"Fine chocolate is expensive, but less expensive than therapy" - a visitor's T-shirt
The long-awaited San Francisco International Chocolate Salon finally arrived on April 17th at Fort Mason, a beautiful waterfront structure overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. There were over forty chocolatiers who attended the salon, bringing with them chocolates with dozens of exotic flavors. There was everything to please your eyes and satisfy your taste buds, including fine quality and beautifully hand painted chocolates.
It was truly an awarding experience to attend the chocolate salon. I sampled chocolates infused with dozens of exotic spices and flavors that you don't usual find in the store, such as goat cheese, purple yam and durian from Marti, sweet fungus from Salt Side Down, fig roasted walnut and berry truffle from Coco Tutti...etc. I cannot say if I dislike any of the participants there, but I definitely love three: Vice, William Dean, and Amano.
Vice Chocolates is on top of my list for its quality, creativity and a wide variety of exotic flavors. Vice’s logo design is a capital "V" with a graceful serpent head eyeing covetously at a lovely bird, conveying a simple message: the sinful pleasure of eating.
Vice's dark chocolate passion fruit and Thai chili, smelled and tasted strongly of the passion fruit at first bite, then a chili flavor that is a little spicy, just enough boost your blood circulation a bit but the sweetness and spicy quickly softened each other into a good balance. The dark chocolate shell melted a couple of seconds later, created a nice creamy sensation in your mouth. Its smooth texture and exotic fruit flavor makes it worth a try if you are looking for a little thrill and chill.
High percentage dark chocolate are my favorite. And Vice 88% dark sea salt chocolate is very delicious. The chocolate had a hint of flavorful sea salt that really brought out the chocolate flavor, and complimented the bitterness of the high percentage of dark chocolate. It was very smooth and creamy, and had a deep and intense chocolate flavor with a long lingering aftertaste.
I like most of Vice's chocolates, especially soft caramel with pear & ginger and black lager beer with crispy brown rice. Overall Vice's chocolates are all smooth and beautifully made. They are all well balanced and fresh with playful flavors.
William Dean chocolates are very stylish and trendy, and there was a long line of people waiting to try his chocolates. He had various assortments packed in signature blue boxes imprinted with the initial WD. While tea flavored chocolate is very trendy, most chocolatiers usually only make jasmine tea chocolates. However, WD pushes the envelope and makes a full selection of tea flavors: Masala Chai, Earl Grey, Matcha, Mint, and Jasmine Lychee. WD also makes granola bars with milk and dark chocolates for those who are very health conscious. They are crunchy and flaky, not too creamy and not too sweet. I was surprised to see that he even has Asian influenced chocolates: wasabi and Goji berries bars. Goji berry is a small red oval-shaped wild berry that is believed to have medicinal values. I tried both and liked them all. The wasabi bar was spicy, playful and fun to eat. Goji bar had this nice sweetness, and soft fruity flavor.
Amano is well recognized as one of the best brands of chocolates. Amano keeps its classic tradition, but is flexible with new trends. Its colorful animal shaped chocolates are very beautiful.
Amano's honey truffle was made with Sidr honey from Yemen that costs $85 per pound. Sidr honey is made from bees who only feed on the nectar of the Sidr trees, that are indigenous to Yemen. Sidr honey is the rarest and most expensive honey in the world because of its exquisite taste and medicinal properties, it is even known as an aphrodisiac. The truffle had a velvety texture, a subtle honey flavor and not very sweet. Unlike other fancy chocolates, Amano’s honey truffle is "simple and elegant".
Amano's 70% dark chocolate from the Dominican Republic was absolutely delicious. It had a strong fruity, smoky flavor, and a little acidic. Interestingly, a friend tasted a little tobacco that I did not detect.
There is something unique about Amano that is indescribable. It might be their incredible smoothness and silky aftertaste, balanced flavors, or most probably the whole combination.
Another chocolatier that is worth mentioning is "toffee talk" chocolate. Their toffee is the best I have ever had. It had a soft and creamy layer, then a layer of crunch toffee, topped with dark chocolate and crushed nuts. What distinguished them from others was that the toffee was easy to bite into. It was not hard and did not stick to your teeth. It had a nice chocolate aroma and a strong almond flavor, sweet, but not cloying. I usually avoid toffee but eating "toffee talk" toffee was a true treat.
The Salon was a great experience for chocolate lovers. After spending almost all day there, you might be a little frustrated for not being physically able to eat chocolates all day long. Next time, be prepared to fully indulge yourself like the real chocolate salon goers in the picture below.