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Food & Wine: A Sweet Sequel

by Carolyn Jung

Shekoh Moossavi always knew she wanted to return to Palo Alto, but it took two long years to find just the right spot for her new confectionery shop. | Photo courtesy of Shekoh Confections.

Shekoh Confections marks the return of the chef-chocolatier behind Shokolaat.

Growing up in Iran, Shekoh Moossavi would anxiously wait for her father to return home each day, counting the minutes until he walked through the door. She was always overjoyed to see him, of course, but even happier to see something else.

“I don’t remember him ever coming home from work without a tin of chocolates in his hand,” she says, beaming at the memory. “The scent of chocolate hits me and still lifts me up.”

No doubt it will do the same for any patrons who visit her new Shekoh Confections in Palo Alto. Opened in March, the shop represents a triumphant homecoming for Moossavi, who returns a decade after the closure of Shokolaat, her Palo Alto restaurant-patisserie chocolaterie that pushed the envelope with European-style savory dishes that at times incorporated chocolate. It was named for the Persian word for “chocolate,” which also was the nickname that Moossavi’s father bestowed on her as a child.

At her retail store, chocolate is front and center in the marble-topped display cases where 30 different handmade bonbons are available on any given day, boasting the intense flavors of Chambord, bergamot, honey lavender and orange blossom. Seasonal offerings include Persian Rose, filled with rose petal marmalade and rosewater ganache, then painted to give a brushed velvetlike finish resembling flower petals.

A pastel rainbow of pillowy marshmallows feature unique flavors. | Photo courtesy of Shekoh Confections.

Bags stand at attention, holding sugarcoated pâte de fruits, sticky caramels, s’mores composed of house-baked graham crackers, and pastel-hued marshmallows flavored with rose water, wildflower honey or pinot noir. Not to be missed are the bars of prized Persian nougat emboldened with California pistachios and almonds as well as homemade rose water. It took eight years to perfect the exact soft, chewy texture Moossavi was after in the tricky process that combines egg whites and hot syrup to form just the right elasticity and glossiness. Even now, she says, “I still say a prayer before I make each batch.”

Also available are Persian and Indian teas that she blends herself. Fresh-baked canelés and madeleines will eventually be added, as well as custom cakes by special order.

From essential oils to hazelnut butter, she makes everything possible in-house, striving to use local, seasonal fruit; Straus cream and butter; and lots and lots of Valrhona chocolate. In fact, a framed apron hangs on the wall from that premier chocolate manufacturer, complete with chocolate smudges still on it. Like a college diploma, it’s a symbol of proud accomplishment, recognizing Moossavi’s completion of the rigorous professional program at École du Grand Chocolat Valrhona in France, which is by invitation only.

Premium Valrhona chocolate — plus house-made essential oils, pralines and nut butters — go into her handmade bonbons. | Photo courtesy of Shekoh Confections.

Drawn by its complex taste as well as the scientific prowess required to work with it expertly, chocolate has always held an allure for the onetime glaucoma researcher at the University of Miami. So has cooking, which eventually led her to culinary school, followed by stints working in the kitchens of San Francisco’s Gary Danko and Acquerello before opening her first restaurant, the modern French Gervais in Saratoga.

In the middle of a divorce and two weeks after Shokolaat closed when the landlord declined to extend a long-term lease, Moossavi moved to Paris for two years to immerse herself in the world of chocolate. Afterward, she took a job as an instructor at the Culinary Institute Lenotre in Houston before returning to the Bay Area in 2018 to start making confections at a commercial kitchen for private clients, as well as Draeger’s and Sigona’s Farmers Market. All the while, she hunted for the perfect spot in Palo Alto in which to pour her savings and dreams.

“Life has a lot of peaks and valleys,” she says. “I’m happy I can stand on my own feet again and give people something they love, and that I love making.”

Moossavi’s pistachio, almond and rosewater nougat achieves the perfect soft and chewy texture. | Photo courtesy of Shekoh Confections.

Shekoh Confections

2305 El Camino Real, Unit B; Palo Alto. | shekoh.com

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