Next Saturday from 11am-12:30pm, David Lebovitz will be signing copies of his new book, My Paris Kitchen in the café. Lisa will also be making one of his signature desserts (made with Dandelion Chocolate of course!) for sale during the signing, or until sold out.
Anyone would be honored to host David. Chocolate lovers have long followed his Great Book of Chocolate, his blog detailing his food adventures in Paris, and his impressive collection of dessert and ice cream books.
However, there’s actually a much bigger backstory that connects David to Dandelion Chocolate.
To set the context, in the mid-2000s, my wife, Elaine, and I started making chocolate in our home kitchen. At the time, there wasn’t much information for making chocolate outside a factory. However, we found the chocoaltealchemy forum, ordered a few unroasted cocoa beans, and did our best to approximate winnowers and roasters with hair dryers and popcorn poppers. We roasted the beans in our oven. We peeled the beans, one by one. But the next step was tough. We needed to crush the beans and sugar into a smooth liquid. Our mortar and pestle wasn’t up for the task and determined to finish our first batch before the weekend closed, we followed a forum recommendation to try a juicer. We called every kitchen store nearby to see who was still open late on a Sunday night with a juicer in stock. Finally armed with our shiny new juicer, we dropped the nibs in and – voila – we were horrified to see all of the nibs spew out the other end, untouched. Apparently we had the wrong type of juicer – an expensive mistake!
The following weekend we researched and located juicer #2. Again, we dropped all of efforts into the feeder and from our first bag of beans, out popped about one tiny Hershey kiss-sized drop of chocolate. It wasn’t much and it didn’t taste great, but it showed that it was possible. We split the little drop into two and made two cups of very diluted hot chocolate. Looking back at our weekends, we could see a thousand things we could improve. We didn’t realize it at the time, but that was the start of a multi-year chocolate adventure. (By the way, if you want to learn how to make chocolate at home, consider our chocolate 201 class — it will save you some trouble!)
A while later, David posted a blog offering a small group a personalized week-long food tour around Paris. We were lucky to secure two spots before it instantly sold out. One plane trip later, we were tasting our way through Paris. There were the farmer’s markets, the cheese shops, the cooking classes, the confectioner’s factory — this tour is a foodie’s dream.
The vision of a small-batch American bean-to-bar factory started to take shape. As we went from chocolate shop to chocolate shop, we were charmed by the French chocolate tea salons, the delicate chocolatiers, and the hot chocolates always served with a little cookie on the side. We met the incredible Mort Rosenblum, author of the book Chocolate, and discussed the New American Chocolate Movement, then in its infancy.
The highlight of our trip was a day trip to Lyon where we saw the small Bernachon chocolate factory. A petit cafe and pastry shop upfront belied a cozy bean-to-bar factory in the back with small batch roasters and artisan chocolate makers. We learned that it was this factory that had initially inspired Scharffen Berger too. With clumsy high school French and a long list of questions, we interrogated their staff about roasts and beans, conching and winnowing, and making great chocolate.
It was on this trip that I confided to David that there could be another chapter to this chocolate making hobby. Back in the states, we started experimenting and working towards the vision. My friend and business partner, Cam, caught the chocolate bug and together we started a mini factory in a friend’s garage. We dreamed of someday opening a cozy café with hot chocolates made from our personal small-batch chocolate. In the meantime, we started roast after roast, making tiny test batches, learning how to make great chocolate — and finally — a few years later we launched and opened our doors.
It’s such an honor to host David whose books, blogs, and tours have inspired us. And it’s exciting to see him inspire a new line of chocolate artisans who are just as excited and passionate about chocolate as we are.
We hope to see you next Saturday!