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Apr 14, 2012 10:21 AM

The Chocolate Garage in Palo Alto

Silicon Valley has a long-standing tradition of good things emerging from garages. Last weekend I visited Palo Alto’s The Chocolate Garage and learned that this applies to esoteric chocolates as well.

This is the sort of place that one’s friends beg you to not share with the outside world. No signage directs the way, other than this small one on a neighboring door, placed there no doubt by occupants weary of being asked for pointers. This only added to the sense of being admitted to a secret society as my friend led me toward the site.

Founded more than a year ago by molecular biologist, Sunita De Tourreil, The Chocolate Garage has been covered in the local press and is no longer “underground”, absolving me of spilling the (cacao) beans. More of a shack or a shed in actuality than a garage, the small structure is tucked back from the street, shaded by greenery.

Inside I found a nicely appointed tasting lounge with comfy chairs and a variety of samples for tasting. The community of customers, fine chocolate geeks all, chatted happily about their favorites. Sumita and her assistant shared samples and provided background on each. The tasting has a strong education component that I appreciated rather than a sales pitch. On the day before Easter, the displays were a bit more colorful than one might find at other times. The well-curated collection skews toward single origin chocolates with a minimum of ingredients crafted by small batch, hard-to-find artisans including several local bean-to-bar producers.

Prices for bars range from about $10 to $23. Members receive a discount by depositing some funds in advance on account and drawing down on the balance for purchases. But one need not be a member to drop-in to taste or to buy here.

I tasted the 75% Sylvestre bar by Rogue Chocolatier made of wild cacao from Bolivia. Then some fudgy Nicaraguan flavored chocolates, followed by a goat milk Swedish licorice-studded chocolate. I especially enjoyed the 70% dark Askinosie sipping chocolate for its bright fruity notes.

More were offered me, but feeling under the weather, I begged off for another day when I might be more discerning. For my friend, this is her every-week indulgence. It’s easy to see why.

The Chocolate Garage
654 Gilman St
Palo Alto, CA 94301
Saturdays, 9am to 1pm

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  1. A quick note: they / she stock several bars from Patric (evident in this photo of yours), which is presently my favourite bean-to-bar chocolate maker. (I still mourn the Scharffen Berger-Hershey sale.) Also, the Whole Foods a few blocks away also sells a smaller selection of Patric bars, for lower prices.

    Otherwise, nothing to add to this nice write-up. =]

    1 Reply
    1. re: eethan

      Mmm, yes, Patric. On the way out, my friend strongly encouraged me to taste a sample of a Patric bar. Wish I could remember which one. In any case, I was very impressed by the texture, the crisp snap of the bar, then the melting creaminess on the palate.

      Hope others who've been to The Chocolate Garage will chime in. We should be talking about it more!

    2. Had a chance to return to The Chocolate Garage on Saturday with my friend. Two of the chocolates available for tasting were stand-outs for me --- Patric chocolate black licorice bar is a seamless meld of chocolate and just enough licorice to let you know it's there (and I generally dislike licorice) and SOMA Patanemo Venezuelan chocolate bar has a luxuriously creamy texture and nutty flavor tones.

      1. Dropped by the Chocolate Garage yesterday to buy some chocolate as gift as well as get some to eat. Sunita, is knowledgeable, friendly and is great in helping to selecting the right chocolate.

        Large selection of outstanding chocolate that's responsibly produced. Sunita offered a large number of samples to help me find the right type for gifting. I probably sampled 15-20 bars. Tasted

        - Rogue Carenero 70%, no butter, just cacao and 30% sugar)
        - Marou Baria 76%, Vietnamese Cacao and producer
        - Patric Red Coconut Curry 64%, wouldn't have thought they could pull it off. it literally tastes like chocolate and a curry together, in a good way.
        - Patric Habanero 67% Madagascar, with sea salt infused with habanero chiles, nice kick.
        - Domori 100% Dark, no sugar
        - Marou Treasure Island
        - Patric Rio Caribe 70% with crunchy cocoa nibs and sea salt
        - Momotombo Nicaruaguan chocolate candy with crunchy cocoa bean in the center.
        - Rogue Jamaica, smooth and mellow
        - Patric licorice
        - Patric blood orange, great blood orange taste without getting too citrus-y.
        - Bonnat, forgot which one, oh so buttery.
        and probably a few others i forgot.

        its probably best to allow yourself time. I was limited in time so I tasted all of that and more in half an hour. But one really needs to slow down to really appreciate the nuance of each bar.

        This place is a gem for the chocolate lovers, with its outstanding selection and passionate owner.

        They now offer 3 Future chocolate level.
        $100- $2 off each bar
        $250- free bar
        $1000- free tasting event (i think that's what she said, too busy tasting at that moment) for 10 people

        The program allows Sunita to work with makers to craft special bars just for the Garage, e.g. the Patric Rio Caribe bar.

        Extended hours this week for the last minute gift shoppers. Today they are open from 3-8. In a regular week, they are now open both wednesday evenings from 5-9 and Saturday 9-2.

        1 Reply
        1. re: ckshen

          Glad you enjoyed it, great report! With the explosion in chocolate producers, I can't keep up. It's great to have a curated collection like this where you can sample as well to make good choices.