It all starts innocently enough. One day you decide to order a mocha instead of your usual cappuccino; the next you grab a few Ghiradelli squares from the impulse aisle at Safeway. By the end of the week, you’ve blown your savings at Joseph Schmidt and are curled in a fetal position, watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on loop, stuffing your face with take-out pastries from Tartine. Scharffen Berger and Cocoa Bella are only the tip of the iceberg San Francisco is host to one of the premiere chocolate cultures of the world. Submitted here are eight places to get your cocoa fix no golden ticket required.
FOG CITY NEWS
Most San Franciscans know Fog City News as a gargantuan newsstand tucked into the insufferably bleak confines of the financial district. This Market Street storefront might sport the largest collection of periodicals by far in the Bay Area, but it’s also home to one of the largest selections of chocolate bars in the country. Every person on staff is a chocolate authority, well schooled in the nuances of the cacao bean and happy to help you choose from the hundreds of options. Just remember not to refer to any of the products as candy they take their chocolate seriously here.
455 Market, SF. (415) 543-7400, www.fogcitynews.com
Sure, it’s novel to insist that chocolate is at the top of the aphrodisiacal pecking order, but we all know that when it comes to stroking the libido, nothing can topple alcohol from its throne. Luckily for us, every bartender with a cocktail shaker and a boredom streak fancies themselves a mixologist. The folks at Circolo have taken it a step further with their White Chocolate Martini, an inspired combination of Godiva chocolate liqueur, Chambord, and Frangelica. The deliciously creamy result is decadent enough to make even Dionysus blush.
500 Florida, SF. (415) 553-8560, www.circolosf.com
Recent studies trumpeting the antioxidant qualities of chocolate have raised eyebrows worldwide, but while the jury is still out on the cocoa bean, there isn’t a skeptic alive who would dare challenge the medicinal benefits of tea. The experts at Charles Chocolates have collaborated with the Berkeley tea room Teance to create the Tea Collection, milk chocolates infused with tea such as oolong, jasmine green, and even lichee red. No flavor-drop shortcuts for this boutique chocolatier the leaves are actually steeped in milk to make sure every subtle note of the tea makes it into the chocolate.
6529 Hollis, Emeryville. (510) 652-4412, www.charleschocolates.com
BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE CAFÉ
Chocolate has been consumed as a beverage for thousands of years, so anyone who sets out to make the perfect cup of hot chocolate has a long history to contend with. With its extensive menu of cocoa drinks, Bittersweet Chocolate Café is up to the challenge. From the exotic spices of its White Chocolate Dream to the pepper and rose of its Spicy! concoction, this Pac Heights café shows Swiss Miss who’s boss.
2123 Fillmore, SF. (415) 346-8715, www.bittersweetcafe.com
COLIBRI MEXICAN BISTRO
Mole is hard to get just right. The delicate balance of chile peppers, spices, and Mexican chocolate stewed together at the perfect ratio is something only a well-seasoned grandma can truly master, but Colibri comes close. Its flavorful Mole Poblano is prepared in classic Puebla style and represents the savory side of chocolate well. Bonus points for an obscenely large tequila selection.
438 Geary, SF. (415) 440-2737, www.colibrimexicanbistro.com
During my vegan days, ice cream always proved to be a challenge. Once the thoughts of cookies and cream, mint chocolate chip, or the holy combo of chocolate and peanut butter started swirling through my mind like so much chocolate marbling, Tofutti Cuties just didn’t cut it. Thank goodness MaggieMudd realizes that vegans love chocolate too! The flavors scooped out at this Bernal Heights sweet spot taste better than their dairy counterparts. Seriously. Really. No joke.
903 Cortland, SF. (415) 641-5291, www.maggiemudd.com
Anthony Ferguson just might be insane. The mad scientist behind San Francisco’s most eccentric culinary boutique, Cacao Anasa, runs his confection shop like a laboratory. No flavor is off limits in Ferguson’s kitchen: curry, basil, ginger, roses hell, even merlot all make their way into his artisinal truffles.
(415) 846-9240, www.cacaoanasa.com
GUITTARD CHOCOLATE CO.
The original gangster of San Francisco’s chocolate scene was founded during the gold rush, when a French immigrant realized that miners were willing to pay top dollar for fine chocolate. Guittard is still the oldest family-owned chocolate company in the United States; its baking products remain the top choice of pastry chefs world-round. The secret is in the simplicity: pure cane sugar, full-cream milk, and premium cacao beans have made Guittard’s a consistently perfect chocolate for almost 150 years.
10 Guittard, Burlingame. (650) 697-4427, www.guittard.com