On a chocolateering trip through SFBA wine country in July 2019, our first stop was a farmers market to visit local artisan chocolate maker/chocolatier Rainy Day Chocolate.
Rainy Day Chocolate is a new-ish Sonoma County bean-to-bar maker + chocolatier (started in 2016) that doesn’t have their own retail location yet. Instead you can buy their bars, toffee, truffles, and dipped chocolates online and at local stores, plus at special events (like the Chocolate Salon where we first met) and especially farmers markets. Depending on the season and day of the week, you can buy their chocolates at one of up to 8(!) weekly farmers markets in Sonoma County.
Some of the markets where you can find Rainy Day Chocolate:
- Sundays, spring through fall: Bodega Bay Farmers Market, Windsor Farmers Market
- Tuesdays, year-round: Petaluma East Side Farmers Market
- Wednesdays, summer: Santa Rosa Wednesday Night Market
- Thursdays, summer: Windsor Nights on the Green
- Fridays, summer: Rohnert Park Farmers Market
Since we traveled on a Tuesday that meant a stop at the Petaluma East Side Farmers Market. Rainy Day co-owner/chocolatier Chris Sund was manning the booth that day, and along with a variety of bars and other chocolate treats, he had lots of news to share.
The first news he told us is that they are making custom truffles for Korbel Champagne Cellars winery in Guerneville. It’s a champagne milk chocolate ganache in a dark shell, using their own couverture. Chris did not have these truffles at the market; I guess we will have to add actual wineries to our next wine country tour.
In addition to their normal line, Rainy Day has a sugar-free bar. Chris told us they are using monk fruit to sweeten the chocolate.
I’m not a fan of sugar-free chocolate; they don’t taste chocolatey enough to me even when the only ingredient switch is from sugar to other sweeteners. He agreed that non-traditional natural sweeteners interfere with the chocolate melting in your mouth experience, but they want to provide this alternative because, “If you can’t eat sugar, at least you have a chocolate you can enjoy.”
Roasting their own
Chris’s most exciting news is that they are now roasting their own beans to make chocolate. They don’t have their own roaster yet; for now they are roasting cacao beans at a local coffee roaster. They checked first that there was no cross-contamination, and have started making a 85% bar that they are also grinding themselves. They are officially bean to bar now.
We liked the 85% because it was surprisingly not bitter, which is hard to do with such a high cacao percentage and only 2 ingredients: cacao nibs & cane sugar. Instead of bitter, it was a very smooth, flavorful chocolate with a lingering slightly nutty taste.
I also want to mention how much we like Rainy Day’s super-thin samples; they melt quickly in your mouth, so you get the flavor right away. And that’s the first thing I look for in chocolate: What does it taste like and do I like the taste? Especially with non-flavored chocolates and single origins, the chocolate taste is most important. And it’s easier to compare different chocolates when they melt quickly and fill your mouth with flavor.
A milk chocolate option
Rainy Day also has a milk chocolate bar now, which is made with a Belgian couverture and tasted strongly of caramel. Chris told us they are working on developing their own milk chocolate, but they’ve encountered a problem sourcing local dried milk powder. Unbelievably to us, “local dairies, Straus and Clover, don’t make it,” Chris told us.
This is not deterring Rainy Day, however. “One of the other [farmers market] vendors has their own drying setup and is making a powder of Straus milk for us to experiment with,” Chris said, demonstrating both how resourceful Rainy Day is and another benefit for being at a farmers market: connections.
Chris said another new product they are making is chocolate sauce, but it wasn’t at the farmers market. Instead, we got some bars and their Milk Chocolate Macadamia Nut English Toffee with Toasted Coconut, which is buttery, nutty, coconutty, and so addictive.
In addition to the 85% and the milk bars, we also got the single-origin 69% Belize Nib-to-Bar, which had a very fruity and fermented taste, and the award-winning 69% Belgian + Cacao Nibs, which is a good chocolatey chocolate with the added appeal of crunchy nibs.
Rainy Day Chocolate, based in Santa Rosa, doesn’t have a storefront, but you can buy some of their products online. For more options, including the newest items, visit their booth at one of the local farmers markets or at special events.