Tough as it was, I painstakingly performed my chocolate judging duties, and the results for the 2012 San Francisco Luxury Chocolate Salon are in! As promised, here’s the inside scoop on the process and my votes:
I’ve deduced that gold medal recipients grabbed the largest number of votes, silvers were awarded to those with multiple votes and bronzes to those with single votes, which means any bronzes mentioned below are pretty darn likely due to yours truly. (You’re welcome, said bronze winners!) For the full list of judges and award winners, visit http://www.fallchocolatesalon.com/ and click on the blue circle.
Since my loyalties lie emphatically with unadulterated craft chocolate, I was hard pressed to vote for any other than Amano in relevant categories. Art Pollard’s vibrant chocolates garnered not only my nods but also enough of the other judges’ to add gold medals for Best Dark Chocolate, Best Dark Chocolate Bar and…drumroll…Best in Salon to his collection!
Given my theory about bronze winners, I was surprised that my vote for Most Gifted Chocolatier/Chocolate Maker gave Art a mere bronze. However, I was correct in betting that my choice for Best Milk Chocolate would earn him the same because I shrewdly avoided voting for the typical milk chocolate confection by choosing the show’s most remarkable beverage: Guayas chocolate melted into warm milk to create a dense drinking chocolate with more complexity and richness than any I’d had before, like a drinkable version of an artisanal lava cake. Still swooning at the mere memory…
Hyper-stiff competition for Best Truffle had me wishing for multiple votes to honor the likes of San Francisco’s Socola, Sixth Course and Feve, but my loyalties lay with Tonet Tibay. Her LA-based Marti Chocolatt produces Filipino-inspired truffles so delectable that I find myself actually craving–gasp!–a white chocolate treat: her Chevre en Choco Blanco truffle. Gold worthy, indeed.
To assuage my guilt at passing up Socola Chocolatier for Best Truffle, I showered talented sisters Wendy and Susan Liu with my votes for Top Artisan Chocolatier, Best Flavored Chocolate and Most Delicious Ingredient Combinations, helping them take the gold for the first two and silver for the latter category. Socola’s truffles elevate classic combinations to new heights: Fresh Mint revealed sophisticated herbal notes, Cognac yielded a more subtle, integrated flavor than others and Pumpkin Burnt Caramel offered a delicious seasonal twist on a perennial favorite.
The Pacific Rim continued to influence my choices, with Hawaiian-themed Plumeria Flours attracting my votes for Most Artistic Designs, Best Gift Set and Best Presentation and Packaging for their cleverly whimsical treats and packaging. “The Wrath of Pele”set, complete with chili & pop rock volcano and ironically cute warrior dudes, would elicit delight from a curmudgeon.
Even before my serendipitous appointment as judge at the salon, La Chatelaine’s lovely Montana-based husband and wife team engaged me in friendly conversation, graciously offering eye-pleasing sweet treats. But it wasn’t until I later nibbled through my generously prepared judge’s box that I was transported back to childhood with their Strawberry Balsamic truffle, earning La Chatelaine my vote for Best Comfort/Snack Product and a bronze award.
Jade Chocolates’ creative Asian-themed chocolate bars, like Dragon’s Breath, a blend of lapsang souchang tea, sesame seeds and red chili in dark chocolate, earned them a gold and my vote for Best Flavored Chocolate Bar. Snake & Butterfly’s firm emphasis on issues of sustainability and fairness made them worthy recipients of my choice for Best Organic/Fair Trade Chocolate, and a silver award in that category.
The density of chocolate talent in San Francisco has long impressed this LA transplant, and newcomers Sixth Course Artisan Confections and Feve Artisan Chocolatier have certainly started at the top of the cacao heap. The mere memory of Sixth Course’s whiskey truffle from the previous salon, along with their sophisticated selection of offerings at this salon, secured my votes and the gold for both Most Luxurious Chocolate Experience and Best Caramels. Feve, actually an improved reincarnation of Au Coeur des Chocolats, could have earned any number of my votes for their meticulously beautiful truffles, (Their well-balanced coconut truffle was my personal favorite.) but I’m a little nonplussed about my lone vote for New Product Award, which did, though, add a bronze to their whopping eleven salon awards. Thumbs up all around!