How much BS will I put up with to sample amazing chocolate? The answer, apparently, is quite a bit.
Yesterday while Tom was making gorgeous cloissone (sp?) pieces, Theresa, Tristan and I visited the Chocolate Salon at Ft. Mason. On hand were about two dozen chocolate makers, most local. Ghiradelli and Guittard were there, but we skipped right past them to try xox Truffles, Charles Chocolates, Chuao, Saratoga, Poco Dolce, New Tree, Xocolate (makers of "chakralates", oh dear), Christopher Elbow, and many, many others. Which brings me to Complaint The First: I have a giant bag of chocolate samples in my fridge (it was too hot yesterday to leave them out) and I don't know where nearly all of them came from. As much as I hate excessive packaging, for an event like this to pay off for the exhibitors, it seems to me that they should have put take-away samples in individual little bags with a sticker or something. I'm sure I will love a lot of what is in that bag, but I am going to have a heck of a time figuring out where to get more in most instances.
XOX was the clear winner for all three of us. The caramel truffle was a magical combination of bitter chocolate and sweet, burnt caramel flavor. Tristan and Theresa tried the lemon ginger truffle and neither much liked it. I finally know what all thd fuss is about and will go out of my way to get to North Beach when they are open in the future. Charles Chocolates had some wonderful samples out as well--the cream-based chocolate orange twigs that are like crack to me, peanut butter butterflies, and a lot more that I put in my bag for later sampling. Christopher Elbow continues to leave me cold. I tried a "bananas foster" truffle--chocolate shell with a liquidy banana center that was way too strongly banana and had almost no chocolate flavor. We all concluded that we do not like tea in our chocolate. There was one vendor who did nothing but tea chocolates (can't remember the name, darnit), and all of them that we tried were fiercely tannic, so the insides of our mouths puckered up.
Was it worth it? Absolutely. Will I go back? Probably not. This may have been the most poorly organized event I have ever attended.
I purchased tickets about 3 weeks ago, and since nothing indicated to the contrary, assumed they would be mailed to me. Saturday I realized I hadn't gotten them and emailed, only to be informed all tickets would be at will-call. When we arrived, there was one very long and slow moving line. After a few minutes a woman came out and announced, "There are two lines, will call on the left and to buy tickets on the right." Everyone began to sort themselves and then she said, "Will call on the right and to buy tickets on the left," at which point it was total chaos. Once we were in separate lines, the to-buy line began moving swiftly while will-call slowed to a crawl. When we got near the door we saw why: There was a single person for will-call and two for purchases. Both tables were on the left side, so to pick up tickets you had to cross the line of people purchasing. Then we discovered that the will-call list was organized by first name. Then the woman giving us our tickets tried to short us a ticket and I had to interpret her list for her.
Once inside there was one very small rooms where everyone stopped to fall upon the samples. A slightly larger room was behind it, but about a third of that room was taken up by a bank of chairs facing a stage where a hair-styling demo was taking place (I wish that was a joke). It was not possible to exhibit good or even passable manners and get near a table. Pushing was more or less required if you hoped to get to the chocolate.
Most annoying of all, since the crowds were so thick and insistent there was no possibility of talking to the vendors about their products. It was just grab a sample and move on to the next. I cannot imagine that the vendors were happy with the day, either.