Last week, I toured the Scharffen Berger Chocolate Factory in Berkeley. Even though I love chocolate, and despite the fact that the factory is less than 2 miles from my apartment, I had never managed to make it down there until now. Scharffen Berger is a small-scale American chocolatier that was started in the early 1990′s by two Bay Area entrepeneurs. They are famous for their bittersweet dark chocolate, featuring 70% cacao. For the tour, I was expecting a full-on Scharffen Berger advertisement, which we got, but I was also pleasantly surprised to learn a lot about chocolate making. For instance, did you know that the cacao farmers ferment the beans for 5-7 days under banana leaves? I also learned a lot about the chocolate making industry, such as the fact that milk chocolate in the US only requires 10% cacao, and that 30% qualifies as “dark” chocolate. This, and bean quality, explains why I prefer European to American chocolate. The only disappointing thing I learned on the tour was that Scharffen Berger got bought out by Hershey’s a few years ago.
After the tour, EF, her family, and I walked a few blocks over to Juan’s Place, a no-frills family-owned Mexican restaurant. I’m unable to give a comprehensive review of Juan’s because everytime I go, I always get the chicken enchiladas with red sauce. One time, I got the crab enchiladas, which were only so-so. The funny thing about Juan’s is that they don’t have a full liquor license, so they make margaritas with wine. It’s not as bad as it sounds, but I would stick with beer.