Imagine juxtaposing mystical, comical and aspirin-inducing memories of science laboratories, with my delectable, exponential addiction to chocolate.
Gastronomypix made the right, paradoxical choice on a sunny San Francisco weekend when we ventured into a quirky corner café on a surprisingly residential district of the happening city. Exhausted from the day, I stretched and faced the ceiling to realize that the chandelier was made of upside down flasks and beakers. I recall immediately frowning and smiling all at once, owing to unearthed memories. The beakers and conical flasks and heating jars were even somewhat smoked to give a rustic, worn, and “the science is behind it” type of feel. Apt for a place that was very plainly called Chocolate Lab. Complete with a beaker icon on its frosted glass door.
The whimsy continued when the water arrived in a perfectly scientific flask, marked with the 100 mL notches. Bringing a flash of memory of sulfuric acid back in chemistry lab, I was instantly alert and addicted to snapping photos of the literal interpretation of a lab.
As readers may know, I have documented the quirky flavors of ice cream before, and true to my nerdy self, have even developed frameworks to prophesize the evolutionary trends of my favorite snack (err, treat). But what I ordered was akin to a torrential downpour of trends that shook the shackles of what I’d tasted thus far. For while I had tried ice creams made of non-traditional ingredients like tomatoes and wasabi, here was a take on traditional ice cream, but with process oriented applications that altered its foundation. So very lab-like.
Truthfully it was merely three scoops of burnt caramel ice cream with toppings in an Asian soup bowl. With a penchant for fire, the bitterness of the burnt was a delectable blend with the cold punch of the ice cream. But oh what toppings! Recchuiti burn caramel hazelnuts, almonds, peanut butter pearls that exploded with a fresh nutty flavor and homemade (or let’s say lab-made) marshmallows, which were also burnt such that I could almost see the languishing flame. The extra bitter chocolate sauce arrived in a plain white ceramic pitcher, and was dense enough to flow seductively, coating every mountainous texture in my heaped bowl. Given that my name has a “sour” in it, its natural that my cousin “bitter” would be a palette pleaser. And while the charred taste induced periodic frowns and cringes, the fact was that this was as aromatic as barbeque, but was merely ice cream instead of grilled veggies (imagine grilled bitter gourd). The juxtaposition made it all the the more alluring, and instantly addictive. Dare I say, was it the magic of science?
Gastronomypix ordered a root beer float, which came in a tall skinny vial with kaleidoscopic colors like sand dunes lining the inside. Reminiscent of my tall Parisian cocktail, it clearly required some swirling for optimal taste. What lay inside was extra bitter chocolate sauce, layered with homemade vanilla ice cream, frothed milk and Virgil’s root beer.
A juxtaposition of sweet and bitter, it also blended several densities from ice cream to fizzled out root beer to creamy milk and chunky, fluid chocolate. It made for an effortful slurp through a straw, but a yummy one nonetheless, despite being several notches sweeter than my newfound bitter infatuation.
Our bellies were full, but our aspirations to devour everything in this laboratory were not. So we made the strange decision to order spring chocolate truffles, which lacked the freshness and decadence of the experience thus far. While made of supremely high quality chocolate that simply melted at room temperature against the stark white plates, the subtle notes of lavender and spring florets didn’t quite come through, partially owing to the bitterness that had cleansed our mouths.
With a newfound addiction for all things bitter and burnt, owing to some deep scientific intertwining of flavors, and an obvious rekindled experience of science laboratories, the Chocolate Lab is now officially my staple for every San Francisco trip. For a lab can never concoct a mistake, and even if it does, well that’s simply the joy of experimentation.