In many people's minds, there are two things in life that are indisputably divine: chocolate and good wine.
With that thought, David Kalov and Jolie Fiori hit upon a downtown Bend wine bar aptly named Bend D'Vine.
“There are two lessons my German mother taught me: First, if it's not chocolate it's not dessert, and second, you must eat dessert first. That way, you'll always have room for it,” said Kalov from his home kitchen in Bend.
Kalov and wife Fiori left Silicon Valley feeling burned out. They wanted to explore their passions for chocolate and wine.
“We always loved Oregon, but didn't want all the rain on the valley side, and we had friends who had moved here and they loved it. But we also knew we would need to bring our own jobs,” said Kalov.
Kalov and Fiori happily admit to being first class chocoholics, and wherever their travels took them, they sought out the best chocolate.
“We're chocolate snobs, and what we've found is there's chocolate for children, which is overly sweet, with lots of waxes, corn syrup and preservatives, and then there's adult, refined chocolate,” said Kalov. “Honestly, we could not find high quality chocolate here; nothing met our standard. We're chocolate connoisseurs.”
The couple found their destiny when the original owner of Bend D'Vine was selling out, after only a few months in business.
Kalov said that after taking an intensive chocolatier course and experimenting with his own chocolate recipes, he felt certain they could make a go of Bend D'Vine, making the highest quality chocolate paired with quality wines.
“We have a saying at our restaurant, 'Corrupting you deliciously with our chocolate,' and we really do have the most decadent desserts in Bend,” said Fiori. “Chocolate is like fine wine, you experience it, you savor it, and the flavors come out.”
The couple is clearly proud of their chocolate products, which include everything from chocolate samplers, a variety of truffles, chocolate fondue, hot cocoa and an array of desserts from lava cake to salty caramel brownies. Everything is made in-house.
Contrary to what one might expect, in their own home kitchen, which is immaculate, the couple does not keep a speck of chocolate, which would explain why these self-professed chocoholics are still slim.
They say Bend D'Vine keeps them busy non-stop, so when they're home they keep it simple. For this rare lunch at home, they made green salsa with corn tortillas.
It's in this home kitchen, where the couple can experiment with different recipes.
Fiori says, other than the chocolates at Bend D'Vine, she loves the homemade hummus and olives that they make at the restaurant.
“We make our own marinade for the olives; they're delicious,” said Fiori. She has several food allergies, which prompted the couple to make as much as they could from scratch so they would know what every single ingredient would be in any of their recipes.
“A lot of people don't know it, but we also have a food menu, which includes a lot of locally sourced food. We buy our cheeses from Tumalo Farms, our breads from Di Lusso, our coffee from Strictly Organic,” said Fiori.
Kalov says another ingredient you won't find in his home or commercial kitchen is coconut.
“I'm highly allergic to it; I can't even touch it without breaking out in hives,” said Kalov.
Fiori sighed and said some customers do ask for coconut confections with chocolate, but that is one thing they don't include. Almost anything else you can think that pairs with chocolate, they will do.
The couple completely remodeled their kitchen when they bought their home two years ago. Kalov said he would love to spend more time here, but the restaurant is keeping them busier than they could've ever imagined.
“We basically took this kitchen down to the studs, well beyond the studs, because we took out a wall to open it up,” said Kalov. “I got to rebuild my dream kitchen, using Caesar stone for the counters, because you can have a 500 degree pot sitting on here and it won't harm it. You could take a hammer to this man-made stone and it won't shatter.”
Kalov said he also got rid of the old electric range and replaced it with a gas stove, which required having a propane tank to fuel it, since they live outside city limits. He also proudly rolled out the spice rack next to the range. “Doesn't this make sense, having all your spices right next to where you're cooking? I don't understand kitchens where the spice rack is on the other side of the kitchen.”
Fiori loves the large food pantry to the side of the kitchen. She also likes the bar area, which they created by taking out part of the wall so they could look out into their living room.
Kalov and Fiori amiably chatted while they plated their lunch, and they talked about their love of wine, too.
Kalov took out a white wine from Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery from the refrigerator and pulled out a red ETHOS Syrah wine made by the same winery and sighed.
“The Ste. Michelle winery decided to stop making this high end wine, even though it was a top seller at Bend D'Vine,” said Kalov. “I guess they felt it was better to sell quantity over quality and they sell more of their Ste. Michelle label. It's really a shame. I could also sell more chocolate if I wanted to use cheaper ingredients, too, but I don't want to do that. I want to give you the best chocolate experience and all our ingredients are of the highest quality, including the flour we use in our cakes and brownies.”
Always able to find the silver lining, Kalov said that earlier this spring, they were able to do some winery tours in Oregon and Washington, searching for more of the best wines at the best prices for Bend D'Vine.
“It was all in the name of research,” cracked Kalov. “But we do take this seriously. Anyone can find a great $500 bottle of wine, but the trick is you have to be able to find a great bottle of wine at $25 or $40, which is a price point people can afford. I think all our wine is great, from the house wine to the very expensive wines. You'll never get Two-Buck Chuck at our place.”
Kalov says Napa is not necessarily the king anymore when it comes to wine. He says they're buying more and more Northwest wines, coming from Walla Walla, the Willamette Valley and the Dundee area.
They also carry the Chocolate Shop wines out of Washington.
“Somehow they've perfected being able to infuse their wine with a variety of chocolate flavors. Others have tried to do this and it didn't work, but this one is truly good,” said Kalov.
One of the greatest compliments Kalov and Fiori received in their wine and chocolate bar was when a Swiss diplomat and his wife were visiting Bend, and they by chance stopped in for wine and dessert.
“The Swiss diplomat told us he never has American chocolate because it's never any good, and I told him he hasn't had our chocolate. Well he had one of our handmade truffles and he couldn't believe it. He told us, 'This is the best chocolate I've had in America; this is what a truffle should taste like,'” said Kalov.
What are the ingredients you'll always find in your home kitchen cupboard, and/or refrigerator?
Vegetables, chicken, beef broth, garlic and onions.
Favorite home meals you like to prepare?
Easy, tasty and fast! We love tacos and sauteed vegetables.
What is your favorite home appliance in your kitchen?
The gas stove and oven.
What is your favorite hand tool/cooking utensil in your kitchen, other than a knife?
My favorite hand tool would be a wooden tasting spoon.
Is there an appliance you disdain having in a kitchen?
We don't like microwaves and don't have one in our kitchen.
Do you have a favorite cooking memory?
Making my first chocolates from recipes I created and discovering that I have a talent for working with chocolate.
Best meal you've ever eaten in your life?
It's still my mom's chicken soup!
Guilty food pleasure?
What else, well-made chocolate!
What's your ideal dream home kitchen?
A self-cleaning kitchen!
If you could invite three guests to dinner, who would they be?
Danny Kaye for laughter, Jackie Kennedy for fashion and elegance for my wife, and Harry Caray for laughter and baseball stories.
What do you like to do outside of the kitchen; in other words what do you do when the chef's toque comes off?
Enjoy a nice meal with friends and take the dogs out for a walk.
Favorite food quote or philosophy you often repeat to yourself?
Does this have the right taste, smell and eye appeal I want to achieve? Can I enjoy it, and will others love it?