Really, what would the holiday season be without some fine chocolate?
Not nearly as sweetly satisfying, that’s for sure.
Here are some recent samples that I’ve enjoyed trying that would make ideal stocking-stuffers for the chocoholics in your life.
TCHO Drinking Chocolate Crumbles
They look like little dusty pebbles of chocolate, but what’s in this canister of TCHO Drinking Chocolate Crumbles holds the key to one of the most luxurious tasting cocoas around.
Made by San Francisco’s TCHO chocolate company, this product is made from cocoa beans, cane sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa powder, lecithin and vanilla bean. Just add a couple of tablespoons to an espresso cup of hot water, and stir. The result is an incredibly rich, deeply chocolatey drink that will make you swoon.
You can enjoy the drinking chocolate either hot or cold. You can even use it to make a chocolate sauce to top your favorite ice cream.
A 250g canister is $11.95.
Brigadeiros are almost like the chocolate truffles of Brazil. No wedding, birthday party, convention or holiday in that country is complete without them.
Brigadeiro.me has brought that traditional sweet to San Francisco. The company makes them with butter, condensed milk and Belgian chocolate. Choose from an assortment of flavors including lemon zest, pistachio, vanilla cookies and coconut.
They are quite soft and creamy. Less dense than fudge, the texture is almost like that of a very thick mousse.
They’re also fairly sweet, particularly the white chocolate one I tried that was covered in fun rice crispy sprinkles for crunch. The classic and best-seller is the milk chocolate one. Of the three I tried, my favorite was the 70 percent dark chocolate with a nice earthy quality to balance the overall sweetness.
An 8-piece box of one flavor is $12.
Dandelion Chocolate Bars
Besides TCHO, San Francisco boasts one other bean-to-bar chocolate maker. Dandelion Chocolate, located in the Mission District, was started by the former co-founders of Plaxo.
Their forte is single-origin chocolate bars that are made with just cocoa beans and sugar so you’re able to taste all the nuances of each one.
It’s a delectable and palate-opening way to discern the differences between cocoa beans sourced from various places.
For instance, both the Patanemo and the Mantuano bars are made from cocoa beans from Venezuela. But they taste quite different. The former is deeply flavored with a nutty, toasty, earthy taste while the latter is fruity, almost cinnamon-y.
A 2-ounce bar is $8 or choose a gift set of three bars for $20.
I always think of St. Helena’s Woodhouse Chocolate as the Tiffany’s of chocolate.
First, there’s the pretty blue box that they’re packaged in. Second, the St. Helena locale is rather like a fine jewelry store, with the chocolates on display like rare gems in gleaming glass cases.
And lastly, the chocolates are just exquisite — dainty, perfectly crafted morsels that are two-bite wonders of creamy smoothness and intense pops of flavor.
For the holidays, Woodhouse makes its own version of a Reese’s — milk chocolate cups with smooth peanut butter, peanut gianduja and a layer of crunchy roasted peanuts. Decorated with snowflakes, snowmen, Santa or reindeer antlers, they are a gourmet version of a kid favorite and sure to spoil you for any other peanut butter-chocolate candy.
A four-piece box is $16.
Or choose an assortment of traditional chocolates, including my favorites of Praline Noisette, Thai Ginger and Champagne.
A 12-piece box is $24.
Unusual Jcoco Chocolate Bars
I like edamame. But would never have imagined putting the soybeans in a chocolate bar.
But that’s just what you’ll find in one of Seattle’s Jcoco inventive chocolate bars.
The Edamame Sea Salt bar is milk chocolate with whole toasted edamame beans strewn throughout. They provide a nice crunch and a very unexpected subtle beany note. This bar may not be for everyone, and while I found the taste intriguing, I don’t think it’s a chocolate I’ll necessarily ever crave. It would definitely make an impression as a gift, though.
In contrast, the Black Fig Pistachio is a bar that I would eat again and again. Bits of chewy, dried black mission figs and California pistachios combine for a winning combination that picks up on the fruitiness of the dark chocolate.
The Veracruz Orange is also a winner. I’m not normally a big fan of white chocolate bars because they’re often so cloying and one dimensional. Jcocco adds orange and chili powder to make a white chocolate bar that is far more interesting.
The bars are beautifully packaged. What looks like one big bar actually opens up to reveal three individually wrapped smaller bars adorned with retro black and white fashion photos.
A three-ounce package (which has three 1-ounce bars inside) is $7.95. For each purchase made, Jcoco makes a donation to a food bank.