On March 24, 2013, we CBTB chocolateers checked out the 7th annual San Francisco International Chocolate Salon. While it was smaller than past salons with what seemed like more non-chocolate booths, there was still plenty of chocolate to sample. So much so, that we missed a lot of it because we hit our limits early.
I attribute that to the amazingly high quality of the chocolate offered. Chocolate this good satisfies you sooner. It’s a happy dilemma.
Going, going, gone
This year’s Salon seemed to be a good one too for the attending chocolatiers. There were lines at every booth to sample and buy chocolate. And by the time we arrived in the early afternoon, many new items were sampled or sold out: No samples left of Jade Chocolates’ Strawberry Pop Rocks Lollies, Sixth Course Artisan Confections’ new beer truffles, or Poco Dolce’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Bunnies, darn it.
We did however get to sample Jade’s Rice Paddies (new fav snack), Sixth Course’s other truffles and caramels (like the Coconut Rum truffle and Chai Tea caramel), and Poco Dolce’s Dark Chocolate Olive Oil Bunnies (a savory combo that works).
While we were sad to see the empty Pop Rocks Lollies display at Jade’s booth (which we liked as a bar previously), we enjoyed the Rice Paddies. They are chewy (dried mango), crunchy (rice crisps) and not-too-sweet chocolate-y treats. Along with Jade’s other chocolate snacks, green mango tiles and chocolate-covered edamame, Mindy has chocolate snacking covered. She isn’t currently offering truffles (sigh), but she had her full line of bars, so we could’ve conceivably gotten our whole range of chocolate needs covered in one stop.
But we continued on to see what other local artisan chocolatiers had to offer.
Taking mouth-feel to the next level
Second-year veteran Sixth Course Artisan Confections had a line that wrapped past several other booths. They had run out of their featured truffle samples, but we were able to buy them to try at home. Meanwhile at the show, we sampled the Coconut Rum truffle, which included coconut bits in a rum flavored ganache enrobed in a dark and white shell. We loved the flavor and the chewy coconut bits. We also tried the subtle Chai Tea caramel, which added extra spices to a chai tea infused caramel (like cardamon and star anise).
In our take-home package, we loved the Coffee & Dulce de Leche truffle. It’s like a milky caramel wrapped in ganache wrapped in chocolate, and it tastes like coffee! Delicious.
We also liked the Passion Fruit Habanero truffle, even though it has a white chocolate shell (I’m not big on white chocolate). It’s hot, hot, hot. It’s a fun experience, starting with a slightly fruity white chocolate, then the heat starts, and the liquid caramel spreads the heat all around your mouth.
At the show, we also found out that Sixth Course will open its own shop! Look for it this September at 15th & Capp in the city.
That old saying about multiplying like rabbits was turned upside down at the Poco Dolce booth. When we visited, they were all out of their dark chocolate & peanut butter and dark chocolate & olive oil bunnies. All that was left were the little strawberry bunnies, and they were disappearing too.
We did get a taste of the olive oil-flavored chocolate (70% cocoa & vegan too), and it was so good we had to make a special trip after the show to get our own bunnies at Poco Dolce’s factory shop.
What was that?
We tried a new chocolatier this year, Mission Blue Confections. They have fun & funky names for their chocolates like “Ain’t No Kryptonite” bark, which is basically a mix of every ingredient they have piled on a slab of chocolate, but I wasn’t loving it. Their chocolates run to the sweet side, and I’m getting too old for that stuff. Started in December, they are located in San Mateo, and are part of Pastry Smart, a food service supplier that is moving into retail. I’m interested in seeing how they refine their chocolates as time goes by.
Màs, màs, màs
We were glad to see first-time vendor, Casa De Chocolates, at the show. We’ve visited their little shop in Berkeley a few times and love their Mexican slant on chocolate. They had their Mexican-themed truffles and bars at the show. We picked up the Quinoa, Chili Mango and Mole bars — all 61% dark chocolate with the flavors sprinkled on top.
I liked them all. The Quinoa bar is covered with crunchy roasted quinoa. It’s like a refined Nestles Crunch, if they made it in dark chocolate. The Chili Mango is covered with chewy pieces of mango sprinkled with chili powder. It has a mild heat. The Mole was new. It has a blend of spices and chiles sprinkled over it, which was a nice balance of sweet cinnamon, savory spices and a little heat.
Visit their cute little shop in the Elmwood neighborhood of Berkeley, 2629 Ashby Ave. You can get their full line of truffles with flavors like tamarind, chipotle, dulce de leche and passion fruit; bars; desserts; and Mexican hot chocolate. Plus they carry some neat molded chocolates in Aztec, Day of the Dead — and Golden State Bears(?) — designs.
Welcome back Chuck
We were so happy when we walked in the door and saw Chuck Siegel of Charles Chocolates talking about what goes into his chocolate-covered almonds. Unfortunately, the sound system wasn’t working so we couldn’t hear much, but we are very happy to see he’s back in business.
Their new store/factory/café at 535 Florida St., SF, opened just before the show. They have their original line of chocolates, plus baked goods and pavés, at the store. They also had them at the show.
Pavés, which Chuck described as the chocolate you are judged by in Paris because “there’s nothing to hide behind. They are a basic, simple ganache, so it’s all about the quality of the ingredients and the technique. There is no enrobing, nothing that gets between you and the chocolate.”
Chuck’s pavés are “off the hook,” as one of my fellow chocolateers described them. And as always, Charles Chocolates has some of the prettiest packaging. Pavés come in a square box with a magnetic wrap lid. They make a perfect gift. However, they should also be consumed quickly. The package says “within 7 days of purchase.” With nothing covering them and no preservatives added, they got moldy before we could finish the box.
The chocolate-covered almonds were much sturdier, and no less delicious. The roasted almonds are covered in a blend of bittersweet and milk chocolates, then dusted with Valrhona “un-dutched” cocoa powder.
We look forward to visiting the new space, where I’m told you can watch chocolates being made in the factory as you enjoy them in the café.
Tea time at the salon
Our last visit to a local chocolatier at the salon was one of our recommended chocolatiers: CocoTutti. CocoTutti is a good booth to visit because Elyce makes true sample sizes of her chocolates so you can sample more flavors as they are meant to be experienced (the enrobing chocolate first, then the insides) before hitting your limit. They also are some of the prettiest samples, decorated with as much care and detail as the full-sized chocolates we took home.
While we know CocoTutti for its nut-studded bonbons and fruit flavors, Elyce was showcasing tea flavors this year. She said that last year’s salon in Portland was literally “nuts.” It seemed like everyone was featuring nuts in their bonbons and truffles, so it was time for her to move on to other ideas. She also wanted to bring color back to her chocolates, so the nuts had to go.
Always the perfectionist (something that’s a good thing in a chocolatier, I think), Elyce wasn’t entirely happy with her tea experiments yet. “The problem is getting the tea to bond with fat versus water, because tea bonds more readily with water. I found, for example, that Assam tea is like a sponge. I need to double up on it to make it more punchy.”
Personally, I found the teas to be nice infusions. The Assam in particular had a subtle fruitiness and a powdery tea texture in the ganache. The Rooibos deepened the chocolate flavor of the ganache and ended with a true rooibos flavor. And the Yunnan, while subtle, was good with a definite tea aftertaste. If you are into tea, like I am, you’ll enjoy CocoTutti’s new flavors as much as their usual bold fruit bonbons. And according to Elyce, we can look forward to 3 green tea varieties soon.
Their fruit chocolates (citrus and berry) were great as expected. The new blood orange became one of my favorites with its strong orange flavor, but the lemon-lavender (nice balance of the two), raspberry, and strawberry were great too. Elyce sprinkles freeze-dried raspberry powder over the raspberry truffles to give them an extra flavor punch, and the strawberry bonbons taste like fresh strawberries, not preserves.
Finally, I have to mention the one nut chocolate in the bunch: a peanut butter cup of house-made peanut butter in milk chocolate with a half peanut on top! Did I mention how much I love chocolate and peanut butter? This is a good peanut-y version (although I would love it if it was made with dark chocolate).
You can find CocoTutti at special events around SFBA or contact them through their website.
Too much chocolate
We didn’t manage to get to every local chocolatier this year. We got “chocolate fatigue” way before we ran out of chocolates to try. We were especially sorry to miss the Vegan Kheer Truffles from Socola Chocolatier (dark chocolate, coconut milk, cardamom, almond, pistachio, raisins and rose water), and the Marshmallow “Peeps” Truffle by Neo Cocoa (handmade vanilla marshmallow, chocolate ganache and dark cocoa powder).
And we are intrigued by new chocolatier, FGR Chocolate Collection, a partnership of two Italian-trained pastry chefs, who are creating artisan confections in Marin County. Their chocolates look beautiful, and they also create some amazing chocolate sculptures.
2013 SF Chocolate Salon awards to local chocolatiers & candy makers
Congratulations to all of our local chocolate purveyors whose confections won awards at this year’s salon:
- CocoTutti: 1 Gold, 1 Silver, 7 Bronze in Best of Salon; 2 Gold, 1 Silver, 1 Bronze in Attendees Choice Awards
- FGR Chocolate Collection: 1 Gold, 6 Silver, 4 Bronze in Best of Salon
- Jade Chocolates: 2 Gold, 5 Silver, 1 Bronze in Best of Salon; 2 Gold, 1 Silver, 1 Bronze in Attendees Choice Awards
- Socola Chocolatier: 2 Gold, 4 Silver, 3 Bronze in Best of Salon
- Clarine’s Florentines: 1 Gold, 3 Bronze in Best of Salon
- Casa De Chocolates: 2 Silver, 4 Bronze in Best of Salon; 1 Silver in Attendees Choice Awards
- Nosh This: 2 Silver, 2 Bronze in Best of Salon; 2 Gold, 2 Silver in Attendees Choice Awards
- Sixth Course Artisan Confections: 3 Gold, 3 Bronze in Best of Salon; 3 Gold, 2 Silver, 1 Bronze in Attendees Choice Awards
- Toffee Talk: 1 Gold, 3 Bronze in Best of Salon; 1 Bronze in Attendees Choice Awards
- Rachel Dunn Chocolates: 3 Bronze in Best of Salon
- TeaRoom Chocolates: 3 Silver, 1 Bronze in Best of Salon
- Guittard Chocolate Company: 1 Gold, 1 Silver, 4 Bronze in Best of Salon
- Poco Dolce: 2 Silver, 3 Bronze in Best of Salon
- Plumeria Flours: 3 Bronze in Best of Salon
- Landru Chocolates: 1 Gold in Best of Salon
- Toffeeology: 1 Silver in Best of Salon; 2 Silver in Attendees Choice Awards
- Neo Cocoa: 1 Gold, 2 Silver in Best of Salon; 2 Silver, 2 Bronze in Attendees Choice Awards
- Saratoga Chocolates: 1 Gold, 1 Silver, 1 Bronze in Best of Salon
- Mission Blue Confections: 2 Silver in Best of Salon; 1 Gold, 3 Bronze in Attendees Choice Awards
- Snake & Butterfly: 3 Silver, 2 Bronze in Best of Salon
- Quail Point Chocolates: 2 Gold, 2 Silver, 2 Bronze in Best of Salon
- Kika’s Treats: 3 Silver, 1 Bronze in Best of Salon; 1 Bronze in Attendees Choice Awards
- Fab Delights Chocolate Truffles: 2 Bronze in Best of Salon; 1 Bronze in Attendees Choice Awards
- NewTree: 3 Silver, 1 Bronze in Best of Salon
- Charles Chocolates: 3 Gold, 1 Silver, 3 Bronze in Best of Salon