Cupid Came Early

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Maison Mitchell Azteca truffles.

If anyone has any doubt about the commercialization of Valentine’s Day, all they need to do is take one look at the pitches I’ve been inundated with for the past few weeks, from pink Valentine’s Day cocktails to “romantic” recipes to special aphrodisiac menus to “cooking for two” cookbooks to a vat of chocolate press releases. But really, let’s get down to the basics: if you have a sweetie, it’s all about the card, the flowers, and yes, the chocolate. I may not be getting a card or flowers on Sunday, but I sure as hell just scored in the chocolate department. I love my job!

A pastry chef whom I met while he was at Chez Papa and Baraka, Gabriel Mitchell, has just launched his own “online pastry shop,” ~MAISON MITCHELL~. His first creation for Valentine’s Day is Azteca, a sultry and dark chocolate truffle that weaves in the flavors of Ceylon cinnamon and smoky pasilla chile. In a word, meow. (I can see why he won a competition before with this recipe.) The $25 box decadently comes with about 40 pieces, so you can share them with your sweetie. You can order the truffles online (in-person delivery is free to San Francisco residents) or have them mailed if you’re not in SF. Limited quantities are also available at AREA in North Beach, MAC in Hayes Valley, and at Arjan flowers in Oakland, which is where Mitchell will be making an appearance on Sunday from 9am-7:30pm.

Mitchell was most recently the executive pastry chef at Zinnia, and his background also includes working for Jacques Torres at Le Cirque 2000, Johnny Iuzzini at Restaurant Daniel, and in Paris at Pierre Hermé. As he puts it, he’s the “sugar pimp,” and all of his creations are his ladies, whether it’s Chloe, an upcoming champagne truffle, or Tam-Tam, the soon-to-be-released chocolate tart with gold leaf (indeed). (Fortunately he has the sartorial sense and baking skills to pull this sugar pimp thing off.)

There will also be Sunshine, a Meyer lemon tart that will be available in a couple weeks as well. (The tarts will be $5 for an individual size, or $25-30 for a 5-6 serving size.) I’m looking forward to trying his upcoming creations, but in the meantime, I have quite the box of truffles to tide me over.