Nothing keeps me from my chocolate. Yes, when we lived in France for six weeks I did visit every single chocolate shop i could find. and there are a lot of chocolate shops in France.
I bought tickets for the San Francisco chocolate salon as soon as I heard they were on sale, I devised a system for testing the chocolate without getting too chocolated out, and contacted each chocolatier to see what was gluten-free.
And of course last minute Jason had to work. OK, MAYBE taking care of ailing brain surgery patients
is more important than chocolate...MAYBE.
But it left me with 3 kids and a the prospect of dragging them around a very crowded venue with other chocaholics clammoring for their free samples. Was this a good idea? But hey, it's chocolate and I had a duty to my tastebuds to try them.
By the way...Jason came a couple of hours into the event, so he could have his fill of chocolate too.
The salon is a great event, and while the great chocolatiers of the Bay Area don't typically attend, there were some notable folks to watch. Three stand out as ones I will seek out in the future.
William Dean. I think these were the best executed chocolates there. They were beautiful of course, but the chocolate was in a nice temper, not too think, smooth ganaches, flavorful well balanced fillings, and nicely developed caramels. I only tried the coconut caramel, the lemon lavender (more lemon than lavender), the dark lavender (nice strong lavender flavor) and the carmelized white chocolate bar. The latter he just learned at the Valrhona institute, and while the technique involving slowly carmelizing the sugars in white chocolate, he is the first i have seen put it back in bar form. The flavor is somewhat like a sweet dulce de leche.
Marti. This chocolatier is playing with tropical flavors like ube, durian, carmelized banana. Since I am currently on a tropical, asian dessert kick I was excited to try these. I especially liked the durian (mild durian flavor - no need to plug the nose), and raspberry rose. Jason loved the banana that I didn't
get to try. I wanted a bit more out of the ube, but that is a really hard flavor to capture with the dominance of chocolate. Again, will be trying more of these.
Cocoa Delice. This is a Bay Area company. Their passion fruit was the first I tried, with a smooth ganache and nice bright flavor. But in my opinion, passion fruit is the easiest chocolate flavor to pull off. It marries so well. round 2 - peanut butter. Easy to pull off too you say? Well, I can tell you that there
were many not so tastey peanut butter chocolate combos at the salon, but Cocoa Delice's I have to say was the best version i have had. Deep roasted flavor, followed by a perfect saltiness and a fun flowing texture. Mmmm... On to the salted caramel, my test of chocolatiers. They have a nice salty caramel, medium dark.
Good balance - nicely executed.
Not new to me, but my tastes reminded me of their top quality work is Poco Dolce . They have great depth of flavor and one of the few that pull off a good temper. Their toffee melts away, with its deep notes and plays so nicely with the other flavors.
And Amano - I love Amano. I made my husband visit the factory and buy copious amounts of Amano in bulk for desserts. I love their texture and most of all their flavor. Each bar is bright and complex, and their new Dos Rios bar is no exception. Citrusy in a way that few bars are, with a refreshing summery flavor, floral with a bit of earthy underneath. It lingers. It's wonderful.
Other local chocolatiers were present with some fun and bright flavors. Their ganaches and couveture are not as nuanced as the ones I mention above in the samples i tried, but they did a very nice job with balance. I certainly wouldn't turn my nose up at these fine artisans.
Dolce Bella has some nicely flavored spice flavors. Socola had Asian inspired flavors and a bunny suit too. Vice sampled a very nice fig and anise bar and a spicey passion fruit thai chili for folks that want a real kick. Barlovento truffles have very "true" flavors, bold enough but natural but I am not a fan of the bars. I only tried one from Saratoga - the five spice. Fun flavor.
Coco-luxe has a sage bar, which was fun and made me want to try the sage pine brittle. Jade continues to make high quality infused flavors and their chocolate covered edamame are addictive. I enjoyed the peppermint tea infused bar from the Tea Room other flavors of herbal teas were rather subtle.
Then their are the rustic truffles. Who could pass up the circus tent of Edible Love. Fresh that day, the flavors shined. Tasting two days later was less successful - so eat them quickly. XOX. I have always liked XOX, especially the caramel. Their texture is meltingly spot on, and the freshness shines through. Their vegan truffles are one of the few vegan delights worth eating (sorry vegans, but cream holds a special place in my heart). Finally there is NeoCocoa. A tiny little outfit running out of La Cocina. I have tried their goods at the SF Ferry Building Farmer's market, and I just didn't fall in love. But in my tasting I let the truffle linger as it should. These are lingering truffles. Gobble it down, you miss the nuances. Let it linger, and you get that burst of salt midway through the almond truffle.
Finally, there are confections. Two were of note: Clarine's Florentines (yes Gluten-Free!) with a wonderful execution of the classic almond treat. And Plush Puffs. There were a lot of marshmallows there, but these stood out, particularly their caramel flavor. Not starchy, pure, fluffy and creamy.
And in case you were wondering how the kids fared. The baby didn't get chocolate. The older ones were in heaven, then giddy, then in pain, then...well we won't go into what happened next. But next year I think I'll find a babysitter.