Magazine article Sunset

Raising the Bar

Magazine article Sunset

Raising the Bar

Article excerpt

REPORTS FROM THE FIELD: PEOPLE, PLACES, AND GREAT IDEAS

INNOVATORS

A WINEMAKER AND A DOCTOR CHANGE THE WAY AMERICANS THINK ABOUT CHOCOLATE. "When we started, the chocolate industry was shere the coffee industry was 15 years ago," says John Scharffenberger. "Nobody was making European-style expresso because the prevailing belief was that Americans did not like strongly flavored products."

His success has proven this to be as untrue for chocolate as it was for coffee. In the five years that Scharffenberger, a former sparkling--wine maker, and Rovbert Steinberg, a physician, have been in business, the two have achieved national attention for making a flavorful, highquality chocolate using small--scale European artisanal methods--nearly unheard of in a country dominated by a handful of large--scale chocolate producers. Still tiny by industry standards, Scharffen Berger's 30 employees produce 400,000 pounds of chocolate annually.

In the beginning, the two figured their heady, dark chocolate-a blend of eight separately roasted beans selected from around the world for their flavor and acidity-would appeal mostly to chefs and bakers. But one day Scharffenberger went to a farmers' market with about 100 of what he describes as "funny little candy bars" that they'd made by filling their larger molds halfway He sold out of the bars in an hour. …

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