Golden Door, Eclipse Chocolate on national radar

The premium San Diego brands Golden Door and Eclipse Chocolate are boosting their national profiles thanks to two of the most influential culinary and lifestyle outlets in the country.

Golden Door, the exclusive Escondido destination spa, has teamed up with retail powerhouse HSN, formerly known as the Home Shopping Network, to sell a line of beauty and artisan food products.

Eclipse, the high-end handcrafted confectioner and restaurant in South Park, will get wide exposure on Feb. 12 when founder and chocolatier Will Gustwiller competes on a chocolate-themed edition of the Food Network's "Guy's Grocery Games."

Both HSN and the Food Network have expansive reach - each is available in approximately 100 million American households. HSN, with its 24/7 TV and online shopping platform, has annual sales that exceed an estimated $2.5 billion. And "Guy's Grocery Games," hosted by the tatted, spiky-haired out-sized personality Guy Fieri, is among the Food Network's most popular shows, regularly ranking among the most-watched cable shows. Jan. 29's episode, for example, was No. 11 out of the top 50, drawing 1.46 million viewers.

In anticipation of a post-episode surge in demand, Eclipse is expanding its locally beloved custom chocolate Build-A-Bar program and launching a website specifically to handle national orders, eclipsebuildabar.com.

"The concept of what we do, savory chocolate food, is sort of new to people across the country and we think they'll be exploring our website," Gustwiller said. "It'll be neat to see what kind of exposure we get from this. I think a lot."

For Golden Door, which is regularly named among the upper echelon of the world's best luxury spa resorts, is reaching a significantly different demographic through HSN.

"Golden Door and HSN are a perfect partnership where we can communicate directly with consumers Golden Door's legendary role in wellness and beauty," said resort general manager and COO Kathy Van Ness, who recently did two live segments on the shopping network.

"Golden Door is more than just a spa and we're excited to communicate this with guests beyond the golden doors."

HSN sells Golden Door's skin treatments and creams used at the spa as well as the same farm-to-table products served to guests, such as wildflower honey, fig preserves, Eureka lemon marmalade, blackberry lavender sauce, Moroccan Harari soup mix and ginger cookies. 

Van Ness noted that 100 percent of the Golden Door's net profits are given to charities that work with children.

"Through this wider audience appeal with HSN, we can make a bigger difference together," she said. 

Carmen Bauza, chief merchandising officer for HSN, said the health and wellness category is a priority for the retail behemoth.

"Collaborating with Golden Door allows us to introduce an impressive assortment of high-quality products across the beauty and culinary categories," Bauza said. "Our goal is always to partner with brands that we know our customers will love, and we were confident that our customers would appreciate not only the quality of these products, but the value."

While a week's all-inclusive stay at Golden Door costs $8,850, the HSN products range in price from $29.95 to $88. 

The 600-acre, zen-inspired resort was opened in 1958 by Deborah Szekely, the so-called "Godmother of Wellness," who also co-founded Rancho La Puerta in Tecate. For decades, Golden Door has been a celebrity magnet, drawing such stars as Natalie Wood, Elizabeth Taylor, Oprah Winfrey, Martha Stewart, Nicole Kidman and Amy Schumer.

In recent years, Golden Door has been making the fruits of its organic garden available to ordinary San Diegans with a farm stand it operates Wednesday-Saturday in San Marcos.  

Eclipse Chocolate has its own fervent following. Founded in 2004, it's gone from a small, specialty chocolate company to a 70-seat restaurant - where every dish features chocolate, vanilla or caramel - and a sweet shop selling more than 100 types of confections, cupcakes and pastries. Whole Foods is its largest retailer. 

The Build-A-Bar concept, where customers can choose from among 30-plus ingredients to create two customized chocolate bars, began as a way to celebrate Eclipse's anniversary. But after 400 people signed up for last year's event, Gustwiller decided to make it a monthly workshop.  

On the special pre-Valentine's Day Food Network episode, called "Guy's Chocolate Games," Gustwiller and his fellow chefs had to create various sweet and savory dishes using chocolate. 

"It was a wild experience," he said of the taping last fall. "Guy Fieri is such a force."

Gustwiller was sworn to secrecy about the results - and $20,000 prize money - but Eclipse is holding a viewing party of the episode on Feb. 18, ostensibly because it's closed on Sunday nights at 8 p.m., when the show airs.
Twitter: @sdeditgirlmichele.parente@sduniontribune.com

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