Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival
Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival - September 11, 2011, San Francisco, CA
2010 marked the 15th year of the Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival. It's held, appropriately enough, at Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco and spans the course of 2 weekend days. This year it was September 11-12, 12 noon - 5 pm. Every year I always plan to go and every year, for one reason or another, I always miss it. Usually because I forget when it is. This year, I got a reminder from a post from The Chocolate Life and it even included a link to discount tickets. The event itself is free but you need to buy a ticket if you want to try any of the chocolate samples. And of course you do, otherwise why bother going?
Anyway, I planned to go, was reminded about it from the Chocolate Life post then promptly forgot about it again due to the crush of work I was under. But it seems I was meant to go when my friend Kendra emailed me a few days before the festival asking if I was going and she was forwarding another email from one of the vendors attending and this too also had a link with a discount code for tickets. How could I not go after that?
My friend Jenny lives up in the city so we arranged to meet at the ferry building and walk up to Ghirardelli Square from there. I'm always on the lookout for ways to be active and burn calories, especially as I was planning on consuming 15 samples of chocolate. We couldn't have had nicer weather that day. San Francisco was absolutely gorgeous. Temps were in the 70s (maybe low 80s), it was bright and sunny with a nice breeze from the bay and the sky was a beautiful blue. It was San Francisco at its finest.
Since I'd never been to the Chocolate Festival before, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Just something with lots of chocolate. In that aspect, I wasn't disappointed. Essentially the "festival" was comprised mostly of vendors in booths, giving out chocolate samples and marking off the tickets once you'd been given a sample. There were also a few demos per day from chefs from local chocolate places as well as Ice Cream Sundae Eating contests. Unfortunately what I hadn't counted on was the sheer number of people who were there. We arrived around 1 pm and it was already crowded and growing more so as the afternoon wore on. The idea of chocolate sampling was great and we did get some good samples but there was also a lot of standing in line to get said samples.
Our first sample was "Traditional Toffee" from the Goodytwos Toffee Company. The great thing about a place like the festival from a consumer standpoint is you can sample treats from places you'd never heard of before. From a vendor standpoint, it's a way to reach a potential market you might not normally get. Many vendors had their actual wares for sale so that if you liked the sample, you could also buy it.
We also tried the chocolate hazelnut caramel truffle bars (mere slivers actually, literally) from Sterling Confections - pretty to look at and good chocolate but it didn't quite stand out to my jaded chocolate taste buds.
My personal favorite of the day were the Milk Chocolate Macadamia Laceys from Desserts on Us. I love lace cookies (similar to Florentines) but they're a pain to make so I never make them. Desserts on Us not only had great cookies but they gave out whole cookies as their sample, not cookie bits.
Not pictured but we also tried: Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes (mini cupcakes, very mini) from Eat My Love for You, a mini hot fudge sundae (hold the whipped cream and cherry on mine) from Ghirardelli Chocolate, and Spiced Almond Caramel Corn from CC Made.
I discovered I was more of a chocolate lightweight than I thought. By the 6th or 7th sample, both Jenny and I were ready to call it quits. Turns out we can't consume that much chocolate, even though some of the samples were literally one-bite-sized. Learning for next time if I go again - share a 15-sample ticket with someone. We ended up lining up in the long line for the Ghirardelli Chocolate booth and using up the rest of our sample tickets for packaged Ghirardelli chocolate squares that we could dump in our purses.
All in all, it was a fun day but I have to admit, I'm not sure this is something I'd go to every year and I don't know if I've missed all that much by not attending any of the first 14 years of the festival. It was just too crowded and beyond lining up to get samples from the booths, there didn't seem to be that much entertaining entertainment. There were some wine and chocolate pairing happenings but I don't drink and I've never been a fan of eating contests, ice cream sundaes not withstanding. If there hadn't been so many people, I might've been interested in going to some of the chef demonstrations but honestly, it was so crowded (and I never cease to be amazed by people who can and do wield unwieldy strollers through massive crowds) that it killed any desire to linger too long. What made the day enjoyable and worthwhile was the great weather and the fact that Jenny and I can talk a mile a minute about any and everything so it was a great bonding experience and fun in that respect. So it was a good friendship day and a good chocolate day. I guess you can't ask for anything more.