Where to Experience The Food of the Gods


Where to Experience
The Food of the Gods

In the article titled “Chocolate”, which appeared on December 21-22 in The Wall Street Journal, written by Simran Sethi, I learned that the botanical name of chocolate is “Theobroma Cacao”, which means Food of the Gods. In the article I also learned that by 2024, the cocoa growing industry is expected to reach over 161 billion in revenue. It seems that I am not the only one in the world who loves chocolate. I first discovered good chocolate in the late 90s. A friend introduced me to Robert Steinberg, co-founder of the chocolate company, Scharffen Berger. We visited the one room factory located in South San Francisco (which later relocated to Berkeley). It was acquired by Hershey in 2005, and was the first American company in the past 50 years to make chocolate “from bean to bar”. Online I found the list of the World’s top 10 chocolate bars (Scharffen Berger was number four). Many chocolates later, it seems that that the field of chocolate making is getting crowded. There are so many artisanal brands, which vary in taste, ingredients, components, and of course price. The question remains – what is a good chocolate? Turns out, that the bottom line for defining a great chocolate is the amount of cocoa solids present. To be dark, it has to be over 70 percent. Anything below is considered milk chocolate. This is why 72 percent chocolate bars are so popular.

There are many stores where we can buy chocolates, such as a boutique that specializes in chocolate varieties from around the world, located in San Francisco, on 24th Street. Years ago, before chocolate bars became as popular as they are now, the owner of the Chocolate Covered boutique told me to let him know if I find chocolate that he does not have, he will add it to his collection. And then there are chocolate truffles. You can buy them from many companies like Godiva or many other manufacturers. One of them, Christopher Elbow Chocolates boutique located in Hayes Valley, sells creations of a Kansas City chocolatier, Christopher Elbow. It is also one of the places to taste real hot chocolate. However, recently I discovered a new place, which brought chocolate truffles to a completely new level. The first time I just stumbled upon this place, which seemed to be a coffee shop called One 65, located next to the O’Farrell/Ellis Garage in downtown San Francisco, across from Macy’s. The name of the place reflects the address. Turned out that the coffee shop was just part of the French restaurant, located in in a six-story building, created by Michelin star lauded chef Claude Le Tohie. A few days later, we came back for a delicious dinner in the bistro. And it was here where we recently celebrated my 73rd birthday. With all of the wonderful culinary experiences, it was chocolate which brought me back. On the second floor in the Chocolate Lab, chocolate Chef Vincent Fredureux creates his artistic masterpieces.

As it often happens when I am looking for information for my stories, it appears as a book. This time it was “Bean to Bar Chocolate. America’s Craft Chocolate Revolution” written by Megan Giller. There I found a lot of valuable information about chocolate as well as recipes for hot chocolate. The book also gave me an idea for one of my next photobook projects – “42 Encounters with Chocolates”.

P.S. Until the book is going to be ready, please enjoy these four images that I photographed at One 65, and do not forget to visit the place to have a real chocolate experience.

Smile, Enjoy chocolate and Share with a Friend!

Manny Signature

How To Celebrate Being Alive


How To Celebrate Being Alive

My original title for this story was “How To Celebrate my 73rd birthday“, which was on January 13th. Some people think that I cannot be that age, since I have a younger look, in spite of my gray hair. And for those who ask for my secret, the answer is very simple – I feel young in my heart and enjoy being alive every day. Since I am not planning to retire, I have all the reasons to be alive. I enjoy everything I do and work on becoming a better mortgage broker, writer and photographer. To celebrate my birthday, we decided to spend some time with our daughters. The oldest one Alona, lives not far from Palm Springs with her boyfriend Jeff. We flew there on Thursday and stayed in a resort hotel.

It was very relaxing. We swam in a pool with warm natural water, rested and ate good food in the local restaurant. Usually in many of our previous trips to the Palm Springs area, we stayed close to the downtown area, with the busy life. This time, without realizing it, I followed my own resolution to start the new decade with a sense of calm, which I wrote about two weeks ago.

From there, we drove to West Hollywood, where our younger daughter Tamar lives with her husband David. There we spent quiet family time, visited the LACMA museum to see Thomas Joshua Cooper’s photography exhibit, ate at some of the local restaurants, and otherwise relaxed in preparation for a very busy year, since mortgage interest rates are quite low and many of our clients will benefit from refinancing. I also found two interesting books about chocolate, the subject I am going to write about next week.

We flew back on the day of my birthday, which we celebrated with the dinner at the “One 65” Bistro located on O’Farrell Street, the place I will write about next week, as well.

P.S. The sense of calm, while being alive, already started to produce results. During the trip I obviously photographed and got a few interesting images.

The flowers you see are wonderfully simplistic. I photographed them in the desert and the images I posted last week.

Enjoy and Share with Friends!

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How To Be Positive


How To Be Positive

There is a lot of talk about positive thinking, which is often just talk. How can one be positive when “bad things happen”? I heard a story about a boy who came to his father and told him that he thinks that he had flunked his test in school. “Son, you have to be positive,” father told him. “OK, I am positive. I flunked the test.” I decided to write this story after reading an article in The Wall Street Journal from December 28-29, 2019, which was titled “For the New Year, Say No to Negativity”. It was an adaptation from the new book, “The Power of Bad: How the Negative Effect Rules Us and How We Can Rule It”, Written by John Tierpey and Roy F. Baumeister.

In the article, their recommendation is that “we could use a fresh approach. For 2020, here’s a resolution that could actually work: Go on low-bad diet.” Especially since “we know there will be endless bad news and vitriol, especially this election year.”

The article points out “that it is just now becoming clear to scientists: the negative effect. Also known as negative bias, it’s the universal tendency for bad events and emotions to affect us more strongly than positive ones”. In the article the authors mention the Rule of Four – It takes four good things to overcome one bad thing. One of the examples is given. “If you want to keep your business afloat, aim for at least four satisfied customers for every unsatisfied one.” Of course you can try to minimize bad experiences or feelings by just avoiding a negative environment, which will affect your brain and your behavior. For starters, stop listening to, or reading all of the negative stuff promoted by politicians and journalists. They are paid big bucks to tap “into our primal emotions by helping threats from nature, technology, foreigners, political opponents – whatever will instantly trigger the brain alarm circuits.”

In my view, positive thinking can only entail expecting a good outcome, regardless of the circumstances. One of my favorite sayings is, “Seek for seeds of victory in every defeat.”

When people habitually ask me, “How are you?” I habitually answer, “Always good”. Some hearing this respond by telling me that I cannot always be good. But I am, because I strive to be good. It is not because I think positively; but rather, this kind of thinking comes from making an effort to be good. And I do not need scientific research to prove that this is the way to enjoy every day of my life.

Last week I wrote that the year 2020 offers infinitive possibilities. It means that all of us have a choice. Choose to be positive. You can read the above mentioned book if you need help with this endeavor, or call me.

P.S. Two weeks ago I shared with you four images from my 2020 calendar. Here are four more. You can see all of them on mannykagan.smugmug.com. I printed 200 calendars and all of them are gone, primarily to my recent clients. Next year I will have another beautiful calendar. It is going to be easy to get – you have the whole year to become one of those clients who needs a mortgage solution, or refer me to someone who does.

Smile, be positive and share your positivity with your friend.

Manny Signature

Welcome To The New Decade


Welcome To The New Decade

As you know, it is customary to greet each other with Happy New Year at the beginning of the year. However this year is different, at least the number is. Actually some of you are well familiar and have used the number before; as in 20/20 vision. This term is used to express visual acuity (clarity) of vision. It has other meanings as well. For starters, the combination of the same two numbers with two zeros will only happen again in 1,010 years. Since neither of us are going to be around in the year 3030 (unless you are planning to reincarnate), let’s take a look at what we should expect in 2020.

Online I found a lot of interesting information about the meaning of 2020, as well as the parts the number consists of: 0,2 as well as 2+0+2+0=4.

NBC News reported 12 reasons 2020 will be an awesome year. Additionally, there is the Angel Number 2020. I found the description very interesting to quote. “Angel number 2020 is an assurance that the angels are ready to support you in life. This means that you have all the reasons you need to live your life to the fullest. Angel number 2020 also appears when you need to create sense of calm in your life”. You might not believe in angels, but I liked the idea of having a sense of calm.

According to the Affinity Numerology, “The energy represented by the number 2020 has a resonance of focus and relationship. It also contains infinite potential.” I liked this one as well. When we take a look at the meaning of the number 2, it represents a composition containing the ideas of relationships, teamwork, companionship, coexistence and diplomacy. The next number is 0, which is the only number that represents all that is, including all potential. It is also a composition containing the ideas of wholeness, inclusiveness, comprehensiveness, infinite potential. And then there is number 4, which is a focus on building a secure foundation for the future.

All of this information sounds wonderful. But what does it really means for each of us?

For me, as I’ve mentioned before, it offers an infinite potential. That means, I can choose whatever I can do, or even better – to be whomever I want to be.

This might sound strange from someone like me, who in four days (if you are reading this on Friday) is going to celebrate seventy-three years of being around, and who has been helping clients to find the best mortgage solution for over thirty-six years. And this is exactly why I suggest that you take it from me and follow the meaning of 2020. But before you do, do not forget to create a sense of calm in your life.

P.S. We started the first day of the new decade with a walk around Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park (to help to find a sense of calm). I think the four abstract images of the reflection in the lake might be a good illustration of what infinite potential and sense of calm really is.

Enjoy and Share with a Friend!

Manny Signature

In What Do You Believe?


In What Do You Believe?

This is my first story in the New Year, 2020. Many people start the New Year asking questions about the coming year. Most of them have to do with our day to day life. But some go deeper. In the last few weeks, I shared some of my experiences and thoughts with you, from our trip to Iberia in October – November last year. This trip and encounters triggered some questions for me, which I would like to share with you.

The proper way to pose a question about belief would be to ask myself, “In what do I believe?” However, after our trip to Lisbon, Portugal, and number of cities in Spain, including Barcelona, during which we visited many beautifully designed Catholic Churches, Cathedrals and the Sagrada Familia Basilica, which means Holy Family, and whose designation was changed from “Church” to “Cathedral”, and in 2010 was declared basilica by Pope Benedict XVI. The construction of this place of worship was started by the famous Barcelona architect, Antoni Gaudi in 1882, and is expected to be completed in 2026, one hundred years after Gaudi’s death. Millions of people, regardless of their religious beliefs visit this marvelous unfinished architectural marvel, and pay money to buy tickets, which covers the cost of the construction. When we were in Lisbon, we visited a beautiful service with a singing choir. When we stepped inside, I witnessed men wearing business suits putting on beautiful robes, and they were suddenly transformed into religious officials; while the visitors crossed themselves when seeing them. In Barcelona, I saw a young woman enter a church, dressed in a blouse, which barely covered her breasts; she crossed herself and as quickly returned back into the world filled with young people and worldly temptations.

According to the information I found online, church attendance is going down in Europe and the USA,) and many churches are forced to sell their buildings. Turns out, this is not a new phenomenon. I discovered the famous Portuguese poet and writer Fernando Pessoa in Lisbon, Portugal. I bought a number of his books translated into English. His book “The Book of Disquiet” which was written in the 1930s, starts with the sentence, “I was born in a time when the majority of young people had lost faith in God, for the same reason their elders had it – without knowing why. And since the human spirit naturally tends to make judgements based on feeling instead of reason, most of those young people choose humanity to replace God.”

The architect Antoni Gaudi died on June 10th 1926, after being hit by a tram. The last words he spoke were “Amen, my God, my God”.

Do you believe in a God? Who is it? What do you believe in?

P.S. Originally I wanted to share some of the snaps of Gaudi’s work with you, but I realized that it would not do his work justice. You have to visit Barcelona (buy tickets in advance to see the beauty). Do we need marvelous architecture to practice our beliefs? This is your choice. But we all believe in the beauty, for which we do not have to travel far away.

These four images of flowers are from my 2020 calendar, which I photographed, designed and sent a limited number of copies to my recent clients.

Make 2020 A Great Year, enjoy and share with a friend!

Manny Signature