Sunday, October 21, 2007

Chocolate for Singles

My husband wasn't too worried when I told him I'd be checking out the Singles Chocolate Salon at Fort Mason Friday night. It'd be 95% women, or so he thought, especially with a fashion show as the main attraction. Yes, but if all men assumed, as he did, that the event would be packed with chocolate loving women, why wouldn't they show up and take advantage of those odds? And some would be sophisticated, able to taste the nuanced differences in single origin dark chocolate, not batting an eye at the $8 price of most fine bars. Or so I told my single friend Sue.

Well, my husband was right. Aside from a group of fraternity brothers in identical navy jackets who lingered by the door and then left, the pickings were slim and unappealing. But the chocolate? Fantastic. I hope Sue came to understand one of my favorite chocolate quotes: "Forget love, I'd rather fall in chocolate."


For the $25 ticket price, we had access to 7 different chocolate booths, all featuring local chocolatiers and plenty of free samples. We could also taste from some wineries and Hansen Natural Soda, a stop we returned to again and again since there was no water to be found. My favorite "non-chocolate" stop was Bliss Spa, a company I work with for my "Day of Beautiful Chocolate" private tour. Their interactive booth allowed us to sample 3 different brownies from local bakeries and vote on the best. The winning brownie, or so they claimed, would be served alongside the cucumber water as guests await their beauty treatments. Sue and I both voted for the cake-like brownie from Bittersweet Cafe; I don't know what chocolate they use, but it was intense and delicious.

It's too bad San Francisco Chocolate Salon did not find a more hip venue to host this event; the Fort Mason meeting room felt vast, damp and soulless. Lounge music lightened the mood somewhat, but I couldn't help but imagine how much cooler this would have been at a downtown spot like 111 Minna. Despite the lack of cool, I was still happy to talk to the different chocolatiers, all of whom were friendly and eager to share what makes their chocolate unique. Here are some of my favorites:

1. Cosmic Chocolate (Oakland)
I love the sexy appeal of Cosmic Chocolate's gorgeous chocolates. Their lines include "flavors that warm the heart," and truffles that are "spa inspired" and "cocktail inspired." The cocktail ones were my favorite, with tempting names like the "blushing geisha" (strawberry dacquiri flavored), the "beaming buddha" (limoncello ginger) and the "lucky leprechaun" (mint/chartreuse). Cosmic Chocolate's Founder, Carly Baumon, says she went to culinary school in New York but is a self-taught chocolatier. They have a small storefront in Oakland at 5002 Telegraph Avenue - perfect for my evolving East Bay Chocolate Tour.


2. The Xocolate Bar (San Rafael)
Malena and Clive, founders of San Rafael's The Xocolate Bar, put together the most compelling display in the salon. Chocolate skeletons (in honor of Day of the Dead), buddhas, Aztec shields and beautifully sculpted truffles with unusual flavor combinations. Malena and Clive, former rock'n'roll bandmates, say they try to honor chocolate's roots in Mesoamerica through their flavors and designs. The Xocolate Bar took two gold metals at this summer's SF Chocolate Salon and I can understand why. I sampled the mango tamarind truffle and it was fabulous. The Xocolate Bar is sold at Chocolate Covered in Noe Valley and online.

3. Rushburn Toffee (San Francisco)
"Men love it," said Stephanie Rush, founder of San Francisco's Rushburn Toffee. Dismayed by all the bad toffee out there, Stephanie's grandmother created "The Toffee Recipe" in the 70s and shared it with no one until a year before she died. Now we can all enjoy this coveted recipe in different varieties: English toffee with almonds, espresso toffee with almonds, and milk and dark chocolate toffee clusters. Though I'm not a toffee coinnosseur, my sweet tooth enjoyed the milk chocolate toffee cluster sample. And I love the packaging: a sleek, silver tin reminiscent of grandmothers and sweet treats.

4. Sacred Chocolate (San Rafael)
If you read my post on making raw chocolate, you'll know my friend Daniel (recent raw food convert) and understand why he would be enamored of Sacred Chocolate - the only company at the salon who focused on the health benefits to eating raw chocolate. With a bit of a cultish hippie following, David Wolf's Sacred chocolate was first unveiled at raw food retreats. He believes he's the only chocolatier who uses the nutrient-rich skin from the cacao bean. Yet even Wolf admits his chocolate is expensive - $10 for what looked to be a 2 oz heart-shaped bar. I liked the 65% mint bar and would recommend staying away from the 99%, no matter how healthy it is! Wolf doesn't appear to have a web site, but he does have a revealing My Space profile under the moniker "Soaring White Love Eage."

5. XOX Truffles (San Francisco)
Any San Francisco chocolate aficionado has got to be familiar with XOX Truffles. Now with a store in Montclair as well as North Beach, Chef Jean Marc Gorce has been in the business with his wife Casimira since 1997. They offer 27 different flavors of hand-made truffles, some dusted in cocoa powder, others coated in white chocolate, hazelnut or coconut. The chef himself manned the booth and I loved the caramel truffles we sampled.

If this event sounds appealing, visit the San Francisco International Chocolate Salon to read about what they've planned for 2008. Just don't expect "love at first sight."

2 comments:

TasteTV : Life Never Tasted So good said...

The space works well for our huge San Francisco International Chocolate Salon (www.SFChocolateSalon.com), but perhaps we should consider 111 Minna for the smaller events like this.

We've also incorporated it into our series, the Luxury Chocolate Salons (www.LuxuryChocolateSalon.com)

Aurora Danai said...

The founder of Sacred Chocolate, whom you met at the event, is actually Steve Adler, although David Wolfe is a partner. If you would love to purchase Sacred Chocolate, you can go to www.sacredchocolate.com (Steve Adler's site) OR www.sunfood.com (David Wolfe's site) OR call me!
Aurora 415-456-3311 x 115