Dandelion-St. Benoit Connection

Don’t want to get into too much backstory here, but i do have to drop back several years,  first to 2004 when Benoît de Korsak emigrated from France and started St. Benoît Creamery in Sonoma, making yogurt using French cultures.  After a few years, he ramped up production by partnering with Diamond M Dairy in Petaluma and started selling his yogurt at the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market.  Great yogurt, which is where i came in.

And then, in a few more years, they expanded their product line to include glass liters (and i don’t mean quarts because they’re real liters) of whole Jersey milk, low temperature pasteurized but not homogenized, so the cream floats to the top.  Fabulous milk.  And M. de Korsak needing to devote more time to running the business, he hired Sam, who among other duties now handsomely mans the booth at the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market.

Sam is an adult who has retained a fondness for chocolate milk, so he started experimenting with adding chocolate to that superb Jersey milk.  Alas, yogurt factories do not need kitchen stoves, so Sam can’t make a chocolate syrup to stir into the milk.  Thus, his efforts, while excellent in taste, left a great deal to be desired in texture.  Not that this kept me from drinking his tasty, if texture challenged, experiments.  Oh no.  Nor from giving him some of my chocolate sauce to try mixing into his milk.  His last effort involved grinding up some Dandelion chocolate and mixing it into the milk.  Delicious, but lumpy with tiny bits of chocolate.

Leaving St. Benoît for a moment, let’s flash back to 2010, when i was out at the Bartlett Street Farmers’ Market (now renamed the Mission Community Market) and spotted a couple of young men named Todd and Cam sitting behind a card table peddling the chocolate bars made in their tiny new factory in a loft on 3rd Street.  Oh well, i thought, does San Francisco need another boutique chocolate bar?  But they were nice, so to be agreeable i took the proffered taste.  That did it.

The best chocolate i ever tasted, so i immediately became a fan for life and began buying their chocolate regularly at farmers’ markets.  I even attended their first Chocolate 101 class at their loft on 3rd Street in early 2012.  And then last year their chocolate factory/cafe opened in a gorgeous, cavernous space that was formerly an auto shop at 740 Valencia.  A chocolate Valhalla to which i delight in taking friends and visitors.  You can watch the Dandelion Chocolate factory in full production, starting with the bags of varietal beans from their carefully cultivated growers all the way through the roasting, the cracking, the winnowing, the grinding, the melanging, the tempering, the casting into molds, and the wrapping.  And of course from the cafe counter you can get a selection of pastries, cups of various kinds of tasty hot chocolate, a glass of a chocolate fruit smoothie (which is delicious even though it doesn’t taste like chocolate), and coffee from Four Barrel.  Not to mention that you can also buy their current selection of varietal bars.

Oh, and i hadn’t mentioned that they are serious donors to local charities, work very hard at being sustainable, and partner with local businesses (like getting their wrappers from a local artisan paper company), and show a marvelous attention to detail as in their use of extra thick aluminum foil for the inner wrapper of their chocolate so you can easily reclose it around the uneaten portion.

So when Sam at St. Benoît mentioned he’d tried using a Dandelion chocolate bar to make chocolate milk, a brilliant idea struck me.  Why don’t i suggest to Dandelion that they start making a chocolate syrup and partner with St. Benoît?  So feeling downright smug at this, a few days ago i went down to Valencia Street with Sam’s email address in hand to pitch the idea to Todd.

Well, Todd and Cam were out, but they have a new partner i’d not met named Greg, and he came down from the mezzanine office and i told him my idea.  Well, there was good news and bad news.  The bad news was that they can’t start making a new product because even running the factory at full blast they are unable to keep up with demand, not exactly bad news, really.  The good news is that when Sam bought his chocolate from Becky, who runs their new outlet in the Ferry Building, she realized that what Sam really needed was a chocolate syrup, and she’d had my idea first and had already mentioned it to Greg.

So my disappointment over not having been the first to suggest their supplying St. Benoît was tempered by it having been such a good idea that Greg was already on it.

The rest of the good news is that Dandelion is now converting an old paper factory  on 16th Street at Harrison into a second chocolate factory so they can increase production, and at that point they’ll definitely start making a chocolate syrup.  In a desperate attempt to give Greg a fresh idea, i suggested that once they get the new factory up, they might think about producing a cocoa powder, but Greg was a step ahead of me on this one, too.  Worse yet, since the maximum level of fat that can be carried in a cocoa powder is around 25% and cocoa beans are about 50% fat, they’ll be marketing cocoa butter, too.

The final tidbit of good news is that the new factory won’t be opening until 2016, and it’ll take a while after that before everybody tastes their chocolate syrup and stops wanting mine.  And lest that sounds like a whine, hell, i’m sure that after i’ve tasted theirs, i’ll stop wanting mine.

And OK, since i don’t have a good Dandelion chocolate photo of my own, here’s some chocolate photos taken by my Dutch friend Danny, not that Dandelion makes white chocolate, milk chocolate, or bon bons.

Chocolate by Danny




Chocolates by Danny



Chocolates by Danny

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