L.A.’s First Eataly Auditions Local Products
At Picco’s table, a callback was under way. That morning, David Menkes, a graphic designer who makes LetterPress Chocolate, a line of single-origin chocolate bars, had so impressed an Eataly buyer that she contacted him a few hours later and asked him to come meet Picco. He had been unloading a truckful of Tanzanian cacao beans when his phone rang. “Some fell in my pocket,” he said, handing Picco a brown bean. “The chocolate comes out when you roast it, but you still get some of that green-banana note.”
Picco examined a bar of Menkes’s best-seller: Ucayali, a dark chocolate named after a Peruvian province in the Amazon rain forest. “No one’s ever used this region to make good chocolate before,” he said. “It’s mostly known for cocaine.”
Picco’s eyes widened.
“Seriously,” Menkes said. He wore a white T-shirt and had earbuds around his neck. “The U.S.A.I.D. found out that we were actually helping cacao farmers and said, ‘Hey, do you want to come down?’ ” He spent part of the summer there. “We helped this farm go from three hundred kilograms to thirty tons of cacao per year.”