Rosemary Caramel (left) and Grand Marnier truffles from the Sixth Course

The holiday season of sweets started early for me as I spent this morning tasting various chocolate sweets as part of my duties as a judge at the annual San Francisco Fall Chocolate Salon.

The chocolate tasting event, the smaller version of a larger chocolate salon in the spring put on by Taste TV, took place at Fort Mason in San Francisco on a lovely cool fall day. This is the second year Taste TV has presented this smaller fall version of the salon, and it seemed like there were fewer chocolate vendors on display.

This actually meant that the salon wasn’t packed like it typically is, and that maneuvering to every table was a bit easier, giving me a chance to try pretty much every vendor there. There were some regular presenters I’ve seen every year, but also several new chocolate makers, which shows that there’s always someone who decides to pursue his or her dream of making chocolate treats for a living.

Keeping the tables stocked with taste bites is an important job

You can see the full list of salon winners on the TasteTV site (click on the 2011 fall winners). This is the first time since I’ve been judging where I agree with 80 percent of the winners voted by my other esteemed judges. I have to say I was especially impressed by newcomer Sixth Course from San Francisco that had some amazing quality truffles, including a distinctive rosemary caramel flavor and a sweet and luxurious Grand Marnier flavor.

In terms of trends, I noticed that several people were playing with new flavors like chipotle while others continue to experiment with popular flavors of lavender, sea salt, and bacon.

Here’s a look at some of the sights and tastes of the fall salon:

Dandelion Chocolates offered pure, natural dark chocolates

This chocolate vendor had a coconut curry chocolate that wasn't really my cup of tea

The Seattle Coffee Co. had some brightly colored wrappers. I loved their espresso truffle.

The wine booths always provide a nice break to the sweetness. Urban Legend Cellars of Oakland offered up some nice tastings that went well with the chocolates.

Toffee Talk makes the best toffee IMHO. This is a toffee that includes red walnuts (you can see the small specks of red)

Nicole Lee made French macarons, pate de fruits, and an amazing truffle called "les paves" that was like ice cream

Au Coeur Des Chocolats had a tray with almost all their flavors for tasting. My favorite was its yuzu truffle (the yellow ones in the photo)

People on their way to a chocolate coma

12 Responses to Smaller Chocolate Salon Still Holds a Punch

  1. Row says:

    Yuzu truffles? Pate de fruits? Chipotle chocolates? Oh, it would be so nice to live in San Francisco (or at least visit)!

  2. Ellin Purdom says:

    Thank you for the nice write up! Our Red Walnut Toffee was a big hit yesterday with all of the Chocolate lovers at Fort Mason. We look forward to following your blog.

  3. How cool to be a chocolate judge! So glad to see photos and hear about the trends in chocolate…and they sound so creative and luscious! Wow! Gosh, I just came back from San Francisco and had no clue of this event…next year. 🙂

  4. Maribel says:

    I was there too and I really loved the toffee from Toffee Talk and the chocolate covered pistachios from Marich. So GOOD!! Can’t wait for the larger show in the spring.
    P.S – I am enjoying your blog.

  5. Absolutely agree on Toffee Talk. Mouth-watering flavors, perfect mouthfeel, and easy on the teeth without sacrificing any of the lovely toffee crunch! Also judged the salon yesterday, and was likewise impressed with Sixthcourse. That gran marnier truffle kept the rich flavor of the liquor, while allowing the chocolate to maintain a satisfactory profile on the palate. Another wonderful experience. Love hearing that great minds taste alike. Perhaps I’ll run into you next year!

  6. Carolyn Jung says:

    That toffee looks amazing! So did you go home and eat pickles afterward? LOL

  7. agent713 says:

    A chocolate coma. That sounds wonderful 😀