Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Afternoon Pick-Me-Up

Hooker's Sweet Treats. It looks like Martha Stewart has ventured into the TenderNob and transformed 442 Hyde into a farmhouse chic coffee and chocolate bar. Cobalt blue walls, antique wooden tables, a tiny open kitchen and shelves with curious flea market finds (like Cracker Jack Boxes from before I was born). Caramels come loose in brown waxed paper bags or wrapped in heavy brown paper and twine. The design elements are spot on, and the caramels are even better.

I've complained about this before...poor Gourmet Walks tour guides try a lot of salted caramels. Many of them are just so so, and there are only a few that absolutely must be sampled. Hooker's is one of them. We love that David "Hooker" Williams uses intense dark chocolate (72%) since so many salt caramels are milk. And the salt he uses is flaked right on top - Welsch lightly smoked sea salt. Ingredients are also Michael Pollan approved: agave nectar for sweetener, organic locally sourced fair trade chocolate. At $2 a piece, I'd spring for the 20 for $10 and invite friends over. They won't last long.

Gourmet Walks will come here for the caramels, but coffee fans won't be disappointed by the fresh roasted Sightglass Coffee. Started by Blue Bottle alums, Sightglass is the place to go when you find yourself in the outer limits of SOMA, and now, the TenderNob. The Hooker's Mocha is a beautiful partnership. And then there are the bread puddings, inspired by Williams's childhood in Lousiana. But why fill up on bread puddings when there are luscious caramels to devour?

Hooker's Sweet Treats is at 442 Hyde Street, open from 8-5 Monday through Friday and 10-2 on Saturdays.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Perfect Afternoon in the Haight

1. Denim shopping at Villains Vault
2. Summer Sale at Behind the Post Office
3. Dinner and a cocktail at the Alembic
4. Chocolate and wine pairings at Coco-luxe

Let’s talk about #4…my tour guides and I gathered at Coco-luxe last Thursday to sample their chocolate pairings with 122 West Wines. San Francisco industry folks may wonder - how can a chocolate shop serve wine? It involved some crafty maneuvering. Stephanie Marcon, chief chocolatier behind Coco-luxe, married Stan Bradbury, who decided to create a winery. The two worked the funky San Francisco system to get approved for a Tasting Room license in the Haight. The result is delightful, and something that no other chocolate shop can offer right now!

Longitude 122 West marks the home of Napa and Sonoma counties, where all the wine’s grapes are sourced. 122 West currently bottles 5 different wines, all available at Coco-luxe for tasting. We began with a light Napa sangiovese, followed by a food-friendly Napa zinfandel. We then sampled a Russian River syrah and a durif, and finished with a Sonoma port style wine.

Each taste of wine is accompanied by a small piece of dark chocolate and a truffle. The truffles are trademark Coco-luxe, inspired by Stephanie’s nostalgic desserts from childhood: german chocolate, malted milk, devil’s food, shoo-fly caramel and gingerbread. A favorite was the shoo-fly caramel. We taste salted caramels at least once a week on our tours (poor Gourmet Walks tour guides!), so the addition of molasses for the shoo-fly flavor is a refreshing change. The double cherry with the syrah was another excellent pairing, with the cherry truffle flavors drawing out the black cherry and cassis notes in the wine.

The Haight may not be at the top of a foodie's list for gourmet experiences, but the Coco-luxe boutique is a chic but warm haven away from the panhandlers and the fog. Bright orange sherbert walls, shiny white countertops, the smell of drinking chocolate and wine. It’s the perfect end to a well planned afternoon in the Haight. We’re happy to include the Coco-luxe wine tasting experience on our Limo Tours and private events. Please contact us to learn more at