Chocolate-Maker Michael Recchiuti's Taste Project Flirts With Savory and Sweet Flavors

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Michael Recchiuti dreams up the Taste Project
"This has everything to do with stuff I'd like to do, but could never do on an industrial level," said chocolatier Michael Recchiuti last night as panini fungi of shiitake chocolate-malt ice cream on grilled brioche were served. Recchiuti said he'd stayed up well into the morning hours to prepare this imaginative ice cream sandwich. The unlikely flavors tasted like they'd been buddies for years.

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Shiitake chocolate malt ice cream on brioche
Recchiuti was hosting a media preview of his Taste Project, which involves opening his kitchen and tasting room to the public for a series of events in partnership with other local artisans of savory food and drink, from beer and spirits to cheese and mushrooms. Last night's event was a five-part tasting that hinted at the wonderful culinary surprises to come.
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The signature burnt caramel pieces get dressed and ready

Recchiuti began the evening with champagne and a short tour through his candy kitchen, which appeared to be organized around a large chocolate enrober and cooling tunnel. He sent squares of his signature burnt caramel ganache through the enrober to coat them, then topped them with transfers printed with cocoa butter before they moved on to the tunnel.
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White chocolate waterfall

The Taste Project gets shaking on Saturday with the sold out "Salt & Chocolate" program, represented last night by an appetizer of graham cracker breadsticks participants dipped into puddles of 64 percent dark chocolate Rechiutti custom blended with Valrhona (his is the first American company to do so) melting atop a Himalayan salt block. This was followed by a delicately flaky puff pastry with peaches, cherries, a hint of shaved chocolate, a dusting of Korean bamboo salt, and a ring of chestnut honey.
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Stone fruit pizza with shaved chocolate and bamboo salt

The mood of "Spirits & Chocolate" (Saturday, June 13) with Lance Winters of St. George Spirits was articulated by way of a cherry bomb: A dark-chocolate-coated Amarena cherry lumbering atop a tiny Kirsch-filled chocolate square. "Fungi & Chocolate" (Saturday, September 5) with Far West Fungi was nobly represented by way of those memorable panini; based on that dish, it's the event SFoodie would most like to attend if waterboarded to pick just one. "Bread & Chocolate" (date in October to be determined) with Acme Bread was repped by a creamy croissant pudding soaked in rum custard and drizzled with Recchiuti's crack-in-a-jar burnt caramel sauce. A pipette containing a squeeze of rich Stonehouse olive oil was stabbed into the pudding.
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Acme croissant bread pudding with rum custard and olive oil

Recchiuti admitted he doesn't yet know exactly what will be served at all of the events, but, he said, he trusts the instincts of his partners and is confident all the food will be special. Many will also include parting gifts, from his own Chocolate Obsession book at the "Serious Chocolate" event (Saturday, June 20) to "take home treats" at the "Olive Oil & Chocolate" showdown (Saturday, July 11). Last night, Recchiuti kindly sent us home with a pint of freshly churned burnt caramel ice cream (which disappeared in a delicious instant) and a box of the cherry bombs, both limited edition items not for sale.

Admission for the tastings start at $55 and really just cover the basic costs of hosting, explained Recchiuti. Visit his Web site's event page for more info or to purchase advance tickets; the price will be higher at the door if, indeed, there are any programs that don't sell out in advance. Recchiuti said he hopes to host similar community-oriented, educational events for the rest of his life.

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