Saturday, January 26, 2013

Chocolate Hunting in SF

A friend and colleague visiting from London gave occasion to sweep the chocolate shops of San Francisco. I had joined him on some exceedingly grueling stints in South Africa which were made a pinch more cheerful with a daily dose of quality chocolate. My friend has hands down done some of the toughest gigs for my company including Luanda, Angola. Although my other friend R might believe Angola to be much more palatable than Nigeria where he was nearly had by rioting truckers, it's hard to weigh harsh conditions such as lack of running water in Luanda against simmering Nigerian violence. R said that every morning he rode in a military convoy to get to work and the military body guards would jump out of the car and whip pedestrians and other drivers in the face with a leather flog tipped with metal balls.  Such ways of dealing with the traffic are not allowed here no matter how badly one may desire to deal with certain stoned drivers. I also could not wish to choose between either situation and only one colleague can claim to have been kidnapped for ransom- by the local police no less.

My role has let me travel out of my own choosing so I have stuck to the more genteel nations of Europe and Asia. But whenever my friends reminisce about the dodgy corners of the world, I feel a twinge of regret. Regardless of the location, client work for my company tends to be brutally grinding. But I can truly say working along side such colleagues under bone crushing pressure has been the happiest moments of my entire career.

I modestly planned to hit 3 stores and a factory but we somehow managed only the first half as my backpack was fully laden. We started at the southern most part of our journey in Noe Valley with plans to walk north to the Tcho Factory at Pier 17. Our first visit was "Chocolate Coveredwhich I believe can boast having one of the most extensive chocolate bar selections in the Americas.

I was happily reunited with Amano's Dos Rios which has curiously a natural bergamot flavor. Friends and my husband say they cannot tell but if you are a constant Earl Grey drinker like me- the bergamot flavor is unmistakable.

The owner is undoubtedly a music loving chocophile.  He let me taste some of the bars before buying. I am simultaneously regretful and thankful this store is not near me.  The big issue of course is the expense. For someone like me that buys in bulk, the boutique up-charge is a serious factor.  For the first time in decades, I actually had to deny myself at a chocolate shop.  I could not bear more than 5 bars- the Amadei Porcelana cost $20 alone. I'll be saving my money from now on so I can march in there and fill my basket with impunity.

To find relief, I took my friend to Rainbow Coop who was appreciative of the idea of a vegetarian grocery store. Rainbow has some of the best prices for San Francisco chocolatiers but they also carry lesser known brands Majani and Mazet. I greedily loaded up my cart with 80 bars.  I'm preparing for Valentines but I also neglected XMas duty and have an ever growing backlog of chocolate distributions.

At the end of our exertions, we were treated to an uncommon sight. Nuns on cable cars had created quite a sensation and numerous passerby's were excitely snapping photos. They were genuine bona-fide nuns- not just a gang of unruly men in drag playing up a "Sound of Music" theme which is a more common sight in SF.  I loved it that the nuns looked like they were having a grand old time. Go sisters!

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