Grow Together, Work Together
With $2500 available on her credit card and an education and work history tasty enough to make anyone drool, Ginger Elizabeth opened her chocolate boutique in Sacramento. She’d worked in LA, New York, Chicago, but she was homesick. Instead of returning to Placerville, she settled in Sacramento, where she believed success “more tangible.” Since she’s opened Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates, patrons have discovered something divine. Ginger melds her incredible work ethic and customer service with unparalleled chocolate-crafting skills, which results in a visitor experience unlike any other in Sacramento.
Upon entering the shop, the customer crosses into another realm—crisp, clean and service-centered. Ginger's staff treats every customer as though s/he's the most important person in that moment. The store's design, feel and expert customer service result from Ginger’s desire to offer her customer the best and her investment in quality staff. The folks working in “the front of the house are the most important people in the company,” she says, and she works hard to keep them engaged, interested and trained by involving them in the boutique’s processes: testing recipes, offering tastings, holding regular meetings, and even scripting customer greetings and sales language.
Ginger knows the value of a committed staff, but she’s also buoyed by her supportive husband, whom she describes as “60% Ginger Elizabeth” because he runs business and marketing operations.
When it comes to testing product, though, she’s got two helpers who don’t earn a paycheck or work regular hours. As we age, she explains, our “tastebuds die,” so it’s important to enlist young tongues for a fresh perspective. As such, she shares treats with her two small children and takes their advice seriously.
While she tests and tastes and shares and assess until she gets each recipe right, one trip in particular changed the way she thought about chocolate. Ginger spent a week in Belize with Mayan farmers examining their relationship with cacao. There she witnessed ginger growing on the jungle floor while wild vanilla travelled up trees from which cacao beans hung. There it was: what grows together, works together. Ginger returned to her shop inspired by the joy Mayan farmers experience living with cocoa and created her Maya Chile bon bon, which took two years to perfect. The final product, though, sits on the tongue for a moment while the soft shell recedes releasing cream with a subtle tingle that coats the mouth.
Ginger attributes that same level of attention to each creation. Some of her macarons include jam cooked right on the stove. The local and organically sourced fruit, still sheened with bloom and loaded with pectin from time ripening on the tree, allows Ginger to maintain her purist values. In addition purchasing local and organic ingredients, Ginger also finds ways to partner with the larger food community through events like Coffee Day for which she created delectables infused with locally roasted coffee. She and her staff invested a great deal of time finding the perfect roast and flavor that would compliment their treats. Ginger’s traditional training and her genuine respect for chocolate permeate each creation making every morsel a delight for the eater.
Maya Chile Bon-bons
Ingredients 1 cinnamon stick 1/2tsp. dried chile flakes 1-1/2” piece fresh ginger (peeled and chopped) 1ea. vanilla bean (scraped) 240g cream 100g honey 25g butter 400g Couverture chocolate (68-70% cocoa content)
Method In a heavy bottom pot heat cream, cinnamon, chilies, vanilla bean and ginger to a boil. Remove from the heat and infuse for 10 minutes. Strain cream and weigh again, add more cream to make up the difference if needed. Add the honey to the warm cream to dissolve. In a food processor add chocolate and chop into dime size pieces. Add the cream mixture to the chocolate when the cream is 150F. You may need to reheat the cream to get it to this temperature or cool it down depending on how fast you work. Blend the cream and chocolate together until there are no chocolate chunks and the mixture looks creamy. Add the butter and mix until just combined and creamy. Pour mixture into a 12”x12” frame about 3/8” high. Let set overnight (24hours) at 64-68F. Cut into 1” pieces and dip into tempered 55-60% Couverture chocolate. Top with ground cocoa nibs if desired.