Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bittersweet Good-Bye

I finally announced on Facebook a tragedy of which I've known for awhile. Bittersweet Chocolate Cafe on Fillmore has closed. Now that I've let my closest friends in on these sad San Francisco tidings, I send my grief out into the whole of the Internets.

I've planned on writing posts about my favorite places and treats in the city. My first of these posts would have been my favorite of all, Bittersweet cocoa. The thick, rich beverage special to this cafe stands unmatched, in my experience. A special blend of premium chocolate and cocoa powder in a variety of concoctions: the uncompromising classic, the refined bittersweet, the kick of Aztecan chile, the modern mocha, the creamy peanut butter, the adrenaline pumping Bicerin, the sweet white chocolate. Not to mention the seasonal options, like the Coconut Chiller, mulled cranberry cider, and the Salted Caramel Cocoa - the invention of which I still insist came about as an answer to my prayers. Yes, the entire menu is indelibly etched in my brain from so many trips to this happy-making cocoa bar. I have friends from out of town who insisted on stopping by every day they were in SF. But no more.

This is not the post I planned on writing. Alas, the economy had a different plan. The storefront that used to promise warm happiness has joined the ranks of many others abandoned in these tough times. So, instead of a post heralding the chocolate of all chocolates in the hopes of recruiting new loyalists to the fray, I now write a post of farewell to share my mourning with fellow friends of the foam.

I heard rumor of this closure weeks ago. Unfortunately, a nasty injury and crutches prevented me from immediately running the mile from my house to the beloved chocolate cafe to confirm. And I couldn't bring myself to announce this loss to the world until I saw for myself. I made the husband man take me by the location recently so I could see with my own eyes. And this is what my own eyes found:

It is true, fellow cocoa-nuts. Our haven is no more. I wish I could say this revelation came as a surprise. The last few times I patronized the establishment, they'd been out of my favorite local chocolate bars, Poco Dolce and Tcho. The shelves usually lined with hundreds of kinds of chocolate from around the world stood painfully empty, a distressing omen of what would come to pass. The confused baristas said they didn't know when new shipments would come in. If only they'd known. If only I'd known. I could have stocked up on tins of their delectable cocoa to enjoy at home.

But, again alas, I found my last tin down to the dregs. Today I savored my final mugful. One cup of soy milk in my special Botticelli mug, melted with enough cocoa mix for 1 1/2 servings - a good-bye is no time for moderation. I didn't wait for a special day. Like Paul Giamatti in the fast-food booth surreptitiously sipping his cherished Pinot from a paper cup in Sideways, today is special BECAUSE of this steaming ceramic chalice of chocolate.

I cherish my final farewell with a good book and a purring cat before announcing the news to my Facebook network. Creamy liquid courage before breaking a few hearts.

But, what is this? Are my eyes mistaken? Is this some cruel joke? Have I actually found a bit of sweet to add to the end of this bitter tale? Does Bittersweet's website prove that one of their three locations is STILL OPEN? Will my girlfriends and I be making pilgrimages to Oakland for our fix? Can it be that the existence of this oasis allows for online ordering of treasured tins of this nectar of the gods? Can my mourning truly come to a halt in the midst of deepest grief?

Image from Bittersweet's website.
I admit. My first instinct was to withhold this information, to save it for myself, so that I could surprise my Bittersweet converts with gifts at birthdays and holidays, to see their eyes gleam at me with gratitude and awe. But I must act for the good of the many. Shout it from the rooftops! Spread the news! And buy buy buy! We've lost so much already, let's not let this last ounce of hope slip through our fingertips, another victim of the economic downturn. Consumer power! Let's keep hope alive, through shopping. And chocolate.

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