{SF} The Return of Charles Chocolates

May 23rd, 2013 · 3 Comments · Chocolate, Reviews, San Francisco, Sweet Spots

charles chocolates display

San Francisco is currently going through a chocolate renaissance – new artisan chocolate makers and chocolatiers are popping up at every food festival and in every neighborhood. One of these chocolatiers, though, is actually a Bay Area classic making a welcome return – Charles Chocolates.


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{Contest} Win a Year’s Worth of Chuao Chocolate

February 5th, 2013 · 14 Comments · Chocolate, Giveaways, Reviews

chuao sweepstakes 1

Hi all,

Thanks so much for all your kind wishes and congratulations. These last two weeks have seemed like a lifetime in a completely new reality. We’re learning more about Isabelle and how to be parents to her every day, and every day she seems to have grown a little more. It’s hard to believe that in another week she’ll be a month old.  We made a outing to the local baby store and a couple with a six month old in a stroller looked rather wistfully at us and said, “Enjoy her now. She’ll be big before you know it.” I can scarcely imagine. My days are measured in minutes and hours right now and six months seems unfathomably distant.


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{Chocolate Review}: Toffee Theory

October 27th, 2011 · 13 Comments · Candy, Chocolate, Field Guide to Candy, Recipes, Reviews, San Francisco, SF Events

toffee field guide candy
image from Field Guide to Candy

A few weeks back, I was invited to be a judge for TasteTV‘s Best Toffee in North America Competition. A whole boxful of toffees delivered to my door? Yes, please!

Those of you who are curious about the difference between toffee, English toffees, and buttercrunch, feel free to see my older post on buttercrunch. I became quite obsessed with untangling the various monikers of this candy while researching my candy book, if you couldn’t tell.

These days, most buttercrunch is marketed simply as “toffee”; I only saw one brand out of thirteen that was labelled “English toffee” (Which may perhaps provide some comfort to poor Brits trying to find their version of the candy abroad). For that reason, I will refer to all the candy I sampled for the competition as toffee, to avoid confusion. I will maintain, though, my abiding love for the word “buttercrunch”. If I ever make and sell my own version, I’ll call it buttercrunch, and probably confuse the heck out of everyone.

So how does one determine the best toffee?


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{Chocolate Review} Sweet Treats for Easter

April 20th, 2011 · 2 Comments · Chocolate, Reviews, San Francisco, Sweet Spots, Sweet Spots


Warning: There is going to be a lot of chocolate on this page for the next few posts. After all, it’s nearly Easter, the holidays that generates more candy sales than any other holiday save Halloween. Have you got your jellybeans and peeps ready for your Easter baskets?

Let me suggest a few other Easter treats you might not want to miss. Michael Recchiuti, one of my very favorite chocolatiers (and a great guy, to boot), has created some limited edition sweets for the holiday. I got a chance to sample a couple of them:


These are the kind of Easter eggs I’m looking for now (sorry, candy-colored plastic eggs from the drugstore!) Recchiuti’s Force Noir Eggs, a shell of delicately painted dark chocolate enclosing his famous vanilla-laced chocolate ganache. You know how Reese’s comes out with their peanut butter eggs at Easter? I actually prefer them to the traditional peanut butter cups because I think the shape provides a better peanut butter to chocolate ratio. It’s the same concept here with the Force Noir Eggs – the plump curve of the chocolate shells is just the right amount of backdrop for the ganache filling to unfold in your mouth.


Another signature Recchiuti flavor, burnt caramel, gets the Easter treatment in the Peep & Hop Box – burnt caramel chocolates with spring-y Easter images printed on top. Although deep dark caramel is everywhere these days, Recchiuti was one of the first to really popularize the flavor. I got a box of eight of these chocolates and had to fight to hold on to even one to taste test! As delicious as ever.

These and other Easter treats can be found at Recchiuti’s website. Here’s hoping the Easter bunny brings you something sweet on Sunday!

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{Chocolate Review} Oliver Kita Fine Confections

April 19th, 2011 · 4 Comments · Chocolate, Reviews

studio collection 16pc 1 large

When a chocolatier lists L’Ecole Lenotre, L’Ecole du Grand Chocolate Valrhona, and Academy du Chocolat Barry-Callebaut on his résumé, you pay attention. Oliver Kita is thoroughly versed in the art of classic French chocolate, as illustrated by the eye-catching bon bons above. A few weeks ago I received a box of his sumptuously crafted Studio Collection for review.

A mixture of the very traditional (palets abound) and of-the-moment combinations (matcha, espresso, lavender, and blood orange make appearances). The craftsmanship is gorgeous, the presentation casual sophistication (luster dust and cocoa butter transfers mixed with slightly rough-hewn forms.

Some of my favorite flavors:

Marzipan Grand Marnier (top row, second from left): very smooth and elegant marzipan with a true, robust almond flavor.

Palet d’Argent (second row, first from left): my favorite pure chocolate of the selection. Very nice and smooth, with a long, dark finish.

Cognac Creme Brulee (third row, last from left): wonderful layering of flavors, from the first tang of cognac to the swirl of caramel and vanilla notes. I usually don’t like too many competing flavors in a chocolate but this was a very successful combination for me.

Trois Pretres (fourth row, second from left): The name means three priests, and you get three incredibly fragrant caramelized almonds enrobed in creamy dark chocolate – a hard combination to beat.

Palet d’Oliver (second row, third from left): His signature chocolate boasts an intense black currant filling. I have a deep fondness for anything black currant so this was an easy winner for me.

Head on over to his site to see some of his other collections, including some adorable chocolate Easter bunnies. If you’re looking for jewel-box-chocolates, Oliver Kita won’t disappoint.

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