Complete Chocolate Lover’s Guide for the San Francisco Bay Area

No drama competition

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A competition I used to dread has become comfortable, even enjoyable

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The 2022 Best White Chocolate Awards competition was a quiet affair this year. I liked a lot of the entries; and with the exceptions of one bitter entry and a missing entry, it was an enjoyable competition to judge. No drama (okay, I did spit out the bitter piece and loudly pronounce it “yucky,” but that was it, I swear). In this article, I cover the entries I thought deserve to be recognized.

SFBA chocolate

According to the judging form, there were 3 local entrants this year, but I only received 2 😢. While it’s not unusual to not receive every entry — some competitors don’t submit enough samples to cover all the judges, or submit them too late to get distributed to us all — I was sad not to receive a local entrant because if I can’t sample an entry, I can’t judge it.

Michael’s Chocolates

Lucky for me, I did get the entry from Michael’s Chocolates3-5 cup chocolatier, Oakland. Michael Benner is an excellent, creative chocolatier, whose chocolates I always look forward to trying. And now he opened a shop in my town so that’s easier than ever.

Michael’s Strawberry Cheescake bonbon
Michael’s Strawberry Cheescake bonbon

Michael’s entry, the Strawberry Cheesecake bonbon, was a pretty dome spray painted half white and half red. Inside the thin dark chocolate shell were strawberry preserves on top of white ganache. The textures were nice: soft ganache and smooth soft jelly in the harder shell. The strawberry and dark chocolate mix was delicious with a little cheesecake tang. I gave it my highest rating.

Michael’s Chocolates Strawberry Cheesecake won Gold for Best Texture; Silver for Best Ingredient Combinations and Best Taste; Bronze for Best White Chocolates; and an Honorable Mention for Most Unique. It received 4 stars.

You can buy Michael’s Chocolates online, at their factory store, and at special events.

Kokak Chocolates

The other local entrant I judged, Kokak Chocolates, SF, is another chocolatier that makes quality chocolates I enjoy discovering. Their entry, Pistachio Rose Love Bar, was a pretty bar: The molded side was a series of connected pyramids splattered pink and green over the white chocolate, while the back side was packed with rose petals, pistachios, and toasted coconut.

Kokak Love Bar front
Kokak’s Pistachio Rose Love Bar front

The bar smelled and tasted initially like rose, which was a turn-off to me; but the pistachio and white chocolate flavors were good. If you like rose flavored chocolate, this is one to try. The rose flavor comes from rose petals, so it’s a good rose flavor. It was just too strong for me since I am not a fan, so it didn’t earn my highest rating.

Kokak Chocolates Pistachio Rose White Chocolate Love Bar won Silver for Most Unique; and an Honorable Mention for Best Ingredient Combinations. It received 3.5 stars.

Kokak Love Bar back side
Kokak’s Pistachio Rose Love Bar back side

You can buy Kokak Chocolates online and at their store in the Castro.

Excellent

There were a few non-SFBA entries that I gave my highest ratings. Some were from veteran Chocolate Salon competitors and 2 were from newbies.

Yeti Chocolates

I wasn’t sure what to make of new competitor, Yeti Chocolates, Rock Island, WA, and their entry initially. They sent along a catalog of their flavors which included one called Yeti Balls, which just doesn’t sound like something I would eat. On the other hand, their entry, the Pride bonbon, was a simple white chocolate enrobed square with a rainbow stripe decal on top. I didn’t know where this was going.

Page from Yeti catalog
The Yeti catalog was full of interesting flavors, but that one gives me pause
Yeti Pride bonbon
Yeti Pride bonbon

Turned out their entry was a piña colada bonbon, and a very good one at that. The light yellow ganache inside the white shell contained house made pineapple jam, coconut oil, white rum, and pineapple juice. It smelled like coconut and tasted mostly of pineapple, then a little coconut, with some burn from the rum. It was a well made piece: thin shell and smooth ganache. I gave it my highest rating.

Yeti Chocolates Pride Bonbon won Gold for Best Ingredient Combinations, Best Taste, and Most Unique; and Silver for Best Texture and Best White Chocolates. It received 4.5 stars.

You can buy Yeti Chocolates online, at some WA retail stores, and at some special events. Visit their website for more info.

Oro de Cacao AG

Veteran competitor, Dieter Meier, a Swiss chocolate maker, submitted 2 white chocolate bars from his Oro de Cacao AG line. Dieter Meier makes raw chocolate using a cold extraction process that helps counter the downsides of raw chocolate. I’m not sure how essential that is in white chocolate, but I thought it made the white chocolate he entered in a previous competition one of the best unflavored white chocolate bars I’ve had.

Oro de Cacao 42% Peru white chocolate bar
Oro de Cacao 42% Peru white chocolate bar

This time he submitted 2 single origin bars, both 42%, one from Ghana and one from Peru. The bars were thin but had a stronger snap than I would expect from a bar made entirely of cocoa butter, sugar, and dried milk.

The Ghana bar was the more unusual. It started with a strange acerbic flavor that reminded me of other darker single origin chocolates I’ve had. As it melted I tasted some caramel notes, but it mostly tasted like an earthy buttermilk. It was more savory than sweet, and I liked it because of its strangeness.

I liked the Peru better. It smelled a little like coconut, though there was no coconut in it. The flavor reminded me of circus peanuts initially — blast from the past — but more accurately I’d say it tasted like banana and marshmallows. It was a very different taste from the Ghana, but again not too sweet. I gave it my highest rating.

Oro de Cacao AG White Chocolate Peru 42% won Gold for Best White Chocolates; and an Honorable Mention for Best Taste. It received 4 stars.

Oro de Cacao AG White Single Origin Ghana 42% won Silver for Best White Chocolates; and an Honorable Mention for Best Texture. It received 3.5 stars.

Unfortunately, Dieter Meier chocolate is not available in the U.S., only in Switzerland.

Panache Chocolatier

Veteran competitor, Panache ChocolatierLeawood, KS, submitted 2 truffles. One I loved; the other not so much.

Panache Tupelo Berry Truffle
Panache Tupelo Berry Truffle

Like all Panache truffles, the Tupelo Berry Truffle was a big, pretty, well made bonbon. The white chocolate shell was sprinkled with grated red berries and drizzled with more white chocolate. It smelled like raspberry and strawberry, but I don’t know if those berries were used. The description mentioned Tupelo honey and fresh berries, but wasn’t specific. There is a Tupelo berry, but I’m not sure if people eat it or if it’s just for the birds.

At any rate, the white shell was filled with a pinkish ganache that tasted like raspberry sherbet. It was delicious if sweet but not overly sweet; it was just right. I gave it my highest rating.

Panache Chocolatier Tupelo Berry Truffle won Gold for Best Taste; and Silver for Best Ingredient Combinations and Best White Chocolates. It received 4.5 stars.

Panache Careza Limon Truffle
Panache Careza Limon Truffle

I didn’t like Panache’s other entry as much. The Cereza Limon Truffle looked similar to the Tupelo Berry Truffle, but the ganache had a doughy texture and tasted like port wine with lemon highlights. I wanted the cherries to be a stronger flavor component, but I liked the boozy burn on my tongue at the end.

 

Panache Chocolatier Careza Limon Truffle won Bronze for Best Taste; and Honorable Mentions for Best Ingredient Combinations and Most Unique. It received 3.5 stars.

Panache Chocolatier’s website is still under construction, so you have to call or visit them in person if you want to order something.

Baetz Chocolates

Another repeat competitor, Baetz Chocolates, Edmonton, AB, submitted a single truffle, but it was a worthy entrant. Baetz tends to win awards for most unique in these competitions, and this latest one is a good example of why.

Baetz Razzle Dazzle bonbon
Baetz Razzle Dazzle ! bonbon

The Razzle Dazzle ! bonbon was a dark chocolate teardrop shape painted purple and red. The ingredients list included coffee bean infused cream, concentrated raspberry paste, almond oil, and cocoa nibs. The nibs were visible in the white ganache inside that was topped with the raspberry concentrate.

Chewy nibs were the dominant texture and flavor. Raspberry came later, with almond as an undertone. There wasn’t a coffee flavor, it was more a modifier of the chocolate making it taste darker. The unusual flavor combo and the chewy nib texture made for a weird, unusual experience; but I liked it and gave it a high rating.

Baetz Chocolates Razzle Dazzle ! received 3 stars.

Baetz Chocolates is based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. You can place an order through their website. Or visit them next time you are in Edmonton.

Codinha Chocolate

New competitor, Codinha Chocolate, Los Angeles, also submitted a single bonbon. Their Yuzu Pineapple Cardamom Praline bonbon was a mouthful both in name and experience.

Codinha Yuzu Pineapple Cardamom Praline Bonbon
Codinha Yuzu Pineapple Cardamom Praline Bonbon

A simple half moon shaped white chocolate bonbon painted yellow with green speckles, it revealed 2 layers inside: a dark colored ganache on top of a tan ganache. It smelled citrusy and tropical. The first taste was pineapple, then white chocolate. It had a tiny crunch from the praline. Cardamom was a small aftertaste, and I didn’t really taste the yuzu separately from the pineapple. The piece was delicious, and I gave it a high rating.

Codinha Chocolate LLC Yuzu Pineapple Cardamom Praline Bonbon won Silver for Most Unique; and Bronze for Best Ingredient Combinations. It received 3.5 stars.

You can buy Codinha Chocolate online and at special events around LA.

Laurie’s Chocolates

Returning after a long lull, Laurie’s Chocolates, Doylestown, PA, submitted a pretty, tasty bark. I loved their previous entry, a spicy Mexican chocolate bark, that was very flavorful. This time their entry was also very flavorful but in a totally different direction.

Laurie’s Lemon Raspberry Bark
Laurie’s Lemon Raspberry Bark

Laurie’s Lemon Raspberry Bark was very pretty with clumps of bright raspberry pulp in creamy milk chocolate. It smelled very lemony and had an immediate lemon flavor. The lemon dominated, raspberry was a background flavor. There were small crunchy bits in the smooth good tasting chocolate which I assume were raspberry seeds. The bark was not too sweet, and my only complaint is that I wish the raspberry flavor was more pronounced. Still I gave it a high rating.

Laurie’s Chocolates Lemon Raspberry Bark won Bronze for Best Ingredient Combinations, Best Taste, Most Unique, and Best White Chocolates. It received 4 stars.

You can buy Laurie’s Chocolates online and at some select stores in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Good

After all of that excellent chocolate, there were still some decent if not wow-worthy entries. And they were all familiar faces.

Choceur White Chocolate bar

Aldi Choceur

Choceur, one of the brands distributed by Aldi, the no-frills supermarket chain, is a Polish candy maker. We tried their Creamy Milk chocolate bar in last year’s bar competition. For supermarket chocolate, it was pretty good: smooth, sweet, and extremely balanced, if not a little bland.

Their White Chocolate bar was similar. Like the milk chocolate bar, it was small, about half the size of a regular chocolate bar. It was not a fragrant chocolate. It had a soft snap, with a smooth mouthfeel and creamy taste, just like the package said. It wasn’t too sweet; it tasted milky and a little buttery with a little salt at the end. Pleasantly inoffensive, I gave it an average rating.

ALDI Inc Choceur Mini White Chocolate Bars won Honorable Mentions for Best Texture and Best White Chocolates. It received 3 stars.

You can find the Choceur line at Aldi supermarkets and on Amazon.

Delysia Chocolatier

Competition veteran, Delysia ChocolatierAustin, TX, submitted 3 entries. I thought 2 of them were pretty good, but the third one was weird, not in a good way, and didn’t make my cutoff.

The ones I liked, the Campfire Spiced Muffin Bark and Lebanese Meghli Chocolate Truffle, were heavy on the spices, but not enough for me to downvote them below my cutoff.

Delysia’s Campfire Spiced Muffin Bark
Delysia’s Campfire Spiced Muffin Bark

The white chocolate Campfire Spiced Muffin Bark was full of visible spices. It also smelled strongly of clove and allspice. Along with the rest of the spice combination (cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg), the bar tasted more like apple pie than a spiced muffin to me. The chocolate was good, not too sweet, but it suffered from too much spice. I gave it an average rating.

Delysia Chocolatier Campfire Spiced Muffin Bar won Bronze for Most Unique. It received 3.5 stars.

Delysia’s Meghli truffle description
Delysia’s Meghli truffle description

The description for the Lebanese Meghli Chocolate Truffle was a mouthful. Basically the piece is a riff on a rice pudding dessert and contains caramelized honey, caraway, cinnamon, anise, pistachios, coconut, and pine nuts. Anise was the initial and strongest taste, then honey and cinnamon. It had a coconut texture, with a pine nuts flavor at end that lingered. It was a weird experience, but not awful tasting, so I rated it in the middle.

Delysia Chocolatier Meghi Chocolate Truffle Sampler won Gold for Best Ingredient Combinations and Most Unique; Bronze for Best Taste; and Honorable Mentions for Best Texture and Best White Chocolates. It received 4 stars.

Delysia chocolates are currently only available online and for curbside pickup at their shop in Austin, while the shop is closed due to COVID.

For Pete’s Sake Off the Wall bar
For Pete’s Sake Off The Wall bar

For Pete’s Sake Chocolate

Mystery chocolate maker and veteran competitor, For Pete’s Sake Chocolate, somewhere in mid-coastal CA, submitted a Dulche de Leche bar that did a good job of capturing the dessert in a bar. Their Off The Wall white chocolate bar started off with an unusual smell, but it didn’t affect the taste. It was a not too sweet bar with caramel and condensed milk flavors. I gave it an average rating; if not for the smell, I would have rated it higher.

For Pete’s Sake Chocolate Off The Wall Dulce De Leche White Chocolate received an Honorable Mention for Best White Chocolates. It received 3 stars.

For Pete’s Sake Chocolate finally has a website, but it is bare bones: no online store and no info really except a contact form and phone number.

Worth a mention

I’m including one last entry that I didn’t care for, but that I think a lot of people would like.

Robinson Soft Brittle

This entry didn’t make my cutoff, but I wanted to share it with people who love Starbucks drinks. If that’s you, you might want to check out.

Robinson Soft Brittle, Hayden, ID, had a couple of entries in this year’s toffee competition that I liked, so I was hoping I’d like their Caramel Macchiato Bark too. It turned out to be full of plusses and minuses for me.

Robinson’s Caramel Macchiato
Robinson’s Caramel Macchiato

It was a pretty white chocolate bark swirled with caramel and sprinkled with white chocolate covered coffee beans. It smelled sweet and had a good espresso flavor initially, but the crunchy coffee beans added bitterness to the piece. The caramel was super sweet. There was a marshmallow texture, which evoked the experience of milk foam on a latte. But it was way too sweet for me — like a Starbucks drink — and a little sticky. If you like Starbucks Caramel Macchiato, you will probably like this, but ultimately, I didn’t.

Robinson Soft Brittle Caramel Macchiato received Bronze for Best Texture and Most Unique; and Honorable Mentions for Best Ingredient Combinations and Best Taste. It received 4 stars.

Robinson Soft Brittle is available online and at stores in ID, MO, OR, and WA.

For the complete list of award winners, visit the 2022 Best White Chocolate Awards page.

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Published June 16, 2022

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