From Bean to Bar: Artisan Sonoma Chocolate a Sweet Treat

From Bean to Bar: Artisan Sonoma Chocolate a Sweet Treat

Big flavor chocolate is coming out of a tiny facility in Windsor.

Chefs Jeff and Susan Mall, owners of VOLO, were ahead of the Sonoma farm-to-table movement when they opened Zin Restaurant & Wine Bar in Healdsburg in 1999, basing their menu on what they grew and raised on their Eastside Road farm, and what they could procure from nearby ranchers and fishermen. (Photo by Heather Irwin)

Taking their sustainable ethics in a different direction, the Malls embark on a sweet new adventure.


Jeff and Susan Mall were ahead of the Sonoma farm-to-table movement when they opened Zin Restaurant & Wine Bar in Healdsburg in 1999, basing their menu on what they grew and raised on their Eastside Road farm, and what they could procure from nearby ranchers and fishermen.

Such farm-to-fork service is now de rigueur, and the couple, lifelong culinary adventurers, are off on another journey. During a stint cooking at a Baja California Sur resort, they developed a taste for Mexican chocolate, appreciating its intense flavor, distinctive salt and spice notes, and compatibility with savory ingredients. While their year-old VOLO Chocolate business in Windsor keeps the Malls rooted in Sonoma, their ingredients are decidedly not local. And that’s the point.

Cacao pods for VOLO are harvested in the tropical Chiapas region of southern Mexico, where they are wrapped in banana leaves and allowed to ferment naturally. The beans are removed from the pods and shipped, raw, to the Malls’ tiny facility off Shiloh Road, behind Home Depot. Zulka Morena pure-cane sugar, Baja sea salt from Guerrero Negro and Mexican cinnamon complete the south-of-the-border list of base ingredients for their confections.

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