On February 13, 1992, I found myself standing in a craft store checkout line, clutching chocolate molds, little boxes, heart stickers, ribbon and the like. I was surrounded and probably looking wide eyed. Even though I was a tan, six-feet-two surfer dude, with salt-bleached hair in a craft store, I was flanked and surrounded by four crafty women at the checkout line. They had sized me up and had the "you-ain’t-from-around-here-are-you" look. And bless her heart, one was not as shy as the others and began to quiz me, to see what I knew and how she might help me. And soon the others chimed in with advice on what type of chocolate and how to temper and so on. All the while, my head moving in various directions, nodding and trying to remember it all. The store clerk was a little nonplussed to see people not checking out and to hear such a fuss over a surfer dude, who was sure to wipe out on his effort to make chocolate truffles for Valentine’s Day. To my credit, I did not drop my armload and bolt and I did not bail on my half-baked plan.
That night, I labored and toiled in the kitchen. Not a surface, pan, or bowl was free of cocoa powder or chocolate. I was a mess and after 6 hours of espresso extracting, brandied cherry squeezing, chocolate tempering, mixing and stirring, some brandy drinking, and a whole lotta taste testing along the way, I was done. I was wired and rattled. I oddly felt the same emotion as riding a big wave in the dark: I could not see it, only feel it. Eight hours later it was February 14, and I was at work with a chocolate hangover, sheepishly handing out little boxes of four truffles to the ladies at work.
Later in the day I was phoned by one who had to go home due to her experience: “OH MY GOD! What did you put in those truffles?” “Espresso in some and brandied cherries in others" I explained, and added, “I didn’t expect you would eat them all at once.”
February 14, 1992 was a turning point for me. That day made an impression on me and I learned I could make something that people truly enjoyed. It is still the core of what we do: work hard to make great chocolate so that people can have an amazing moment and a great day.
Happy Valentine’s Day.