These Are A Few of My Favorite Things…

If you saw my dining room table recently, you would have thought Willy Wonka had set up shop in my house.

Truffles, chocolate bars, nut brittle, bonbons, and more covered it from one end to the other. And yes,Β  I had to eat all of it. Well, at least try each and every piece.

It was all part of my judging duties for the fourth annual San Francisco Chocolate Salon, the sugaraholic’s dream event where chocolate makers show off their wares to media and members of the public, who get to sample and vote for their favorites.

Yours truly was on the team of expert panelists. For those, like myself, who couldn’t make it to the actual event this year at Fort Mason, the event organizers had the chocolate samples sent to our homes instead. Hence, the veritable candy shop in my dining room.

Here’s the list of winning chocolates from the event. And below, find my picks for my new favorite chocolate products.

What: Montana’s Posh Chocolat’s Artisan Sea Salt Caramels (photo above)

Why: Five different exotic, soft, sticky caramels enrobed in dark chocolate, each topped with a different sea salt. Think White Truffle Oil Caramel with Hawaiian Pink Sea Salt. It sounds weird, and it is different. But wow, is it elegant and memorable. And yes, you can really taste the pungent truffle oil. $15 for a box of 10.

What: Palo Alto’sΒ  Gateau et Ganache’s Handmade Marshmallows

Why: OK, how cute are these? Shaped like pastel daisies, the spring assortment comes in flavors of lemon, passion fruit and strawberry. They’re light, springy and very fruity tasting. Nine marshmallows are $12.

What: Jade Chocolates of San Francisco for Chocolate-Covered Edamame and Dragon’s Breath, Kuro Genmai, and Mahal chocolate bars

Why: Fusion often leads to confusion. But Jade takes the distinctive flavors of Asia and adds great chocolate to the mix. Chocolate-covered edamame are almost barley-like in flavor, with a great crunch, and the bittersweet taste of cocoa. All the chocolate bars are unusual. My favorite is the Genmai, which melds the nutty, toasty taste of Japanese brown rice with dark chocolate. Each bar is $6.25. A 6.5-ounce box of the edamame is $10.50.

What: Coco-Luxe of San Francisco for its new Sugar Pine Bark

Why: Been there, done that with most other nut brittles. These shards of toffee, however, are loaded with pine nuts and sage, and coated in dark chocolate. The result is a bark like no other, with the taste of a wild forest.

What: Kika’s Treats of San Francisco for Caramelized Graham Crackers

Why: Hands down, the best graham crackers you’ll ever eat. Forget the ones you were lulled with in kindergarten. These are very crisp, with autumn spices, and a lovely coating of dark chocolate. They sent only three. I could have eaten three dozen. A bag of five is $7.50.

What: Clarine’s Florentines of Berkeley

Why: These palm-sized rounds of brittle are covered in thinly sliced almonds. You can taste the quality of the butter and the Guittard bittersweet chocolate that coats the back of each one.Β  $13.99 per bag.

What: Robyn’s Chocolates and Confections of Monterey

Why: Hand-crafted, single-origin chocolate bonbons in such exquisite flavors as intense Passion Fruit and Absinthe. The Honey Vanilla Caramel with Walnuts and Fleur de Sel is outstanding. A nine-piece box is $20.

What: Vice Chocolates of Oakland

Why: First, you gotta love the names of these bonbons: Violent Heart (caramel and chipotle peppers), M. Butterfly (white chocolate ganache, lemongrass, coconut milk and kaffir lime), and Goddess (milk chocolate ganache and oolong tea). Second, the bold names live up to the intense taste. A four-piece box is $10.

What: William Dean Chocolates of Florida for its Lotsa Matcha Bar

Why: These chocolates have always made you stand up and take notice, both in looks and taste. The new white chocolate bar is no different. It tastes like a creamy Starbuck’s green tea latte. It will make your mouth go “Wow!”

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  • Now you are my idol, I am full of envy of you having to fork into every piecec of thos luxurious chocooolate! So divine, I am so intense……. abe I want a bite too! πŸ™‚

  • Unplanned Cooking

    You were a judge for chocolate? That’s my dream job.

  • I think you just made my shopping list for the week πŸ™‚

    But seriously wow. It’s 8am and I want chocolate for brekkie!

  • What a great variety. I know you’ve worked hard to get such great opportunities, but I often read your posts and think “I want her life!”

  • So glad to hear that you liked Jade Chocolates. When we had our grocery, we were one of the first stores to carry her product. Lovely woman and delicious and creative chocolate. She’s worked hard to perfect her product and deserves the recognition she is getting.

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  • You’ve got me here. I wanna try it all. How have you found such fascinating chocolates! I wanna try kuro genmai.

  • Lovely treats! so pretty and tempting…



  • Oh my! There wasn’t one thing there I didn’t want to bite in to!
    And you got to judge? Are you inviting us over to help you clear your dining room table of all that chocolate clutter?

  • I have seen you in person.
    You do not weigh 500 pounds.
    Not sure how that’s possible!

  • Now, you have to share your secret of staying slim after enjoying those goodies. I am having chocolate intoxication just looking at the pictures you posted. This is not good… πŸ˜‰

  • I actually made it to the Salon and it was incredible – as fun and as as it was, I learned that there is a human limit as to how much you can take in. Post was a favorite I thought they had some fascinating flavors.

    I totally agree with you on Kika – I knew them from other events – watched them grow as a successful food entrepreneur – very nice, and the treats are delicious! I’d be in serious trouble if I had that stash delivered to my home.

  • Everyone wants to be you!

  • good gads. do you realize how jealous most of the population is of you right now? what an honor, what a treat. EVERYTHING looks delightful!

  • Rough day of work, but someone has to do it! I’m already plotting an attempt at homemade pine nut-sage brittle and chocolate covered spiced graham crackers.

  • You have a very tough job! πŸ˜‰ Okay, I bet it’s tougher than it seems… At least that’s what I’m going to tell myself! πŸ™‚

  • I wanted to go this year! We just bought 30 tamales from La Super Rica and pastry from Solvang. Lotsa cardio this week.

  • Liane: 30 tamales!! Whoa!

    Carroll: Nope, I’m not 500 pounds. But believe you me, there are definitely days when I feel like I AM. πŸ˜‰

    And Andrea knows when I’m not eating, I’m at the gym. But it seems like every year, I have to be at the gym MORE and MORE just to break even on the scale. Oh, curses!

  • Your favorite things are lovely and all happen to be sweet:)

  • Carolyn,

    Victoria and I agree with your choices. They are true artisans of chocolate, and we are so fortunate to have them in the Bay Area.

    -Ron Stillian

  • I’ll try that chocolate bars from Jade. I always like chocolate bars – can keep them in my bag and nibble them as and when I like it.

    *poking that irresistibly soft marshmallow* ….sorry….for…being…impolite ;p

  • Beautiful……..some day I’m going to go on a bonbon making course…maybe in Belgium and learn to work chocolate like these beauties. Have a great Easter

  • Wow…beautiful! Carolyn, you are so lucky. You look like you are in chocolate heaven!

  • Judging a chocolate contest… It doesn’t get more “sweet” than that job!!!

  • all of those sound amazing, I love the wide range and variety! genmai chocolate sounds intriguing and the William Dean bar looks so dramatic. Yes you do have it tough…

  • “Judging duties” huh? Right well it appears I am in the wrong job! I love this post – so detailed. The Genmai sounds like a definite “must try”.

  • Carolyn! I got so excited reading this because I’m gonna be in the bay area in a few weeks, then I re-read it and realized half the choc places I’d like to visit aren’t in the bay area! boo….

  • Clare: With the exception of Posh Chocolat and William Dean Chocolates, all the other chocolate makers I mentioned can be found in the Bay Area.Quite a few of them have their products stocked at a number of San Francisco stores, too. So you should be able to get your chocolate-fix just fine. πŸ˜‰

  • If ever such duties and responsibilities become too overwhelming, I would immediately and happily volunteer to assist! Everything looks marvelous but the two chocolate hearts are too beautiful to eat. Well, maybe not THAT beautiful . . .

  • Oh many yummy sweets. I have to control myself or else I’ll be running out of the room to get myself a bar in the kitchen. lol. Happy Easter! πŸ™‚

  • You are a lucky duck! Just from the pics/descriptions, my faves are the marshmallows (adorable!) and the chocolate-covered edamame. Yum!

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