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Jan 27, 2008 11:37 AM

Chocolate hounds- new ones to try

Noticing new chocolate shops opening up everywhere like the soon to be one Hayes Valley.

Need to buy chocolate for some clients- curious to know which you think are superior and just ok. I am only listing local chocolatiers.

I am familiar with all the usual suspects- Scharffen Berger, Joseph Schmidt, XOX Truffles, Guittard, Recchiuti, Charles Chocolates. Wanted to know how these compare with some of the places I have not tried, such as-

poco dolce- bittersweet tiles with grey sea salts, variety of flavors..I like the blue and white simple box.

Woodhouse Chocolates- In St. Helena they look so beautiful.

Cosmic Chocolates- In Oakland, not sure about their tea and herb infused chocolate, but the others sound great. I love their branding and website, fun.

On a not local and would not buy as a gift-
Just recently tried Brown Paper Chocolates from Texas I believe are sold at Whole Foods and pretty darn good.

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  1. I am addicted to the bittersweet chocolate tiles by Poco Dolce that you mentioned. Woodhouse Chocolates in St. Helena are good, but not as good as Michael Recchiuti's and are *very* expensive. I'd go with Recchiuti any day, or for a more homemade looking one, XOX. Also there is a chocolatier on Divisadero that is in the style of XOX truffles, but the name escapes me.

    1 Reply
    1. re: farmersdaughter

      5-Star I forgot about that place been meaning to try it- thanks

    2. Woodhouse is a somewhat different style than Recchuiti -- more elaborate molded shapes, which means slightly thicker chocolate. They are very sophisticated and delicious, but they are expensive. If you're looking for something local and less well-known, check out Barlovento -- they only sell at a couple of farmers markets (Grand Lake in Oakland and Palo Alto) and at Lulu Rae confections in Oakland, but if you contact them directly they could undoubtedly put some boxes together for you. They're the unmolded squares of ganache enrobed with chocolate with designs on top style, and the flavors are wonderful and yet not too weirdly exotic. The Meyer lemon, the mint (tastes like mint leaves) and the blackberry are my current favorites. Super nice people, too.

      Previous thread on Barlovento:

      4 Replies
      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        Never heard of those, thanks so much.

        1. re: Lori SF

          Here's the Barlovento website.

          They seem to have some sort of shop on 2nd St in Oakland now that is open for retail mon-wed and fri. I forgot about them saturday at Grand Lake. I wanted to try the tarragon.

          There is also Michael Mischner in Oakland. If you search the board you can find some recs on which flavors I liked ... sorry, I'm not lazy it is just the board is so slow for me it is hard to search.

          Anette's in Napa has an old-fashioned style like See's. However, they do some good boozy chocolates like winter chardonnay. The only one I didn't think much of was the port. The alcohol is in the background and lingers toward the end. The BEST thing there are their sauces though, expecially the caramel brandy sauce.

          I don't know how many Whole Foods carry them, but all the mega Whole Foods that have chocolate counters carry Cosmic. So they might night be so unique to the Bay Area. Ditto on Charles Chocolates being availabe across the country (not Whole Foods that I've noticed).

          1. re: rworange

            you turned me on to Michael Mischner another to add to a list. Anette's I have not heard of and most people like See's so good suggestion.
            I don't want anything sold from Whole Foods as a gift, because they are everywhere.. so good to know on the Cosmic, although I will check out for myself.

            1. re: Lori SF

              I'm not crazy about Anette's whole line, but some individual items are excellent. I love the apricot cream -- not too sweet and with tiny bits of dried apricot. For something different, their spicy beer brittle is really good!

      2. Poco dolce Aztec Chile tiles are my current favorite chocolate. They are extremely well balanced: not too sweet, rich but not sour or bitter. The warmth from the chile enhances the chocolate flavors. They are extremely satisfying for this chocoholic. In my opinion, Poco dolce is superior to any on the list you have mentioned although I do like XOX truffles and have never tried Charles Chocolates. A non-local dark chocolate bar that is another current favorite is Blanxart “Chocolate Ecologico Negro” organic dark chocolate from Spain.

        13 Replies
        1. re: Ridge

          Have you tried Vosges Oxaca bar how does it compare to the Poco dolce Aztec Chile? I found it a bit too bitter and the chilies did not rise through the chocolate. I love the Barcelona bar though.

          Where do you get Blanxart “Chocolate Ecologico Negro?

          1. re: Lori SF

            Bittersweet has Blaxnart, but IMO it might not be to everyone's taste. A serious chocolate person, yes but maybe not others. Spanish Table has it.

            1. re: rworange

              I agree but I like this type and would not give as a gift unless I knew they liked the high 73% or higher.

            2. re: Lori SF

              I wasn’t that excited with the Vosges Oxaca bar either. I though it was just ok, but a little too waxy and the chocolate flavor was slightly lacking. I also tried their milk chocolate with bacon bar which sounds intriguing but was also just ok.

              I have tried other chocolates with chile and the Poco dolce Aztec Chile is the one example where this combination has been perfected.

              I bought the Blanxart bar at Dean and Deluca in Napa (St. Helena). Blanxart has different dark chocolate bars and they vary in quality. Make sure to get the “Chocolate Ecologico Negro” organic dark chocolate bar, it’s amazing (at least I think so).

              1. re: Ridge

                Vosges Oxaca = waxy yes that was exactly what I thought.

                I will go try the Poco dolce Aztec Chile, this may become one of those things when you are purchasing for others you buy something for yourself...

              2. re: Lori SF

                I love the Barcelona bar, too -- I think it's my favorite Vosges bar. I just finished a really good chile-salt chocolate bar that I bought at Fog City ... and now I can't remember the name. From Vermont -- some kind of woman's name, maybe? ETA: Okay, I went out and bought another one, it's Byrne & Carlson, and they're in New Hampshire.

                When I when down and bought that I also bought a "smoky spicy chipotle" bar from Richard Donnelly. Wow. It really tastes like chipotle. Delicious!

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  I will check that out Fog City is my weakness.

                  Have you tried the Art Bar- dark chocolate with coconut? It is so goooood! They sell them at Rainbow and The Pasta Shop in Berkeley-

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    Byrne & Carlson's Smoky Chipotle chocolate is now available in "palets" (small round-top disks). I bought it at Fog City News for $9.95/100 gram box. This shape really brings out the best in this chocolate, and each palet (about 2 grams) is a perfect size for just a hit of salty, smoky, spicy chocolate. I think these are about to become a staple in my desk drawer.

                    On the super-splurge front, I've tried a couple of bars from Original Beans (politically correct, direct-traded beans and they plant at least one tree in the rainforest for each bar sold). Political correctness aside, I've tried both the Esmeralda (high-cocoa solids milk chocolate from Ecuador with a touch of salt) and the Beni Wild Harvest (68% cocoa solids from "wild" (not farmed) Bolivian beans). This is excellent chocolate with a lot of complexity and a very luxurious mouthfeel -- and no vanilla, which I tend to prefer. Expensive, though, at $14.95 for 100 gm bars at Fog City.

                2. re: Ridge

                  Second the Poco Dolce rec--these are my current favorite in the local chocolate arena. I also like that the box is filled with mostly chocolate--not a false bottom or super thick divider between pieces of chocolate--just lots of what we want!

                  I think the sunflower seeds in the Poco Dolce are genius--nicely toasted and nutty, but with a great extra savory dimension that plays against the salt on the top and fits perfectly with the chile/cinnamon.

                  I get their Aztec Chile tiles at Miette Confiserie, are there other flavors? Where do I find them?

                  1. re: SteveG

                    Whole Foods sells Poco Dolce, along with a bunch of other smaller stores (from Avedano's to Yield Wine Bar). I wish I liked them more.

                    1. re: Windy

                      I've only tried the Aztec Chile and it was fantastic, really good-quality chocolate. Lulu Rae Confections on College Avenue in Berkeley sells them in individual (1 serving) packages, so you get to sample different flavors. I don't remember the price, but they were a pretty good deal considering the price of an 8-tile box. I just can't wait to try more!

                      1. re: dreamsicle

                        Address link

                        Lulu Rae Confections
                        6311 College Ave, Oakland, CA

                        1. re: dreamsicle

                          I tried Poco Dolce's Aztec Chile too (from Avedano's). I guess I just don't like gritty detritus in my chocolate. I have the same beef with similar efforts by people like Vosges.

                  2. Cosmic makes a delicious spicy chocolate sauce (for ice cream, I guess, although I put it on apples and thought about warming it with milk).

                    You can try Christopher Elbow's candies at Cocoa Bella until their store opens in Hayes Valley. The caramels I've tried are delicious.

                    Five star is essentially the same as XOX (former employee).

                    I've seen Blanxart bars somewhere recently--maybe Miette Confisserie, or Chocolate Covered in Noe Valley.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Windy

                      Good info Windy, thanks.
                      "Cosmic makes a delicious spicy chocolate sauce (for ice cream, I guess, although I put it on apples and thought about warming it with milk)."

                      Great idea.

                      1. re: Windy

                        I saw kilo slabs of Blanxart (both dark and milk) for $7.99 at The Milk Pail in Mountain View today.

                      2. Have you tried Coco Delice? They focus on flavored ganache truffles, quite a few of them have a pleasantly strong flavor which I enjoy, like the passion fruit, green tea and lime, and spearmint and lime. (IMO, I've found Charles and Lake Champlain truffles rather weak/bland in comparison.) The only somewhat sad thing about Coco Delice is that they don't always deliver (or have available) all of the tasty varieties listed on their site! I'd love to try their elderflower, port or lavender-mead, one of these days...


                        Seconding Christopher Elbow chocolates. :-) If you don't mind paying for shipping, you can order directly from his website. Another collection of beautifully designed (and tasting) chocolates.


                        5 Replies
                        1. re: sairuh

                          They sell some of the Elbow chocolates at the CocoaBella stores.

                          1. re: sairuh

                            Its hard to find the perfect balance with flavored ganache truffles and Coco Delice does this very well..I agree they have a more flavor than Charles Choc.

                            I did not try Christopher Elbow when I was in Cocoa Bella, their website is a beauty.

                            This group that I am buying for does not live here and I wanted to get chocolate made in the Bay Area to send.

                            Is Coco Delice made here? could not tell from their site, most of all the retail is local.

                            1. re: Lori SF

                              Hi Lori-

                              Chef Dennis here from Coco Delice-I happened to be looking for some chocolate info and saw the blog string re: Coco Delice. In answer to your question, our chocolates are made right here in the bay area. At the moment, our production facility is in Oakland, even though our mailing address is in SF (a little confusing, I know). As you may or may not know, we do not currently have a storefront and instead rely on our retail partners (Whole Foods, Pasta Shop) and on our online store to fill the needs of our chocolate fans. We are planning on a retail shop, but probably will not occur until next year sometime.

                              I also noticed that someone mentioned that they did not receive all of our flavors in their box. If ordering from our online store, one can always request a certain flavor combination for their box, by adding instructions upon checkout. We now have 20 flavors in our collection, so depending on the box size ordered, one may only get a partial sampling of our chocolates.

                              Also, just so everyone knows, that the 2nd Annual SF International Chocolate Salon is happening at Ft Mason on Sunday April 13th. We will be there along with lots of other chocolate makers.

                              1. re: caldennis

                                The Intl Choco Salon is a 1 day thing or does it run a couple of days? Am arriving 16th and wishing....hoping...that it does :(

                            2. re: sairuh

                              I emphatically second Coco Delice! All this talk about their truffles made me rush off to my stash of their richly-flavored, unmistakably cognac truffles. I've been trying to savor those chocolates s l o w l y, but they are so darn good that what was supposed to be my one-a-day ration is more like three-a-day.