Austin’s artisan chocolate scene is booming.
From bean-to-bar chocolatiers, who focus on nibbling just a little bit of business away from Hershey’s, to intricate truffle makers crafting the most delicate, beautiful bites, we have lots of options when it comes to getting our cacao fix, and this month, another entrepreneur steps into the ring.
Tessa Halstead, the daughter of the founder of Morgen Chocolate in Dallas, started making confections as a teenager at her dad’s shop, which sold European-style chocolates to upscale clients throughout Texas, including Neiman Marcus and Dean & Deluca.
Morgen Chocolate is now closed, but Halstead is carrying on her father’s traditions in her new store Chocolaterie Tessa, which opened last week at 7425 Burnet Road. The store (512-200-2837, chocolaterietessa.com) will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.
Halstead’s store features an open layout so customers can watch the chocolate-making process, which for some pieces includes a pass through the same specialty chocolate-coating enrober machine that her dad purchased for his company in 1984, the year she was born.
She’ll sell boxed chocolates, seasonal chocolate moulds, chocolate-covered nuts, pâte de fruits (fruit jelly candies) and other treats, including several signature Morgen Chocolate products. Early next year, Halstead plans to add chocolate-making and -pairing classes.
In other chocolate news, Cocoa Puro’s Tom Pedersen is celebrating 10 years of his chocolate-covered cocoa beans. A decade later, Pedersen reports that he has hand-rolled more than 3 million of those delicious little beans, a staple of the downtown farmers markets at Republic Square Park.
Also, Nicole Patel has opened her long-anticipated, state-of-the-art production facility for Delysia Chocolatier out in Northwest Austin. The 2,000-square-foot Delysia Chocolate Culinary Center will host several events this holiday season, including a family-friendly activity day on Dec. 7, where kids can make their own chocolate bars. You can find out more at facebook.com/delysia.choc.
AUSTIN360 TASTE TEST
Can a hot peanut butter drink win over hot cocoa fans?
Austin360 digital media specialist Tony Atkins and I both love peanut butter, so we were excited to try a new hot cocoa-inspired product called Peanut Hottie. It’s a powdered mix, available at WalMart, that you stir into hot water, but is it as comforting and irresistible as hot cocoa? Find out in our latest Austin360 Taste Test video at Austin360.com or
Last week, Liquid Austin columnist Arianna Auber and I tried butterscotch and spiced apple sodas from Reed’s. The butterscotch beer wasn’t as good as the spiced apple, which would be a perfect nonalcoholic bubbly beverage for Thanksgiving, but we decided that all it needed was a splash of rum.
Add a little heat to those ham-wrapped pears
When it comes to fruit, apples get all the love this time of year, while pears humbly try to compete for your attention in the produce aisle or at the market.
One of the reasons is texture. Mealy pears just can’t compete with crunchy apples, but it also comes down to shelf life. Pears don’t last as long as apples, but, like avocados, when they are ripe, they are ripe, and you’d better eat them fast.
If you find some really good ones this month, you might swing by the deli counter and buy a few slices of prosciutto or Spanish ham to wrap around them. You can serve these salty-sweet appetizers raw, or you can take a cue from fire-loving Francis Mallmann and throw them on a hot cast iron griddle. He cooks just about everything outside over a fire, but you could also prepare this in no time on your stovetop.
Griddled Red Bartlett Pears Wrapped in Iberico Ham
The crispness of the ham and the softness of the pears provide a delicious contrast of textures. Made with only four ingredients, it is a dish I like not only for its flavor but also because it can be ready for guests within a few minutes of starting a fire or heating a cast iron skillet. If you can’t get Iberico, regular serrano ham or prosciutto or even country ham is a good choice. You could cook these over a backyard grill, too, but just be careful when you place the pears on the grate so that they don’t fall through.
— Francis Mallmann
4 ripe Red Bartlett or Anjou pears
12 thin slices Iberico ham
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Slice the (unpeeled) pears about 1/2-inch thick. You should get 3 good slices out of each pear.
Heat a large cast-iron griddle or skillet over low heat. Wrap each slice of pear in a slice of ham and arrange them seam side down on the hot surface. Cook until the fruit begins to soften and the ham is crisp on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Turn carefully, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and continue cooking until the pears are tender and the ham on the second side is crisp, about 3 minutes more. Serve immediately. Serves 4
— From “Mallmann On Fire” by Francis Mallmann (Artisan Books, $40)
On the hunt for Navarro’s Federal Bakery Swedish Rye recipe
Greetings, Addie. My dad, an Austin native, always recounts with intense fondness this bread from a different time in ATX. He would like to know if maybe the Statesman might have this recipe on file or know how to get it. On behalf of dad, thanks for any assistance you can provide.
— David Pease, Red Rock
I couldn’t find this recipe in a search of our digital archives, which only go back about 25 years, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t run it. Navarro’s last operated on South Congress Avenue, but its fans haven’t forgotten the bread and dinner rolls made with this dough. In an email exchange, David said that he remembers his dad bringing home this bread, a “lovely light rye, dense chewy crust, with a hint of molasses, if I remember correctly.” Sounds like a loaf I need to make, so if any of you have this recipe (or memories of Navarro’s), send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 512-912-2504.
- At 7:30 tonight, the Austin Film Society will host the Texas premiere of “Food Chains,” a documentary from director Sanjay Rawal about “the improbable triumph of a grassroots farmworker group in Florida, who in the 1990s, upon confronting grinding poverty, abuse and multiple forced-labor convictions, decided to take on the multi-billion dollar food industry to demand change.” The screening will take place at the Marchesa Theatre, 6226 Middle Fiskville Road, and you can find information and tickets ($8, $5 for students and AFS members) at austinfilm.org.
- Speaking of the Marchesa Theatre, don’t forget that the annual Austin Empty Bowl Project, now in its 18th year, will take place at this venue from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Nov. 23. The purchase of a bowl ($20) includes a serving of soup from a number of local restaurants, such as Wink, Corazon at Castle Hill, the Soup Peddler, Iron Cactus and Magnolia Cafe. Proceeds go to the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas’ Kid Cafe, and Meals for Kids, a program of Meals on Wheels & More.