poor scientist. will blog 4 food.

the culinary adventures of a self-described foodie

Chocolate + Mexican Food = Almost Heaven

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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.

Pre-roasted cacao beans

Pre-roasted cacao beans

Roasted cacao beans

Roasted cacao bean shells

Nibs (cacao bean seeds) -- nutty in flavor.

Nibs (roasted cocoa bean nuggets) -- nutty in flavor.

One of three chocolates we got to taste during the tour (I think this was the 50% semisweet).

One of three chocolates we got to taste during the tour (I think this was the 50% semisweet).

Bean roaster

Bean roaster

The roasted beans go into the winnower, which separates the nibs from the husk.

The roasted beans go into the winnower, which separates the nibs from the husk.

The temperature station, used by the master roasters to test when the beans are done.

The temperature station, used by the master roasters to test when the beans are done.

The melanguer, which mashes up the nibs to make cocoa powder.

The melanguer, which mashes up the nibs to make cocoa powder.

After tempering (melting the cocoa powder into liquid form), the chocolate gets molded and passed along this assembly line.  Just like in "I Love Lucy"

After tempering (melting the cocoa powder into liquid form), the chocolate gets molded and passed along this assembly line. Just like in "I Love Lucy"

Because this is a food processing facility, we all had to wear hairnets and the men had to wear beard nets.

Because this is a food processing facility, we were required to wear hairnets and the men had to wear beard nets.

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.

The menu at Juan's

The menu at Juan's

Juan's has two kinds of tortilla chips, corn and thick flour (pictured).  I love the flour ones, probably because they are so bad for you.

Juan's has two kinds of tortilla chips, corn and thick flour (pictured). I love the flour ones, probably because they are so bad for you.

My chicken enchilada with rice and beans.  I learned quickly that the 1/2 order was plenty for me (the full order comes with 2 enchiladas).

My chicken enchilada with rice and beans. I learned quickly that the 1/2 order was plenty for me (the full order comes with 2 enchiladas).

The super burrito.  Almost as big as my head.

The super burrito. Almost as big as my head.

The tour left ZF hungry for more chocolate, so he ordered the enchiladas with mole sauce.  It was really good; I think I might have to order it next time.

On the chocolate theme, ZF ordered the enchiladas with mole sauce. It was really good; I think I might have to order it next time.

Author: Jen

Howdy! I'm a 30-something recovering former academic living in the San Francisco Bay Area. I like to eat, run, and blog, but not usually at the same time.

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