Now that Ghirardelli no longer operates in San Francisco, TCHO (rhymes with Joe) is one of only three chocolate factories in the city. TCHO doesn't just remelt chocolate, as many companies do -- they manufacture it on the premises from cacao beans bought in Africa and South America. Nice folks, too, who have a commitment to fair trade and to quality.
Stop by their shop on the Embarcadero and buy some of their wonderful dark chocolate - 65-70% cacao - to take home as gifts. They sell squares and bars to munch, and tins of crumbles to brew into rich hot chocolate. Buy some for yourself, too, or those gifts will never reach their destination.
TCHO now gives tours! See my Things to Do tip.
I love chocolate, but who doesn't love this sweet concoction? When I visit San Francisco one of the things I love to do is stop by the Ghirardelli store and pick up some of my favorite sweets.
They make a wide range of assorted chocolate goodies to please anyone. I usually pick up their hot chocolate mix and some chocolate bars as well as baking goods.
Ghirardelli has a few locations in San Francisco as well as a few small cart outposts at the airports.
What to buy: Everything Chocolate of course. But my favorites have to be the hot chocolate mix it's so indulgent, the mik chocolate and peanut butter squares (yum, love peanut butter), their intense dark chocolate bars (great for that special recipe) and of course their baking goods!!
I may be a fan of See's candies and Ghirardelli but nothing still beats the luxe brands like Godiva! Although Made in Belgium, Godiva chocolates are creamier and has a more cocoa and chocolate taste and literally melts in yor mouth due to the high chocolate butterfat content and the higher pure chocolate content so it is more expensive! unlike the other chocolate brands which dilute the cocoa with extenders like lechithin and vanillin to make the chocolate cheaper. Godiva Chocolatier doesn't do that hence the expensive price. Godiva also sells truffles, coffee, cocoa, biscuits, dipped fruits and sweets, "Chocolixir" beverages, wedding and party favors and other items arranged in gift baskets. Godiva's signature package is the Gold Ballotin (French for "small, elegant box of chocolates"). Godiva also produces seasonal and limited-edition chocolates with special packaging for all major holidays. Godiva also has license agreements for the production of ice cream, cheesecake, coffee pods and liqueur that comes in several chocolate-related flavors.
What to buy: if you buy the assorted chocolate drinks and brews, it's $ 8 for a cup and for chocolate tipped fruits like the strawberries i purchased, it's $ 7 per piece. and the single very decadent assorted chocolate truffles at $ 17 for 8 pieces and $ 34 for 16 pieces! a small pure chocolate bar like 85% pure dark chocolates at $ 4. such a drain in your wallet but is worth it since I don't scrimp!!!
Open Mon-Sat 9:30am-9pm; Sun 10am-7pm
What to pay: maxx out your credit card!!!!!
The Ghirardelli chocolate factory began its operations in 1852, which makes it the second oldest chocolate company in the United States. Ghirardelli Square, located near the Fisherman's Wharf area, was once home to San Francisco's famous chocolate factory. Even though the factory itself has now moved to a new, more modern location, the old, fully-restored brick buildings are still home to a Ghirardelli ice cream and chocolate shop, along with several other shops and restaurants. And trust me, you've never really had a chocolate ice cream sundae if you haven't had one at Ghirardelli's! There is also another Ghirardelli chocolate shop located in the Union Square area, at 44 Stockton St. What I enjoyed about that one was that it was possible to pick and choose your own chocolate squares instead of having to buy one of the huge, already mixed bags. I went a little crazy and ended up buying a pretty big bag, but in the end it only came down to about 50 cents per square, which I thought was a pretty good deal.
What to buy: My favorite squares are the Luxe Milk ones :o)
This branch of Ghirardelli is located in the kitschy Union Square area but it provides less products than in Ghirardelli Square since this is smaller but still has the hallmarks of Domenico Ghirardelli's Signature Chocolates!
What to buy: assorted chocolates, truffles, chocolate mints, after dinner mints and a whole lot more!
What to pay: $ 22 for a pound of sweet indulgence, $ 12 for 1/2 pound of aluminum covered chocolate mints, $ 10 for a bar of dark chocolates and a lot more!
See's operates more than 200 retail candy shops throughout the western United States, and offers one of the largest and finest selections of chocolates and confections in the world and my favorite, even better than ghirardelli's. Today it is owned by Berkshire Hathaway company of Warren Buffet.
What to buy: the 1 pound Custom mix at $ 18.00 with Dark Chocolate Butter, Butterscotch Square, Pecan Buds and Raspberry Truffle! oh what Sweet Indulgence!
What to pay: $ 18 for a 1 pound box and $ 90 for a 5 pound box of sweet indulgence!
Years ago I tried powdered chocolate chai from Trader Joe's, and frankly it was subpar. It also gave me a headache, strangely enough. So I haven't been rushing to try it again.
But then I found Bittersweet, a chocolate cafe on funky Fillmore Street. Not wanting to break my cocoa tasting streak around San Francisco, I headed in for one. I changed my mind mid-sentence and ordered the chocolate chai. Perhaps it would be better from a cafe than a tin can? Um, yeah it was. And no headache to boot.
It's a cozy brightly-decorated place with comfy seats in the back. Think a less-slick Starbucks.
What to buy: The chocolate chai, of course. They also serve the kind of drinks you'll typically find at any coffee shop, as well as chocolate bars and gift tins and baked goods.
What to pay: Typical coffee-and-baked-goods prices. Not cheap, but not outrageous.
My host said to me one morning, after a hard climb up to Coit Tower (hey, it's tough work being on vacation), "Let's get some hot chocolate." I don't need to be told twice. We stopped at XOX Truffles, an award-winning chocolate truffle shop that offers a free-truffle-with-each-drink deal. Not that they'd need to. I'm sure they could just as easily sell those truffles on their own. But the "free" sample is a nice touch.
What to buy: I got the Kahlua truffle. It was gone too soon. :-> My friend, gawd bless her, asked for hot chocolate with nonfat milk, and was rightfully mocked. But you know what? I didn't miss the fat. It was still smooth and creamy the way hot chocolate ought to be.
What to pay: Usual prices, think Starbucks pricing.
I highly recommend Chocolate Covered Sweets and Gifts in Noe Valley, run by the very friendly Jack. When I visited, he was just about to move to a larger space down the street on 24th. He sells not only artisanal chocolates from around the world, but kitschy lunchboxes (I would have bought the *Nsync one if didn't already have it!) and very cute gift tins that feature blue-tinted photos of street signs from around San Francisco. If you bring him a photo, he'll custom make a tin for you and fill it with whatever sweets you ask for.
What to buy: Jack had samples of triple-dipped hazelnut candies, and that's all it took for me to buy a tin for my hosts. OMG, I'm still drooling thinking of those.
What to pay: Well, the tin of chocolate hazelnut treats was a bit pricey at $13, but Jack has chocolates for all price ranges.
What makes San Francisco so special for me is the variety of independent retailers and unique shopping neighborhoods. This little shop is a real neighborhood chocolate shop that makes it's own fudge and other chocolate treats right on the premises, and wow, you can really taste the freshness.
In town for business and between meetings I had a severe craving for something sweet and luckily for me, my taxi driver knew of this neighborhood gem. With 7 or more flavors of fudge it was hard to decide, but I decided to indulge in the Fudge Noir, a dark chocolate fudge. It was the best I have tasted in a long time and the chocolatier was on hand and happy to answer my questions. Apparently, the secret is in the temperature and the timing when adding the dark chocolate.
What to buy: If you're fighting a severe choco-craving or simply scratching your head trying to find a gift for your favorite chocoholic, then this is the place for you. In addition to fudge, nut clusters, turtles, truffles, hand-dipped glaced fruits, fun and curious chocolate shapes and a whole lot more.
What to pay: I spent less than $40 and my craving was well and truly satisfied and I picked up some thank you bars for my clients and some truffles and a "Luscious" t-shirt for my wife too. If you're looking for gifts there is something for every budget here, (Chocolate CD's at about $6 or a 25 truffle assortment for just under $50).
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