I've been rather busy with some fabulously fun collaborations lately! I'm proud to reveal another of my recent projects: I'm a Westfield Tastemaker, working with Westfield Labs on their new Dine on Time app.
Dine on Time is a new program that allows you to order dishes from Westfield San Francisco Centre's Food Emporium and Restaurant Collection for delivery or pickup. You can access Dine on Time either through the iPhone app or the Dine on Time website.
I and five other Tastemakers each partnered with one of Westfield's restaurants/food retailers to create an exclusive dish for Dine on Time. I got to work with CocoaBella Chocolates, one of San Francisco's best-known shops for fine chocolates from around the world.
At CocoaBella with founder Michael Freeman
If you look back in my archives, I've been a longtime fan of CocoaBella since they started out in the Marina. Getting to work with founder Michael Freeman was a thrill. Michael has a chocoholic's dream job: he gets to fly around the world curating the best chocolates to feature in his beautiful boutique.
When I met with him and CocoaBella's Marketing Director Elaine, we discussed several ideas and came up with the concept of a tasting box. In such a food-obsessed city, people love discussing their meals as much as they love actually eating them. We wanted to create a set of chocolates that would cover a wide range of flavors and styles. We also decided to include four of each chocolate in the collection, so that you can easily have a chocolate tasting party with a few friends or at work. Everyone can try the same chocolate and discuss their favorites.
With the concept in mind, it was time to start picking out possibilities for the collection. CocoaBella regularly carries over 80 different chocolates from over 20 different chocolatiers, so that's a lot of possibilities. No, I didn't try every chocolate, but I had a fair amount, enough to start coming up with rough categories. We decided to all choose several of our favorites, and then reconvene to make a final decision.
At our second meeting we narrowed down our picks to six. As you can see we took this very seriously! Everyone I spoke to about this project joked about what a hard job I had, but honestly, it was a tricky task to select just six chocolates that would adequately represent the vast range of chocolates and stellar chocolatiers CocoaBella carries. I wanted to make sure you could compare American and European chocolates, taste dark, milk, and white chocolates, see different styles from dipped to molded to rolled. And, of course, there were unique flavors from different chocolatiers that begged to be included. It was lot of different criteria to keep in mind and there were many heartbreaking eliminations.
Here are the six chocolates that made the final cut, and the image that appears on the Dine on Time app. Aren't they so pretty? More on each chocolate later.
After all the Tastemakers had created their special collaborative dish, the app was officially unveiled at a VIP launch party at Westfield San Francisco Centre, under the iconic dome.
Here's my box of chocolates as part of the exclusive dish lineup! To see the dishes created by the other Tastemakers, check out their blogs:
Andi Fisher, Misadventures with Andi with M.Y. China Chef Tony Wu
Melissa Sanchez, Savvy in San Francisco with Cupola Pizzeria Chef Marc Tennison
Tara Condell, Food and Other Things with Straits Chef Julian Yeo
Brenda Ton, Bites & Bourbon with Sorabol Korean BBQ & Asian Noodles Chef Theresa Lee
Mika Takeuchi, Food Fashionista with Lark Creek Steak Chef Ismael Macias
Here's the display card showing all the tastemakers and their dishes.
And here's the card next to the Executive Collection with a longer description of the contents. Funny tidbit: The table with all the exclusive dishes had "Photography ONLY" signs posted all over: obviously with a hungry crowd there was a fear that these display items would get mistaken for a buffet line! We were especially worried for the chocolates - how easy would it be for someone to stroll by and snag one? but as far as I know, the box was intact when I left the party!
Happiness is a box of chocolates
Here I am posing with the Executive Collection - feels so official!
And smiling for the official event photographers.
Michael and Elaine were also at the party, handing out chocolates from the Executive Collection. I saw a lot of people going with the "dessert first" philosophy, not that I blame them. The chocolates ran out long before the end of the event, so in this case I would definitely say dessert first was the right strategy!
And here are all the Westfield Tastemakers lined up- such a fun and diverse bunch! I had a great time meeting them all.
The CocoaBella Executive Collection
Without further ado, a closer look at the Executive Collection. The concept behind this box was to make it easy to do a chocolate tasting experience with your friends. I chose six chocolates that cover as wide a spectrum of chocolates as possible, from white to milk to dark, dipped to molded, fruity to caramel to liqueur filled. My hope is that you'll stretch your boundaries a bit, try some flavors you might not have thought to try, perhaps discover a chocolatier you've never heard of before. And, of course, see what your friends and colleagues think of them as well!
Here are the intro card and the tasting notes I wrote for the chocolates.
And another shot of the collection. I just love the visual variety - there's so much creativity in the chocolate world besides just brown spheres. When I spoke to Michael, I mentioned that chocolate bars are very in vogue right now. He replied that chocolates, or bon bons, have always been his passion and that there is just as much creativity going on in among chocolatiers as in the chocolate-making world. After seeing the selection at CocoaBella, I have to agree.
The first three chocolates, from left to right:
Guido Gobino's Cremino al Sale, a hand-cut cube of milk chocolate gianduja. Made with Piedmont hazelnuts and Ligurian olive oil, this is a sterling example of Italian chocolate.
Christopher Elbow's Coconut Rum Caramel, featuring a liquid caramel filling infused with Appleton Estate rum and flecks of toasted coconut. I'm not usually a big fan of liqueur filling, but this changed my mind, and maybe yours too.
Thomas Haas' Pecan Square, a dark chocolate ganache layered with caramel, toasted pecans, and Brittany fleur de sel. Caramel and sea salt are almost a cliche now but in this chocolate the combination is perfectly done.
More chocolate interiors
And the other three chocolates, from left to right:
Christopher Elbow's Fresh Lemon, a white chocolate ganache mixed with lemon marmalade. Yes, you'll notice that Christopher Elbow is featured twice in this collection: we deliberated a long time about this but this was unquestionably the most distinctive white chocolate in the store and we all agreed it needed to be included. The Coconut Rum caramel also filled several other categories in which we couldn't find a better contender, so they both stayed.
Mary's Furtive, a classic Belgian vanilla buttercream dipped in milk chocolate. Mary is one of the oldest chocolate shops in Belgium and is the official chocolate purveyor to the Royal House of Belgium.
Garrison Confections' Orange Lemon Verbena, an orange pate de fruit layered with a lemon verbena ganache. I love lemon verbena and was so excited to see it used in a chocolate.
I hope you might be enticed to try out the Executive Collection through Dine on Time. If you do, take 10% off your order with the code TRYDOT.
You can also take a look at the other CocoaBella collections and other Dine on Time dishes on the site. Currently Dine on Time offers pick up at the Westfield San Francisco Centre, or delivery within the downtown San Francisco district.
Thanks to Westfield and Cocoabella Chocolates for a great experience!