dandelion chocolate

The Perfect Pair

by Emily Shartin on February 6, 2012

What better occasion to think about pairings than Valentine’s Day?

It’s no surprise that we love food, and we love coming up with new ways to use our products — our customers ask us for suggestions all the time and we are more than happy to oblige. When Valentine’s Day — a celebration of pairs — came around, we wanted to come up with some special combinations that were a little different, a little more festive. Today, we’re introducing some wonderful new products that we’re excited and proud to be carrying, and we’ve matched them up with some of our tried-and-true favorites.

Our staff had a lot of fun tasting and putting these gift ideas together. We hope you’ll try them out as part of your Valentine’s Day festivities (either as a gift or part of a special meal), let us know what you think, and maybe come up with a few new pairings of your own.

100% Napa Valley

four 100 ml bottles of our estate extra virgin olive oils

This collection features four estate extra virgin olive oils straight from our home, the Napa Valley. We work closely with each of these small growers throughout the season, ensuring that their olives are grown sustainably and organically. When the time comes, we are there to harvest and mill the olives, and collect the season’s fresh, new olive oil for our customers.

We are offering this set of oils in special 100 ml bottles that Peggy sourced directly from Italy. Each oil exhibits different characteristics, from the delicate flavor and buttery texture of the Ribolli, to the robust fruitiness and pepperiness of the Epstein Estate. They are all perfect for drizzling over fresh greens, poached eggs, roasted vegetables or cheese (more on this below), stirring into soup, or sampling straight up with a fresh, crusty baguette. Need we say more?

Something Cheesy

1 jar of Plumline quince jam, 1 jar of Katz and Co. limited edition sage honey, 1 100 ml bottle of Epstein Estate extra virgin olive oil

We love cheese by itself, but even the best cheeses can be elevated with the perfect condiments. A collection for the cheese fanatic in your life:

We are excited to be one of the first retailers to work with Santa Cruz-based Heidi Schlecht, who carefully sources seasonal, organic fruit for her Plumline jams (she even grows a lot of the fruit herself!). Heidi used to own a cheese shop, so along with classic jams like apricot, strawberry and raspberry, she also makes beautiful cheese condiments like quince jam.

Quince, for those of you who are unfamiliar, look kind of like a cross between a Golden Delicious apple and a pear. Typically too acidic to be eaten raw, they make wonderful, slightly tropical, tart jams with a hint of warm spice and a lovely pink color. Quince (known as “membrillo” in Spanish) is classically paired with the aged Spanish sheep’s milk cheese Manchego, but is also good with other hard cow and goat’s milk cheeses. We also love it on scones or toast, or stirred into a bowl of Greek yogurt.

Along with Plumline’s quince jam, we are offering a limited release Black Button sage honey from our friends at Katz and Co. in Napa. This richly-textured, not-too-sweet honey was extracted early in the spring from bees that pollinated rare wild sage plants. It’s one of our favorites for drizzling over fresh goat cheese or tempering the robust flavors of blue cheese. It’s also a good choice for dressings and marinades, or glazing roasted meats.

And don’t forget that olive oil makes a lovely addition to your cheese plate as well. We are offering a 100 ml bottle of our Epstein Estate olive oil, which is wonderful drizzled over fresh burrata (an Italian mozzarella-style cheese) with a little salt and pepper, or aged sheep and goat’s milk cheeses.

For more on pairing cheese with olive oil, click here.

Simple Decadence

1 bar of either Dandelion chocolate OR Poco Dolce chocolate with olive oil and sea salt, 1 100 ml bottle of Balsamic Vinegar di Modena Methode Tradizionale

Of course, it just wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day without a little chocolate. We are very excited to offer you two locally-made chocolate bars that we’ve recently added to our collection.

Dandelion Chocolate was started a couple of years ago in a garage in East Palo Alto, and quickly gained a following for its “bean-to-bar” chocolates. The company, which recently relocated to San Francisco, is one of only a handful of producers in the country that sources cocoa directly from growers around the world, and then uses it to make chocolate. These simple, elegant, delicious bars are true reflections of their origins and of the farmers who grow the cocoa. We are one of the first shops to carry Dandelion Chocolate, and we are very excited to be working with this growing company.

Because we couldn’t resist, we also are offering a chocolate bar from the San Francisco confectioner Poco Dolce, appropriately flavored with two of our favorite things: olive oil and sea salt. While this might sound like an unusual combination, we promise you that the light fruitiness of the olive oil works wonderfully with the richness of the bittersweet chocolate, while the salt helps to brighten the flavors.

Along with the chocolate, we are offering a special 100 ml bottle of our insanely popular aged balsamic vinegar. Those of you who have tried it know that it is almost a dessert in and of itself, but for the perfect Valentine’s Day treat, we recommend it over fresh strawberries.

A ROSEmary

1 jar of Plumline pear rosemary jam, 1 jar of Katz and Co. Range wildflower honey, 1 375 ml bottle of rosemary extra virgin olive oil

Did we mention that we love cheese? Our last Valentine’s Day combination features a few more suggestions for all the cheese fanatics out there, including another standout from Heidi at Plumline: pear rosemary jam. Sweet with just a hint of minty savoriness, we loved this one on blue cheese and with semi-firm cow’s milk cheeses like Tomme de Savoie. Its texture is reminiscent of applesauce, which also makes it a great pair for farmhouse cheddar.

Katz and Co.’s Range wildflower honey is classic, mildly sweet and very versatile. It’s a good match for delicate fresh goat cheeses, aged Pecorinos or stronger blue cheeses. It’s also perfect for stirring into tea or drizzling over granola.

Lastly, we give you a bottle of our rosemary extra virgin olive oil to tie it all together. Try this on fresh goat or sheep’s milk cheeses, firmer Greek cheeses, or keep an eye out for cheeses that are coated in herbs — a drizzle of this oil will give those flavors a nice boost. We also love a splash over pasta with red sauce or fresh focaccia.

For a little more inspiration, check out this wonderful olive oil/rosemary cake recipe.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all!