San Francisco Chocolate Salon at Fort Mason’s Herbst Pavilion
This was our fourth time at the SF Chocolate Salon. It has become a tradition that we go with August’s father and stepmother. We went to the 3rd, 4th, and 5th annuals, took a break for the 6th, and with this being the seventh year of the event, we anticipated big crowds and many dazzling chocolates like none we have seen before, plus all of our old favorites. While we had a wonderful time sampling, chatting, and purchasing our way around Fort Mason (the farmers market was happening, too), we were a little sad that there was half as many chocolate vendors as there had been two years ago. In fact, there were half as many vendors in general, and almost half of what was there had products like jerky, popcorn, and beer. But we marched on, inspired to take the time to introduce ourselves to every one of the chocolate booths and take a picture or two to give each a mini spotlight, since we’re very thankful for the chocolatiers who came yesterday.
For August’s tastes, Fab Delights got high marks in the taster’s journal that we purchased for note-taking. The peanut butter truffle was a great way to start the foray.
The Marrakesh chocolate is one of Quail Point‘s “most exotic” among its sixty flavors, with 31 spices. The smooth ganache helped balance the spiciness.
August got a bag of The Earl of Chocolate from Tipsy Tea, a Bergamot orange-infused black tea with orange zest, cacao bean shells, and milk chocolate chips, to be made into a tea and, when the mood strikes, stir in a shot of scotch.
The burnt caramel from Poco Dolce was yummy, but the Easter bunnies were super cute.
Pastille-style chocolates were featured from the collection of confections at Marich. The Holland Mint had rich dark chocolate and peppermint flavor inside a delicate shell.
We turned around the bend to find samples of roasted white chocolate which was new to us. It was brought by William Dean Chocolates, makers of the chocolates featured in The Hunger Games movie and the upcoming Catching Fire. August got a couple of boxes to give to her student assistants and her closest coworker at school.
Socola offered a tasty stout truffle, pairing one of August’s favorite beverages with her favorite food.
We got to try the newest flavor from Nosh This, launched that very day! We bought a cute assortment labeled Three Little Pigs, with two pieces of bacon salted caramel, two pieces of “bacon crack,” and one piece of bourbon bacon rocky road.
The pomegranate with balsamic vinegar reduction from Marco Paolo was both fruity for Zach and bitter for August.
The black currant pearl from “natural born chocolate” New Tree was very bitter, but that was due to the nature of the fruit.
David’s Tea was favored by Zach, who usually doesn’t go for hot drinks. He tried the mint chocolate rooibos tea with mild mint flavor and chocolate aftertaste, which was a nice change of pace from the solid chocolates; “It was refreshing.” August liked the Chocolate Rocket coffee with flavor layers of almond and raspberry.
August surprised herself at liking the white chocolate banana french toast from Mission Blue (she doesn’t like bananas).
Casa de Chocolates had samples available of nearly all their flavors, and we particularly liked the mole with almonds, pumpkin seeds, chilies, and spices.
Every ingredient for Clarine’s Florentines comes from inside California state borders. What’s different about this style of cookie is that almond is the main ingredient.
Snake & Butterfly makes some truffles that, to August, look like the marbles on her dad’s Chinese solitaire board. We tried the bacon toffee, with real bacon and surprisingly soft toffee.
The tasting for Smitten was totally different – we got to try spoons of the different truffles’ filling, the pure ganache. The bourbon-infused caramel and smoked sea salt was delightful.
The toffee from Toffeeology was, in a word, well above par. Okay, that’s three words, because one word isn’t enough. With almonds on the inside and walnuts on the outside, this English-style toffee didn’t stick to your teeth.
From Charles we had a two-chocolate truffle bite with a light dusting of cocoa.
Here’s further proof that it really is a small world after all: Rachel Dunn used to provide the caramel apples to Zach’s mom’s candy shop in downtown Martinez. These are giant, gorgeous, and goooood.
Precept Wine came to show off the Chocolate Shop, a sparkling wine that starts off tasting like wine, but then transforms into a chocolate flavor in your mouth.
In this picture of the Tea Room table, you can see the handy taster’s journal. Here we tasted chai and Mayan chili organic chocolate drops.
The “Sweet Treaty” nibble from Kika’s Treats was a chocolate-covered rice cake, simple and sweet.
At Sixth Course, Zach was overcome by the passion fruit habanero; “It’s a sweet and spicy delight, nice refreshing passion fruit flavor with a nice spicy kick from the habanero to make your tongue tingle.” Since milk or dark chocolate would overpower the passion fruit or the habanero, it was great that the truffle was made with white chocolate so that the featured flavors could have their time dancing on the palate.
The Amella chocolate with caramel sea salt was differently tasty, since it was made with agave syrup instead of corn syrup. Not everyone consumes corn syrup, either due to allergies or choice, so it’s good to see more varied processes in caramel making.
Each bar from Amano is emblazoned with the chocolate’s country of origin on the label.
Like the traditional spices in Mexican hot chocolate, these discs were oh so delicious. Taza hand grinds the cocoa nibs in order to make these rustic chocolates with products from cooperative gardens and direct trade.
Landru impressed August with its caramel, infused with port wine and Chambord inside a white chocolate shell.
The super smooth smore dark chocolate marshmallow from Neo Cocoa was wonderful. August really liked the texture of the marshmallow.
We talked for a while with Toffee Talk. Zach’s stepfather has a seasonal toffee company and Zach being a pastry chef knows about toffee, but he admits that this toffee is actually better than his own family’s. We were told there is a “secret ingredient” that helps keep it from getting caught in your teeth.
This little jar of toffee odds-and-ends was a great treat when we got home. August likes tiny things, and Zach likes that Toffee Talk is able to make use of everything they produce. The suggestion is to sprinkle this over ice cream, but it’s fine as a snack in its own right, as well.
The most visually stunning chocolate art at the show was this gigantic egg with bee and floral details (if you know August, you know why this is significant). FGR Chocolates offered us milk chocolate with hazelnuts, a combination that, for August, is a close second behind chocolate and peanut butter.
Yunnan tea was a new flavor of chocolate brought by Cocotutti for the event. We enjoyed what we tasted at the event, but got to take home a sample pack of five special flavors.
August isn’t a tea connoisseur, but she enjoys it a lot. She really liked comparing the three different infusions, and Zach appreciated the natural fruit flavors in the other two. The texture of the fruit chocolates was surprising, too – light and creamy, not fudgy and ganache-y.
Zach “really, really” enjoyed this orange marscapone mousse from Spring Loaf Catering. He likes citrus for his desserts, so this hit the spot. August tried it too, along with a very fudgy brownie with three chocolates: semi, bitter, and unsweetened.
Saratoga‘s “haute chocolate” with cinnamon and marshmallow was a take on Mexican hot chocolate. The strawberry balsamic was also good.
At the last chocolate table we tried Jade. With Japanese influence, the “kuro genmai” of dark chocolate and roasted brown rice was a light goodbye to the tasting experience.
After surveying the edible chocolate, we checked out the non-edible but equally delightful. This display on the artsy table from Carolyn Tillie showed some purely chocolate designs…
…and at her vendor table we found a broad variety of jewelry foods. August got two pairs of earrings, pink cupcakes and chocolate sprinkled donuts. Her students at school today loved the cupcakes and can’t wait to see the donuts tomorrow.
It was a long weekend of City dining culminating in a tasty event that took us several hours to process, analyze, upload, and post for you. We hope you’re inspired to get tickets for next year, and maybe if we all get more tickets, even more chocolatiers will come!