The Chocolate Life

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I'm making a trip to San Francisco next week. I usually just drive straight up the 5 from Los Angeles. It's boring but it's quick. The big problem is that there's no place to stop along the way for a foodie.

This time I decided to take the more scenic and hopefully more tasty route up the 101.

I've created a Google Map with a few places I'm considering stopping at.

I know my way around SF/Oakland/Berkeley just fine when it comes to sweets. It's LA to San Jose that I'm looking for help.

Here's what I have so far, feel free to chime in with your suggestions (or warnings!):

Robitaille's Fine Candies - Carpinteria
Chocolate Maya - Santa Barbara
Sweet Earth Organic Chocolates - San Luis Obispo
Dulceria El Guero - Salinas
Cocoa Bon - Los Gatos
Holland's Best (actually for Licorice) - San Jose

So has anyone found a little gem of a candy/chocolate shop along the way?

Tags: barbara, california, jose, san, santa

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Head inland from 101 to catch 1 at Carmel by the Sea (a quite scenic interlude) then head north through Castroville (artichokes) along the coast and into Santa Cruz to catch Richard Donnelley. Then head east over the mountains to San Jose stopping in Los Gatos - where you could also check out Pascal Janvier's Fleur de Cocoa.
Here's my Bay Area map:

http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid...

San Francisco at the East Bay is awesome for any candy lover. For a real insider experience maybe go to Charles Chocolates in Emeryville, they do tours. I don't know the current status of the Scharffen Berger Factory though (that always made a nice afternoon).

In San Francisco TCHO recently opened their factory on Pier 17. I don't think they're doing tours but they do have a store and maybe if you call them and beg. (I don't care much for their chocolate, but I haven't paid much attention to them since their beta.)

For shops that sell everyone's chocolates:
Chocolate Covered - amazing selection of bars, you can even buy some fine chocolates by the piece (well, small sets of Cluizel, Lillie Belle, Caffarel). Jack runs the place and can really carry on a conversation about chocolate and help you find something you'll like.
Cocoa Bella - often has tastings, check their schedules, great selection of fine chocolate pieces from around the world. (I'll eat anything with figs.)
Bittersweet Cafe (one in Berkeley and one in SF)
Fog City - amazing selection of bars, also has events, Adam is awesome.

Christopher Elbow is fun, just for the lounge and the hot chocolate. It's also right up the street from Miette Confiserie (awesome all round candy shop).

Let's see back to what's in between...

I've been to Chocolate Maya in Santa Barbara. It's a small shop but very well curated. They have a good mix of fine chocolates, bars and their own house-made specialties. When I was there they had Taza, Dolfin, Askinosie, Cluizel, Theo, Banxart, Green & Blacks, Amano, Bonnat, Cafe Tasse, Pralus and Moonstruck.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/typetive/sets/72157607032337205/

Their hours are a little problematic for getting an early start, so check to see if it'll fit.

I ended up stopping in San Luis Obispo at Sweet Earth Organic Chocolates, which is actually in a bakery/cafe (great lunch stop) called Splash Cafe.

All their stuff is fair trade and organic and good portion vegan as well. It's not haute, just comfort candies made with a code of ethics.

http://www.typetive.com/candyblog/item/sweet_earth_chocolate_cups

Then I stopped at Holland's Best in San Jose. A dusty shop with a huge selection of licorice (some of which was not so fresh). Great prices though and if you pick carefully, there are some fabulous and very hard to find products there. http://www.hollandsbest.com/

Cocoa Bon closed their cafe/shop.

Now ... Los Angeles!

If you're looking for convenience for the start of a trip, it might be Valerie Confections & L'Artisan du Chocolat. They're right next door to each other just a few turns from the 101 entrance on Silver Lake Blvd.

I'm a huge fan of Valerie's - they make very high quality toffees, nougats & confections. If you're visiting the shop I recommend the petit fours or tea cakes (well, I love the teacakes). I'm eating their Lemon Hazelnut Nougat right now ... made with June Taylor candied Meyer lemons. They also have free samples ...

http://www.typetive.com/candyblog/category/valerie
www.valerieconfections.com

Next door on 1st Street is L'Artisan du Chocolat

They're a classic European-style chocolatier ... but then a twist with their avante-garde line (tomato, kalamata olive, red bean, garlic, etc.). Wonderful high quality.

http://www.typetive.com/candyblog/item/lartisan_du_chocolat
http://www.lartisanduchocolat.net/Mainpage.html

Here's a roundup I did of a lot of shops all over the LA Basin for Gridskipper (with a map)

http://gridskipper.com/62423/the-ultimate-guide-to-locally-made-la-...

(Boule has since closed, and Chuao closed their Irvine location but are around further south.)

Um ... and tomorrow I'm planning on going to Compartes in Brentwood.

Wow, it sounds like I eat a lotta chocolate.
Hi Cybele,

When you get to San Luis Obispo be sure to tell the young women at the counter to go upstairs to get Rebecca, so I can say "Hello" to you in person. I'm the trufflemaker (among other tasks) there.

Rebecca
Rebecca-

You missed Calibressen in Carpinteria...he is a French chocolatier that moved out here...next time you drive up the coast you might want to try him. Also you can find another local chocolatier, Jessica Foster, at Lazy Acres in Santa Barbara...she doesn't have a storefront. Besides Maya, that's about it in Santa Barbara....

There is a homestyle candy shop in Ventura called Trufflehound...they make a variety of candy and last I heard they use Santa Barbara Chocolate for their dark.....The owners were both food science majors and I beloieve they have taken Richardson's courses at Davis....

I know that you already took your tour, but in case you take another one, I thought I would recommend these shops as well.

You can also call ahead to organise a personalised chocolate tasting to be done at The Chocolate Garage. :) We carry a diverse selection of Happy Chocolates and are open by appointment. We specialize in chocolate tastings and have a "try before you buy" policy.

And, I would also strongly urge you to stop by Monique's Chocolates in Palo Alto, two blocks from The Chocolate Garage to sip on one of their "to die for" hot (or cold) chocolates. Or taste one of their many single origin confections. Mark West is very knowledgeable and happy to talk chocolate.

Chocolate is booming in the Bay Area. :)

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