San Francisco, California has a booming foodie scene. As one of the top foodie destinations in the USA, San Francisco has long been a must-visit for any self respecting lover of all things delicious. And it’s not just food: mixology fans flock to San Francisco for the newest cocktail served up in a themed speakeasy or underground tiki bar. But chocolate? Well, we weren’t so sure that was something San Francisco was famous for. So when the opportunity arose to take a walking San Francisco chocolate tour – complete with a paired craft cocktail and wine tasting – we jumped at the opportunity! Over the course of a few hours, our eyes were opened to the haven of chocolatey goodness that we never realized our home of San Francisco embodied. The Ultra Chocolate Tour by San Francisco foodie tour company Gourmet Walks is the perfect San Francisco food tour for chocolate lovers and booze lovers alike.
Beginning the San Francisco Chocolate Tour
On a sunny Saturday, we popped out of the Embarcadero Bart station and immediately headed for coffee at one of our favorite San Francisco coffee shops, Paramo. This isn’t part of the tour, it’s just something we have to do in order to continue functioning as human beings. Anyway, post-coffee, we headed to the meeting point for the Gourmet Walks Ultra Chocolate Tour, buried in the middle of San Francisco’s Financial District (FiDi if you’re into cute neighborhood nicknames).
In the upscale bar of a Financial District hotel, we met our friendly San Francisco chocolate tour guide, Ahmet. We chatted as we waited for the other 2.5 members of our tour (2 adults, and one blissfully sleeping toddler). We love small, intimate group tours, and 4 people (and the toddler) was the perfect size!
Our first drink of the day was a chocolate craft cocktail. It was served in a Martini glass and looked every bit as chocolatey as we hoped. But we were surprised when our tour guide Ahmet filled us in on the drink: it was a GIN cocktail.
Spoilers: I hate gin. I had my first taste of gin at an inappropriately young age and it tasted like rubbing alcohol and pine sol and fake Christmas trees and I’ve hated it ever since. But, as it turns out, not all gin is created equal. Our chocolate craft cocktail was specifically designed with a particular type of gin that would pair well with chocolate – fitting, since the very hotel bar we were sitting in is specifically known for its gin selection and expertise. The gin was neutral and not juniper forward (aka no pine sol taste) and took a backseat to the chocolate in our cocktail. In fact, if Ahmet hadn’t told us it was a gin based cocktail, I probably would never have realized. It was the perfect balance of herbaceous notes, a light hint of orange, and velvety chocolate!
As we happily sipped our new favorite chocolate cocktail, Ahmet schooled us in the history of chocolate. The history was, at this point, familiar to us – we learned all about cacao production while visiting Ecuador and Peru, and dove into the heartland of sweet chocolate in Belgium – but we appreciated the refresher. Ahmet covered everything from cacao farming to the process of making chocolate: it was just the right amount of information for any knowledge level, with a particular focus on ethical chocolate production which is extremely important to us. Plus, there were pictures and props. What’s a good lesson without pictures and props?
Fully informed about what makes chocolate into the deliciousness we know and love today, Ahmet introduced us to two delectable treats on our plates: two single origin chocolates, one from Colombia, one from Venezuela. The two could not have been more different. The Colombia was dark, bitter, and sweet, but the Venezuela was smoky, with notes of honey baked ham and biscuits. Clearly, this was not going to be any old chocolate tasting tour: I’ve never used “notes of honey baked ham and biscuits” to describe a chocolate in my life.
After a lesson in proper chocolate tasting – look, listen, melt, taste – and a history of chocolate in relation to San Francisco (hello, Ghiradelli? Scharffen Berger? Guittard? TCHO? How could we not have known how many chocolatiers originated in San Francisco??) it was off to our next destination: a newstand.
Wait, what? Like a shop that sells magazines and shit?
That time we went to a newsstand on a chocolate tour of San Francisco
To our surprise, our next destination was Fog City News, a totally unassuming news stand that I’d passed on the street thousands of times and never once realized was a mecca of high quality chocolate. Fog City News has the 2nd largest collection of gourmet and artisan chocolate in San Francisco, AND an incredible database with tasting notes from their highly attuned chocolate expert employees. Like, to get hired here, you have to be able to nibble some chocolate and say something like “ah yes, notes of honey baked ham on the upper palate” in addition to like, selling magazine or whatever. San Francisco never ceases to amaze me.
Anyway, Fog City News carefully curates its gourmet chocolate selection by blind taste-testing pretty much every reputable bar of chocolate that comes across their eminent desk. It gets logged into a giant taste database and, depending on some secret recipe of determining factors, may or may not be sold in the store (alongside magazines and cards and shit). You can find pretty much any kind of ridiculous artisan chocolate bar that you want here. Beef brisket chocolate? Of course. Foie gras chocolate? Naturally. Miso? Olive Oil? Duh doy. The only thing they didn’t have was our favorite brand of single-origin artisan chocolate from Ecuador: Picari. Although they were kind enough to search their database and let me know their thoughts. I guess it didn’t make the cut.
We sampled some mind-blowing orange peel chocolates and smoky salted caramels, and longingly browsed the insane selection of gourmet chocolate at Fog City News. You guys, that’s our Christmas list, OK? Just go there and buy us some chocolate. Just all of it.
The San Francisco Ferry Building: More than just Gourmet Chocolate
After most of our tour members stocked up on gourmet chocolate bars, we trotted off to the Ferry Building. The Ferry Building, as any San Francisco foodie knows, is basically heaven: it’s a food market filled with the best of San Francisco’s many local foodie hotspots. Although some of my favorite booths have been there for as long as I’ve lived in San Francisco, others are brand new and popping up all the time – and still others I’ve seen but have yet to try. So even though we visit the Ferry Building regularly, the Ultra Chocolate tour managed to open up our eyes to booths we’d never stopped at before!
The first booth we visited specialized in Burnt Caramel everything, which was heavenly. We browsed the tempting selections (key lime pie chocolates! Whiskey and beer chocolate pairing sets!) while Ahmet picked up some promising little gift bags – for later. It kills me to be given an adorable little gift bag and be told I can’t open it, but somehow we managed.
Socially Responsible Gourmet Chocolate Covered … wait, what?
Our next stop was a socially responsible food startup (San Francisco, you’re just the best) called La Cocina. The story behind La Cocina was incredible: the non-profit food co-op provides entrepreneurial training and a licensed kitchen to local low-income women – primarily women of color and immigrants – who happen to also have baller kitchen skills, and then sells their products to help them start their own businesses. So at La Cocina you can find excellent alfajores and chocolate truffles and more, knowing that the money you’re spending is for a good cause (which is the perfect excuse to buy a ton of chocolate and other snacks, in our opinion). But what we tried at La Cocina wasn’t exactly an official part of the tour…
Ahmet gave us the option tor try chocolate covered crickets. And we did it.
Honestly? It wasn’t the grossest thing I’ve ever eaten, I guess. I definitely wasn’t raring for a handful of the crunchy little things, but it wasn’t as bad as you’d think. I guess I can check that one off my Bucket List (right after adding it to the Bucket List, because it wasn’t actually on there).
More San Francisco Gourmet Chocolate Goodness
Back to our regularly scheduled foodie fare. Next up, a macaron shop that I’ve always wanted to try! We were handed two perfectly shaped little macarons to try: a chocolate hazelnut and a chocolate macaron. The texture was perfection, and I’m HELLA picky about my macarons (Paris turned me into a total macaron snob. Like, the macarons at the McDonald’s on the Champs Elysees are better than 99% of the macarons in the USA. Weird, but true.) Luckily, these were up to my standards. The only thing we were missing was a giant glass of milk.
Our advice: when you arrive at the Ferry Building, head to Cowgirl Creamery and get a tall, creamy glass of milk – you’ll need it for this part of your San Francisco chocolate tour!
We weren’t quite done with the ferry building yet: just outside the doors was a tiny satellite location of my absolute FAVORITE San Francisco chocolatier: Dandelion Chocolate! This bean to bar chocolatier makes the absolute best single origin chocolate, not to mention heavenly desserts. It’s where I tried my first ever toasted cacao bean (yum!). Dandelion always has bowls on display of its heavenly single origin chocolates to sample, and sample we did. From a bar that tasted like strawberry jam to one that had notes of toasted almonds and one with a smoky hint of salami (like, what? That’s 2 times in my life I’ve used meat to describe chocolate. Who am I?!) the variety of flavors in each of the 100% single origin chocolate bars – just chocolate, not filled or with nuts or anything else – was absolutely stunning. It just goes to show that given the appropriate level of care and attention to detail, well-crafted chocolate can be every bit as complex and nuanced as a glass of wine.
Speaking of wine, it was time for the last part of our tour. Ahmet handed each of us enormous cookies filled with heaping chunks of Dandelion Chocolate – “for later” – and we headed off to a wine bar for our chocolate and wine pairing.
Wine Tasting … & Chocolate Pairing
It was at the wine bar that we were at last allowed to open up the tiny bag of chocolates that had been teasing us since our first stop in the Ferry Building! We unpacked our gorgeous little gifts while someone filled the 4 glasses of wine in front of us (yassss). Each of the wines was carefully chosen to pair perfectly with one of the chocolates, and the flavor combinations were unexpected. For example, we paired a luscious ginger white chocolate flecked in gold with a Gewürztraminer, and a sweet white chocolate truffle with a sparkling glass of dry Cava (we were so excited to see one of the wines from our Spanish Wine Tasting tour!). By far, our favorite of all 4 wine and chocolate pairings was a ruby port paired with an apple brandy truffle!
As we conscientiously sipped our wine and carefully tasted our chocolate (look! listen! melt! taste!) Ahmet gave us tips for recreating a chocolate pairing experience of our own at home, perhaps with bourbon, beer, or scotch. We’re currently accepting requests to be included in a douchey chocolate pairing night whenever we’re less homeless. You’re only allowed to come if you get extremely snobby with us and you’re willing to say things like “THIS chocolate has notes of jenever and forest floor” while wearing a monocle or whatever.
Sadly, this was the end of our tour. But even after our tour guide left, we lingered and slowly finished our wine, chatting with the other members of our tour group (2 adults and one no-long-asleep toddler, who was given a tiny piece of chocolate to eat and immediately zoomed off to bounce around in a sugar induced ecstasy for a while). The best food tours, we find, always end up in good conversation over shared experiences and a newfound love of whatever food you’ve just tasted, and this was no different. Our eyes have been entirely opened to the gourmet and aristan chocolate scene in San Francisco – and this is only ONE of Gourmet Walks’ chocolate tours in San Francisco! They also have a totally different San Francisco chocolate tour, so obviously we’ll be doing that next.
Practical Information About the San Francisco Chocolate Tour
This tour is a must do for anyone who likes chocolate and also likes drinking booze, because you get to do both. Duh. But it’s not the only San Francisco chocolate tour offered by Gourmet Walks! It’s not even the only San Francisco food tour. So be sure to browse the food tour descriptions and book one or two … or a few!
And since you’re going to be in San Francisco anyway, why not download a copy of our Self-Guided San Francisco Walking Tour? You know … to help you walk off all of that chocolate! Subscribe here to get your FREE download.
- Company: Gourmet Walks | Tour: ULTRA Chocolate Tour
- Cost: $90 each for 2786276 chocolates, 2 heavenly macarons, a giant cookie, a delicious cocktail, 4 glasses of wine, and 985851 more chocolates. Also enough educational info to change your view on chocolate forever. Worth it!
- Other Tours: Take a look at all of Gourmet Walks’ San Francisco Chocolate Tours and check out the other San Francisco Food Tours
What’s your favorite booze & chocolate pairing? Leave us a comment below!
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Disclaimer: We enjoyed the Ultra Chocolate Tour as guests of Gourmet Walks. All opinions, cricket-eating, and bad jokes were purely our own decisions and absolutely not their fault.