Chocolate tips from Gourmet Walks
On Buying Chocolate
Read the label -- Avoid chocolate bars with oils, vanillin (instead of real vanilla), and other preservatives. The fewer the ingredients, the better!
Hand-made is better -- Seek out fresh filled chocolates, not pre-packaged ones with long shelf lives.
Find knowledgeable retailers -- San Francisco stores like Fog City News and Chocolate Covered, really know their stuff, only carry the best products, and can help you find what you like.
Or buy online -- Online shops like Chocosphere have an amazing selection of fine chocolates from around the world.
Consider organic and fair trade -- Dagoba and Askinosie make excellent organic products and pay attention to the well being of cacao farmers.
Trust what you like -- Just because something is high cacao content doesn't make it better. If you like milk chocolate or even white chocolate, that's OK!
On Tasting Chocolate
Taste on an empty stomach -- It's hard to detect flavor variations after you've eaten a large meal.
Use palate cleansers -- Plain bread or saltines and warm water can help cleanse your palate before tasting other chocolates.
Compare small bites -- It's hard to taste what's in a chocolate without comparing it to something else. A small fingernail size bite is all you need.
Follow an order -- Either taste from light to dark, or dark to light, so that your palate doesn't get confused. Sometimes it's fun to compare chocolates all with the same cacao percentage.
Use all your senses -- Look at the chocolate, listen to the chocolate snap, smell the chocolate, and finally, taste it.
Connect to memories -- Memory is heavily linked to smell. Sometimes chocolate will trigger a memory, which will then lead you to a flavor.
On Storing Chocolate
Filled chocolates don't last -- Eat fresh, filled chocolates within a week. Most chocolate lovers don't find this too burdensome!
Store your bars -- Unwrapped bars will last up to a year.
Don't refrigerate -- San Francisco kitchens have the perfect temperature for storing chocolate.
Dedicate a drawer to chocolate -- Chocolate will absorb odors, so keep it away from the onions!
On Cooking with Chocolate
Quality matters -- Buy the best chocolate you can afford, especially when it is the main ingredient in a dessert.
Pay attention to percentage -- Terms like "bittersweet" really don't mean anything. It's best when a recipe calls for a specific cacao percentage.
Heat with care -- Never put chocolate in a pan over a burner. Use a water bath, or heat slowly at 50% power in the microwave.
The San Francisco Gourmet Chocolate Tour
Gourmet Walks offers the San Francisco Gourmet Chocolate Tour on Wednesday and Friday mornings, and Saturday afternoons. It's a delicious walking and tasting tour of the city's best chocolate boutiques. While sampling fine bars, bon bons and hot cocoa, you'll learn about chocolate production, history, health benefits and trends. The $48 ticket price covers a generous amount of chocolate to taste at seven different stops.
Gourmet Walks also offers private chocolate tours and chocolate tasting parties for special events and corporate functions. Chocolate lovers have the option to add on a Chocolate Pedicure at Bliss Spa or a Chocolate Cooking Class. There is even a private Chocolate Limo Tour of San Francisco's hidden chocolate spots.
For more information on the San Francisco Gourmet Chocolate Tour, and to purchase tickets, visit www.gourmetwalks.com.