I grew up in California, learning about the Gold Rush and about the waves of immigration that it brought to our state. It wasn’t the prospectors who succeeded so much as the entrepreneurs who followed in their wake. The most famous of couse is Levi Strauss. But another important immigrant was Etienne Guittard who came from France in the 1800’s intending to mine for gold, but ended up in the family chocolate business instead. Fast forward 149 years and the company is being run by 4th and 5th generations of the Guittard family, supplying responsibly sourced high quality chocolate to the Bay Area and beyond.
Chocolate is big in San Francisco. Our climate makes it an ideal place for making confections. Many local confectioners today use Guittard chocolate. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, here are some of my favorites, all of whom use Guittard chocolate. All except Kika’s Treats have retail locations and all except Recchiuti are available in Whole Foods Markets.
I first fell for Kika’s unique caramelized graham crackers coated in chocolate. But I also love her Salty Crunchy Caramels which are intense and perfectly balanced. The thin layer of chocolate is rich and dark and the crunch inside the chocolate is irresistable. A little box of three is perfect for sharing, one for you and two for me!
I remember the first time I discovered Poco Dolce’s chocolate tiles, I had a sesame toffee one and then felt the need to try every flavor. Today I am particularly fond of Kathy's Burnt Caramel Tiles, which truly were created thanks to a happy accident. Not really burnt but just on the edge of burnt, they have a less sweet character that I particularly like and are hard and crisp not gooey. Also a must try are her olive oil bars, which now come in a great variety of flavors. The 81% and 68% Cacao Olive OIl with Sea Salt are both divine. The olive oil adds a bitter edge and a luciousness to the bars.
Chuck Siegel makes so many wonderful things, it’s lucky his factory has large glass windows so you can see the action. My favorite item might be his Triple Chocolate Almonds, which are roasted California almonds dipped in both milk and bittersweet chocolate and then dusted in cocoa. Another good pick are his Fleur de Sel Caramels which come in a lovely blue and brown box. You get both the classic and the bittersweet in each selection. He’s been making them for at least 10 years.
Another pure magician when it comes to confections is Michael Recchiuti. He also makes incredible Fleur de Sel caramels a favorite of the New York Times. But it’s his Burnt Caramel Truffles I love even more. And his Sesame Nougatine bar is another seasonal top choice. If you like cacao nibs his Fever bar is a must.
Disclaimer: My thanks for Whole Foods Market for hosting an event and providing me with some samples. I was not compensated monetarily for this or any other post on Cooking with Amy.