by Anneli Rufus
TasteTV has just announced the winners of its 2010 Fall Luxury Chocolate Salon, and East Bay chocolatiers ranked high.
At Fort Mason in San Francisco last weekend, the wares of dozens of artisan chocolatiers from far and wide were ranked in nineteen crucial categories by a panel of judges — of which I was a member, along with SingleGuyChef.com's Ben Seto, DyingForChocolate.Blogspot.com's Janet Randolph, A Field Guide to Cookies author Anita Chu, and other food writers.
Scoring a silver medal in the Top Artisan Chocolatier category was Oakland-based Vice Chocolates, which is sold at Oakland's Temescal Farmers' Market and whose eye-popping small-batch handmade confections merge lychee, lavender, merlot, bergamot, and other exotica with extra-high-cocoa-butter Venezuelan couverture chocolate. Vice scored another two silvers in the highly coveted Most Gifted Chocolatier and Best in Salon categories.
Winning a gold medal for Best Comfort Chocolate was Berkeley-based Clarine's Florentines, whose chocolate-dipped nutty cookies can be bought at Piedmont Grocery, The Pasta Shop, Alameda Natural Grocery, and other nearby stores.
Clarine's won a second gold in the Top Toffee category. Scoring the silver for Best Toffee was Newark-based Landru Chocolates, whose vividly colorful repertoire includes nut brittles, salted toffees, and dozens of chocolates filled with everything from green tea to chipotle to anise to PB&J, each one a tiny work of art.
Scoring a silver medal for Best Comfort Chocolate was Emeryville's Coco Délice, which emphasizes local sustainable ingredients and whose line includes Sonoma Brut truffles , sour-cherry almond bark, and much more, including a selection decorated with images of whales; a portion of the profits from these aids a whale-protection nonprofit.
Other big winners include Nicaragua-based Carlos Mann, San Francisco's Socola (which actually makes a durian truffle as well as goat-cheese truffles, turkey-meat truffles, bacon truffles, and much more, using blindingly delicious chocolate), and Napa-based Salt Side Down, whose beet truffle is truly revolutionary.
Sweeping the awards with gold medals in eight out of nineteen categories was Utah-based Amano Artisan Chocolate, whose Montanya dark-chocolate bar is made from beans grown on Venezuelan mountainside farms so remote that they can be reached only on foot or on horseback. Soooo glad someone made that journey.