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Pomella
3770 Piedmont Ave. (at Yosemite Avenue), Oakland
Chocolate salami available through Dec. 24

Before I volunteered to make one, I’d never heard of a chocolate salami.

Then I started Googling. Before long, I knew an awful lot about chocolate salamis. They’re called “salame di cioccolato” in Italian and “salame de chocolate” in Portuguese. In Czech, “čokoládový salám.” Some say they are a Christmas staple, though most say that they’re an everyday dessert. 

And one blogger said that if you hadn’t experienced the treat as a child, you most likely wouldn’t have the slightest clue they exist. Ding ding, my case exactly! 

Pomella owner Mica Talmor poses with her chocolate salami. Credit: California Prunes

So what is a chocolate salami? It’s a non-bake dessert made of chocolate, butter, crushed cookies, nuts, liqueur and sometimes fruit, rolled into a tube, coated in powdered sugar and trussed up like a sausage! A tasty little trompe l’oeil confection. And for a limited time, they are available as a holiday confection at Oakland California/Israeli restaurant Pomella.

Pomella’s owner and chef Mica Talmor remembered a similar dish from her childhood in Israel. “We had this dessert that was molded into a little loaf or a ball, the easiest dessert that all Israeli kids had,” she said. It was made of chocolate, margarine and Petit Beurre cookies and “we used to roll it in our hands and then drop it into desiccated coconut – of course you could lick your hands.” 

“It has a whole layer of childhood memory, it’s so satisfying to me,” Talmor said. “I think I would describe it as between a cookie and a fudge.”  She even included a recipe for the treat — “kadurey shokolad” (chocolate balls in Hebrew) — in her Israeli cookbook for children.

But, being a chef, she wasn’t satisfied with the basic version and has always toyed with other versions of her childhood favorite, trying out different combinations of fruits, nuts and even liquor. 

While catering for Bohemian Grove — the shadowy and elite campground in Sonoma County — she thought she’d make a more upscale version of the dish. Since then, it’s been a staple at Bohemian Grove and now, for the first time this year, she decided to offer it as a special holiday offering at Pomella. 

Getting back to my own experiences making the dish, Talmor published a recipe for her version of the chocolate salami this holiday season, and I decided to try it out. Made with prunes steeped in liquor and then added to chocolate, butter, nuts, broken graham crackers and citrus zest and set in the fridge, it was a snap to make. 

I followed Talmor’s recipe pretty faithfully, though I subbed Talmor’s apple brandy with Cointreau. In the end, my own version looked pretty darn similar to the professional version (my editor couldn’t tell which was which when I sent her a photo!). 

Tastewise, the Cointreau definitely gave mine a strong orange taste, while Talmor’s version had a more subtle flavor. And I didn’t smash my graham crackers as finely, so my dessert had more crunch. 

Both were delicious—you can’t really mess this up. And even if it’s not a traditional holiday treat, it has all the elements of one. “Between the liquor, the nuts, and the dried fruit, it reminds me of a Christmas fruitcake,” says Talmor.

If you want to snap up a chocolate salami as a holiday gift, don’t dilly dally! They are only available till Dec. 24, along with Christmas tree meringues, Italian rainbow cookies, pickled chanterelle mushrooms, Pomella t-shirts and a special holiday cake each week: this week it’s ginger stout cake with chocolate icing.  Get ‘em before they are gone!