Things on the local chocolate scene have been looking up recently as more chocolatiers, chocolate makers, and confectioners are expanding their businesses and/or opening brick and mortar locations. While San Francisco boasts the most DIY chocolate tour options locally, my neck of the woods (North Oakland) has experienced a welcome bump in chocolate shops. It continued this weekend with the grand opening of a chocolate shop close enough to some others to make for a mini-walking tour.
Welcome to the neighborhood
The Xocolate Bar, which has been a Solano Avenue fixture since 2008, opened a second location in September in Rockridge that is twice the size of their original location. It also happens to be at the opposite end of a block with a See’s Candies store. Coupled with Chocolate Dragon Bittersweet Cafe and Bakery several blocks south on College and you have a wealth of chocolate options in the span of half a mile.
The new Xocolate Bar location goes by the name Xocolate & Confections and under that umbrella they carry a lot of tempting treats. They have their whole range of house made chocolate (made at the Solano Ave. location) plus some other SFBA chocolate & confections (I saw Volo Chocolate, Raphio Chocolate, NeoCocoa, Ashby Confections, and Kindred Caramels). But that’s just the start. They also carry craft bars from around the world, European chocolate tasting squares, Italian hard candies, enrobed confections, drinking chocolates, and non-edible related merchandise like vintage candy dishes and chocolate accoutrements.
The space is very pretty with tall ceilings and enticing displays — you could wander around for an hour and still not see all the options because you will want to stop and look at everything. They have a space in the back that will display art with chocolate themes although it currently houses an ofrenda/community altar for the season.
Xocolate & Confections interior
This would be a good place to take visitors from out of town for a fun, unique shopping experience. It’s also a good place to get gifts for chocolate lovers which is what Cacaopod and I did.
We bought a variety of hazelnut flavored tasting squares — the tasting squares are loose so you can pick exactly what you want and our recipient loves hazelnut chocolate — and a Xocolate Bar bar with its stunning wrapper designed by Malena Lopez-Maggi, Xocolate Bar’s creative owner.
The range of chocolate and chocolate-related items in the store means that you will probably be able to find not just chocolate gifts but more targeted chocolate gifts. In addition to loving hazelnut chocolate, our recipient is an artist who makes colorful mosaics and will appreciate the colorful collage packaging. We picked the candied orange bar out of all the arresting packages because she also loves orange chocolate. Put together in a branded gift bag it’s a total package.
A treat for us
We also stopped in at the See’s Candies at the other end of the block because we’d heard about their Limited Edition Dark Coffee Scotchmallow chocolates. Since their regular dark Scotchmallow chocolates are probably my favorite See’s candy, I had to check these out.
We bought a box of 6 big — 1-1/4″ diameter x 3/4″ tall — chocolates. They had an immediate definite coffee flavor from the coffee infused marshmallow that combined well with the dark chocolate shell and layer of very chewy caramel. They had a light coffee aftertaste. A very satisfying treat from the size to the taste and the texture. I don’t know how long they will be around but I highly recommend them if you like that sort of thing.
There isn’t a lot of info on their website about the Dark Coffee Scotchmallows but they reminded me of their chocolate covered coffee beans which use a Guittard couverture and Peet’s coffee beans, both SFBA legends. Like the Chocolate Coffee Beans these Scotchmallows just seem on a higher level than most See’s chocolates.
We didn’t go to Chocolate Dragon this time. We plan to go when the weather cools a little more to get one of their hot chocolates to warm up with on our walk home. They also boast an eclectic assortment of chocolate from around the world plus a good sampling of SFBA chocolate. What’s nice is that I didn’t see a lot of repeats between what Xocolate Bar and Chocolate Dragon carry so you should definitely check out both stops when DIY-ing a chocolate tour in Rockridge. And pop into See’s for their old school charm and maybe a box of Dark Coffee Scotchmallow chocolates.