Wednesday, April 20, 2011

San Francisco International Chocolate Salon 2011

This past weekend I was called up to the Show. For you baseball fans, you know what I mean when you get called up from the minor leagues to the majors, or "The Show." That's what I felt like when I graduated from being a judge for last fall's Luxury Chocolate Salon to the larger San Francisco International Salon at Fort Mason.

This time I was ready, eating lunch before I went, pacing myself and surveying the different chocolate vendors. I made sure to take notes after each bite, and not necessarily gorging on two many chocolates from one chocolatier.

Luckily, the Chocolate Salon (by TasteTV) has been good in the last few years in controlling the crowds and the list of vendors. So instead of being overwhelmed, the number of vendors this year made tasting more manageable.

As part of the tasting panel, I just had to vote for my favorites in 21 different categories. There were a lot of other judges, so in a way it was like people's choice awards.

Here are some sights from the salon, and a few of my favorites.

Amano Chocolates of Utah is consistently a winner at the chocolate salon. It's no wonder, because its chocolate bars (primarily dark chocolate) are especially luxurious and rich in flavor. (I've tried some dark chocolate bars at other vendors that tasted dry because of the bitter chocolate levels.)

Socola Chocolatier is from San Francisco and it had several different flavored truffles, with some unusual flavors like stout beer and durian. I did try the stout beer but didn't get the chance to try the durian.

Here are truffles from Salt Side Down Chocolates, another chocolatier from the Bay Area. Its truffles have salt sprinkled on the bottom. I tried them in the fall luxury salon, and was excited to try a couple of new flavors with some unusual names like Sweet Fungus Among Us and Number 5: Umami. Both were amazingly complex.

Not sure why, but the booth for William Dean Chocolates had the longest line throughout the salon. They definitely have the most beautifully decorated chocolates but I didn't feel it was necessarily that different than other luxury chocolates out there. Not sure if it was one of those situations where the line started and everyone just kept jumping in because it was the only vendor with a long line. Or maybe they were just slow with passing out samples? Hard to say.

One of the toughest category to judge was "Best Fair Trade Chocolate," partly because it was hard to find a chocolate maker using fair trade chocolates. But the chocolate from Alter Eco got my vote. I liked their chocolate bars and their name.

I like flavored truffles that wake me up, like this new product from Gateau et Ganache. It was a sour cherry truffle. Nice.


Carolyn Jung said...

I remember going to that a few years ago. I was on a sugar high all night long after that. But it was worth it. It's always fun to discover great new confections.

foodhoe said...

hmmm, I'm sorry I missed that, but glad to be able to read about the hot new chocolates here! Salt side down sounds like fun, I once had chocolates from Kikkoman which were enhanced with soy sauce and thought they were awesome.

Mei said...

Always wanted to go to this event, but didn't like what I heard about the crowds. Good photos.