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Current chocolatier recommendations?

I am on a quest to purchase a box of chocolates for a dear relative's birthday. Said dear relative lives overseas, in an area where no fine chocolates can be found and is a chocoholic, so I am hoping to find the perfect gift for her, not a fine imported Belgian chocolate that will likely be stale by the time it reaches her. I am looking especially for freshness, as the gift will be shipped which will take time and diminish fresh qualities of any chocolate, so I am hoping for locally made. Last year I tried Saratoga, which did not quite meet the standards. Does anyone have an opinion about Recchiuti, TCHO, Christopher Elbow or Charles Chocolates? Are there any newer manufacturers that I might be missing? Although I am willing to sample chocolates, I no longer have a sweet tooth, so I am depending on the opinion of those who still do to help out a fellow sweet tooth, my gift recipient. I am looking for a box of assorted. She prefers dark chocolate, fillings such as raspberry, lemon, strawberry, coffee or truffles, for reference. TIA.

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Recchiuti
1 Ferry Bldg # 30, San Francisco, CA

Christopher Elbow
401 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA

TCHO
17 San Pier, Francisco, CA

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  1. I love TCHO but I don't know if they do fillings. What I like are the straight chocolates with the different flavor profiles. I was not at all impressed with Christopher Elbow.

    Michael

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    Christopher Elbow
    401 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA

    TCHO
    17 San Pier, Francisco, CA

    1 Reply
    1. re: mdg

      Thanks, Michael. I don't know if my relative would like bars over filled assortments, but http://www.tcho.com/store/bars/tcho-a... the healthy prescription for chocolate on their website looks interesting. I will have to check them out.

    2. Chocolatier Blue in Berkeley is amazing.

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      Chocolatier Blue
      1964 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94701

      1 Reply
      1. re: milklady

        Thanks, milklady. While Chocolatier Blue's website does look amazing and impressive, I am afraid it wouldn't be easy for me to get there. I should have specified that I am looking for San Francisco proper chocolatiers, although if it comes down to the wire, I might be able to get across the bay.

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        Chocolatier Blue
        1964 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94701

      2. I loved Recchiuti when I visited SF several years back, but I don't live there and can't compare to the other chocolatiers you mentioned. I CAN tell you I remember a very different lemon verbena filling and don't recall a single thing I tasted there that was less than fabulous. I'd be a happy kat if a box from the Ferry Building made it my way. :)

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        Recchiuti
        1 Ferry Bldg # 30, San Francisco, CA

        1. Total chocoholic here...Question - you mention Belgian. Is that her standard? What does she like, because that will give a clue to which chocolatier she would like the best.

          Chocolatier Blue is great for those fillings and his ganache is very smooth and nice. Not all the flavors come through as strongly as i would like, but when he is on - the chocolates are wonderful. I like Christopher Elbow's infused caramels. They are great, less enamored with his ganache. But I have found few American Chocolatiers that compete in the ganache category with my favorite French. I also do love Rechuiitti, particularly their less mainstream flavors and of course the fleur del sel which is a dark caramel.

          Charles does a good peanut butter but the rest is meh IMO. Also not in love with TCHO.

          Also Cocoa Delice does wonderful caramels and peanut butter truffles. Some of the best in the area IMO. i have not tried many of their others, but i think they are very good.

          Finally, Poco Docle does flavored tiles and toffees which may not sound wonderful, but they do a really fantastic job. Really really nice. You can get them at many whole foods.

          Also, Jade chocolate does some nice infused chocolate. Their tempering isn't as top notch as some, but the infusions certainly are. Also available at Whole Foods.

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          Christopher Elbow
          401 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA

          TCHO
          17 San Pier, Francisco, CA

          Chocolatier Blue
          1964 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94701

          4 Replies
          1. re: jsaimd

            jsaimd, her traditional favorite from the past was Godiva, but I do know that before she moved overseas she found the quality to have declined. You brought up something I hadn't considered until just now, which is that she can't eat caramels, unfortunately, and probably not toffees if they might stick in the teeth. But other than that, fillings, ganache, any nuts are OK, and as I said before, preferably dark chocolate. I am narrowing down my list now, leaning heavily towards Rechuitti (Thanks, kattyeyes!) or Chocolatier Blue. Cocoa Delice's website looks good, but they have no storefront of their own from which to purchase the goods and having formerly worked at Whole Foods, I am disinclined to purchase them there or from any other grocery store. I appreciate the good thoughts from everyone so far.

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            Chocolatier Blue
            1964 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94701

            1. re: PersnicketyChicky

              The infused caramels I mention are soft caramels s o they don't get stuck in teeth. You can also check out Chocolate Covered in Noe Valley for a lot of local chocolates. Cocoa Bella carries some, but not too many local chocolatiers (Mischner and Elbow - although Elbow is half local).

              So Chocolatier Blue uses Amedei chocolate and their dark is wonderful. Rechuitti used to use a Scharfenberger/Guittard blend, which has less personality but is more neutral IMO. I favor Chocolatier Blue's fruit flavors, he does best I think with brightly flavored fruits. Rechuitti has a nice hold on the balance between savory and sweet with his herb infused or sesame for instance. You can't go wrong with either.

              I never had Godiva when it was good I guess, but it is fairly sweet and kind of Belgian or Swiss in quality. Their darks tend to be milder, and high butterfat content for a very smooth sensation. I prefer more assertive chocolates, with a nice snap (which is more in line with French or Italian chocolate (of course these are generalization). It is an import but Teuscher fits the Godiva profile but higher end. I find it too sweet but it is more that style. One advantage of Chocolatier Blue, is that if you go into the original shop when Chris Blue is there he will guide you through it all and will recommend the best fit.

              Poco Dolce tiles are just chocolate and are really lovely. You can get them a lot of places, and since they are not ganache they tend to have a really nice shelf life. i would suggest picking up a little bit as well.

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              Chocolate Covered
              4069 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94114

              Chocolatier Blue
              1964 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94701

              1. re: PersnicketyChicky

                Coco Delice chocolates are great and they will ship directly for you. Handcrafted by Dennis, who trained in France. The chocolate-covered almonds are the best you will find, and all the dark chocolate filled ones are great. And as noted above, the caramels are soft and not sticky (not at all like See's butter chews, which are the best if you do like chewy caramels). You can't go wrong. Contact Dennis directly by email or phone and he'll make sure you get what you want. Don't let the fact that Whole Foods sells some of his products deter you.

                1. re: judyn

                  Yes, Dennis makes some great stuff and is a really sweet guy.
                  His Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels (Forais) are some of favorites.
                  Others of note in the Dark Chocolate category: Spicy Rouge: Dark chocolate, Italian sparkling red wine, cayenne pepper. Orange/Cardamom (Dark chocolate). Citron: Dark chocolate with organic lemon & balsamic. Pure Passion: Dark chocolate with passion fruit. Merlot & Port both are Dark chocolate with Sonoma wine and one of the most intriguing is the Elderflower: Elderflower Liquor & a blend of citrus in dark chocolate.

                  I also love Recchiuti. The folks are always friendly and willing to help.
                  Favorites: The Burnt Caramel, Force Noir, Spring Jasmine Tea, Madagascar Varietal. I haven't had anything yet that wasn't a party in my mouth. I'm not remembering if I've had the Lemon Verbena, but I'm sure that'll be good as well. Oh, and their Sipping Chocolate is sooo good. Have fun shopping!

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                  Recchiuti
                  1 Ferry Bldg # 30, San Francisco, CA

            2. How about good chocolate and art work pieces, Xocolate , Berkeley.
              http://thexocolatebar.com/default.aspx

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              The Xocolate Bar
              1709 Solano Ave, Berkeley, CA 94707

              2 Replies
              1. re: wolfe

                I agree with jsaimd's assessments: don't bother with Charles and Tcho; I don't think you can go wrong with any of Recchuiti, Chocolatier Blue or as wolfe suggested, Xocolate Bar. If transit is a problem, Blue might be able to put together and ship your chocolates for you. This time of year you really should consider shipping them express, professionally packed with cooling packs. Otherwise your investment in fine chocolates is really wasted. In fact,. I think how your chocolates are shipped will make a much bigger difference in quality than splitting hairs between various high-end chocolatiers. It would be worth calling several and asking them specifically about their recommendations for shipping to your destination.

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                The Xocolate Bar
                1709 Solano Ave, Berkeley, CA 94707

                Chocolatier Blue
                1964 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94701

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  Thanks, Ruth, for bringing up another issue I hadn't considered before, having the chocolatier ship for me. I am planning on visiting Recchuiti first because it's in San Francisco proper and therefore easiest for me, and as backup, going to Chocolatier Blue and The Xocolate Bar, which all sound like perfect candidates. I also appreciate jsaimd's comment that soft caramels should be no problem for teeth. Wonderful advice, everyone, and most appreciated. I will report back in mid August to let everyone know what she thought of the chocolates.

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                  The Xocolate Bar
                  1709 Solano Ave, Berkeley, CA 94707

                  Chocolatier Blue
                  1964 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94701

              2. In what part of the world does your relative live? How warm will the chocolate get enroute? While bars are not as impressive, they do travel better in the summer than truffles and have a longer shelf life.

                The best chocolate bars I've had this year were from Amano (http://www.amanochocolate.com/). The nicest local filled chocolates were from Coco Delice, and XOX's truffles are still darn good.

                On the other hand, I've always been a big fan of See's--to enjoy myself, but even more to give to people overseas. I can't think of anyone I know in Asia and Europe (including some with access to the sophisticated, expensive stuff) who wouldn't be very, very happy to receive a thick slab of See's Rocky Road.

                1 Reply
                1. re: pilinut

                  See's would be a good representation of "American-style" chocolates, and something not readily available in some locations. Here's a link to See's warm weather packaging/shipping for you to consider:

                  http://www.sees.com//index.cfm/help/s...

                2. Based on her preference, the prepared dark chocolates assortment box from See's would definitely fit the bill - and the bill would be much, much less than Recchiuti or Blue! Another factor in favor of See's is that has a somewhat longer shelf life than Blue, which is quite limited.

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                  Recchiuti
                  1 Ferry Bldg # 30, San Francisco, CA

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: foodeye

                    I think she'd probably love a box from See's too. We take it for granted here in CA, but it really is delicious for the price. I hear all the Japanese tourists flock there and not to Godiva because of the value and perceived "in the know" status it confers on the buyer. I know, har har.

                    Avoid Christopher Elbow and Charles. They're just not up to the quality of any of the others you've listed.

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                    Christopher Elbow
                    401 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA

                    1. re: Pei

                      I have nothing against See's although I think their best work is in the nuts and chews. Their dark is not very dark, and their ganaches are not great. The original poster should note that See's fruit flavors are often either white chocolate or buttercreams. I happen to not enjoy buttercreams, and if Godiva is the standard, I don't think they do much in the way of buttercreams. I think See's does a good job at what they do, but they tend to be very sweet for my tastes.

                      1. re: Pei

                        The best things at Charles are the almonds and the bars. Both of which travel well.

                        Agree absolutely about Christopher Elbow. Plus they're incredibly expensive.

                        I love See's molasses chips. They have spread well beyond California's borders. I noticed a See's store at Atlanta airport last month, and Costco apparently has them.

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                        Christopher Elbow
                        401 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA

                        1. re: Windy

                          I'm not aware that Costco carries See's. They do carry discounted gift certificates, though.

                      2. re: foodeye

                        The other thing about Blue is that they do about a dozen kinds at any one time, and not that many are typically dark.

                      3. Reporting back on my first venture out into the world of chocolate: I visited Recchiuti at the Ferry Building the other day to study the goods and observe what others were purchasing. The booth was consistently busy, so I took advantage of a lull in traffic to speak with an employee. I was disappointed to find they would not sample the ganache filled chocolates and further disappointed to learn they did not recommend shipping to tropical climes at all given the current temperatures and time for shipping. But, they were correct and I had to re-think my purchase ideas. I was offered a piece of Passion Fruit pate de fruit (quite tasty and tangy, very sweet but would also not be recommended for shipping in hot weather) and a sample spoon of extra bitter chocolate sauce. With their blessings I decided a jar of the sauce would have to do for now as it will not suffer from being shipped. I will continue my exploration of Bay Area chocolatiers in hopes of shipping a box in late December or early January to my relative instead. Unfortunately, Ruth Lafler and Stephanie Wong's (great chart, by the way, from See's, Stephanie; good to know the shipping cost before you buy) idea of cold packs or express shipping would not apply in this shipping situation. Over the years I have attempted to send express mail through several methods and it arrives no sooner than regular mail; life moves at its own pace there, guarantees or high cost of shipping be damned, so the best tactic has been to plan ahead and go with the flow.

                        I wish to thank everyone who added comments. Although I have lost my sweet tooth, I have a strong enough memory of it and my relative's to say we would not prefer See's. I get the feeling either one is a See's fan or one isn't. For us, See's is too sweet, dark chocolate is not dark/bitter enough and buttercreams are not the preference, as jsaimd noted. When I get the chance, I will continue my research by going across the Bay to visit Chocolatier Blue and to contact Dennis at Coco Delice as suggested by judyn and recommended by BigWoodenSpoon, as these appear to be the best options aside from Recchiuti that meet my criteria.

                        As I was in the Ferry Building and my curiosity had been piqued by Carriewas218's recent report on Pepple's Donuts, I bought two ($5) to sample a taste and take home for my roommate to have the rest. My brief assessment of these donuts can be found here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7229...

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                        Recchiuti
                        1 Ferry Bldg # 30, San Francisco, CA

                        Pepples Donuts
                        6037 San Pablo Ave, Oakland, CA 94608

                        Chocolatier Blue
                        1964 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94701

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: PersnicketyChicky

                          Thanks for reporting back. I think the jar of chocolate sauce is an elegant solution to the shipping temperature problem.

                        2. Didn't know where to put this, but June 21, 2011-July 12, 2011 the Recchuiti store in the Ferry Building is having "buy-one-get-one-free" on their chocolate bars. Regularly $7 for a 4-ounce bar; four or five different types. Also, they have a new Amarena cherry confection that's out of this world!

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                            Can you describe the Amarena cherry confection?

                            1. re: wally

                              Mmm ... a layer of chocolate ganache with cherry conserve (I think -- it was semi-liquid, not a pate de fruit texture) and an amarena cherry on top, enrobed in chocolate.

                            2. re: Ruth Lafler

                              too bad you can't get 2 different types for the BOGO deal, website said get the same bar free. How many of the Amarena cherry ones are left?

                              http://www.recchiuti.com/index.html?g...

                              1. re: hhc

                                It doesn't sound like the Amarena cherry iconfection is one of the bars.

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                                Amarena Restaurant
                                2162 Larkin Street, San Francisco, CA 94109

                                1. re: hhc

                                  When I bought one they said I could get more than one type (and I did). The sign they have on the counter doesn't say you're restricted to the same bar. Wally is correct, the Amarena cherry is not a bar, it's a "confection."

                              2. Since this thread got refreshed, I will say that I think Recchiuti is way over hyped and over-rated... I am surprised that only one of my favorite chocolatiers was mentioned...
                                My favorite Bay Area Chocolatiers are:
                                Gateau and Ganache (flavor explosive truffles; passion fruit truffle to die for; great marshmallows)
                                Snake and Butterfly (everything is amazing... maple bacon caramels and bars...)
                                Saratoga Chocolates (caramels and truffles.. especially the Cinnamon hearts)
                                XOX truffles (great liquor flavored truffles...they actually have an SF store)
                                Jade (unique flavored chocolate bars; try the dragon's breath)

                                Also, if you want to go crazy (my SO is psycho chocolate obsessed and I am not far off) and explore the subtle differences between chocolates from different regions, Monique's in Palo Alto has some amazing single origin chocolates (Madagascar is my favorite) and occasionally gets very rare ones.

                                Chocolatier Blue and Coco Luxe, I agree, are also good; although, IMO the best thing by far at Coco Luxe is the Double Vice: Dark chocolate pudding with a shot of espresso... it is evil good.

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: lrealml

                                  The first three I haven't run across -- I'll have to keep an eye out for them. Jade I wasn't impressed with at all -- generally I don't care for herbal infused chocolates (and I've tried a lot of them) as they tend to be dry. XOX -- I remember when I first had them many years ago and they were fabulous. The last couple of times I've had them they were disappointing and I gave up. I don't know if I got bad batches, if their quality control had suffered when they moved to Oakland (and since moved back to SF), or what. I guess I'll have to give them another try to reassess their current product.

                                  I think Recchuiti can be hit and miss, but the hits (rose caramels, salted caramels, cassis strata) are some of the best chocolates I've ever had. Also, sounds like you and I are chocolate-incompatible, since I don't like Madagascar chocolates (too sharp for my taste) and prefer South American and Caribbean chocolates.

                                  Finally, next time you get to the East Bay you should check out Xocolate -- again, I don't love everything they do, but the hits (cardamom marshmallows!) are worthwhile -- and Barlovento.

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                                  The Xocolate Bar
                                  1709 Solano Ave, Berkeley, CA 94707

                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                    XOX no longer has an Oakland store. Currently all XOX truffles are made by Jean-Marc, the owner. I think they are as good as ever. My favorite is the framboise though the cognac is also pretty good. If neither of those sound good, there are 28 other flavors.

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                                    XOX Truffles
                                    754 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

                                    1. re: Paul H

                                      Yes, sorry if I wasn't clear when I said "and since moved back to SF." When they had the Oakland store was also their production site, since it was much bigger than their SF store. As I noted, the XOX truffles I bought when they were made in Oakland were inferior to the ones I had enjoyed before the move. I haven't tried them since they moved back to SF, and maybe I should.

                                      1. re: Paul H

                                        I stopped in to pick up truffles as San Francisco-made gifts for my hosts in North Carolina a couple months ago. Early in the morning the proprietor was up to his elbows in melted chocolate busy enrobing truffles. He turned around to help me and started to rinse his hands in the sink, causing me to say, "Stop, don't do that, I want to lick your fingers!"

                                        Too late.

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                                        XOX Truffles
                                        754 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

                                      2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                        I wouldn't say incompatible... I don't not like South American and Caribbean chocolates :).
                                        I find Madagascar chocolate citrusy and naturally sweet (it is the only chocolate I can enjoy at 100%); however, it would be too strong for truffles. You would probably like Monique's other single origins (they have plenty from South America) because it is some of the creamiest chocolate I've had. I agree that Jade's bars are dry... it is their flavors that stand out to me...

                                        My issue with Recchuiti is that the last time we had them, we felt that their chocolate quality was just not on par with a lot of the other chocolatiers in the area, but that rose caramel does sound yummy. You should try some caramels from Snake and Butterfly (the salted Bourbon and Maple Bacon I can vouch for); I believe they sell some of their chocolate at Rainbow.

                                        I've tried/bought most of my favorite chocolates at chocolate festivals over the years, so it is hard to find some of them, but they are all worth seeking out. I forgot to mention Vice Chocolates in Oakland, which is also amazing (hard to get though). I haven't tried Xocolate yet, but they are now officially added to my East Bay list.

                                        1. re: lrealml

                                          I think that the trend toward ever more exotic flavor combinations results in a lot of chocolates that are interesting but not actually delicious -- I'm not fan of Vice, for that reason. There are some exceptions, of course: salt and chile both go really well with chocolate. Rose (better than lavender, IMHO) and bacon can be yummy if done right. When it comes to bars, I find dried fruit or bits of ginger incorporated into a bar don't work nearly as well as they do as fillings or in the form or dried fruit (or ginger) dipped in chocolate.

                                          I'm trying to remember what it was that I thought was really amazing at Xocolate last time I was there -- something with ginger. Apricot? Marzipan?

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                                          The Xocolate Bar
                                          1709 Solano Ave, Berkeley, CA 94707