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Christopher Elbow: Chocolate, Late-Night

From CocoaBella to Michael Recchiuti to the new Swiss-import, Schoggi, just off Union Square, San Francisco is well on its way to being the next Barcelona, a city dipped in chocolate-chic. On February 5, Christopher Elbow, the very talented Kansas City–based chocolatier, opened his second, austerely modern store-cum-lounge in Hayes Valley (401 Hayes St., 415-355-1105).

The new Hayes Street shop. (Photo courtesy
Mr. Elbow himself).

On offer? His beautifully-done truffles (Bananas Foster is my favorite, which might sound wacky but it's just the opposite) and a whole host of drinking chocolate flavored with everything from coconut-curry to ginger-caramel to peanut butter and passion fruit. Open until 10 pm on weekends, the place is drawing so many people looking for a little post-ballet, post-pretty-much-anything fix, that they’re considering adding extra seats. Elbow’s the kind of guy who answers the phone when you call his shop in Kansas City. Which is exactly how I got in touch with him yesterday.


What made you choose SF for your second shop?
Because you have the best weather in the world. The climate works well for chocolate. It never gets super hot.

Are you worried about all the SF-based chocolate competition?
I think it makes it even better. I’m friends with Chuck from Charles Chocolates and Michael Recchuiti. [The US] is catching up with Europe where chocolate is a part of daily life.

I tasted your absinthe truffle. It was surprisingly delicious.
That’s kind of a San Francisco exclusive—an homage to our neighbor [Absinthe, the restaurant]. [The truffle’s] been featured in all sorts of publications from Imbibe to the Wine Spectator to Food & Wine. Everyone’s been hitting the absinthe really hard since it's now legal again.

I feel like we’ve almost caramel-and-fleur-de-sel’ed out. What’s next?
Heavy citrus. Japanese citrus, like yuzu. But I hate the word "trend." The artisinal chocolates [in the US] are so brilliant right now that they don’t need a secondary flavor.

Where do you eat when you’re in SF?
My favorite is Kokkari. I love that place. I’m a big tequila fan so I go to Tommy’s. And Terzo. Of course, Absinthe.

What’s the reaction you get when you tell people here you’re based in Kansas City?
I don’t want to say people give me a negative look, but they’re generally shocked.