Chocolate festival at Ghirardelli Square

    What’s with this time of the year that festivals keep popping up every weekend? Just two weeks ago my friends and I were strolling among some 60 food trucks at Jack London Square; then last week we had some awesome grilled chicken at Martin Luther King Park; and this past Sunday we wound up queuing in the shivering bay wind for some artisan desserts at Ghirardelli Square. If we keep this up(*) I will become quite athletic, all that walking and standing in (long) line build muscles, you know. 😛

    So here’s the deal with the 15th annual Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival: you get a $20 ticket to try 15 samples (there are 31 total, some of them are chocolate favored alcoholic drinks); supposedly the booths started giving samples at noon, but lots of people got there earlier and lined up in front of the booths. Kara’s Cupcakes is one of those booths with a 100 feet line before it even opened. I’m not crazy about cupcakes (yeah… you can tell I’m not American) so I didn’t contribute to that line’s ridiculous length. I did contribute to the line wrapping around McCormick & Kuleto’s, but it was worth it.

    They are a seafood restaurant chain, but at this festival they whipped out flourless chocolate truffe cakes, with raspberry, blueberry, or blackberry on whip cream. The bite-sized sample was quite rich.

    But it was among the best at the event. For one thing, we actually got a whole truffle cake, while Sweet simply gave a full spoon of crème brulée for each mark off the sampling ticket.

    It tasted good (to quote other triers, “it tastes divine”), but one spoon? Seriously? The ticket is $20 for 15 samples, that’s $1.33 per sample, and don’t tell me an average spoon of creme brulee costs that much. Disappointed me by the rip-off.

    The Tea Room Chocolates gave a much better deal. We got to sample 6 types of tea-infused chocolate: 72% dark with green mate, star anise & nibs (orange), 58% dark with raspberry rooibos tea (pink), 58% dark with green earl grey tea (green), milk with black masala chai (purple), milk with jasmine tea (blue), and white with chamomile tea & honey (yellow).  The pink and the green bars were the best.

    Next to Tea Room Chocolates was Ana Mandara‘s booth. According to the brochure Ana Mandara had chocolate mochi, but actually they had brownie. Very good and moist brownie, but mochi would have been a better score. On a side note, this place has an interesting (and affordable) lunch menu, which we would have tried had they not closed at 2:30. :-/

    Another disappointment was the mini vegan cupcake from Eat My Love For You. It’s a cute little chocolate bite with lustrous vanilla butter cream on top. It was great during the first few seconds, but like most loves at first sight, the dazzles wore off and we got a burnt oily aftertaste. Maybe it was just an off batch.

    DeLise Dessert Café offered slightly more choices, cupcakes and brownies among them (surprise!), and the line was also “slightly” longer. But at least it looked out to the beach instead of others’ backs, and we can kill time watching seagulls preening themselves under the sun…

    …Until we got to the goodies. The sea salt brownie was super popular, but we opted for the nutella biscotti (which was just like any other biscotti), and lemongrass ice cream. THIS ice cream alone makes the trip worth it. The lemongrass fragrance wasn’t apparent until it melted down at the back of your throat, then gently rose back to the palate like herbal tea.

    Mudpie was more enthused by the chocolate covered Oreo cookies from Plumeria Flours. You got to pick 2 types of cookies for each sample’s worth; the peanut butter and the mint were, again, good but uninteresting.

    The same can be said of Sterling Confection‘s banana honey truffle bar. These intriguing sushi-looking blocks cost a whopping $25 each at the festival. Most have liqueur flavors and some (a bit too sweet) fruity touch, but the colors are the only thing exotic about them.

    The upstairs (the Fountain Plaza area)  had a few more choices, not as splendidly colored as the Lower Plaza, but more (ful)filling.

    Leonidas‘ chocolate martini was exceedingly popular, the line practically connected the upper and lower plazas.

    Reuschelle’s marble cheesecake bite was rich, perhaps a bit too rich. At this point all I could dream about was a full glass of ice cold water. One can only handle so much sweets in one day.

    Bo’s chocolate and vanilla mini pancakes… I was getting thirstier, and wanted some real food…

    … Which explains why a piece of toasted and buttered cherry chocolate English muffin had never tasted better. Thank you, Leadbetter’s Bake Shop.

    So, how was Ghirardelli’s 15th Annual Chocolate Fest? Besides the awesome lemongrass ice cream from DeLise and the tea-infused chocolates from The Tea Room, everything fell a little… unimaginative. In fact, nothing sums up the day better than the expression of this little girl at Sterling Confection‘s booth.

    (*) Should I go to another food fest at the end of this month? Women of Taste sounds pretty good. 😛 But is four food festivals in one month a bit too much?

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