of warm porridge.
I wanted to incorporate a porridge like that one as a nutritious option for Bloom. Knowing the flavors of the region and our chocolate, I thought a spiced quinoa-based porridge with cardamom and our Camino Verde, Ecuador single-origin chocolate would pair well together. The aroma from the cardamom is soothing and well-balanced with the chocolate. Finished with fresh fruit, our cocoa nibs, coconut, and dried cranberries, it’s a great dish to start the day. As the temperatures drop in the SF Bay Area, I hope it will be a comforting morning breakfast in Bloom.
I am glad to share some of my experiences and memories from my travels to Japan and Denmark. I have a few trips lined up for the holidays this year, and I plan to return to Japan. I look forward to being inspired by my future travel and contributing to what we are doing at Bloom!