Chocolates are popular the world over and every city has its share of chocolate lovers, including San Francisco.
I am not talking Lindt or Teuscher but talking about chocolates made locally or popular along the West Coast. If you are a dark chocolate lover like I am, you will definitely savor the flavors of handmade chocolates as well as the more popular ones like See’s and Ghirardelli’s.
Let’s start with chocolates only from San Francisco. The famous and ubiquitous Ghirardelli chocolates are manufactured locally although their factory is not in San Francisco but in the East Bay. Ghirardelli’s started in San Francisco in the mid 1800s. Their products have expanded to squares and other confections, instead of bars only. Now their flavors include fruit and caramel fillings. During the holidays, they have limited edition flavors like peppermint bark and eggnog. You can purchase their chocolates at Ghirardelli Square at Fisherman’s Wharf as well has at 42 Stockton Street (Union Square) and the Westfield Shopping Mall.
Although See’s is manufactured in Los Angeles, the original store opened in Los Angeles in 1921. By 1936, shops in San Francisco opened to fulfill the demand for its high quality chocolates named after Mary See whose recipes continue to today. Called “California’s Famous Old Time Candies”, See’s in now sold in over 200 stores on the West Coast. You won’t be able to purchase it on the East Coast. I was skeptic about See’s chocolates being that good. Growing up on the East Coast, I was used to Barton’s, Fanny May and Russell Stover chocolates but See’s does outshine those brands. The best box to purchase is the nuts and chews, favorites of my mom and sister. Once you’ve tasted them, you are never going to stick with the convenience store brands. And See’s is never sold at other stores except for its own freestanding shops and the airport. Buy a box and “see” for yourself.
Hint: If you want to bring back a box, purchase it at its stores at 542 Market St.
3 Embarcadero or 3250 20th Ave (Richmond section) of San Francisco. If you purchase these at the airport, the prices are almost $3.00 higher.
Michael Recchiuti is a self-made chocolatier. He decided to bring his knowledge of European techniques to the art of chocolate making and has introduced his chocolates to San Francisco in 1997. His high quality, artisanal chocolates are infused with unique flavors. His Fleur de Sel is very popular but I like his lavender infused chocolates and lemon verbena ones. His flavors range from ganaches to exotic flavors. You can purchase his chocolates by the piece (sold by weight) and his boxed sets. His store is located at the Ferry Building.
Cocoa Bella is a unique chocolate shop. If you like chocolates from all over the world, this is the shop for you. Chocolates from France, Switzerland, Italy, Belgium, Spain, Canada and the United States are sold by the ounce but you can also purchase their assorted box sets, dark, milk or both. I’ve purchased these for friends and they love it.
You can find their chocolates at the Westfield Shopping Centre or at their 2102 Union Street shop.
Founded in 1997 by a local chocolate connoisseur, Robert Steinberg, and wine maker John Scharffenberger, they set out to produce a unique chocolate that highlights the taste of the cacao bean instead of masking it with sugar and other flavors. This is for the true chocolate lover who likes high cacao content. But they also make milk chocolates too. You can purchase their bars or mini squares. They can be found in the Ferry Building or at high quality food markets like Dragers, Mollie Stone, Andronico and others.
Handcrafted in small batches, its signature dark chocolates are sprinkled with sea salt from the shores of Brittany. Using simple, fresh, all natural ingredients, its chocolates are simple but delectable. They also have a selection of brittles, toffees and special holiday chocolates. For example where else for St. Paddy’s Day can you get a box of dark chocolates infused with ganache (flavors of Irish whiskey, Porter, and Irish cream) covered with a semi-sweet shell. They are located in the Dogpatch section of San Francisco at 2419 3rd Street but you can also find their chocolates at Whole Foods, Fog City News, Rainbow Grocery and other fine grocers.
Christopher Elbow started as a chef in Kansas City but found his niche in making high quality artisanal chocolates. His satellite store at 401 Hayes Street offers his selection of chocolates. His colorful chocolates are pleasing to look at as well as eat. He sells chocolate bars and drinking cocoa as well. Try his 4-piece assortment to get an appreciation of the subtleties of flavor.
Tcho is the only chocolate factory that offers tours at its Pier 17 location. You will learn about the cacao bean and how it is processed to make exquisite bars of chocolate. Tcho works with cacao bean farmers and cooperatives to improve its methods of processing cacao to bring you the best in flavor. Their selection of chocolates include whole bars and mini squares. You can find their chocolates at its factory location and at fine stores like Whole Foods.
Now go out and indulge yourself, either with a piece, mini square, bar or box!