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Christopher Elbow store, SF - open 2/5/08

I read on Tablehopper that Christopher Elbow's store opened today 2/5/08. Anyone try to go there?

Tablehopper mention:
http://www.tablehopper.com/2008/02/ch...

Edit:
Hours are Mon–Thu 11am–8pm, Fri-Sat 11am–10pm, and Sun 12pm–6pm. 401 Hayes St. at Gough, 415-355-1105.

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Christopher Elbow
401 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA

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  1. It's open. Saw people in there just now. Nice understated space. Not open early in the morning for hot chocolate, though.

    1. I stopped in the other night and have mixed feelings. It's a huge beautiful space, and the chocolates are lovely to look at, decorated individually with a handy quick reference card so you can tell them apart.

      They offer 10 flavors of hot chocolate for $4.50, which was less appetizing once you saw the shakers of cinnamon and patented spice mixtures behind the counter. At least Charles' has a fancy hot chocolate machine to distinguish their offering from Ghiradelli's (completely fine tasting) hot cocoa powder at the nearest cafe.

      I bought a fleur de sel turtle ($2.50, delicious) and 9 loose caramels/truffles for $2 each. I had tasted several of their flavored caramels (from Cocoa Bella) and liked them especially the citrus caramel.

      The truffles I've eaten so far are okay but hardly worth the price. Since I didn't weigh them, I'm not sure what the price per pound is--$50? Admittedly I'm not a huge truffle eater, preferring a good chocolate bar (which they offer) or caramel to ganache. The best truffle so far was raspberrry with pate de fruit in it.

      Service was friendly but pretentious. (A tip jar?) For my $21 purchase I got a somewhat unusable plastic bag with a logo sticker and another plastic bag with handles, but not a box, which costs more. This is chocolate as boutique fetish, sterile and aesthetic, a stark contrast to the friendly service at Miette Confisserie around the corner or the warmth of Candy Store, or See's. I give them three months.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Windy

        Looking at the website, the chocolates aren't my style ... but if the hot chocolate looks anything like this picture ...

        http://www.elbowchocolates.com/shop_o...

        What got me curious about this was your mentioning standard shakers of cinnamon. I'm doing some cinnamon comparisons recently ... there's cinnamon and then there's cinnamon.

        1. re: rworange

          I don't know about the quality of the cinnamon, but all the spices for hot chocolate are sitting in Tupperware on the back counter. Fine for a $2 cup of cocoa, not a $4.50 one.

          Makes those caramel truffles from XOX & Five Star (50 cents each?) seem better and better.

          1. re: Windy

            The hot chocolate is quite good. I'm tempted to rank it alongside Cocoa Bella, my favorite in the city. It's quite similar to Cocoa Bella: strongly chocolately, pretty smooth, but not excessively creamy (I'd even say greasy) like Tartine or Boulette's. Like Cocoa Bella, they give the option of milk, dark, or extra dark (85%) chocolate.

            I tried the spicy one ("Venezuelan"?) and Chinese 5-spice. I really liked the latter, with understated but pervasive spice flavors. Yes, the five-spice is in a tupperware, but Christopher himself told me they have a spice vendor in Kansas City (his home, the original store, and the production center) that custom grinds everything for them.

            Some chocolates I've liked a lot. The caramel fleur de sel is a deep, bitter caramel with strong saltiness. The vanilla one (forgot the name) is also good. I didn't like the two that have a thin layer of marzipan: bourbon pecan (marzipan from pecan, not almond, actually), and "Persian" (almond marzipan, with saffron, cardamon, and other spices I forgot). The marzipan was gummy -- bad texture combination with the chocolates.

            Regarding service: the staff seems novice, but everything was running smoothly with Christopher on site. He's back in Kansas City this week, and I suspect that service could be bumpy when he's away, given how little the other staff seem to know about the chocolates and the production process.

            1. re: david kaplan

              Too bad about the marzipan -- I love marzipan! I still miss a confection I remember buying at the old Edy's (ice cream parlor/sweet shop) in Berkeley in my teenhood: a layer of chocolate ganache and a layer of marzipan enrobed in chocolate. I think they called it a Victoria. I guess that combo wouldn't be exotic enough for today's chocolatiers.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                Maybe the combination would work for you. I found the contrast in textures off-putting since ganache is softer and creamier, which made the marzipan feel gummy by comparison. I had no issue with the flavor combination, just the texture. If you feel like spending $2 on a gorgeous little treat, you might at least get some nostalgic pleasure from the combo.

        2. re: Windy

          I've liked his stuff from Cocoa Bella, but it is just so expensive. Truffles are relatively small, so I have to force myself to savor them for awhile to concentrate on getting my money's worth. I wonder if Cocoa Bella will drop them and pick up someone else, as I can't see CE wanting to compete with himself distributed elsewhere.

        3. I visited the store this past weekend and also did an interview with Christopher Elbow since he was in town setting up the store. I tried a few of his chocolates and I thought it was really fresh and creamy. It was definitely premium dark chocolates, which I prefer over the milk chocolates. The designs on the chocolate are really artistic and it just really fits with the over decor of the store.

          The store has this really nice lounge area in the side which would be nice to sip your hot chocolate and just people watch.

          My favorite was the truffles with pate de fruit layers inside so it's like chocolate coated pate de fruit. But the solid, single origin ganaches were also very rich, like the one with Tanzania chocolates.

          I'm kind of surprised about the comments on the pricing here and on Yelp. It definitely is expensive, but I find the pricing similar to Recchiuti and one of my chocolate favorites, Poco Dolce. So I think for that particular category of high-end premium chocolates, it's pretty much on par. It's like expensive chocolates in Paris, you get one or two as a treat in the afternoon or you get a nice gift box as a gift.

          Here are photos of the chocolates and stores: http://singleguychef.blogspot.com/200...

          2 Replies
          1. re: singleguychef

            The designs ARE really pretty. My point is that's what you're paying for. Aside from the caramels, I wasn't impressed with the flavor of anything I bought, and at that price, I expect to be dazzled. (Recchuiti's best chocolates are worth the splurge).

            I also find it interesting that the favorable comments came from people who met Christopher Elbow, so that was part of your experience. Unfortunately the snobby sales guy was part of mine.

            1. re: Windy

              I never said Christopher Elbow's chocolates are better than Recchiuti. I just said it's in the same category. But within a category there's always going to be stars and not so much stars.

              I think chocolate like other foods can be very subjective. So just because someone doesn't agree with you doesn't mean their tastes has necessarily been influenced by positive or negative experiences. Sure, it does come into play. but some of us do try to share his or her opinion without that overly influencing one's taste.

          2. I stopped in last Thursday to pick up some as gifts to take on a trip with me. The store was beautiful and the chocolates were beautiful. As new as they are and as much as the chocolates cost, I thought it wouldn't have killed them to cut up a few chocolates and offer samples. Also, the (very, very young) woman who was helping me did not know what was in some of the cryptically named chocolates. When I asked about the Russian tea one (forget the exact name) the answer was "tea and, um, I don't know. Kind of herby, I guess." Persian got this reply: "it's like baklava spices--an almond paste base with honey and cinnamon." I asked if there was rose in it. "Oh yeah. Rose water." That would have been useful information the first time around since people have pretty strong feelings about rose flavor.

            I didn't get to taste any of the ones I took as gifts, though the fleur de sel turtle got raves. I tried the orange blossom (okay, but not running back for one), single malt scotch (interesting but not necessarily delicious) and . . .

            peanut butter pop rock because, well, how could I not? It was quite bitter but still had a nice peanut taste. And yes, there were pop rocks. I couldn't feel them on my tongue, but I heard them in the back of my mouth for a full minute. Very very weird.

            I imagine I'll stop in again because it's near my work, but not more than once or twice more if I don't run into something I really love soon.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Pistou

              I have not been in the store, but I bought a bunch in bulk from Cocoa Bella for a baby shower. The two dads were really into "mid-century modern" and the theme colors of baby blue and chocolate brown were reflected beautifully in the chocolates we selected. We did one Venezuelan Dark and one Bourbon Pecan in each box given to the guests. http://www.elbowchocolates.com/chocol...
              While I bought the truffles for looks, they were incredibly delicious and fresh. I looovvved the bourbon one made with Maker's Mark. All told, for my $65 investment, we had the best baby shower favors of the season.

              While definitely not an everyday indulgence, I found them on a par with the other "boutique" chocolates out there, and miles beyond what's selling at the overly-precious storefont at Schoggi.

            2. I dropped by the store on saturday and picked a small selection of chocolates to sample the wares. All told I enjoyed these more than Rechuitti despite the local preference. The vanilla bean, raspberry, and one citrus flavor which I can't remember were a great balance of flavor to dark chocolate richness. The texture was smooth without being too buttery and they weren't overly sweet. I'll definitely be back!

                1. I think it's absolultely hilarious that their orange blossom honey truffle features honey from Ohio. I guess since I moved here to get out of Ohio I can't imagine that the honey is any better than you could get in California. Or in Kansas where CE is based.