Saturday, August 2, 2008

Coco-luxe Chocolate Opens on Haight

John Scharffenberger, Michael Recchiuti, Joseph Schmidt, Charles Siegel...The Bay Area chocolate scene has more than its fair share of the X chromosome. But there is a lovely new lady on the chocolate scene, Stephanie Marcon, who recently opened a chic little shop in the Upper Haight named Coco-luxe.

Yes, Coco-luxe has been around since 2006, giving Stephanie ample time to perfect her brand image before opening up a retail location. And her brand (Think Juicy Couture goes vintage) is much more at home in the trendy Haight than stuffy downtown San Francisco. The tiny shop is painted tangerine and brown to match her sleek packaging. The obligatory brown t-shirt is for sale for the Coco-luxe slogan, "Chocolate to Share...Or Not." My Gourmet Walks tour guide and I were happy to share hot chocolate, truffles and a chocolate bar while the super-friendly saleswoman answered all our questions.

Like the Christopher Elbow shop which opened earlier in the year, Coco-luxe has a small "chocolate bar" with drinks to suit a variety of tastes. We tried the "pudding" ($4) - a thick blend of dark chocolate with very little sugar. If you'd just like a little liquid to wash down your chocolate, Coco-luxe sells Boylan, Bubble Up and Virgil's Root Beer, all in retro glass bottles. Next to the bar rests a shiny white espresso machine, from which Coco-luxe creates coffee drinks using Bay Area favorite, Blue Bottle. And of course, there is the option of delicious homemade marshmallows to add to any drink.

Marcom says her chocolates are inspired by classic dessert flavors of her childhood. And it's true, reading off the list of truffle flavors made me smile, thinking back to old-school diners where the meal was just a prelude to dessert: after dinner mint, angel food, banana split, german chocolate. If you're an exotic chocolate fan, you won't be finding garden herbs, chiles and pork products in Coco-luxe chocolate! These are sweet creations, and make wonderful gifts. I especially like the baby themed truffle collection, with illustrations of safety pins and baby bottles. I've never seen that before, maybe because of the x chromosome issue? After having my third baby, I'd definitely choose chocolate over yet another monogrammed baby blanket!

Coco-luxe also sells three unique varieties of chocolate bars, in eye-catching wrappers. I tried the "Monkeyin Around" bar, milk chocolate with banana chips, cacao nibs and sea salt ($4.95 for 2.5 oz). It was a yummy bar, but I really didn't taste any banana. It seemed like the nibs and banana chips were there more for texture than flavor. Her "Happy Trails" bar is dark chocolate with trail mix and her "Good Fortune" bar has candied ginger and fortune cookie. Clever flavor combinations, with fantastic package design.

The best thing I sampled at Coco-luxe was the German Chocolate truffle. I am nuts for coconut, and this just about matched my other favorite coconut treat: Fran's Coconut Gold Bar. I also liked the gingerbread truffle, coated in white chocolate.

I hope Coco-luxe does well in this Haight location. The area is a magnet for vintage clothing shoppers, music lovers and of course panhandlers - but fine chocolate lovers? We'll see...