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Monday, September 14, 2015

Pics From Ghirardelli 20th Annual Chocolate Festival

Posted By on Mon, Sep 14, 2015 at 9:30 AM

click to enlarge Chocolate and dark chocolate pours in the Ghiradelli Marketplace demo station - A.K. CARROLL
  • A.K. Carroll
  • Chocolate and dark chocolate pours in the Ghiradelli Marketplace demo station

I walk into Ghirardelli Marketplace, a more recent edition to the renovated Ghirardelli Square, and get the sneaking suspicion that I’ve already inhaled more than my daily allotment of calories. The air smells of molten sweet chocolate, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s Day One of the 20th annual Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival, and as the factory celebrates this significant occasion (as well as the 100th anniversary of their historic showing at the 1915 Panama-Pacific Expo) it is with an air of mystique and an inclination towards indulgence.

click to enlarge Onlookers watch a chocolatier in Ghirardelli Marketplace - A.K. CARROLL
  • A.K. Carroll
  • Onlookers watch a chocolatier in Ghirardelli Marketplace
click to enlarge The "for purchase" option in Ghirardelli Marketplace - A.K. CARROLL
  • A.K. Carroll
  • The "for purchase" option in Ghirardelli Marketplace

I’ve skipped my Saturday spin class to take part in this caloric occasion, the only acceptable justification being that I am “indulging for a cause” as Ghirardelli likes to say, noting that the profits from the two-day, ten-hour event go directly to Project Open Hand, a non-profit dedicated to providing heartfelt meals to seniors and the critically ill.

click to enlarge Tri-colored chocolate bars. - A.K. CARROLL
  • A.K. Carroll
  • Tri-colored chocolate bars.
click to enlarge A.K. CARROLL
  • A.K. Carroll
click to enlarge A.K. CARROLL
  • A.K. Carroll
This year promises to be Ghirardelli's greatest festival yet, with over 66 vendors set up along the chocolate road that lines the stretch of Beach Street between Larkin and Polk. Noteworthy representatives include CaCoCo, Xocolatl Confections, Cococlectic, and Choctal. With so much sugar to consume and only so much stomach to spare, my personal favorites end up coming in the beverage variety, including chocolate-infused teas from Numi and David’s Teas, cold brew chocolate coffee from Califia Farms, and the clean spicy kick of chilled Bhakti Chai.

click to enlarge A.K. CARROLL
  • A.K. Carroll
click to enlarge Le Cordon Bleu: Butterscotch fruit bar, White chocolate with bacon, orange, and sesame seeds; Peanut butter rice crispy bar; Chocolate roche with almonds - A.K. CARROLL
  • A.K. Carroll
  • Le Cordon Bleu: Butterscotch fruit bar, White chocolate with bacon, orange, and sesame seeds; Peanut butter rice crispy bar; Chocolate roche with almonds
click to enlarge Chocolate tart with whipped cream and raspberrry from McCormick and Schmick's - A.K. CARROLL
  • A.K. Carroll
  • Chocolate tart with whipped cream and raspberrry from McCormick and Schmick's

New to the festival is an exclusive wine and chocolate pavilion, featuring 20 vendors, such as Chloe Wines, Drake’s Brewing, Wente Vineyards, and a snazzy draft bar set up by Stella Artois. Though there were a few stand out wines (including Chateau St. Jean’s Pinot Blanc and Kelly Family Vineyard’s Merlot), I struggled to make good use of my 12 allotted tastings. My favorite offering in the pavilion was probably Ghirardelli's chocolate truffles. If you really need some afternoon alcohol and have an extra $60 to throw at beverage pairings, it can be a fun additional component, but you’re hardly missing out if you opt for general admission.

click to enlarge David's delicious teas!
  • David's delicious teas!
click to enlarge img_4292.jpg
click to enlarge Mini chocolate malt
  • Mini chocolate malt
GA tickets (which run $25 a piece) will get you 15 samples and access to demos on the culinary stage in the West Plaza. If you like to be strategic in your festival-going, order in advance and arrive by noon. Hit up Three Twins Ice Cream, Le Cordon Bleu, and DeGroot Desserts as soon as you enter. An hour into the festival these highly favored vendors had ticket-holders waiting in lines of over three-dozen.

click to enlarge Cupcake tiers
  • Cupcake tiers
click to enlarge Exclusive macarons
  • Exclusive macarons
click to enlarge Leffe and a chocolate truffle
  • Leffe and a chocolate truffle

Stage demos feature chefs and chocolatiers, adding an educational component to your afternoon indulgence. At 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, the stage was set with long white tables draped in brown plastic covers and six folding chairs that were quickly filled by small children, their eyes growing wide at the sight of three-scoop ice cream sundaes. “I thought we were discouraging childhood obesity” I overhear from the crowd of onlookers. I chuckle and say something about cheat days and children. There are three rounds — ages 5-8, 9-12, and 13-and-over — and though the adults consume more, it is the children who handle it best. When 8-year-old Lalia Elashmawi of San Jose is handed her grand prize package of Ghirardelli sample squares, she accepts it with the wonder of someone whose whole world can still be changed by chocolate. It’s that sentiment that pulls in each of us who venture to a two-day festival celebrating the substance.

click to enlarge Sundaes await - A.K. CARROLL
  • A.K. Carroll
  • Sundaes await
click to enlarge Laila digs in - A. K CARROLL
  • A. K Carroll
  • Laila digs in
click to enlarge Winner winner
  • Winner winner

Round two is coming up Sunday, with more demos taking place and more chocolate to sample. Ticket-holders, be sure to save space (and sample marks) for mini malts and baby sundaes set up in the West Plaza. And of course everyone is welcome to walk away with a Ghirardelli mini. It may not be the only reason to stop by the square, but it's certainly enough to brighten anyone's day.

Ghiradelli Square900 North Point St, San Francisco, CA 94109


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A. K. Carroll

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