The Fertile Color of Orange

Bouquet of Flowers in Paper Cone 02At the end of summer, I ventured to a beautiful place I hadn’t been to in a very long time – Massachusetts.  My friend Diane, whom I’ve known since college, was getting married.  A group of us made the voyage across the states for the event.  After a smooth flight, my fellow travelers and I were ravenous, so our lovely hosts and friends, Jen and Keith, took us to an impressive restaurant in Cambridge called Abigail’s.

Abigails Street View

Situated on the first floor of a stylish apartment building in Kendall Square, Abigail’s stands out due to the dynamic orange umbrellas that adorn the dining patio.

Abigails Signage

The restaurant boasts a full bar with a choice beer and wine selection, gourmet food offerings including many BBQ specialties, and a raw bar.  Their brunch menu also looks tantalizing.

Abigails Outside View

As the night was beautiful and tranquil, we chose to sit outside.  This was the view across the street from where I was sitting.  Notice the healthy, thriving trees – a prime example of the wood element.

Diane in Magenta 02

The vision in fuchsia above is the lovely Diane, whose wedding I attended later on in the week.

Dark and Stormy

Dark and Stormy – This is one of my favorite beverages.  Dark rum and ginger beer served over ice, with a lime wedge as garnish.    A simple classic, but Abigail’s does it very well; I ordered two.  The Moscow Mule is similar, except that it uses vodka instead of dark rum.  Sweet and refreshing.

Abigails Seaweed Salad

Seaweed Salad – A selection off of their Raw Bar menu, I had to try it.  Unlike most seaweed salads, this rendition had pieces of edamame mixed throughout.  Light and invigorating.

Abigails Burger and Fries

Fresh Ground Burger and Gouda Fries – American cheese melted onto a ground beef burger, with grilled onions, pickles, and iceberg lettuce on a delicious potato bun.  Their special sauce  is served alongside, similar to a savory aoili.  Satisfying and filling.  For $3.00 more, one can swap standard fries for Gouda Fries.  Small pieces of bacon swim throughout a river of chicken gravy that cover thick-cut fries.   Decadent and addictive.

Abigails Bar

Another item on the menu that caught my eye was a side dish called Summer Chi.  In feng shui, we refer to positive energy as chi.  Summer chi = summer energy.  It turns out the chi dish is a medley of seasonal summer vegetables, which I found intriguing.  (No one at the table ordered it, hence there is no photograph of said chi.)  Industrial Light Fixture

Inside, a long bar extends nearly the whole length of the establishment.  Cool bucket lights hang over the bar, while very industrial sconces take residence in front of the windows.  I really like the metal energy the window fixtures encompass.  Somewhat like a cage housing a rare light source.  I’ve love to have two or three of these lining the balcony of my home in Los Angeles.

Abigails Art

I was fascinated by this enigmatic art piece, which hangs near the main entrance.  I love how the grays, blacks and yellows all mix together in a beneficial way.  Earth, metal, and water elements harmonize here in thought-provoking fashion – an ideal example of good feng shui art in a highly modern style.

Abigail Interior Seating

Shades of yellow and gray, with a little black here and there, are the main colors used throughout.

Frilly Victorian Parasol Orange

In feng shui, the color orange is a dynamic, cheerful shade symbolic of the west.  There is debate as to whether it is representative of the fire element or the earth element.  I would actually say it works for both.  The hue is representative of creativity, fertility, organization, and social interactions.  The color orange can be used in a variety of positive ways:

  • Add some orange pillows or an orange throw to a living room sofa.  This will foster a more social, creative energy in the space.
  • Use as a paint color for kitchens, dining rooms, and children’s play areas.   The color used in these rooms creates a warm, social atmosphere with good conversation.
  • If one is trying to have a baby, add more orange to the bedroom.  The walls can be a painted orange, but it should be an earthy or muted orange, or change some of the curtains or bedding to an orange shade.
  • When used in small doses, orange is excellent for offices as it increases productivity and helps to establish an organized environment.
  • To stimulate creativity, wear the color orange in any shade you desire.  It should be an item you like that is comfortable and stylish.  (I have a rust color cardigan that suits me perfectly.)
  • Eat oranges!  They stimulate one’s immune system with vitamin C and other healthy nutrients.

Personally, I consume a lot of oranges in the form of orange juice.  (I can’t seem to get enough of it.)  My next trip to the Boston area will  hopefully be sometime next spring or summer.  But one thing is definitely certain – I will be visiting Abigail’s again where I plan on eating some oysters underneath one of those vibrant orange umbrellas.

Abigails Umbrellas

Abigail’s Restaurant

291 3rd Street, Cambridge, MA 02140

617-945-9086

Hours:  Monday – Friday 11:30 am – 1:00 am,  Saturday 5:00 pm – 1:00 am,  Sunday 11:00 am – 1:00 am

Note:  Closed for lunch on Saturdays.

http://abigailsrestaurant.net/

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Samovar

Samovar and Tree

In addition to being a feng shui consultant, food and wine connoisseur, and writer, I also hold a BFA in Theater Performance.  A few years back, I was in a production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya when I first heard of an intriguing item called a samovar.  For those unacquainted with the term, a samovar is a large metal or brass urn  with a spigot, used to boil water or tea.   Of Russian origin, they first hit households around the 1820’s, gaining quickly in popularity,  Nearly every Victorian home in Russia possessed one.  Although the originals used coal to heat the water, modern-day versions are electric.  In Uncle Vanya, it is mentioned directly by the playwright in Act I, and in most productions used as a set piece during the scenes that take place in colder months.  (The production I was in sadly did not have one.)  Having only seen pictures online of this vintage kitchen appliance, I was surprised to find a tea house in San Francisco named for this very illusive item.

Samovar Signage

Samovar has three different tea lounges located throughout San Francisco.  I frequent the one bordering the Castro (pictured above).  My best friend Wendy and I came here for an incredible brunch.   One can order items individually, or one can do a tea service,  We both went with the British Tea Service, which was the most “brunchy” of the options.

English Tea Service

We each received a small tray with a steaming pot of their Breakfast Blend Black Tea, a stimulating and robust brew that was incredibly delicious.  This also included honey, cream, and coconut nectar.  The evaporated coconut palm nectar is the brown granules that look like brown or unrefined sugar, but it’s actually healthier for you.  Imported from farmers in Bali, Indonesia, coconut palm nectar is the sap of the coconut plant dehydrated into crystals.  The result is coconut palm sugar which is low on the glycemic index, and full of potassium and micro-nutrients.  It can be substituted for table sugar and in baking.  I found it to be just as sweet as sugar, and went perfectly with the Breakfast Blend.

Tea Service Caddy

The food for the tea service was presented on a three-tiered tray.  (I think I need to invest in one of these for my own home use.)

Quiche and Salad

A savory and mouthwatering vegetable quiche was presented alongside a salad with mixed greens.  Their quiche selection changes somewhat depending on the season.  I loved every bite.  The salad had a pleasing vinaigrette with complimented the quiche perfectly.

Oat Scone and Cream

Cherry Oat Scone – A decadent scone with oats throughout, served with preserves and clotted cream.   I could consume one of these every day.  It was fluffy and not overly dry as scones can sometimes be.  Samovar uses only the evaporated coconut nectar for their baking (there is no refined sugar in any of their baked items).   The amount of cream-to-scone was the ideal ratio, and really made the whole meal truly British.

Fresh British Fruit

An offering of fresh fruit concluded the feast, and accompanied the aristocratic scone ideally.

Asian Statue in Niche

The environment of Samovar is one of peace and contentment.  Choice pieces of art, like the elegant statue above, grace  the room, providing a sense of beauty and culture.  The statue is also a brilliant example of the earth element, due to its earthen material.

Samovar Curtains

Billowy curtains shield patrons from the sun’s rays, and help to foster a more intimate atmosphere between seating arrangements.  I also love the lantern in the window, and the high ceilings that allow chi to move freely throughout the space.

Restroom and Curtains

I really like how Samovar has concealed the bathroom with bamboo.  One knows it’s a bathroom, but it doesn’t feel like one is sitting near a bathroom.  I also like the further use of curtains to conceal unsightly storage.

Red Brick Wall and small Samovar

The elements of fire, earth, and metal are in perfect harmony here.  The red of the walls, the brick and the smaller, metal samovar coexist in a beneficial manner because each of these elements feed into one another.

There are many health benefits to drinking black tea.  Of the three main caffeinated tea categories, black tea Samovar Menu Flowerhas far less caffeine that its green or white counterparts.  The low amounts of caffeine found in tea can help stimulate blood flow to the brain without overcompensating the heart, which helps to increase energy levels.  And, unlike coffee, tea releases it’s caffeine slowly over time rather than all at once.  Black tea also contains L-theanine, an amino acid that helps one to focus and relax.  Polyphenols in black tea, which contain antioxidants, help oral and heart health, and may aid in the prevention of certain cancers when consumed on a regular basis.

Samovar also has a highly impressive website and blog.  In addition to having vast amounts of tea information, they also have a terrific online store where one may purchase any of their teas, as well as tea accessories (the teapot, tray, teacup and coconut nectar crystals pictured in the tea service can all be purchased).  They also have “tea gurus” who offer private tea classes.  The lounge has limited seating; I suggest making reservations beforehand (but walk-ins are also welcome).  On my next visit to San Francisco, I plan on trying some of their medjool dates stuffed with chevre cheese (Wendy swears by them), and one of their tantalizing rice bowls.  Until then, I will drink tea here in Los Angeles, read some Chekhov, and long for that delicious oat scone.

Samovar Storefront

Samovar Tea Lounge:  Mission/Castro

498 Sanchez Street, San Francisco, CA 94114

415 626-4700

Hours:  Daily 10:00 am – 10:00 pm

http://www.samovarlife.com/

The Earth Element…Etcetera

Map Ceiling

When I was in grade school, I used to love to draw maps of faraway places.  Usually, these were locations that existed only in the vast caverns of my mind, but others were based on real destinations such as London and Paris.  Since then, I’ve always had a particular fondness for maps and globes.  I get a slight thrill when I open a work of fiction and see a map of the story’s imagined environment printed at the start of the book.  Or when I walk into an antique store and spot an old globe among the various bric-a-brac. You can imagine my surprise when I looked up and noticed the ornately painted map ceiling at Etcetera.  This stylish and quaint French-owned wine bar, located in the Mission area of San Francisco, is one of my favorite places to visit when I journey to the City by the Bay.

Et Cetera Interior

Rich, fiery red, and earth tones of brown, taupe and oak take command of the space.  These colors work perfectly together as red, symbolic of fire, feeds directly into earth, which the other hues represent.  Red is also the most auspicious color in the palette, and is known for attracting attention, luck and passion.  Earth colors, such as yellow, mustard or brown, help to support fire tones in a healthy and beneficial way.  Etcetera makes an impressive use of these colors.  Many businesses select red and yellow (or versions thereof) to draw in people to their environment.  Notice that most fast food establishments have red and yellow as dominate parts of their color scheme. (I also chose the same colors for this website.)

Et Cetera Window

Intimate seating is located within the establishment, and outside tables flank the entrance.  I also really like the compass on the ceiling, placed right over the door.   For those not in the know, there are four main schools of thought concerning Feng Shui:  Classical, Black Hat Sect, Western and Pyramid.  Classical Feng Shui (what my personal feng shui education is based on), uses compass directions to help guide energies throughout an environment.  The other schools do not generally use them.   Also known as Compass School Feng Shui, I refer to their specific principles time and again when analyzing an environment.  But rarely do I see compasses so beautifully displayed as here.  And it’s painted right next to the map (we’ve already established I like the ceiling artwork).

My favorite San Franciscan Wendy and I went to Etcetera during their amazing Happy Hour.  Et Cetera Logo Six days a week from 5:00 – 7:00, one can get a single tapa and a glass of house red, white or rose wine for $10.00.  That is a highly auspicious deal.  So we took advantage of the special, and did two rounds of this addictive combination.  Their tapas menu changes frequently, but below are the items we recently sampled.

La Paradou 2009 Grenache

Le Paradou Grenache 2009 – I opted to go with the House Red.  Their house wines change periodically.   Lately, it has been this delicious grenache from France.  The name of the winery, Paradou, refers to old watermills scattered about the hills of Provence.  A medium bodied wine, this red was seductive and delicious.  I had two glasses.  For more information about Paradou, please visit their website here:  http://www.paradouwines.com/en/   In the photo above, one can also see the charming square stools used as seating.  These were upholstered in a lush fabric almost like velveteen.  I found them to be very comfortable, and am even contemplating building a couple for my apartment.

Prosciutto and Asperagus

Prosciutto and Asparagus – Tender asparagus drizzled with olive oil and herbs.  Fragile folds of prosciutto mingle casually among the greenery.  Refreshing and tasty.

Brie Crostini with Fig

Brie Crostini with Fig – Warm figs tucked under a blanket of melted brie, on a hardened bed of crostini.  Rich and decadent.

Stuffed Tomatoes

Stuffed Tomatoes – Cheese and mellow spices nestled in tomato halves.  Comfy and appealing.

Beet Tiramisu

Beet Tiramisu – I had no idea beets could be so sensual and alluring.  More of a beet parfait than a tiramisu, this savory creation starts with a prime foundation of beets at the bottom, with a second story of beet mouse built atop that.  The penthouse level is unsweetened whip cream.  A beautiful wood element in the form of a single orchid is planted amidst the cream.  Although I’m not particularly a beet enthusiast, I found this parfait to be sublime and delectable.  Perhaps I should explore the world of beets more often.

Alsacian Pizza

The Alsacian Pizza (Flammenkuche) – A flammenkuche is a classic dish originating in Alsace, France, similar to a flat bread pizza.  Melted cheese is not always present, and creme fraiche acts as the sauce base.  My favorite is the Alsacian.  Soft, diced ham, slight browned, and carmelized onions completely cover the luscious crust.  This is not on Happy Hour, but I have to get it on each visit.  Intoxicating, this accompanied the grenache extremely well.

Et Cetera Art and Sconce

Rotating artwork from various local artists cover their gallery wall.  I also really like the wall sconces, which permeate the room with a soft, warm glow.

Wine Barrel Half Table

I am also fond of repurposing items for new use.  I love this wine barrel table.  It is literally a wine barrel spliced in half, and makes for a great conversation piece.  I also like the elements present here.  First, you have metal as part of the barrel.  Wood is also a part of it, but the wood here is dead, therefore it’s actually more of an earth element.  The brown hue also lends itself to the earth family.  Water is represented in the black shade of the metal, and in the curvature of the table.  I would absolutely have this in my home.

Et Cetera Sombrero Globe     Although they are not technically made of earth, maps and globes are definitely suggestive of the earth element, and can be used to further enhance earthen concepts in an environment.  To our left we have a globe that resides in one corner of Etcetera.  I’m not sure what the story behind the sombrero is resting upon it, but I’m sure there is one.  I also like the rooster and the lion.  In feng shui folklore, this bird is said to bring luck and joy into people’s lives, and is the only animal capable of eating a centipede (one of the Five Poisons.)  Roosters are also the only animal that acts as nature’s alarm clock, crowing every morning to celebrate the start of each day.

Lions have a rich history in feng shui folklore as well.  This large feline is a powerful symbol of protection, and is used throughout the world in front of palaces, banks, hotels, casinos, businesses, museums, and private homes.  (Some of my favorite metal lions reside just outside the British Museum).  In addition to their protective and guarding qualities, they are also known for attracting good fortune and wealth.   Other lion-esque creatures also roam the folklore landscape.  The most prevalent of these being the Fu Dog, a combination Lion-Dog.  These are usually placed in pairs, one male and one female, and act as sentinels for entrances to prosperous environments, such as select buildings, gardens, or neighborhoods.

The service at Etcetara is top-notch.  We were well taken care of by the stylish Alexandra and the debonair Alejandro (I believe it was his first or second day on the job).  Aside from their Happy Hour, they also have a few other deals present, such as their Tuesday Night Special:  One pizza or two tapas and a bottle of select wine for $35.00.  Various events are hosted here throughout the year, and board games are available on request should one have an instant craving to play chess.  Although I am back in my native Los Angeles at present, it will only be a matter of weeks before I find myself traveling the globe again to San Francisco, and having some wine … at Etcetera.

Et Cetera Row Houses

Etcetera Wine Bar

795 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

415 926-5477

Hours:  Tuesday – Thursday  5:00 pm – 12:00 am,  Friday – Saturday 5:00 pm  – 1:30 am,  Sunday 5:00 pm – 11:00 pm,  Happy Hour – Tuesday – Sunday 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm

http://www.etceterawinebar.com/

Mochas Among the Greenery

Wendy and Colorful Trees

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”  Now, while I agree wholeheartedly with Cicero here, I feel he may have omitted a few other necessities in life – such as one’s morning cup of coffee.  I function much better after I’ve had two cups of that delicious brew.  It awakens my senses as part of my daily ritual for facing the world.   Coffee can be highly useful and beneficial in a variety of manners.  One of the many ways I use coffee is to reuse it’s byproduct – coffee grounds.  I have a small garden on my balcony at home, and I have found used coffee grounds are excellent as plant food, due to its high levels of potassium, nitrogen, and other trace minerals – all of which are important for healthy plant growth.  But is there such a place where coffee and plants come together in a beautiful, harmonious environment?  Yes, there is.

Grubb Nursery 01

Located in the Bayview area of San Francisco, there lies a hidden garden of wondrous delights known as Flora Grubb Gardens.  Established by landscape designer Flora Grubb (yes, that is her real name) and French chef Saul Nadler in 2003, this charming array of plants and plant accoutrement is a feast for the senses.   There is also a fountain within the garden, in the form of Ritual Coffee Roasters,  a coffee distributor that has one of its stores inside. Established in 2005 and launching a coffee revolution, Ritual’s main goal is “to craft the very best cup of coffee available anywhere.  Period.”   One may get tea or coffee, and wander about the luscious grounds, admiring the elegant plants and handiwork of clever artisans.  I ordered a mocha from the friendly and attentive barista.  It was that flawless cup of perfection true coffee connoisseurs seek.  I sipped my beverage and began my journey among the greenery.

Vertical Garden on Metal Wall

One of my current obsessions is vertical gardens.  They provide a beautiful, living wall of art, and introduce the wood element to an environment in a chic and unexpected way.  Pictured above is a grouping of six vertical panels of rich succulents.   Each panel measures 20″ by 20″ and is available for purchase at Flora Grubb, or at their online store (plants not included).  I’d love to try my hand at creating a vertical herb garden perhaps using one of these boxes.  More information about the D.I.Y. vertical garden panel is available here:  http://shop.floragrubb.com/vertical-succulent-garden-d-i-y-panel/  Flora Grubb also offers a great tutorial on making you own vertical garden:  http://floragrubb.com/florasblog/?p=894

Grubb Furniture 03

Since Christmas, I’ve been debating what to do with my leftover string  lights.  I’m thinking of draping them along some kind of metalwork, like the beautiful filigree pieces above,  Using reclaimed scraps from a variety of sources, they make great conversation pieces, and work well indoors or out.  Although more intended for vines and foliage, I think string lights would adorn them quite nicely.  Classy and colorful Fermob garden furniture can be seen throughout.  The neon green-yellow chair on the right is part of their Luxembourg Collection, while the other pieces are all part of their Bistro Collection, which is based on the original French design patented in 1889.   I’ve been thinking about acquiring some of those folding chairs, too.  I really like the blue one in the bottom left.   More information about their Bistro furniture can be found here:  http://floragrubb.com/florasblog/?p=2450

Buick Planter

Broken items or things in disrepair often attract sha, negative energy, into an environment.  Is it always important to either fix the damaged item, or re-purpose it in a new and fashionable way.  This classic car, a functional beauty in its heyday, has been reincarnated as a planter.  It’s almost apocalyptic in how the plants, a wood element, have taken over this very metal automobile.  It works brilliantly in this space because you have the other three elements working together in harmony alongside the wood and metal (the sunlight and red wall representing fire, the earth below, and the water sustaining the plants).  I like how they use every available area in the car to house a plant.  There are even trees growing through it!  A miraculous and thought-provoking piece of living art.

Comfy Concrete Chaises.  Photo courtesy of Flora Grubb Gardens.

Comfy Concrete Chaises.  Photo courtesy of Flora Grubb Gardens.

These concrete chaises were deceptively comfortable.  I sat here for a while with my mocha and didn’t want to get up.   Many people have mixed opinions about this pair of cement seating, but I like it.  However, I imagine they would be difficult to move around the property.

Justina, Plant and Coffee

Pictured above is my friend Justina with her coffee and a new addition to her plant family.  It’s a crassula of some kind, but I cannot tell you which one.  It’s cute, though.

Grubb Nursery O2

Gardening is one of those activities that is life-affirming and nourishing at the same time.  From a feng shui perspective, it is one of the few actions that incorporates the physical touch of all five of the elements:

  • Wood – The plants themselves
  • Fire – The sunlight for the plants to grow
  • Earth – The soil in which it grows
  • Metal – Gardening tools and implements
  • Water – Also needed for plants to grow

Yin and yang theory also plays a part here.  Many people use gardening as a stress reducer from their hectic, technological yang-filled lives.  Gardening can be a relaxing yin activity, which helps to replenish and balance out stress levels, bringing one back to nature and away from a highly mechanical world.  In addition to being a creative outlet, gardening is also good exercise for people of every age, from young children to retirees.  Not to mention one can grow their own fruits, vegetables and herbs.  Most home-grown veggies taste far better than the store bought varieties.   There is also aromatherapy of sorts working outdoors provides – the various scents of the soil, plants, flowers and air can literally invigorate the soul through olfactory means.  (The smell of fresh-cut grass is a proven aphrodisiac.)

Grubb Plants

The scenery and items at Flora Grubb Gardens are constantly changing and evolving, with new wares coming in almost every day.   I plan on returning here on my next business trip to San Francisco, to see what is currently being offered.  And to have more Ritual Coffee.  (Used coffee grounds also act as a bug repellent, for insects that meander through the soil, such as ants and slugs.  It’s not toxic to them, but will definitely keep them away.)  Come of think of it, I may not be able to wait that long for Ritual’s fine roasts – thankfully, one can order all of their coffee right here:    http://www.ritualroasters.com/store/  I believe is was Thomas Jefferson who said, “Coffee – the favorite drink of the civilized world.”

Flora Grubb Gardens

1634 Jerrold Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94124

415 626-7259

Hours:  Monday – Saturday  9:00 am – 5:00 pm,  Sunday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

http://www.floragrubb.com/idx/index.php

Ritual Coffee Roasters (located inside Flora Grubb)

415 694-6448

Hours:  Monday – Thursday 9:00 am – 4:00 pm, Friday – Saturday  9:00 am – 4:30 pm,  Sunday 10:00 am – 4:30 pm

http://www.ritualroasters.com/

There’s No Business like Tcho Business

Tcho Wall

Charles M. Schulz once said, “All you need is love.  But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”  I couldn’t agree more!  Now, while my own chocolate tastes tend to run more towards the darker spectrum of offerings, I am an avid supporter that all chocolate is good.  Or is it?  On one of my recent excursions to San Francisco, I had the opportunity to visit the Tcho Chocolate Factory.  Located on the historic Pier 17 on the Embarcadero, our party of five descended on the refined factory shortly after lunch for their two o’clock tour.  Pronounced Cho, Tcho is the phonetic spelling of the first syllable of the word chocolate (The T is silent).

Tcho Factory

The company was founded in 2005 by Timothy Childs, a former software engineer for NASA, and famed chocolate maker Karl Bittong.  The creators of Wired Magazine and Wired.com, Louis Rossetto and Jane Metcalfe, are its current CEO and president.  The tour began with the guests entering the building (pictured above) and browsing their bountiful gift shop and coffee bar.  First, we were escorted into a curtained off area where our tour guide talked about the history of chocolate, how chocolate is made, benefits of the cacao, and so forth.  Then, we put away our personal bags and hats under lock and key, and donned hair nets to enter the factory.  Due to safety precautions, I was unable to take any photographs inside the actual factory, but if you” notice the silver pipe in the image below, that is where the inner workings of the factory reside.

Tcho Curtain

Our tour guide, whose name I sadly cannot recall, was personable and a wealth of knowledge.  He guided us through the tour with ease.  Afterwards, we adjourned to another curtained off section for a chocolate tasting (pictured above).  Now, unlike wine tasting, which goes from light to dark, chocolate tasting begins dark, and then heads toward the more milky options.  Every single piece of chocolate I tasted was delicious.  Our guide also commented on which chocolates would go well with different kinds of alcohol.  Of the varieties we tasted, my favorite hands down was the PureNotes Dark “Chocolatey” bar.  Comprised of 70% cacao, this was indulgence at its finest.  I bought two bars of this delight (and have eaten half of one while composing this article).  Other chocolate creations that really impressed me were their chocolate covered cherries, using the PureNotes “Fruity” dark chocolate.  I was also taken with the Serious Milk “Cacao” bar.  I prefer dark, but this version of milk chocolate was absolutely sumptuous, containing 53% cacao.  I didn’t personally try this, but at their coffee bar they also have what is called The Chocolate Shot.  It is a small shot of pure drinking chocolate.  My friends Justina and Andres each had one – and they were in a chocolate induced euphoria for the rest of  the day.

Tcho Chocolate Boxes 01

The health benefits of dark chocolate are quite extensive.  In addition to lowering bad cholesterol levels and blood pressure, this edible gem can also lower the risk of heart disease, due to its anti-inflammatory properties.  Enriched heavily in fiber, dark chocolate can also keep hunger at bay, by sustaining that full feeling in the stomach for longer durations of time.   Blood flow and circulation are improved by chocolate because of its blood-thinning attributes.  A study conducted by the University of Reading in 2011 concluded that chocolate may help eyesight as well, because of the increased blood flow to the retina.  The increase in circulation also helps people to stay awake and alert (mmm… mochas).   An Italian study performed in 2005 showed that those who eat chocolate regularly are at  a much lower risk for diabetes, to due their increase in insulin sensitivity.

As for chocolate causing breakouts on one’s skin, that is a complete and utter falsehood.  According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, stress and environmental factors are the main causes for acne breakouts.  Chocolate has no negative side effects for one’s skin.  In fact, flavonoids, a type of antioxidant found in dark chocolate, offers a small amount of UV protection.  Chocolate helps to lower negative hormone levels, thus resulting in the reduction of anxiety and stress.  Many stressed-out people (some with skin issues) turn to chocolate because it relieves tension caused by stress, hence why society made the connection of chocolate and bad skin.

From a feng shui perspective, chocolate is very yin, due to its sweetness and texture.  As for which elements it connects with, there is some debate.  Because of its coloring, I would say Earth.  (From the rich browns of dark chocolate to the caramel hues of milk chocolate)  However, if we examine their mineral properties,  we get something different.   An average dark chocolate bar contains 14% of one’s daily allotment of copper, making it more metal in nature.

Tcho Chocolate Boxes 02

Now, why is Tcho a beneficial example of feng shui.  Well, for starters, they employ many green practices in their  chocolate making.  All of the equipment used in their factory was purchased from a former chocolate manufacturer in Germany, and then shipped over.  Rather than build brand new machines, they chose to work with preexisting ones, conserving material and labor.   They also have a program called TchoSource, in which they partner directly with native growers of cacao.  Working hand-in-hand with the growers directly, Tcho provides technology and education, assisting them to hone their craft and improve their lives.  A sad fact that I learned on the tour is that most cacao farmers have never tasted chocolate made from their own beans.  An even worse fact is that there is one large chocolate manufacturer (I won’t say which one) that uses child slave labor to harvest the beans.   Slave labor of any kind is abhorrent, especially when it involves children.   The same manufacturer also puts miniscule amounts of plastic in their chocolate as a filler.  No one should eat plastic; this is bad for one’s bodily environment.  Tcho does not use slave labor, nor do they include toxic things like plastic in their creations.

The tour of the chocolate factory is free, but you must make reservations beforehand at the beginning of each month.   If you don’t have reservations, and you show up, they will do their best to accommodate if there is room on the tour.   Please contact Tcho at the website below for more details.  Also, refrain from wearing jewelry and open-toed shoes on the tour.  Men with facial hair will be asked to wear a beard guard in addition to the hair net.  Valuables are secured in a private locked cabinet while touring the factory.  Children under age eight are not admitted.

Tcho's New Sales Reps.  Photo courtesy of J. Cross.

Tcho’s New Sales Reps. Photo courtesy of J. Cross.

Our personable tour guide also felt, during the chocolate tasting, to point out that my best friend Wendy and I were dressed exactly like some of the packaging of Tcho.  I swear, we did not do this on purpose – it just happened.  However, to commemorate our memorable excursion, we decided to pose for this picture entitled:  Tcho’s New Sales Reps.  Tcho also has a wide array of tantalizing recipes, which are located here:  http://www.tcho.com/tchopros/recipes/    If you’re not in San Francisco, and want to try Tcho, one can order all the chocolate they want from the website below.   Many gourmet markets also carry Tcho, such as Whole Foods.   If you’re a chocolate lover, I highly suggest introducing Tcho to your palette-after all, “a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”

Tcho:  The New American Chocolate

Pier 17 in San Francisco, CA 94111, on the Embarcadero at Green Street

415 981-0189

Hours:  Monday – Friday  9:00 am – 5:30 pm,  Saturday – Sunday 10:00am – 5:30 pm

Tours:  Daily at 10:30am and 2:00pm

http://www.tcho.com/