San Francisco – Chocolate Lovers Paradise!
You wouldn’t think of Chocolate necessarily, when you think of San Francisco….But only in San Francisco, with its rich and luscious history of food, can one find four of the nation’s 11 major chocolate manufacturers and a disproportionate number of unique boutique chocolatiers.
The Bay Area is home to some of the greatest chocolate factories in world including: The Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, See’s Candies and Scharffen Berger Chocolate (recently acquired by the Hershey Company).
In 1849, an Italian chocolatier by the name of Domingo Ghirardelli received news of a gold strike at Sutter’s Mill and took it upon himself to strike it rich and sail off to California. While Ghirardelli found no luck in the Gold Rush, he found his fortune in chocolate instead. He established his first chocolate factory in San Francisco’s famous Fisherman’s Wharf, which is considered a historic landmark today.
Ghirardelli is one of the few chocolate companies in the United States to control every aspect of its chocolate manufacturing process, rejecting up to 40 percent of the cocoa beans shipped in order to select what the company calls the “highest quality” beans. The company then roasts the cocoa beans in-house by removing the outer shell of the bean and roasting the inside of it. Today, Ghirardelli’s Chocolate Factory is considered one of the most popular sites in the Bay Area because on any given day, you can find decadent, gooey chocolate churned there. Ghirardelli Chocolate Company is a major contributor in the multi-billion dollar industry that can soothe the soul of the savage beast as well as stimulate “feel good” hormones. While chocolate is no longer being manufactured in Ghirardelli Square, the retail store still serves fresh chocolate sundaes and other sweet confections.
See’s Candies was founded by Charles See and his mother Mary See when they opened up shop in 1921. The company is headquartered in South San Francisco.The chocolate in See’s candies has been provided by the Guittard Chocolate Company since the 1950s; See’s and Guittard pioneered the delivery of bulk chocolate in liquid form in tanker trucks in 1959. See’s Candies makes more than 100 varieties of premium chocolate truffles, caramels, toffee, and other candies, including boxed assortments, lollipops, and kosher treats.
Scharffen Berger Chocolate is a Berkeley, California-based chocolate maker, founded in 1996 by sparkling wine maker John Scharffenberger and physician Robert Steinberg. The company is a manufacturer of chocolate (as opposed to chocolatiers, who make their products using chocolate acquired from wholesalers and manufacturers). Scharffen Berger is the first American company founded in the past 50 years to make chocolate from “bean to bar.” Scharffen Berger primarily produces chocolate bars, which are dark chocolate varieties with high cocoa solid content. By 1997 they made the first batch in a small South San Francisco factory using vintage German equipment and basic ingredients including Venezuelan criollo beans and whole Tahitian vanilla. Today, Scharffen Berger makes about a half million pounds of chocolate a year. You can find fine artisan “bean to bar” chocolate in a marketplace atmosphere at Scharffen Berger.
Gourmet Walks includes a Gourmet Chocolate Tour, with tastings of fine chocolate. Guests learn where to find premium chocolate in San Francisco and discover artisan chocolatiers who create heavenly truffles and butter creams, and stores that sell local and international chocolate bars.
Artisan chocolates have received considerable attention recently, and the flavor notes have ranged from basics like dark, milk, caramel, and coffee, to more exotic fillings including honey and chai. Some flavors chocolatiers have experimented with include grey salt, goat cheese, olive oil and bacon. The trend of using spices like anise, wasabi and saffron mixed with chocolate is sure to get your blood pumping. Chocolatiers’ imaginations are running wild, as chocolate consumers seem up to trying anything these days. San Francisco’s chocolate houses are setting trends and making giving food connoisseurs just one more reason to satisfy their cravings.
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