It’s nearly teatime at Bloom, an elegantly appointed salon inside Dandelion Chocolate’s shiny new Mission District factory. But don’t expect cucumber sandwiches here: Tea at Bloom entails a three course chocolate tasting menu, served with a pot of tea or hot chocolate while overlooking the new, state-of-the art Dandelion factory floor, where chocolate is transformed from otherworldly cacao pods into neatly wrapped bars.
Dandelion pastry chef Lisa Vega’s first tea menu will be served this Sunday, May 12, just in time for Mother’s Day. Then, on Tuesday, May 14, Bloom opens for its a full suite of options: A breakfast menu including savory items made with elements of chocolate, and in the afternoon, a choice of the three course chocolate tea menu or a three course afternoon ice cream tasting menu (including a house-made “It’s-It”).
“It’s kind of like America’s answer to Angelina in Paris,” Dandelion Chocolate co-founder Todd Masonis said of Bloom, referencing the refined French destination with legendary hot chocolate. Preparing for Bloom, Vega and her team travelled to tea houses in England and Japan, returning inspired, but with a more casual experience in mind.
“Yes, it’s a beautiful space, but we don’t want it to be too stuffy,” Vega says. “It’s not a white glove kinda place — it’s definitely elegant, but this is San Francisco.”
Vega joined Dandelion from Gary Danko in 2013, creating popular pastries for the company’s original Valencia Street cafe like a s‘more that’s torched to order. “I like using pastry and desserts as a vehicle to teach people about chocolate — like how it can taste so different even at the same percentage [of cacao].” That s’more, for instance, shows off the smoky character of Dandelion’s 70% Papua New Guinea chocolate.
Eventually, Vega will offer a longer, eight-course tasting menu at Bloom called “Tree to bar.” Pair that with a chocolate class, also offered at the factory, and you’ve got the ultimate day in chocolate, Vega says. “I think that’s what we built this place for.”
Like the rest of the Dandelion crew, Vega has been somewhat cramped at the old Valencia Street Dandelion space, which lacked a real kitchen. By contrast, the giant new factory is a playground, including a sizable commissary kitchen space for Vega and her team in the basement. With that kitchen, Bloom’s menu includes more elaborate pastry technique than the menu at the cafe (a second location of which is open next door to Bloom, serving more ‘smores and hot chocolate to-go).
Mignardises like a cacao pate de fruit using the husk of the cacao bean, and roasted vegetable hash with cocoa nib basil pesto, demonstrate the many possible uses for chocolate. There are more traditional uses, too, including churros with Mexican-spiced chocolate dipping sauce. And some options are just plain fun, like “cake for breakfast:” A chocolate chip pancake cake with vanilla ice cream and chocolate maple sauce.
“We wanted [Bloom] to be special, and delicious, but playful.” says Vega. After all —“It is chocolate.”