When lauded Healdsburg chefs Susan and Jeff Mall sold their popular Zin Restaurant and Wine Bar (now Valette's) in 2015 the couple moved to Baja California Sur, Mexico as resort chefs.
They never dreamed they'd head back to the US and start a chocolate business. Proof in the making that none of us know what life may have in store.
While they were south of the border they began playing around with cacao — readily available in their region. "Bean to Bar" chocolate bars evolved from a wet stone grinder. The creative pair came up with fun flavors, selling hundreds of bars to resort guests and locals.
Back on Sonoma County soil, they purchased a "melanger" — a machine that refines and conches chocolate to perfection.
The Malls have been working on their outstanding recipes, adding more equipment to the mix and gradually ramping up operations to earn a living from fine chocolate making (considerably more laid back a lifestyle than running a restaurant).
My super-foodie friend Suzanne introduced me to Susan and Jeff at the bustling California Artisan Cheese Festival, during the Sunday marketplace. Crowds clamored for a taste of the couple's Sonoma County Bean to Bar chocolate, beautifully presented in packaging that graces photographic images of original quilts crafted by Jeff's grandma.
Flavors include a 73% deep, dark chocolate, another deep, dark bar with brown butter & olive oil roasted almonds, also, a creamy, dark mocha of chocolate, coffee, cream and a touch of cinnamon and last, but not least, for now, a classic combo of dark chocolate with candied orange peel.
I bought a couple of bars and look forward to sharing these treasures, sparingly — square by square, with friends! How could I resist?