Last Wednesday was my birthday, and Mike’s mom was in town to help us celebrate! So we started the celebration by going to Calafia Cafe, our favorite restaurant. How favorite? Well, the staff all know us, we’re good friends with the hostess, and I bring them chocolates once a year. Yes, that favorite!
So it was delightful to celebrate my birthday there. However, clearly that wasn’t enough, so the following day, we celebrated at The Plumed Horse, a Michelin one-star restaurant in Saratoga. Here we are in their (very elegant) wine cellar:
The nine-course tasting menu was delightful, and they wished me happy birthday along with the mignardises:
The following day, Mike’s mom and I continued the celebration with a trip to the marvelous Los Gatos pastry shop Fleur de Cocoa. Here are an apple chausson, a cheese croissant, a lemon tart, and a sinfully rich raspberry-chocolate confection titled “Black and Red”. Plus two cups of the most decadent hot chocolate imaginable – made with bittersweet chocolate, creme fraiche, and heavy cream, then topped with softly whipped cream and dusted with cocoa. Back in my AIDS Lifecycle days, I would bicycle 45 miles round-trip for a single cup of their hot chocolate – and yes, it really was that good!
After finishing our pastries, we realized that we were already halfway to Santa Cruz. And what’s in Santa Cruz? Why, Donnelly Chocolates, of course!
In addition to having been named one of the U.S.’s top 10 artisan chocolatiers by National Geographic, Bon Appetit, and Chocolatier magazines, and producing some damn fine chocolates, Donnelly Chocolates holds a special place in my heart. Richard Donnelly, who runs the shop along with his brother Henry, is the man who taught me to work chocolate. Back in 1999, I apprenticed in his shop on weekends for one entire winter, helping out with whatever needed doing in exchange for learning the trade. Richard taught me how to temper chocolate on a marble slab, how to mold chocolates, and how to dip truffles – tricky techniques that I had struggled to learn on my own. I’ve learned many other things since, but Richard is the chocolatier who really got me started. So it was a delight to visit his shop, catch up, and leave with, um, just a few fabulous chocolates:
While we chatted with Richard, I asked him to suggest other places to visit. Richard was happy to name names, so we now have a list of six other San Francisco chocolate shops to investigate.
Once we got home, we had an impromptu wonton-making festival, and chased the wontons down with (what else?) more delicious Donnelly chocolates.
And since we clearly need to continue celebrating tomorrow (why argue when you’re on a roll?), we’re headed off tomorrow morning to the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market to taste the best fruits, vegetables, and meats available anywhere. (Dirty Girl Farms’ intensely flavorful strawberries and Frog Hollow Farm’s perfectly ripe peaches? Prather Ranch grass-fed beef, the richest flavor anywhere? Capay Farms’ sweet, tender organic carrots? Pinch me, I’m dreaming!)
Then we’re going to have lunch at the excellent fusion Vietnamese restaurant The Slanted Door.
Of course we’ll need a break to digest, so we’ll clearly have to make a pilgrimage to Britex Fabrics. And then, we’ll close out our visit to San Francisco with a trip to Dandelion Chocolate, which comes highly recommended both by Richard and some of my other friends.
And where is Fritz amidst all this culinary luxury? Dining on his favorite food: cardboard.