Sunday, March 21, 2010

Back to the San Francisco International Chocolate Salon

I am still feeling the effects of yesterday's Fourth Annual San Francisco International Chocolate Salon at Fort Mason. I still have no appetite after eating all those sweets! Still, it was all worth it.

I've been to all but one of the chocolate salons -- an all-out gorging of chocolates. This is the second year the event was held at the Festival Pavilion, a much larger and spacious location. And wow, did it make a difference. I remember the years of being squeezed into that tiny room near the front of Fort Mason and how it was like a rugby scrum to get a tasting of the chocolates.

With the larger location, there were no elbowing or pushing. But for some booths, there were still some waiting as people hovered oblivious to the people waiting behind them. Sigh. Oh well, at least no shoving. (FYI, I paid $30 for admission and it was still worth it to just pay at the door because there always seems to be a line at the will call tables where people paid $25 for advance tickets.)

One of the first booths I stopped by (and one that constantly had a line) was San Francisco-based Poco Dolce. They consistently produce some of the best chocolate squares with caramel. Their latest flavor is a chili (which seemed to be a popular flavor at a few chocolate booths) that wasn't spicy when you first eat it but has a nice heat at the end that stays with you for a bit.

This chocolate maker had all sorts of chocolate-covered cookies, like these chocolate covered coconut shortbread cookies.

Some of the really beautiful chocolates (and an appropriate spring display) was Neo Cocoa, another San Francisco chocolatier founded by Christine Doerr.

There were so many tables of chocolate makers that it was hard to go table to table. After awhile, I just zoomed from one to another like a bee, being attracted by the ones with the nice display or interesting-looking chocolates. These are from Robyn Wood, a former pastry chef who now lives in Monterey. I really liked her packaging.

More eye-catching packaging.

Eating all the sweets, it helps visiting the liquor and drinks tables just to cut some of the sweetness from the thick chocolates. There were chocolate liqueur, ports, vodka, and sparkling drinks.

Also for some change of pace, this one booth was passing out this creamy brie cheese from France.

This is Jamie Kasselman, who launched her new marshmallow line at the chocolate salon. Earlier this year, I predicted that homemade gourmet marshmallows will be the new food trend for the decade, and Kasselman is helping me out starting her Jamie Cakes Confections. Kasselman says she made marshmallows all the time for her family and friends, and now has created this new line. Her favorite flavor is rocky road marshmallows. Kasselman is also owner of The Sweet Dish candy store on Chestnut Street in the Marina.

Another marshmallow vendor (told you it was a trend!) was Plush Puffs, who were letting people toast their marshmallows for that campground flavor.

There weren't that many unusual chocolates this year, I felt, but one of the more interesting ones were these chocolate-covered Oreo cookies made by a Hawaii-born entrepreneur who started Plumeria Flours.

Here's a chocolate sausage, which the chocolate maker told me is a common thing in Italy. I've never seen them, but supposedly when you slice them, the marbling makes it look like salumi. This version made by Cacao Chocolates of Atlanta.

There were also brownies (tried some amazing lavender-flavored ones) and fudge, like these by AF-squared, or Auntie Fruf's "aahsome fudge."

I mentioned some lavender brownies that were great, and lavender was popular in other things, like this lavender-flavored gelato from Maui. It tasted sooo good but unfortunately isn't sold outside of the islands, so you have to fly to Maui to taste it. I'd hop on the next plane for this.

There was a big crowd in front of this booth by WD (William Dean) Chocolates of Florida. Their chocolates were like jewelry because they were so colorful and nicely hand-painted. It may have just been too pretty to eat.

Of course, someone had to bring chocolate covered bacon.

Here's some melting chocolate at the Schoggi Chocolate booth. I know, you're tempted to bathe in it too, huh?

I remember seeing this chocolate maker two years ago when she just sold three Asian-influenced bars and it's nice to see her now expanded and growing with some amazing products. Mindy Fong of Jade Chocolates uses her background to create unusual treats, including chocolate-covered edamame.

I spent nearly four hours wandering the pavilion shooting pictures. Everyone seemed to have a smile. It was a beautiful first day of spring filled with sunshine (outside) and luxurious chocolates (inside).


Jenster said...

Ben, your chocolate photo shots look amazing. What a great event.

I really enjoy chocolates with a little chili heat in them. Today a friend brought over a huge block of chocolate that her husband brought back from Italy. You could break it into long, triangle-shaped wedges. It was the most creamy milk chocolate with small bits of nougat and nut inside, kind of like Toblerone but much better. That block of chocolate weighed a ton and she said it was only half of what her husband brought back! Wish I could share it with you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the pictures. It's like being there. I had to sit out this year, just because I felt I overdosed on them chocolates two years in a row. I miss the bacon chocolates. The guy was there last year, not sure if your pictures of the bacon chocolates are the same.

foodhoe said...

Yes, those photos do the chocolate justice and make me wish I had gone... but I was out in the sun enjoying oysters so I can't complain! Did you take a shot of the Salami di Cioccolato sliced? Sounds like a delicious day, thanks for taking us along for the adventure.

Single Guy Ben said...

Thanks Jen for the thought at least!

Anonymous, I bet it's the same guy. Not that many people would spend time making chocolate bacon.

Foodhoe, I wished I could have seen the chocolate salumi but it wasn't sliced and the chocolate owner didn't seem that thrilled with the idea of cutting one up as a sample.