Monday, May 28, 2007

Summer Begins: Recchiuti S'mores in Central Park

By far, the best offer I got this Memorial Day weekend was from a guy I'd never met before. "What do you say we arrange to meet in Central Park and chat chocolate over Recchiuti s'mores?" he asked in an email. "I'll bring the gear, you bring your palate and we can geek out around our favorite topic." Even better that the guy turned out to be Michael Recchiuti himself.

Michael and Jacky Recchiuti are owners of San Francisco's ten-year-old Recchiuti Confections, where the chocolate bon bons are improvisations on ingredients available at the local farmers' market. Michael is the chocolatier and head taster, in addition to the author (with Fran Gage) of Chocolate Obsession and the darling of every writer on the chocolate beat from Mort Rosenblum to Chloe Doutre-Roussel. On the morning he called to say he'd made it to New York and was on his way to Manhattan, I was out the door in record time.

There was some technical stuff to sort out first. While Michael wrangled a camp stove from a pastry chef at one of the city's poshest dining rooms, I went on a last-minute errand to buy a digital tape recorder at Radio Shack. We met by the steel globe at Columbus Circle and, just as the Central Park thermometer peaked at 85 degrees, we casually strolled past a crew of firemen leaning on their sparkling red truck and set up our marshmallow-roasting operation in the Sheep Meadow.

As symbolic of the American summer as Memorial Day barbecues, s'mores are a campfire tradition made by sandwiching a molten marshmallow and a chunk of chocolate between two graham crackers. Recchiuti goes against the norm by using a bain-marie to melt the chocolate (his own six-couverture 85%-cacao blend). "The marshmallows never really melt it perfectly, as far as I'm concerned," he told me. But he left the choice between charred and slowly-cooked marshmallows to me. "Everybody has their own way of toasting the marshmallow," he said, "I don't want to assume...." We talked a bit about travel and love and politics. I have it all on tape--except for the snippet of conversation that was drowned out by the whooping of a police van, prompting us to pack up and stash our camp stove. Anyway, instead of talking we spent most of our time watching the flame, licking our fingers, and enjoying the weather.

Michael Recchiuti's $22 S'Mores Kit, which includes eight vanilla-bean marshmallows and as many homemade graham crackers in addition to the chocolate, can leave his San Francisco headquarters and be at your door in a couple of days. Recchiuti's Bay Area colleague (and the man responsible for our impromptu meeting) Chuck Siegel of Charles Chocolates has made his own s'mores on and off for twenty years. Start-up confectioner Laura's Candy is also in the s'mores game, and Lisa Adams's new S'mores cookbook offers pages full of variations. For conservative campers who are willing to sacrifice flavor for a bit of nostalgia, Maine-based wilderness outfitter L.L. Bean sells its own s'mores kit (with standard-issue Hershey bars) for $9.99.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man, I'm so jealous! I would have loved to eat s'mores in Central Park!

8:50 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Recchiuti chocolate is do die for, so how could the s'mores not be the same. Emily, it was a shame that the police sirene broke up the s'more party, but lucky for me. Else I would never have met you and Michael. And then my life would have been a bit poorer. Great Blog, you just got yourself a regular guest. Smiles, Katja

6:27 PM GMT-5  

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