Chocolate Shops in the Bay Area

12.15.11


Sweet Sensations

When seeking your holiday sweets, go straight to the source. Here are three ways to add a little (or a lot) of chocolate to your holiday cheer.


Iron Horse Bicycle Trail

Two Wheel Chocolate Hop

For an easy ride in the East Bay, just connect the shops. Chocolate shops, that is. The Iron Horse Regional Trail spans over 24 miles from Pleasanton to Concord, but the loveliest portion is the oak-dotted 7-mile stretch connecting Danville and Walnut Creek—with chocolate shops at each end! Iron Horse Trail is named after the Southern Pacific Railroad that once occupied this space, now converted to a rail-trail. Bring your own bike or rent one at Danville's downtown Pegasus Bicycle Works. Cycle right from the store onto the trail. Valley oak, redwoods, and bigleaf maples line this multi-use pathway, which crosses two pedestrian bridges and intersects several bike-friendly roadways. At the Rudgear Road Park & Ride, veer right and cross under the freeway to stay on the Iron Horse Trail. The path narrows, borders a vine-draped brick wall, and leads straight into downtown where you'll find Leonida's Belgian Chocolates. The white chocolate Pistache is just the right dose of sweetness before the return journey. Pedaling back, enjoy a view of Mount Diablo cresting to the east. Wrap up the ride with a second-helping stop at Danville Chocolates. Try the white chocolate and raspberry bark or the Mount Diablo Truffle: part milk chocolate, part dark chocolate, and dusted in cocoa powder. Giddyup sugar rush!

In Danville, four-hour parking is available at the Danville Railroad Museum parking lot, located right around the corner from Pegasus Bikes. Danville Chocolates is located at 175 East Prospect Ave. in downtown Danville. Leonida's Chocolates is located at 1397 N. Main St. in downtown Walnut Creek. From Rudgear Park & Ride, cross under the freeway and continue on bike until you reach the Whole Foods 1.2-miles down. Here it's easiest to disembark, and walk your bike to the destination. Turn left past the Whole Foods, then right onto S. Main St. Continue 0.8 miles until you arrive at Leonidas. Iron Horse Trail is dog-friendly! 

Tcho Chocolate Tour San Francisco

TCHO Time

Willy Wonka once imagined a factory that could teleport chocolate into your living rooms through "Wonkavision." While this idea was ahead of its time, San Francisco's contemporary TCHO factory is right on the cutting edge of high-tech chocolate making. Helmed by the founders of Wired magazine, TCHO's modern warehouse on the Embarcadero is aesthetically distinct, with steel tables, massive churning equipment, and floor-to-ceiling white drapery. It's here that four dark and two milk chocolates are brought to life. Sourcing from "the chocolate belt" of Ghana, Madagascar, Peru, and Ecuador, TCHO's fair-trade techniques focus on flavors found inherently in cocoa beans. Get up close to the magic on a free, 60-minute tour (San Francisco's only touring chocolate factory). You'll need to don the appropriate uniform. Tuck on a hair net and leave open-toed shoes and jewelry at home. Then it's on to a crash course in the origins of chocolate. Learn about the cocoa bean's evolution from a form of currency to an everyday delicacy. A guide then takes visitors back to the churning cauldrons and assembly lines where workers expertly scrutinize the cubed chocolates passing on a conveyor belt. Finally, it's time to taste! Enter one of the curtained, pristinely-kept spaces and sample the Chocolaty, Nutty, Citrus and Fruity dark chocolates (plus TCHO's latest milk chocolate creations). Break a chocolate in half, and listen for its trademark snap. Inhale the bittersweet aroma. Place the treat on your tongue. TCHOvision!

TCHO is at Pier 17 in San Francisco at the intersection of Embarcadero and Green St. Tours run daily at 10:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. and spots are limited. Reserve a place early. Paid garage and street parking is available throughout the area. No dogs.

Wine Country Chocolates Sonoma Valley

Truffle Tipsy

If chocolate goes better with wine, then Sonoma Valley's first ever chocolate tasting room is out to truffle your feathers—merrily! Wine Country Chocolate in the charming hamlet of Glen Ellen is the passion project of mother-daughter chocolatiers, Betty and Caroline Kelly, who have mastered an enrobed-in-dark-chocolate truffle recipe that's given new meaning (and heavenly texture) to crunchy then creamy. Even better, they've infused wine in the mix with vintner-inspired decadence. The signature champagne truffle is guaranteed to put a buzz into a stocking-stuffer. Stop into their cozy shop in Jack London Village, an historic building dating to when the famed author roamed these parts. Belly up to the counter for a complimentary sampling of solid chocolates in varying percentages of cocoa, followed by tastings of recent truffle inspirations—currently including a sweet and savory pumpkin flavor. You can even watch the chocolatiers work in the small, viewable kitchen. Sourced from Guittard in San Francisco (the oldest family-owned and operated chocolate company in the US), chocolate is made fresh here at the down-to-earth headquarters. Those who want to take their wine pairing beyond the truffle can shuffle to the adjoining Moondance Cellars. Wine-maker David Cohen has been producing top quality cabernet and sauvignon blanc for 16 years.

BONUS: Just a quarter mile south is Sonoma Valley Regional Park, where a network of trails weaves through oak woodlands and around a reservoir. We'll leave it up to you to decide whether to hike before or after the chocolate!

Wine Country Chocolate's Tasting Room is located at 14301 Arnold Dr. in Glen Ellen at the Jack London Village. It's open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week. Moondance Cellars and Sonoma Regional Park are dog-friendly!

Ski Dreams Are Made of These

Can't wait for the ski season? British Columbia is way ahead of you! Early snow has dumped down upon our Canadian neighbor, and their 13 premiere resorts are ready for you! Whatever you're looking for in a ski vacation, you'll find it in British Columbia. Why is BC consistently ranked one of the world's top ski destinations? Champagne powder, terrain for all abilities, record-setting verticals (reached by chairlift!), ski-to-surf scenery, and all the après you can handle, for starters! For big mountain skiing and a post-run scene filled with restaurants, live music, and plenty of fire pits, get to the place that's earned a spot on countless must-ski lists. Love long runs? Challenge your endurance on the longest lift-served vertical in North America. And discover where to find powder-rich backcountry, slope-side hot pools, and countless glades and chutes. With 13 resorts to choose from, it's easy to plan your perfect winter vacation. Ski dreams are made of these!

Get to DiscoverBCSki.com to explore all of British Columbia's 13 ski resorts.

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