In our new feature Deep Dish, foodie-about-town Holly Beretto takes you behind the kitchen doors to share the personal stores about the dishes that shaped the lives and menus of some of Houston’s most prolific and popular chefs.
Deep Dish: Chocolatier Annie Rupani & Cardamom
“I grew up with cardamom,” said Annie Rupani, the feisty, smart, savvy business woman-cum-chocolatier who’s the driving force behind Cacao and Cardamom, the upstart chocolate wunderkind across the street from the Galleria. “I never knew it was different. I mean, I had no idea other people didn’t use cardamom.”
In fact, the whole notion of not knowing what other people did or didn’t do is a powerful presence in Rupani’s life. It’s allowed her to break rules she had no idea were set, as well as propelled her curiosity about other cultures. And all of that is evident in her chocolate shop, a stunningly elegant gold-and-black-tinged affair in one of Houston’s most-desired zip codes that invites guests to indulge in the exotic.
All of Rupani’s hand-crafted chocolates are definite twists on the usual chocolate-shop fare. With flavors infused from her travels, and techniques she honed studying to be a pastry chef.
“The concept of chocolate in Pakistan is Cadbury,” says Rupani, who’s family is Pakistani. “And I wanted to bring the flavors I knew into chocolate, because there are so many spices and fruits that are untouched in candy making.”
That’s exactly what she’s done in the Cardamom Rose, one of the shop’s signature candies.
“Cardamom is pungent, really aromatic,” explains Rupani. “There’s small, green cardamom or large, black cardamom. It’s used in chai, and in mithai, a south Asian dessert, usually milk-based. It was always in our house.”
So, she went looking for ways to cull those familiar flavors of home into her sweets.
“I roast the cardamom and the infuse it in the cream which is then blended with the white chocolate to form the ganache and then a bit of rose water to finish,” she says of the Cardamom Rose.
“People get a little freaked out that they can find so many layers of taste in my chocolates,” she laughs. “Lots of times, you have chocolate, and you taste one prevalent flavor. This is very different.”
And being different is something she embraces. Infusing her candies with the tastes of her family’s homeland, as well as the places she’s visited, both gives a personal touch to each recipe and demonstrates how Houston’s culinary scene brings the city’s diverse demographics to life. How’s that working for Rupani’s business? So far, so good.
“I have one customer who comes in every week or so and she gets a box of 16 Cardamom Roses,” says Rupani. “It’s so great to see how much people are enjoying these flavors.”