Tuesday, April 19, 2011

SF Chocolate Salon 2011: the roundup

For the record, being a judge at something like the Chocolate Salon is no easy feat. You have to try as much as you can, make notes and then an informed decision. And you have to choose from well over 30 artisan chocolate makers.

I loved the setup this year, with the booths being farther apart it was easier to work your way across the room. I will say that my usual complaint stands and has nothing to do with organizers. People are shockingly short in manners. I actually had a woman back so far into I am not really sure how she managed not to notice but she didn't. I also had another judge step directly in front of me at one point and cut me off. This sort of behavior is pretty bad form and happens quite frequently at events, which makes me sad.

Now onto the good stuff! I tried so much chocolate Sunday and I have to say that there were some serious highlights for me.

I actually spent quite a bit of time at the Divine Chocolate booth chatting with Mark and trying the offerings. I discovered today that he is the CEO and you know what? I think that his passion for chocolate and for the company he works for should be shared by more CEO's! He was excited to share and lacked pretension in anyway. I was wowed by the dark chocolate with orange and ginger, which was light on the ginger with a fresh orange flavor and the 70% dark. I am already a fan of their products, so it was great to have the chance to try a new product and have such a delightful chat! If you've never had it, I am a sucker for the White Chocolate Bar with strawberries.

I wouldn't have known about this next discovery without a heads up from my friend Janet. Snake and Butterfly had dulce de leche chocolate dipped jalapeno peppers and they were nothing like what I expected. This is a treat I would go out of my way for: sweet spicy chocolate decadence at its most interesting. I tried all of the caramel offerings as well and I really loved the honey caramel. The texture and flavor was spot on!

I cannot stress enough that if you have the chance, you try Marti Chocolatts. The woman behind Marti, Tonet, is positively working magic with her truffles.The standouts for me were the Buko Pandan, the taste of fresh coconut making me fall even more in love with one of my favorite fruits, the Chevre en Choco Blanc which hit a home run with a hint of fresh mint and the Pineapple which burst onto the tongue in a happy tropical dance.

Tonet is a wonder who walked us through the tasting and chatted happily about her creations. Every bit of her love comes through in her work, including the Durian. For my first time trying it, it was pretty painless being wrapped in chocolate. Though I may never be a fan of the stinky fruit, I am glad to have the chance to try it.

One of my other favorites is Vice Chocolate, who have never disappointed me since we first met. I am mad for the Spicy Orange Almonds, but this time around I was in rapture over the Pear & Ginger caramels and the White Chocolate with Kaffir Lime. Vice always has great flavor combinations so whether you prefer traditional or more wild flavors, give them a try.

There were some major highlights to the day as I intersected with my friends chatting about life and chocolate, but my favorite moment had to be when Wendy from Socola asked Heather if eating her Siracha truffle was like being punched in the face and Heather responded that fist was wrapped in a velvet glove.

This is the sort of playfulness that endears people to me but Wendy is a serious powerhouse when it comes to flavor. I tried my second Durian flavored truffle of the day (and no matter how much I like you guys, it still tastes like feet!) and the classic Vietnamese Coffee. I adored the sassy slap of the Siracha truffle, which I followed with a cooling Jasmine. That was a perfect way to try them, complimentary and working to greater ends.

I really liked William Dean's Mexican Mango and the lovely Matcha tea, though I found myself a bit overwhelmed by the PB&J.

Another standout for me was New Tree, who always has some fresh & interesting offerings. This time I fell head over heels for the Milk Chocolate Apricot. Smoothly creamy and tasting of that delightful stone fruit, this is a treat I might have a hard time sharing with others. Also great was the 73% dark laden with Pink Peppercorn. New Tree also had some of the most nicest people I encountered. The ladies at this booth were all so sweet and treated everyone like a VIP.

My favorite discovery of the day on the bar side was Medecasse. All the cocoa comes from Madagascar and the owners have taken bean to bar excellence one step further by actually making the bar in Madagascar as well. The spirit of the people live in these bars. I recommend the sea salt with cocoa nibs and the 70% bar which owes its fruitiness to the terroir. The 80% bar has a subtle bitterness a true chocolate lover will appreciate.

I also enjoyed the surprise of Fabrica de Chocolate Momotobo. The almond and Orange Blossom sang, the green chileTamarind. I am not one who ever seeks out that flavor, but the memory will long stay with me of that marvelous zing.

All in all it was a great day and I am honored to have been a judge. I can't wait to see what new treats will be showing up next year!

Choclatique in action
French Toast from Cuisine Noir

Pure Dark


Lulu's Chocolates was having a great time!

Urban Legend Cellar reps Oakland


  1. Good wrap-up article Luna. It was a fun event with so much chocolate at our fingertips. :)

  2. What a fun day! Ivan so glad you guided me to a few of your favorites.


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