HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >
What's your latest food project? Tell us about it
TELL US

2nd Annual Chocolate Salon: Report

b
BigWoodenSpoon Apr 13, 2008 09:43 PM

Howdy folks,

Well, despite the organizers being a little overwhelmed with the crowds and the space being definitely too small for the event, the quality of the chocolate was very good. Most of the vendors were local and only a few "big" names: Sharfenberger, Charles, Ghiradelli, Guitarrd

My personal favorites:
Coco De'lice: Everything was very good and the people were great

Highlight: Forais: Dark Chocolate ganache with organic sea salt & caramel

Of Note: Lavender/Meade: Traditional Meade wine and organic lavender in milk chocolate ganache
Spicy Rouge: Dark chocolate ganache, Italian red sparkiling wine and cayenne pepper

Can be purchased on-line: www.cocodelice.com or Whole Foods, Pasta Shop, Piedmont Grocery and Bittersweet Cafe (SF

)

The Tea Room: Tea-infused chocolates
Highlight: Dark Chocolate with Lapsang Suchong: Smoky and Delicious
www.tearoom.biz

XOX Truffles
Highlight: Earl Grey Truffle
I liked that they had texture and weren't all round and shiny
www.xoxtruffles.com
754 Columbus, SF
6126 La Salle Ave., Oakland

Poco Dolce: Large Bittersweet tiles with sea salt
Highlight: Burnt Caramel covered in Dark Chocolate
www.pocodolce.com

And finally, last but certainly not least:
Marti Chocolatt (LA
)Highlight: Chipotle: Well-rounded and beautiful to look at and eat.
Imagine a burnished copper truffle-like gem
www.martichocolatt.com
Unfortunately, the website is fairly basic and doesn't really list the wonderful flavors that were available at the Salon today. The chef's name is Tonet Tibay and can be reached at: tonet@martichocolatt.com. I'll try to follow up and see what the deal is.

Hopefully next year will see the Salon have at least double the square footage with a separate room for events/cafe and a lot more space between one side of the aisles and the other. Long Live Chocolate!

  1. f
    foodiehunter Apr 15, 2008 06:07 PM

    i'd like to second kresge86's comment about the vendors. everyone i spoke to was very nice, especially considering the crowds. i arrived about 1:30 and stood in line for over 30 minutes before i was allowed into the event. i must admit that i had second thoughts about attending the event. yet, i am very glad that i stuck it out. i really enjoyed the opportunity to taste so many chocolates side-by-side. i had seen offerings from many of the local chocolatiers in local retail stores, yet, often times the retailers i go to do not offer the full range. so it was great to try (and in many cases buy) chocolate that i wouldn't normally have as ready access to. also, there were a couple of cases where the prices at the booths were significantly cheaper than at some of the retail outlets and some of the vendors were handing out “coupons” for later purchase on their web sites.

    like many folks that have already posted, my favorite tastings were from Coco Delice. by the time i got to their booth, i thought i'd pretty much overdosed on the lavender chocolate pairings...but their lavender meade sample was very yummy and convinced me that i was far from overdosing. their sea salt and chocolate offering was wickedly wonderful as well.

    i also liked Chuao. as an absolute fan of hot chocolate, it is hard not to be aware of their maya hot chocolate. not only did Chuao offer tastings of their hot winter hot chocolate at the event, they were also offering tastings of a different ChocoPod flavor every hour. i am a big fan of that philosophy.

    as this is a new event, i think they have some organizational kinks to work out. yet, at the end of the day, it was about the quality of chocolate for me and i think it was completely worth it. i’ll be back next year.

    7 Replies
    1. re: foodiehunter
      p
      Pistou Apr 16, 2008 06:05 AM

      What kresge86 and foodiehunter say about how nice the vendors were is really true and I should have included that in my post. I was also struck by how gracious and friendly everyone was in the middle of a real madhouse. I am sure they would have been happy to talk about their products, though I was always feeling so claustrophobic and pushed by the time I got in front of a table that I did not make the effort to start a conversation.

      1. re: Pistou
        b
        BigWoodenSpoon Apr 16, 2008 02:52 PM

        BTW, I was "that woman" who told folks about the two lines, so sorry if I inconvienced any of you. I sent a long e-mail offering my insights and assistance to the organizers since I thought that would be the most productive way of making this a better event. I just received an email this morning stating that due to the "massive attendee turn out", there will be a Salon in April '09 that "will expand in scope, with more chocolatiers, more speakers, more wine and an all new location".(And hopefully more Event Staff to handle the crowds: Pick me, pick me!) The timed entrance ticket sounds like it might be a good idea depending on the size and set-up of the venue. Also, a larger "dealer room" shouldn't have anything but chocolatiers and then having a separate, smaller "event space/cafe" were folks can mingle and listen to speakers would be nice.

        1. re: BigWoodenSpoon
          p
          Pistou Apr 16, 2008 03:24 PM

          Sorry, I didn't realize that you were not associated with the event but were just trying to help out. All is forgiven :-)

          Seriously, though, the folks putting on the event could have alleviated a whole lot of that headache by

          a) sending tickets to people who bought them more than a week in advance (or doing e-tickets we could print ourselves) rather than having *everyone* go to will-call. It truly felt like being punished for having purchased early.

          b) having more than one person work will-call (and not alphabetizing by first name, for pete's sake)

          c) putting the will-call table on one side of the door and the purchase table on the other side; and then

          d) putting a sign out front so it was easy for people to figure out which line they should be standing in.

          Again, my apologies to you BigWoodenSpoon, since you were just trying to help out the hapless organizers. Btw, I sent them my comments as well, and got the same email as you.

          1. re: BigWoodenSpoon
            pilinut Apr 16, 2008 03:58 PM

            I don't know if they need "more" event staff--but they have a clear, desperate, HOWLING need for a professional event organizer. (I wonder whether the chocolatiers received a significant portion of the $17.50 I paid. I certainly hope so because they earned their money and the respect of pretty much everyone who had a chance to interact with them.)

          2. re: Pistou
            chocolateninja Apr 16, 2008 08:29 PM

            Yes...I second/third/fourth/etc everyone's sentiments of how friendly, patient, informative, enthusiastic, and cheerful all of the vendors/chocolatiers were, despite the maddening crowds. I was able to have a couple of good conversations with a few (Amano, Guittard) and observed (from behind a large line of people usually) quite a few other enthusiastic discussions going on between the chocolatier and patron. Like Pistou, I would have loved to strike up more conversations with vendors, but I was feeling so worn out, slightly overheated and claustrophobic that I just couldn't muster the effort to do anything but get a taste of what I could reach and smile. (I'm sorry to have missed the lavendar meade! Two flavours I love)

            With a few exceptions, most of the people/patrons were all patient and polite in the midst of chaos as well, which I very much appreciated.

            Glad to hear they are realizing they need to find a bigger venue. (which will hold more vendors as well!) I was sad to hear from someone at the front tables, as I was waiting in line to return to the floor after having visited the restrooom, that they actually turned away a lot of vendors/chocolate makers this year. I guess they were worried about striking the proper balance between the space they had, the money they thought they would bring in and how many people they expected.

            1. re: chocolateninja
              d
              dreamsicle Apr 18, 2008 04:35 PM

              Sorry that my report comes a bit late and may be a bit long. I got a bit sick after the day, probably from all that chocolate and being in a hot and crowded room. I also got advanced tickets and was very confused when I saw two lines at the entrance of the Chocolate Salon and not knowing where to line up. Both lines ended up at the Will-Call table which was only attended by one person, and so the lines moved VERY slowly.

              I wished I were able to engage in longer chats with the vendors as well. They were all very friendly and were willing to share more about their chocolates. You could tell that they are really dedicated in what they are doing. I also wished that there were more interesting demonstrations. There was a chocolate spring roll demo by Shanghai 1930, but the spring rolls were prepared beforehand and were a bit stale and chewy. The only part I liked was the tangy raspberry sauce on the side.

              Onto the chocolates … some of my favorites include:
              - Coco Delice - Spicy Rouge (dark chocolate ganache, Italian red sparkling wine, and cayenne pepper) and Banana Walnut (organic banana and caramelized walnuts in dark chocolate ganache). I especially liked the latter with its fresh banana flavor.

              - Gateau et Ganache - La Passion (white chocolate ganache blended with passion fruit purée, enrobed in rich, dark chocolate), which was bursting with fruity flavors and had a nice balance of sweetness and citrus flavor.

              - Marti Chocolatt - Café (Guatemala antigua coffee in 37% chocolate), with a smooth and velvety ganache, a bit rich for me but had a pleasant coffee flavor.

              - Christopher Elbow – Bananas Foster (bananas and caramel flambéed with rum) and Raspberry (raspberry pate de fruit topped dark chocolate, raspberry ganache). I’ve never really been wowed by Elbow’s chocolates, but these were great. The former tasted sweet and warm, while the latter had a distinct fruit flavor with nice contrasting textures. I was curious about their dark chocolate bar with popping candy, but they weren’t sampling it that day and at $7/bar … has anyone tried it before?

              - The Tea Room - Bedouin’s Fear milk chocolate bar (herbal-infused Moroccan medley of nana mint, peppermint, ginger, orange peel and milk chocolate), and White Pomegranate milk truffle (milk chocolate truffle infused with Chinese white tea complimented by a hint of pomegranate). I usually prefer dark to milk chocolates, but enjoyed these. The former had an interesting yet pleasant herbal flavor, while the latter was subtle yet refreshing.

              - Chuao - Passion Chocopod, with a nice snap to the dark chocolate which released a soft and lightly flowing caramel. The passion fruit flavor was tangy and ends with a pleasant sweetness.

              XOX Truffles and Poco Dolce were amazing as usual. I tried XOX’s lemon ginger and actually enjoyed it as much as the Earl Grey and Caramel. And did anyone try the Nespresso espresso drinks? I had the cappuccino and it was pretty amazing! The foam was thick and creamy and the coffee was smooth and had a lingering taste, definitely better than many cappuccinos that I’ve had at cafes.

              Hopefully they would work out the kinks, have better organization, and bring in more artisan chocolatiers next year. Overall, I thought the crowd were well-disciplined although I was a bit shocked to see people filling their tupperwares and Ziploc bags with SOOO much chocolate. I liked the fact that I could sample a wide variety of chocolates and get a better idea of chocolate products that I'd be interested in, but like many Chowhounders, I don't know if I'll attend a similar event in the future.

              1. re: dreamsicle
                d
                dreamsicle Apr 18, 2008 04:51 PM

                Oops, almost forgot about this ... I received this in my e-mail a few days ago about awards for the Chocolate Salon “selected by expert panelists”, which were also announced at the event.

                - Best Dark Chocolate: Amano Artisan Chocolate
                - Best Milk Chocolate: Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker
                - Best Truffle: XOX Truffles
                - Most Luxurious Chocolate Experience: XOX Truffles
                - Best Dark Chocolate Bar: Amano Artisan Chocolate
                - Best Organic or Fair Trade Products: Sacred Chocolate
                - Most Gifted Chocolatier: Christopher Elbow Artisanal Chocolate
                - Complimentary Mention: Trader Joe's Bottled Water (it was also nice to see Trader Joe's giving products they had left to the various vendors towards the end of the show ... must have been a nice treat for the vendors after a long, exhaustive day.)
                - Not an Award but Needs to be Mentioned: Obama Chocolates by Cosmic Chocolates

                In another e-mail, they mentioned: “we're now turning our thoughts to Year 3 in 2009, and the item at the top of our list is space. Over the next month we'll be determining whether we go back to the 2-day Salon format of 2007, or keep the 1-day Salon format of 2008 but with a larger space. We'll also be considering the suggestions of several people to slightly raise the ticket price, and possibly even continuing to increase the number of chocolatiers featured.”

                And here are some pics including ones from the aforementioned chocolate spring roll demo.

                 
                 
                 
                 
        2. k
          kresge86 Apr 15, 2008 01:51 PM

          I first want to comment on how incredibly nice and friendly the vendors were, given the crushing crowds. Despite everything, they remained eager to talk about their chocolates, and were accommodating of requests to try a second flavor, etc., as well as readily offering suggestions for our diabetic friend (I know... bad place to be for her). Our favorites were Poco Dolce, Charles, Guittard (the single origin bars), Jade, XOX, New Tree and Marti. Chuao also had a nice hot chocolate mix.

          We arrived around noon, and waited an hour to get in (we bought tickets at the door). The rooms were absolutely stuffed full, and some of the vendors had already run out of certain products (e.g., the flavored marshmallows from Gateau et Ganache and the apricot chocolate from New Tree). While we were in line, we watched people walk out with tupperware filled with whole truffles/chocolates, but by the time we got inside, the vendors had pared down to slivers in some instances. The crush made it nearly impossible to be polite, but still taste chocolate. We tried waiting patiently for our turn (as there was something that resembled a line snaking around the vendor tables), but then people just kept "cutting" and we got nowhere. As the room grew hotter, we gave up and shoved our way through to chocolates like everybody else. I was surprised that the organizers did not have water available. Thankfully, Trader Joe's was giving away teeny tiny bottles of water.

          1. singleguychef Apr 15, 2008 10:03 AM

            It's fun reading everyone's reports! Count me in on how disappointed I am with the organizers. What's weird is I don't remember it being so disorganized last year. I guess maybe now they're so popular that it's creating more traffic issues. You'd think they would be more prepared. But TasteTV keeps coming back with "it's only our second year and we didn't think it would be so popular." Um, you're giving out chocolates?? Wouldn't you think you'd get a crowd?

            Anywho, I do have to say I got there around 11 a.m. before the long lines started to stretch out and when I got inside it was stifling. But after about an hour, I noticed the room started to loosen up with people going to check out the movies and the front people holding off people from coming in. So that did help.

            As for the chocolates, I agree that Coco Delice was great and I did get a chance to talk with the chef and he was very pleasant and friendly. I also really liked Jade Chocolates, who was in the front mini room. I do like chocolates with tea and I liked her genmaicha chocolate. She's only been making her chocolates since January!

            I didn't like the Marti Chocolates as much as some others. I thought the ganache was a bit too sweet.

            Here's my full (and longer) report with photos if interested: http://singleguychef.blogspot.com/200...

            1. chocolateninja Apr 14, 2008 08:55 PM

              Erm...long post warning.

              Thanks to finding out about this event on Chowhound, I was able to attend this year's 2nd Annual Chocolate Salon, held on a perfectly gorgeous spring day at Fort Mason.

              My non-CH friend and I decided to get there around 9:30 am, a half an hour before they opened, thanks to a couple of hints from previous attendees who posted here. It's a good thing we did, as the line started forming a little bit after we showed up (we ended up being the 5th and 6th people in line) and even before 10, started winding its way down the sidewalk and around the side of the building. This event definitely suffered from what seemed to be a lack of organization/realization of just how popular they were going to be, as Pistou pretty accurately described in his/her post.

              Some favourite things:

              Charles of Charles Chocolates and daughter (I assume) coming outside and very cheerfully handing out chocolate-covered nuts to the waiting crowd (who had to wait in line at least 10 minutes after the supposed 10 am opening time, because peeps inside weren't ready yet. Bahhumbug) It really set a pleasant tone for my visit, and somehow I think helped put me in a better mood to deal with the crowds. The chocolate nut was great as well. (:

              The flavoured marshmallows from Gateau et Ganache, www.gateauetganache.com especially the passion fruit. Light, fluffy, delicate and freshly fruity. Their passion fruit truffle, "Le Passion" was very nice as well...juicy filling, the fruityness and the chocolate melding together perfectly. Made me smile.

              From Jade Chocolates, www.jadechocolates.com , based in San Francisco, I enjoyed their Genmai bar. A 33% cocoa milk chocolate bar with roasted brown rice, roasted green tea and jasmine tea. It was like a nestle crunch bar on crack. (Well, except much much better than a nestle crunch, no offense to nc lovers.) Ended up purchasing one and I'm very picky about my milk chocolate these days. The packaging is beautiful as well...the bar is wrapped in light green rice paper/rag paper and a raffia ribbon, with a cute logo sticker.

              Marti Chocolatt, out of Los Angeles, www.martichocolatt.com had some of the more unusual flavours of the day, I think, with buko pandan, durian, and mango caramel. I didn't get to try any of those, unfortunately, as the crowd was starting to, well, crowd, and I got stuck in a corner and felt a bit claustraphobic/panicky and needed to move. I DID get to try their white chocolate-covered goat cheese truffle (in pics), which probably sounds awful to some, but it was great! I don't think it would work with milk or dark chocolate, but something about the white chocolate melded just right with the goat cheese (which was mild and creamy and not overly salty)...the whole thing bordered on savory, but with just enough sweetness to keep it from fully going there.

              The TeaRoom, www.thetearoom.biz ,with everything tea (and all USDA certified Organic, tea as well as chocolate), had a white chocolate-covered matcha green tea powder truffle that I found delicious. I wasn't so impressed with their other offerings. Didn't find them as tannic as Pistou did though. The matcha truffle had deep green tea flavours that were intense without being overwhelming or bitter, and the white chocolate coating balanced so well with the green tea...bringing a smoothness and a creamyness to the truffle that offset the hard edge that green tea flavours can sometimes have. I have to admit, I'm getting a bit tired of everyone jumping on the "tea and chocolate" combo bandwagon, but this particular truffle, and the Genmai bar from Jade, gave me hope that there are still delicious options out there.

              I tested my dark chocolate limits with Guittard's (who wasn't actually selling any of their offerings at the salon, *grumble*), 91% cocoa bar. It was so dark and deep, yet without bitterness. It was a pleasant surprise. When I need my "pure chocolate fix", I'm going to grab myself one of these babies and nibble away. Definitely a "small bites at a time" experience though. Very intense.

              Amano Artisan Chocolate, out of Utah, www.amanochocolate.com , had three different single-origin bars that were beautiful in their simplicity. I was happy that I was able to tell the difference between the three different bars (i've been really trying over the past year to educate my "chocolate palate"), and I ended up purchasing the 70% Cuyagua bar, with beans from Cuyagua Valley in Venezuela. I wanted to buy all three selections, but I was on a very tight budget, and the Cuyagua was my favourite. It had a lot of depth and complexity. Ingredients: Cocoa beans, pure cane sugar, cocoa butter, whole Tahitian vanilla pods. Amano's chocolates were among the few I found that did not contain any soya lecithin, which is an ingredient I think some people object to (though I'm not sure why).

              Of the two vendors i saw who had mostly toffee, I enjoyed Rushburn's best. www.rushburn.com It had a deeper, more complex flavour...more of the burnt caramel tone that I enjoy in toffee.

              Trader Joes gets two thumbs up from me for handing out free bottles of water to the very thirsty crowd with the exhausted palates. (And giving away free TJ's logo grocery bags, but they had sadly run out by the time I arrived at their booth, around 2pmish

              )

              The chocolate film, "In Search of the Heart of Chocolate: A filmmaker, a chocolate shop, assorted chocoholics, and lots and lots of chocolate (may contain nuts)" by Sarah Feinbloom, was adorable. I enjoyed it even though we ended up watching it directly on her laptop, instead of being projected onto a screen (there was an issue with a missing cord and having to go find one nearby, etc.). Someone suggested that we would be fine watching it on the laptop, and everyone in the room generally agreed so we did. There were some great interviews with Jack Epstein of Chocolate Covered (in Noe Valley I think? Or was it Hayes...)

              Pistou pretty much summed up my feelings on the "Things I Disliked" front. I felt a bit frustrated that I wasn't able to try as many samples as I would have liked because I wasn't willing to fight or push my way through (literally!) the crowds to get to the table. I would also add that I thought the selection of presentations was pretty weak, (chocolate body painting demo and hairstyles? I mean, COME ON people...)and I would have loved to see more people speaking about the history of chocolate (and how chocolate/the cocoa bean has changed history!), maybe some chocolate makers discussing their philosophy/how they came to love chocolate and make chocolate for a living/etc, or some sort of chocolate maker roundtable, cooking with chocolate demonstrations/discussions, etc. Oh, and did I mention the crowds/how badly laid out with regards to crowd control-flow of people the event was? *sigh* Hope they get it together for next year because I would like to go again, and if they don't change the venue, I'm seriously considering not attending.

              Tips for next year's attendees:
              -Bring your own water...lots of it. My poor taste buds were on chocolate-overload by the time I hit the 6th table, and i think I would have ended up with a huge migraine from all the sugar if I hadn't remembered my giant nalgene bottle.
              -Bring some sort of tupperware/baggies/bowl/box for the samples, and maybe some post it notes and a sharpie so you can write down what it is you are putting into your container for consumption later.
              -Buy your ticket ahead of time, and get to the venue at least a half an hour before they are set to open.
              -Bring a mega-dose of patience and a sense of humour.
              -Please remember deodorant/antiperspirant, and don't douse yourself in so much perfume that they will be able to smell you on Alcatraz. :-P

              PIcs at: http://flickr.com/photos/dragongirl/s...

              1. w
                waldrons Apr 14, 2008 08:18 PM

                I was in that Buying Tickets line at about 11 am. People were coming out of the venue nearly fainting... one couple said, "I'd rethink this if I were you... it's WAAAAAAAAAAY too crowded in there."

                I decided to take their advice. Fortunately, there was a Tamale Festival taking place elsewhere in Fort Mason, so I hung around for 30 minutes figuring on doing a different type of tasting. Unfortunately, tickest for the Tamale Fest were $40 per person (!!!), so I blew that off, too.

                But these reports will help me figure out what to buy elsewhere!

                Susan

                1 Reply
                1. re: waldrons
                  l
                  liujenny Apr 14, 2008 08:56 PM

                  We came a bit later (around 2pm) and we not only had to wait in the will-call line forever, we had to wait in a line that went all the way back into a narrow hallway where the bathroom was (not to mention this line sort of blocked the way to the documentary screening room) just to get into the salon. I agree that the organization was extremely bad, although the vendors were quite friendly and informative. The will-call list was organized by first name, AND they didn't check ID, so basically, I could just go in there and say a common first name and try to get tickets that way, very ridiculous. However, the chocolates were heavenly.

                  Great reports everyone... I also liked one of Guittard's prototype chocolates, too bad I forgot the name, it was a 70% blend I think. It was hot and crowded and very hard to get through, so we left after less than 1 hour. Like Pistou and pilinut, I would not go again next year if they're keeping the same format, perhaps we should have gotten a hint about their organization from their all-over-the-place website?

                2. p
                  Pistou Apr 14, 2008 09:01 AM

                  Here is my report:

                  Chocolate fixes everything. How much BS will I put up with to sample amazing chocolate? The answer, apparently, is quite a bit.

                  Yesterday three of us visited the Chocolate Salon at Ft. Mason. On hand were about two dozen chocolate makers, most local. Ghiradelli and Guittard were there, but we skipped right past them to try xox Truffles, Charles Chocolates, Chuao, Saratoga, Poco Dolce, New Tree, Xocolate (makers of "chakralates", oh dear), Christopher Elbow, and many, many others. Which brings me to Complaint The First: I have a giant bag of chocolate samples in my fridge (it was too hot yesterday to leave them out) and I don't know where nearly all of them came from. As much as I hate excessive packaging, for an event like this to pay off for the exhibitors, it seems to me that they should have put take-away samples in individual little bags with a sticker or something. I'm sure I will love a lot of what is in that bag, but I am going to have a heck of a time figuring out where to get more in most instances.

                  XOX was the clear winner for all three of us. The caramel truffle was a magical combination of bitter chocolate and sweet, burnt caramel flavor. Two of us tried the lemon ginger truffle and neither much liked it. I finally know what all the fuss is about and will go out of my way to get to North Beach when they are open in the future. Charles Chocolates had some wonderful samples out as well--the cream-based chocolate orange twigs that are like crack to me, peanut butter butterflies, and a lot more that I put in my bag for later sampling. Christopher Elbow continues to leave me cold. I tried a "bananas foster" truffle--chocolate shell with a liquidy banana center that was way too strongly banana and had almost no chocolate flavor. We all concluded that we do not like tea in our chocolate. There was one vendor who did nothing but tea chocolates (The Tea Room), and all of them that we tried were fiercely tannic, so the insides of our mouths puckered up.

                  Was it worth it? Absolutely. Will I go back? Probably not. This may have been the most poorly organized event I have ever attended.

                  I purchased tickets about 3 weeks ago, and since nothing indicated to the contrary, assumed they would be mailed to me. Saturday I realized I hadn't gotten them and emailed, only to be informed all tickets would be at will-call. When we arrived, there was one very long and slow moving line. After a few minutes a woman came out and announced, "There are two lines, will call on the left and to buy tickets on the right." Everyone began to sort themselves and then she said, "Will call on the right and to buy tickets on the left," at which point it was total chaos. Once we were in separate lines, the to-buy line began moving swiftly while will-call slowed to a crawl. When we got near the door we saw why: There was a single person for will-call and two for purchases. Both tables were on the left side, so to pick up tickets you had to cross the line of people purchasing. Then we discovered that the will-call list was organized by first <bleeping> name. Then the woman giving us our tickets tried to short us a ticket and I had to interpret her list for her.

                  Once inside there was one very small room where everyone stopped to fall upon the samples. A slightly larger room was behind it, but about a third of that room was taken up by a bank of chairs facing a stage where a hair-styling demo was taking place (I wish that was a joke). It was not possible to exhibit good or even passable manners and get near a table. Pushing was more or less required if you hoped to get to the chocolate.

                  Most annoying of all, since the crowds were so thick and insistent there was no possibility of talking to the vendors about their products. It was just grab a sample and move on to the next. I cannot imagine that the vendors were happy with the day, either.

                  My proposal rather than more square footage, which would drive up the price, is timed tickets, possibly charging a slight premium for early tickets and offering a slight discount for tickets later in the day.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Pistou
                    pilinut Apr 14, 2008 07:59 PM

                    We were probably within a few meters of each other in that everlasting will-call queue yesterday--within centimeters once inside that sardine can. (I, too, could hardly believe my eyes when I saw that hair-styling demo: for a moment, I feared that they were going to pass around chocolate-coated hair samples that I would be unable to decline.)

                    As inept as the organizers were, there were quite a few remarkable chocolatiers present. Pity that the crowd was so thick, it was sometimes almost impossible to tell whose chocolates you were sampling. You really had to like the chocolate to brave the pushing, shoving hordes long enough to work your way to a chocolatier and strike up a conversation. Surprisingly, all the chocolatiers I spoke with were remarkably friendly and enthusiastic, despite the maddening crush and the pressure to keep churning out those samples.

                    To me, the best artisanal chocolates, echoing BigWoodenSpoon and Pistou, were Marti, Coco Delice, and XOX.

                    Marti--top of my list--was positiively mind-blowing from the snap of the thin chocolate shell to the silken intensity of the ganache. I normally dislike fruit in my chocolate, but the banana and the durian were the real thing and perfectly balanced against the bittersweet chocolate. The family that ran the Marti table were also very obliging when I asked them to make up a couple of boxes of their tropical flavors: barako coffee (a hard-to-handle Philippine robusta), mango, durian, banana, buko(coconut)-pandan, and (I couldn't resist) goat cheese. This is chocolate I will be dreaming of for some time to come.

                    Like BWS, I fell hard for Coco Delice's Forais. Salted caramel and chocolate go well together, but Coco Delice takes it to another level. And, yes, their rustic chocolate truffles, and chocolate-covered caramelized nuts would not last long in my house, either.

                    XOX is always very good. I'd have been more excited about them, had I not been eating those truffles since they first appeared in North Beach ages ago. Their cognac truffle is a classic, and this old standby is more than a match for those fancy pieces with their air-sprayed artwork and multiple-capsicum fillings.

                    Would I go next year? Like Pistou, probably not, if it's organized by the same space cadets. I'm glad that I discovered a couple of good sources, but having discovered them, my $20 and my Sunday morning will be better spent buying any of the too-numerous chocolates I already know, than standing in line for 40 minutes in order to spend the next 2 hours jousting with strangers for little bits of food.

                  Show Hidden Posts