Monthly Archives: May 2011

so you think you can handle truff love?

第五天:Then make sure you can handle standing for 12 hours straight.

The time had come. It was the moment I had been waiting for my entire life. I held my breath as I knocked on Susan’s door, so close to learning the master’s skills of the chocolate way. As the door opened, light flooded the hallway and blinded my eyes. Susan illuminated me with her presence as she spoke: “Greetings, Kelly. Let us begin.”

Dramatic. Moving on.

Saturday was production day. If you were wondering, this is what I originally signed up for. Story time: Back in September/October, I was in the midst of a first semester Sophomore Slump. I was mainly frustrated about how everyone at Harvard seemed to have some sort of passion, whereas I felt that I had none. I was a swimmer at the time, yes, but I was never passionate about the sport. It was just something I was good at. I was jealous of other swimmers who really loved swimming, jealous of people who procrastinated for hours searching for a certain type of music, jealous of people who loved their work.

Anyways, before this becomes pity-time…I was eating chocolate at my desk (typical) and I came across an article in the Harvard Magazine featuring Sôcôla. The moment I read that they had bacon truffles, I knew I had to get my hands on it. I don’t usually order chocolate, but for some reason I felt I couldn’t miss out on the experience. So I got my assortment box, was pleasantly surprised, and fell absolutely in love with the Jasmine Tea. I brought some of the chocolates to a HAPA meeting to share (East-West fusion, duh) and I jokingly brought up the idea of learning to make truffles from them. Right as I said it, I thought: Wait. What the hell, I should do this. I love this stuff.

So I emailed Susan, asking for a one-week stint in her kitchen, and was extremely surprised by the speedy response I got from her the next day. She said I wouldn’t get much out of a one week experience, but if I interned for 2+ months…

And look where I am now.

By the end, I couldn’t feel my feet or legs, Susan and I may or may not have made a few jokes about child labor (I’m 20, don’t worry), and I couldn’t speak English anymore (a sure sign of tired delusion). But the experience was sweet. 72% bittersweet.

After arriving at her apartment at 9 in the morning, Susan drove me down to South San Francisco where the kitchen is located. Wendy had already prepared the ganaches the night before, so Susan and Jessica (someone who also works for Sôcôla) were in charge of covering the ganaches with melted chocolate in order to create the shell. As a baby chocolatier, I was in charge of garnishing the truffles, cutting the chocolates, labeling, and packaging.

The best part was the atmosphere. A group of six of us were working away with music blasting in the background (Tron music included – Susan’s a fan). Susan had crazy energy as usual and her many aliases kept us entertained (more potentially on this later…) There were many memorable moments including a very typical silly Kelly-moment when Jessica and I had a complete misunderstanding about “White Food”. She was talking about the color about her lunch, and I was talking about…the race. I promise I’m not racist.

Anyways, a little less conversation and a little more action please:

Susan cooling the melted chocolate to the right temperature. If the chocolate isn’t at the right temperature, it will not be “tempered” correctly. The truffles will end up having weird streaks in their coating.

The seed chocolate used to cool down the melted chocolate. Seed chocolates are chunks of chocolate that have already hardened.

After Jessica spread out a layer of chocolate on the ganache.

Susan cutting the chocolate ganache.


Jessica dipping the ganaches in chocolate to make the coating and me decorating.

Placing the tranfers on the chocolates (made from cocoa butter).

Dropping French Chicory Grounds onto the Vietnamese Coffee truffles.

It was really hard trying to put only 3-4 pieces of Hawaiian sea salt on the “Burnt Baby Burnt” truffles.

A sea of Jasmine Tea truffles (my fave flavor).

Team Wendy packaging the chocolates.

After production ended at 9 pm, the six of us returned with sore backs to Susan’s apartment in The Mission and made Kimchi fried rice (yes, Susan made us stand more). The food was absolutely delicious (and this is coming from a Korean) and we slowly began our recuperation.

Life Lesson #3: learning how to cook spam.

Susan’s friend (who is also called Susan) cooked omeletes that were paper thin. SUPAH KOOL.

I headed home around midnight and Jessica thankfully drove me because I was dead tired, and SF isn’t exactly the most safe place.Susan asked me right before I left: “So, you still like being a chocolatier?” My response: “Uh, it’s still a yes. I’m just going to appreciate every truffle I eat a lot, lot much more.” Apparently they’ve had 19+ hour production days around holidays like Christmas or Easter.

There you go kids. An introduction to how you make 2,500 truffles by hand.

Daily Nutrition Report

  • Breakfast = a morning bun & a gougère from Tartine Bakery. I was brought to this place thanks to the 7×7 SF Magazine’s best eats. Again, disappointed. I didn’t trust my stomach. I’m not a big fan of pastries, especially ones doused in white sugar (which was what the morning bun was – a glorified cinnamon bun with orange cinnamon sugar). I wished I had gotten the savory olive bread instead. Never again will I trust the masses. The gougère was intriguing: peppery, cheesy, slightly oily, a French pastry with a hint of thyme. Conclusion? Go to the recommended places, but get what you want if you aren’t feeling it.
  • Lunch = fresh ganache. Possibly the best thing ever.
  • Dinner = Kimchi Fried Rice baby

Lesson of the Day

I have never appreciated the care and love that goes into truffles this much before. Love your chocolate to no end.


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Filed under chocolate

got chocolat?

第四天:I promised pictures a couple days ago, so here they are. I realize I’m two days behind and I apologize. I will do my best to recap the fun and giggles of my Friday.

Susan had me attend an Artisan Chocolate Tasting Event with her at the swanky Press Club downtown. The event was organized by a developing food rating website, Foodia. Basically, it’s a “Yelp for your kitchen”. You know when you go to a local food market with all those amazing, organic products, you first think: SICK. And then: Oh wait, I have ten bucks. What do I go for? That’s when Foodia steps in. Although a budding website, Foodia has it down when trying to help the average shopper. If the site can build up a good enough community that actively supplies ratings and information, it will definitely become an invaluable tool for foodies.

So this was my second time helping Sôcôla promote their East-West fusion chocolates at a food event. I’m starting to really love these events, because you get to meet people and also check out the local food scene. How it works for me is pretty simple.

UNO: THE PREGAME

Sampling Case & Guava Chocolate Bars

Yes, I can handle a knife without hurting myself. Important Life Skill #1 (did I mention these life skills will now be a frequent in this blog as I have none). It’s important to start with the lighter flavors and then finish with the Sriracha Chili, since I don’t want the garlic chili flavor to overpower the other subtle flavors like Jasmine Tea or Stout Beer. Optimal time for chocolate consumption.

DOS: GETTING TO THE RIGHT PARTY SAFELY

We ditched the car today and decided to be hardcore. Using our handy little dolly (Life Skill #2 ) and my non-existent swimmer muscles, we managed to move all the stuff we need. One point for public transportation.

TRES: CHECKING OUT THE SCENE

Set up the booth to make it pretty and nice like this.

Susan and I all ready to go.

The lush Assortment Box open for display.

CUATRO: RAGE

Tell, sell, and have a swell time.

Socola’s mascot is Harriet, a winged alpalca (definition: a domesticated species of South American camelid or in other words, awesomeness). Susan and her sister Wendy adopted her from her mystical homeland. Harriet loves to travel and bring home flavors from all around the world like Tamarind Sesame and Green Tea. She gets lost occasionally, but she makes up for it with lots of sass. 

(Susan can tell it like it is. I’m still in training, made apparent by my excited baby face. Patience.)

This event was extremely popular. I mean, why wouldn’t it be? It’s downtown, at a swag bar, a glass of wine for the first 100 people, and it’s a free event with a whole host of chocolate companies with samples. There was a mad scramble of people trying to taste and understand our product, so I didn’t get a chance to try other products. Although I did get to try chocolate mint water for the first time in my life (DON’T try it. It’s basically a non-alcoholic version of flavored vodka, which makes no sense = therefore not worth the money.)

Afterwards, I returned back to my temporary apartment to be greeted by a pregame featuring people who worked at Facebook. They were all great fun, but it’s a little surreal to think these people are in charge of 10% of my brain space (and you wonder if I’m a neuro major). I’m not kidding. Every time I open my Mac, my fingers unconsciously pump out their URL and I’m on the website before you can say “Zuckerberg loves Jewish Luaus”.

One guy I talked to was in charge of notifications. He said his job was to “accidentally break them, then fix them”. If you know what that means hit me up. He also told me they get amazing meals on the “Facebook Campus” that have daily themes, some of which include: Japanese, Ethiopian, and Get Out of Jail Day. They also get formals and dodgeball days. Basically, Mark Zuckerberg is trying to relive the college days he never had.

When I see Sammi or Maxine (two awesome girls who live in the apartment with me, also fellow Harvardians) on Facebook, it’s hard to tell whether it’s work or play. One Facebooker Dave put it best: “It’s a very fuzzy line, honestly.”

My fuzzy line is whether or not chocolate > Facebook. Wait, I so take that back. Chocolate wins by far.

And no, I was not paid to say that. All from the heart baby.

Daily Nutrition Report

  • Lunch = Hot Chicken with Aioli Chipotle on a white baguette at Dolores Café. I made the huge mistake of asking for a recommendation and then going with what the girl suggested based off of what everyone tends to order. The moment I said: “Okay, I’ll get that” I totally regretted it. No, I did not want that Chicken sandwich. I wanted the Divine Veggie on wholewheat toast. Why didn’t I listen to my gut? I think someone out there wanted to punish me for my dumb decision because the staff forgot about my order. I didn’t get my food until half an hour after I ordered it. Grumblegrumble – yes I know.
  • Dinner = Tacos de Buche to go from Chilange Restaurant on 235 Church Street. Totally made up for lunch. This time I did a 360 and asked the head chef, Roberto, to recommend me something really delicious and weird. That worked. His face lit up and he told me most people went for something I don’t really care to remember because it was too typical but he told me what was really delicious and fresh was the pork maw. Pork maw = lining of hog stomach. That had me hooked. And I was pleasantly surprised by the result. The food was cooked lard and butter free, and the soft tacos were thin, fluffy, and made with the veggie stuff that turns them green (sorry for lack of a better description). The pork maw was juicy and cooked with fresh onions and spices, and the forest green salsa verde was tangy and had a great kick to it. The best part was that it was portioned for a normal human being.

Lesson of the Day

When it comes to picking your food, please trust the voice in your stomach and do your own thing. Applicable to other areas of life as well. As if you didn’t already know that.

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Filed under adventures, alcohol, chocolate, chocolate, food, food market, marketing, Socola

ferris bueller had his day off, here’s mine

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” –  Ambrose Redmoon (who by the way, is super anonymous. 10 bucks for someone who can figure out who he is.)

During my last swim meet ever, I remember telling one of my friends about my favorite quote, except I changed it up a little (thanks to my excellent memory): “Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is when you face fear and smile at it, because you realize there’s something much more important you need to do.” My way of nicely saying stop overthinking and grow a pair.

KELLY’S FIRST DAY OFF IN SANFRAN:

I was debating yesterday whether to go to this Zumba class down the street. 6:30 was slowly approaching, and I kept thinking of excuses not to go. But seriously – no work, no school. It’s about time I start doing things outside my comfort zone. I mean, that’s what this summer is all about, right?

So finally I had the guts to head over. Upon entering the 24-hour fitness club, I saw a long line trailing from the ellipticals all the way down the stairs. First thought: “Mice on wheels. People really need to get out more and run.” That was until I realized that the line was actually for Zumba, not for the machines. Okay, you guys are forgiven.

Zumba = seriously one of the best ideas ever. I love going to clubs and dancing like it’s May 21, which makes this the perfect form of exercise.  I’m not the best dancer, especially when it actually comes to coordinated dance moves, but being in a room with busty old women, flamboyantly gay men, and an assortment of other young people enthusiastically pumping it out to some tunes is seriously fun. You woop, you smile, you roll your r’s, and you sweat a ton. It’s a party. Who cares if you can’t actually do any of the moves.There isn’t any time to pay attention to the fear of looking like a fool because you’re too giddy from trying to figure out what to do.

You can laugh, but this vs. swimming endless laps in a pool? Incomparable. Thus begins my attempt of developing some form of physical coordination on land.

I followed that up with some Yin Yoga at the Yoga Garden, which has a completely different energy level. Most people are familiar with Vinyasa yoga or some other Yang style yoga that is full of movement and energy. Yin is somewhat restorative and is deceptively simple. It consists of a series of stretching poses held for 3-5 minutes and is all about simply being.You are not meant to push yourself, but instead allow your body to naturally melt into the pose, which opens up your connective tissues. This can cause emotional reactions, which for some people can be overwhelming. At times I was fidgety because I was bored, while other times I was surprised by the thoughts and reactions the poses caused.

Although psychiatrists like to recommend people with addictions to do Yin yoga, it has to be approached with caution. The teacher has to keep an eye on the student to make sure he/she understands that coming out of the pose is allowed if the rising emotions or memories become too intense. That’s when he/she has to have the courage to respect their body and step back from the exercise.

It seems contradictory, but you actually get to stare fear down during Yin Yoga. It’s kind of awesome. Sometimes a fearful or worrying thought would begin to develop in my mind, but then I realized that it’s all just up in there. You can actually detach yourself from that thought and observe it from a distance. You aren’t emotionally bound to it anymore.

I can already hear people saying “Whaaa?” (Cantonese accent included). Okay, we can get a bit scientific. People who do yoga and/or meditation on a consistent basis in comparison to controls have been shown to have decreased left amygdala activation through fMRI studies. Buddhist monks can actually control blood flow to the area through compassion meditation.

The amygdala is one of my fave brain parts (yes, it’s possible to have a favorite brain part). It’s involved with fear conditioning, and patients with social phobia, borderline personality disorder, and depression all have higher activity in the left amygdala. Notice any connections? Psychiatrists have started to recommend yoga/meditation as treatment for a lot of psychological disorders. For more friendly reading on the delicious subject of fear, I recommend reading Srini Pillay’s Life Unlocked. There’s also more to be said on amygdala volume and its correlations, but that’s for another time.

So that was a solely mind-body day. DELICIOUSNESS RETURNS TOMORROW.

Daily Nutrition Report

Nothing noteworthy. I did miss breakfast thanks to a 2pm wakeup.

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Filed under dance, neuroscience, spiritual

ab.ra.ca.dab.ra

In the Aramaic language it means: “to create as I say”. That has pretty big implications in terms of the mind-body link, because what we perceive is all created in the mind, right? Also noteworthy is that Jesus spoke Aramaic during his time. I can bet you he walked around brandishing a Harry Potter-esque wand shouting “abracadabra!” Or maybe something a little more classy.

This is a real book, apparently.

I learned that fun little fact during my crazy day yesterday.

第三天:To start my day off, I got to sit in a short meeting with Susan and her friend Anna, an ex-samba dancer who wants to fully dedicate herself to building up a non-profit dance exchange program in Panama. Anna needed some insight on the world of marketing and websites, both of which I am completely new to.

Susan seriously knows her stuff. The biggest point Susan drove home was commitment. Basically, you can’t toy around with too many ideas and logos for too long. What you end up with is a confusing, unfocused message. The lack of belief in your own design can (incorrectly) imply a lack of belief in your own work.  You have to commit to the image you want to present, and once you commit, you can build on your foundation and develop a great looking marketing campaign. Pretty simple.

There’s also a commitment to your story. When you’re putting yourself out there, you need to be able to explain concisely what drew you to your work and why you think the person should be interested. You also want to genuinely convey your passion for your experiences in under half a minute. Without commitment, you’re going to end up rambling for a good five minutes until you realize you still haven’t actually made a point and you’ve got your listener thinking about the next Kung Fu Panda movie (HEY guess what I’m looking forward to – no shame).

For lunch, Susan drove me to her friend Jenny’s apartment in Berkeley. Jenny is a Blue Bottle Coffee employee by day and a seriously talented artist by night (and day). While eating some oragnic Mac ‘N Cheese and delicious fresh vegetables (which they showed me how to cook – I wasn’t kidding when I said I was hopeless at cooking), I listened to Susan, Jenny, her roommate’s son Walter and his friend brainstorm ideas for a mini telenovela series on Sôcôla’s saucy seasonal flavor: Sriracha Flying Rooster. I won’t give anything away, but expect an enticing love story that’ll spice up your life in the next couple of months.

I’m not known for being quick-witted or for being able to pump out delicious puns on the spot. I’m more of your sit-for-a-while-and-let-things-stew kind of girl. So watching them let their creativity run loose was really energizing, not to mention hilarious.

The creative process in the neurological realm is extremely hard to define (if you’re wondering why the neurological tangent, click here). Shelley Carson likes to break it down into seven different aspects with its own neurological pathway: Connect, Reason, Envision, Absorb, Transform, Evaluate, and Stream. What the brainstorm team was doing largely falls under the Connect brainset. You could define this as thinking divergently rather than convergently.  Basically, your “brain censor” turns off and allows your brain to make unusual, PUNNY associations.

What does this look like?

Copyright 2010 Shelley Carson at Harvard U.

  1. There’s deactivation in your left prefrontal cortex (narrow thinking, also related to inhibition of the right hemisphere) and activation of your right PFC (broad thinking)
  2. Activation of association centers in the left hemisphere’s parietal and temporal lobes

My biggest issue is that my self-consciousness/fear of judgement (amygdala and left PFC activation) inhibits my creative process. When they say let go, they mean let go.

Ok, enough neuroscience. ONE LAST THING: Jenny did make a fascinating comment that made me really excited about my potential research. She told me she’s been feeling “in a funk” the past week and she seriously thinks it has to do with her lack of yoga. She practices regularly but hasn’t gone to a class for a few weeks. Since then she hasn’t been inspired for any of her creative projects. Maybe there is something related to opening the mind and deactivating the judgmental pathways in the brain during yoga and creativity…to be further investigated.

After three hours of observation of the creative process, Susan let me be her sidekick for a port and chocolate taste-pairing meeting downtown. My friends and I are huge wine and cheese fans, but never before have I seriously accosted port. And now I’m hooked. The complexity and depth of ports brings out the flavors of truffles much more intensely than red wine. Something about the heaviness of the dessert wine settling on your palette warmly invites the luxurious dark chocolate and its respective ganache.

My top two faves: 1) a woody, Warre’s Otima port paired with the Jasmine Tea Truffle (I had a ridiculous reaction after trying that one) and 2) a heavier, fruitier vintage port paired with the Sriracha Chili Truffle. I am so pumped for when I get to serve at the tasting event next month. Champagne, organic cheeses, and irresitible slow-drip coffee will also be part of the parade. Surprisingly, they don’t hold a lot of port-chocolate tastings in SF, and they really, really should. To our dear friend red wine: please step aside.

To finish up the day (and this extremely long post – I do apologize), I joined Susan for her weekly hour meditation at the Spiritual Learning Center. Now I’ve tried meditating on my own for ten minutes, and I get really antsy towards the end thanks to the Harvard complex that makes me feel like I always need to be doing something productive.

This time, there was a small tickle of boredom in the beginning, but by breathing and settling into the feeling of boredom it disappeared. I don’t really know how to describe the experience, as my thoughts were pretty random. Sometimes my mind was completely blank, and sometimes thoughts I had always brooded over came up. Random memories returned from freshman spring and my high school graduation. The weirdest moment was when I suddenly thought I was naked, and also when there was a reflection of someone’s face etched in bright red in front of my eyes. I will admit I freaked out a little.

Any revelations from the experience? Not particularly. But there shouldn’t have been or at least there doesn’t have to be. My hour of just “be-ing” rushed by faster than the ten minutes of meditation I’ve tried to do on my own. So that was pretty sweet.

So yesterday, during all the craziness, I got to explore the creation of self-promotion, ideas, tastes, and the mind. Abracadabra, baby.

Daily Nutrition Report:

I had port and chocolate for dinner. Enough said.

Lesson of the Day:

We all need to remind ourselves to notice the little things everyday. Notice the care and detail that goes into a logo, notice how your food mixes and explodes with flavors in your mouth, notice something awesome about someone, notice the fact that you’re walking, breathing, and living, damn it.

*** I WILL START UPLOADING PHOTOS SOON ***

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Filed under adventures, chocolate, creativity, marketing, neuroscience

THE ROARING TWENTIES

第二天:

So I’m in one of the sweetest cities in the US, maybe even the world, and guess what happens? I turn twenty.

When I turned the big 18 back in Hong Kong, I had the satisfaction of sitting in a club that was being raided, whipping out my ID, and being wished a “Happy Birthday” by a policeman who had clearly intended to throw me out.

When I turned 19, I was up long past midnight trying to finish editing a textbook for a program I taught English for in college. Needless to say, no dinner was eaten that night. Don’t worry, it was still a blast.

And now I’m 20. Two zero. Is it a little pretentious that I was saying I was 20 days before I actually became that number? I mean, I don’t feel guilty. I turned 20 in the country I was born in before I did in San Francisco. I was 20 in Boston before here. I’m actually 21 in Korea. So it’s really a continuum of space and time, right? I’ve always been twenty. Always.

Anyways, when I turned 20, I had the pleasure of telling people that for my birthday, I got to sell chocolate. I didn’t have a birthday dinner, lunch, or even breakfast (well, I will admit my bowl of Raisin Bran smiled at me this morning). I didn’t have a surprise party. I didn’t pop any Andre. But hell, I had a grand time cutting up chocolate, selling products for the first time, having my first taste of artisan markets, and allowing people to indulge themselves for a little bit during their busy workday.

Even more importantly, I took that first step out of my comfort zone. Sure I had a few awkward pauses when I wasn’t exactly sure what to say or I couldn’t remember any of the facts Susan (my awesome mentor) told me about Sôcôla. I would forget which of the four flavors in the assortment box I had repeated until I finally realized, OH HEY, I think you’ve said “Burnt Caramel with Sea Salt” about four times and forgot “Guava”.

But seriously. For my 20th birthday, I’ve been given this huge opportunity to explore an amazing city and to be a chocolatier “in the making”. Who would have thought – a Harvard neurobiology undergraduate working for a chocolate company in SF? I know I’m not signing up for that Science of Cooking Class.

So I guess being 20 has been pretty awesome.

Daily Nutrition Report:

  • I cut up sample bars of dark chocolate infused with ingredients like Jasmine Tea and Beer Stout and claimed to be testing out their freshness, when really, I was just consuming more than my daily quota of chocolate (sorry Susan!)
  • I had a delicious falafel sandwich from the Liba Falafel truck and wasn’t shy about putting on all of their 14 toppings (Red Cabbage and Black Sesame Seed? Kill me now, please.)
  • Also had a divine double vanilla bean cupcake from Cupkates. The vanilla bean buttercream frosting had just the right amount of flavor and richness. Put it together with the subtle, moist sweetness of the cake…mmmmmm.  Also distributed from a truck – I am so checking out Off the Grid when I get the chance. Please hold my hand and take me.

Lesson of the Day:

Being 20 is just like being 19. Although I may not have grown taller, I get to say I have two whole decades of experience on my resume now.

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Filed under birthday, chocolate, food market, food trucks