New CocoaPlanet Cafe and Tasting Room in Sonoma
Flaunting its clean eating, artisanal Sonoma County pedigree, CocoaPlanet’s contemporary chocolates are made with all-natural ingredients, premium Fair Trade-certified Guittard Chocolate Co. dark chocolate cacao, and recipes that are non-GMO-verified, gluten-free, low sugar and vegan. The boutique factory also is wheat, peanut-free, and uses lactose-free milk or almond milk.
But as delicious and healthy as they are, the 21/4 inch-diameter, thin wafer bonbons are only part of the draw at the new CocoaPlanet Chocolate Factory in downtown Sonoma. Owner Anne McKibben has also just unveiled a French café, offering delicious bites like cassoulet, quiche, and Croque Madame, with all the recipes gluten-free.
For the finishing touch, she’s rolled out a tasting room, too, brimming with goodies like wine, beer, port and chocolate pairing menus, global teas, and, naturally, hot chocolate drinks.
It took McKibben nearly five years just to perfect the machines that create the chocolates, sending them around the shop’s glass walls on a conveyor belt that’s only 41/2 inches wide. The set-up certainly looks Willy Wonka-ish, with tubes crossing the ceiling, leading from the stainless- steel tempering (melting) machine to push liquid chocolate to the stainless-steel depositing machine. There, the molten candy floods over metal die plates cut with tiny holes that press in little beads of citrus, peppermint and other fillings that McKibben calls “pearls of flavor.”
Set behind the factory, nearly hidden from view, the small indoor cafe and garden patio celebrates chocolate, of course, with temptations like Orange Cathedral Cake studded with chunks of Deep Dark Truffle chocolate, chocolate drizzled macarons, and something called Edible Dirt, which is a Deep Dark Truffle chocolate pot de crème with chocolate shortbread crumble and pumpkin seeds.
On the savory side, we can nibble on cheese and charcuterie plates, gougeres, and a bigger plate loaded with French Dip of Black Angus prime rib on a gluten-free baguette with classic jus and French potato salad.
Details: CocoaPlanet, 921 Broadway, Sonoma
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