Saturday, April 24, 2004

RICHART Shop CLOSED


What's the most fun you can have with your clothes on? Quite possibly attending a chocolate tasting! Which is something I got to do this past week. As you may or may not know, I am very fond of chocolate. Some might say obsessed.

What drew me to RICHART in the first place were the beauty of the chocolates and their exotic flavors. At their San Francisco boutique run by the founder's grandson, I got a lesson in fine chocolate. I learned that the most delicate and best cocoa bean is the Criollo bean, the name Criollo is derived from creole meaning native, authentic and indigenous. I also learned that they have been making chocolate since 1925, use over 70% Venezuelan Criollo beans and blend their chocolate to a super-smooth melt-in-your-mouth 12-20 microns. They also decorate each filled chocolate with a delicate colored design to indicate its flavor.

Michel Richart believes that tasting chocolate is much like tasting wine, so one must pay attention to the base notes, the secondary flavors and how long the flavors last in your mouth. A pleasurable experience to be sure. Another way they are different from other chocolatiers, is the use of "coulis" to fill the chocolates. A coulis is a recent innovation and consists of fruit puree, sugar and cocoa butter. It gives a very fresh and intense flavor to the filled chocolates. I got to try both coulis and praline filled chocolates with flavors like rose, ylang ylang, cinnamon, curry, seven spice, hazelnut, pistachio, jasmine tea, verbena/mint and lavender. All were quite delicious and evoked different feelings, memories and sensations.

The store itself and the packaging remind one of a jewelry store, white, clean and modern. With nothing to detract from the main event--the chocolates, of course. Each box of chocolate includes written information to help you further understand and appreciate chocolate and their larger assortments include a 45 page booklet on chocolate. They also sell one of the best books I have ever read on the subject--called "Chocolate Mon Amour" and it is available in their store and online at their website as are their chocolates. If I am obsessed with chocolate, at least I'm in good company!

RICHART CLOSED
393 Sutter St @ Powell
San Francisco
M-Sat 10-7 Sun 12-5