Monday, February 10, 2014

San Francisco Chocolatiers & Chocolate Shops: Valentine's Day

I left my heart in San Francisco, so what could be more fitting for Valentine's Day than a round-up of some of my favorite San Francisco Chocolatiers and Chocolate Shops! This is by no means a definitive list, nor is there a specific order. I'll be adding locations throughout the week, as well as an East Bay list. Emphasis is on locally made chocolate.

Love to hear about your favorite San Francisco Chocolate establishments -- and chocolatiers!

1. Recchiuti Confections. Ferry Building (#30) + Chocolate Lab & Little Nib, 807 22nd Street (at Tennessee)

The quintessential local artisan chocolatier, Michael Recchiuti was one of the trailblazers of the Bay Area chocolate renaissance and is still a trendsetter. His chocolates are innovative yet approachable, and always meticulously crafted. Recchiuti introduced chocolate lovers to the wonder of burnt caramel truffles, and it’s one of my favorites. Take that caramel love one step further and try the Burnt Caramel Almonds. The almonds are toasted in-house so they develop that super nutty flavor and extra crunch. They’re then covered in layers of burnt caramel and chocolate and sea salt and cocoa powder. Their flavor keeps developing long after the first bite. It's hard to believe that something so small can pack such a punch! Another favorite confection for dark chocolate lovers is the Force Noir truffle. Recchiuti's Force Noir truffle is silky 70% extra-bitter chocolate ganache infused with whole vanilla bean and enrobed in pure bittersweet chocolate. It will satisfy your craving for dark chocolate every time! And, in case you haven’t gotten your fill, Recchiuti’s latest line of chocolate bars includes a dark milk chocolate.

2. CocoaBella. 2102 Union Street and Westfield Center, Level 1

This wonderful shop has an impressively curated selection of small batch artisan chocolates from around the world. Although they sell pre-assembled collections, it’s much more fun to mix and match truffles and bonbons in a Custom Box Builder from their ever-rotating line up. Favorite chocolates include Marquise de Sevigne and Michel Cluziel from France, Oriel Balaguer from Spain, Lillie Belle Farms from Oregon, Norman Love from South Florida and Christopher Elbow, Michael Recchiuti, and Michael Mischer from the Bay Area. The great staff will guide you through the varieties, so that you have an informed selection. Since assortments change, you’ll want to come back again and again.

3. Poco Dolce. 2419 3rd St.

There is no substitute for Poco Dolce’s signature grey sea salt bittersweet chocolate tile. It’s an icon! Poco Dolce’s great dark “tiles” are a pitch-perfect combination of salty and sweet that will make you wish you bought the larger sized box. When you’re ready to branch out, their olive oil sea salt bar is another must-try. It was chosen by SF Weekly as best local chocolate bar, and you’ll understand why when you taste it. The olive oil is from California, the sea salt from Brittany, and the 62% cacao is from Guittard. You’ll think it’s a marriage made in heaven. Perfecting the Art of Sea Salt and Dark Chocolate since 2003, Katy Wiley’s Poco Dolce is a winner.

4. TCHO. Pier 17

If you’re trying to figure out the different flavor profiles of chocolate, wine-tasting style, TCHO is your best bet. Try the pure chocolate in four different formulations designed to emphasize the diversity in cacao from around the world. Be sure and sample in order to taste the difference between their Chocolatey (Fudgie) West African and fruity Peruvian cacao. Very different flavor profiles. TCHO has taken chocolate a step further with laboratories at origin, and that will definitely appeal to the geek in you. Like Milk Chocolate? You’ve come to the right place. Tcho makes a 39% Serious Milk chocolate which is caramel-ly and well balanced, but not too sweet. Their 53% Serious Milk chocolate has more cacao presence and tastes more like a high end chocolate gelato concentrated in a bar. Sign up for a tour of the Factory. If you’re lucky, you’ll meet Brad Kintzer, Head Chocolate Maker, who will tell you everything you need to know about TCHO and chocolate. On your way out, pick up some chocolate drops that are killer for home baking.

5. Socola. Opening tomorrow (2/11) just in time for Valentine's Day! 535 Folsom Street (between 1st & 2nd).

I've been enjoying Socola chocolates at the SF International Chocolate Salon and at local chocolate shops, so I'm thrilled they're opening their own shop. Love their chocolates. Sôcôla” is a Vietnamese word for “chocolate.” Sisters Wendy & Susan Lieu are hardcore “Chocolate Chocolatiers.”  They make "handcrafted artisanal confections with modern flavors and a taste of fun! Daring and delightful!" They use local and Straus Family Creamery products and E. Guittard chocolate in every handmade chocolate truffle. Named after the Vietnamese word for “chocolate,” Socola prepares all its truffles with unique, cosmopolitan flavors, including burnt caramel with sea salt, guava, beer, sriracha hot sauce and more.

6. Dandelion Chocolate. (Chocolate Factory + Cafe) 740 Valencia

This is an incredible Bean to Bar chocolate factory smack dab in the Mission District. Dandelion roasts, cracks, sorts, winnows, grinds, conchesm and tempers small batches of beans and molds each bar by hand. Todd Masonis and Cameron Ring started Dandelion Chocolate in 2010, after a career in hi-tech. Their current line-up consists of three single-origin, 70% cacao bars that contain only two ingredients: cocoa beans and cane sugar.

7. XOX Truffles. 754 Columbus Ave

Every day Jean-Marc Gorce makes at least 20 flavors of hand-made truffles, both liqueur and non-liqueur. If you’re vegan, you’ve come to the right place, too. The vegan truffles are made with soy, and they’re delicious. I’m a tea drinker, and the Earl Grey truffle is like drinking a cup of Earl Grey tea. From Vin Rouge to Cognac to Honey Vodka, to Tequila Cayenne, they’re all rich and great. One Caveat, since you’ll probably mix and match: many of the truffles are covered in cocoa, so they’re lumpy like ‘real’ truffles. If you don’t mark what you’ve bought, you might not remember which are which. But that’s ok, too. I doubt you’ll be disappointed with any. There’s coffee at the shop, and you usually get a free truffle with your coffee, but you won’t want stop there.

8. Charles Chocolates. 535 Florida (between Mariposa and 18th Street)

Welcome back. I loved visiting Charles Chocolates when they were located in Emeryville, and I did make the pilgrimage to San Francisco once they moved. But then they shut their doors. Horreurs! Thankfully, Charles Chocolates has reopened and is enjoying a renaissance of fabulous chocolate. Founded in 2004, Charles Chocolates began as one man’s dedication to the art of chocolate, his pursuit of perfection and a complete and total passion for producing only the finest confections. Chuck (Charles) Siegel has been a part of the San Francisco chocolate scene since 1987 when he started his first premium chocolate company at the age of 25. Charles Chocolates has set out to redefine the world of fine chocolate confections. The confections are made using the finest ingredients, including some of the world’s best chocolates, organic herbs, fruits and nuts as well as organic cream and butter. Everything is made by hand in very small batches using traditional, artisanal techniques. I love the Chocolate boxes, which contain fab chocolates--in an edible box! At the shop: chocolates, pastries, tea, coffee and hot chocolate. Don't miss their wonderful afternoon tea with tea or hot chocolate, pastries, tea sandwiches and more!

9. Ghirardelli. Ghirardelli Square, The Palace Hotel, Union Square, Westfield SF Center,

No list of San Francisco chocolate shops is complete without this San Francisco original. Yes, the tourists fill the shop at Ghirardelli Square for a sundae covered in the company’s signature hot fudge or to take home a bag of their famous wrapped chocolate squares, but for those looking to avoid the tourist crush, Ghirardelli chocolate shops downtown offer a less crowded Ghirardelli San Francisco treat! Love that they offer square samples. Ghirardelli has established its position as America's premium chocolate company for more than 160 years. They make chocolate starting from the cocoa bean through to finished products. Throughout the process, they take special steps to ensure that their premium chocolate delivers our signature intense, smooth-melting chocolate taste.

10. See's Candies. Multiple locations.

See's was the first quality candy company I was introduced to when I settled in the Bay Area. I still love See's and their quality chocolates and other chocolate products. Who can turn down a free sample? or not pick up a box for friends and family at the airport! See's Candies chocolate shops were founded on Mary See's basic principle of Quality without Compromise. Their chocolates and candies are made in their own factories located in both South San Francisco and L.A. Their reputation is founded upon their delicious candies and chocolates, free chocolate and candy samples, and friendly customer service. See's Candies follows in Mary See's footsteps and uses only the best ingredients (no preservatives).

11. Fog City News. 455 Market St Ste 125

This “only in San Francisco” store is located in the heart of the Financial District. It combines sales of over 700 magazine titles from 25 different countries with an incredible selection of artisan chocolate-much of it locally made. Although they don’t make their own chocolate, they import hundreds of chocolate bars, truffles and bonbons from all over the world. I love the wall of chocolate bars! But it’s not just the great chocolate, it’s the knowledgeable staff that will help you make informed decisions about chocolate that matches your taste or inclination. The shop even maintains a database of documented tastings that really helps narrow your choices. Be sure and pick up a Chocolate Passport: Buy 10 and the 11th is free. Each bar needs to be different, so it’s a great way to try new and different chocolates. Tasty Tuesdays: Free tasting 12-12.

12. Chocolate Covered. 4069 24th St

You’ll be knocked out by the great selection of chocolate packed into this tiny shop in Noe Valley. Such great quality and variation! Everything and the kitchen sink! It seems more like a museum than a store, but all the chocolate is for eating! There are great tins with SF neighborhood streets, and retro metal lunchboxes to fill up with chocolate. Even the most jaded chocoholic will find something new and delicious. Chocolate Covered also carries many local chocolatiers who don’t have storefronts. The staff here is terrific, and the owner knows everything about the chocolate, from the bean to the bar to the brand. He’ll guide your choices to make your chocolate experience in this great store memorable and delicious. It’s Wall to Wall chocolate with hundreds of brands. They even have the camel’s milk bar from Dubai that I still haven’t tried.


Anonymous said...

Samahope, a non-profit crowdfuding platform for medical treatments for women and children, is doing an incredible Valentine's Day campaign. One of our partners is Socola, check out how you can participate and save lives with your Valentine's Day gifts:

Penny said...

Janet, this is a gold mine for me!
My next mystery series features Food Trucks and Festivals and book #2, which I'm currently writing, is set during the "San Francisco Chocolate Festival" (AKA Ghirardelli). I'll have to mention your Dying for Chocolate blog, won't I! Thanks for the list. Now to do the research...
-Penny Warner

Peggy Butler said...

Excellent list, Janet! This took some time to write, I'm sure. Bravo!