If you are a chocolate lover, a lover of real, quality, fairly sourced chocolate, San Francisco is a place you should visit…or move to. While you have a lot of choices in and around the city, if you only have time to visit one, visit Dandelion.
Dandelion is a bean-to-bar chocolate factory. It is the creation of Todd and Cam, two chocolate lovers who, like many bean to bar makers, started small in their apartment, did a lot of things right to the point where in 2010 they expanded into this Mission factory. This is where they roast, crack, sort, winnow, grind, conch and temper small batches of beans and then mold and package each bar by hand. They are very specific when it comes to sourcing their cocoa beans sustainably from around the world and their final products are beautiful (they even produce a fantastic and very readable sourcing report which you can also read in store while enjoying their products). In each of their stores (they have another one we visited in the Ferry Building) you can sample all of their chocolates and there is plenty of information on the walls, in books, and from the staff about where the chocolate comes from and what makes it so special. To top it all off their bars are beautifully packaged with cotton paper recycled from the garment industry in India.
Today I was lucky enough to get the royal treatment and I spent a fantastic hour with Cynthia, Dean of Beans at Dandelion (if you look at the company’s timeline on the wall, Cynthia is featured in 2014 as being the one responsible for making their first 100% bar using only Camino Verde Ecuador beans) who brought me through their whole process and had the chance to meet Greg, Dandelion’s Chocolate Sourcerer (now those are job titles). I’ll be sharing more about this soon through a different project (stay tuned for more).
Their space in the Mission District is stunning. A large industrial building, the back area is where they actually make their chocolate and you can watch the whole process while sitting in the shop area at the front and enjoying the final product.
Ok, the point of my visit was of course the hot chocolates. They have a house hot chocolate, their take on a traditional, American hot chocolate, light and a bit sweet. If you want to really get into it, order the European drinking chocolate instead, a thicker, richer, more decadent chocolate that really highlights the single origin chocolate. This tied as my favourite with the Mission hot chocolate, a foamy and slightly spicy option that contains almonds. The Mission District has its own microclimate and is actually sunnier and warmer than the rest of the city which means you might prefer one of their cold options; a frozen hot chocolate topped with cocoa nib infused whipped cream, and a cocoa nib infused horchata. I wished I had had the chance to taste their cacao fruit smoothie made from the fruit of the cacao tree. So much choice, so little time. There is also a glass fish bowl filled to the brim with house made vanilla marshmallows to add
In addition to their hot chocolate we sat down to enjoy their Chef’s Tasting plate because it was just too cute and delicious looking …. It would have been rude not to! (and they have their own very talented pastry chef who is also known for their brownies). Basically it is five tiny desserts featuring some of their single origin chocolates including a smore using their Papua New Guinea chocolate, and an Ecuador cocoa nib-infused panna cotta.
Dandelion has a regular series of events and classes for adults and children, many pairing chocolate with other goodies such as cheese or sake. Every Christmas they have an event called 12 Nights of Chocolate where they invite some of the most talented chefs in the Bay area to take their skills into the Dandelion kitchen and design a night with no rules except two: to use Dandelion chocolate and to not hold back. They also organize trips to visit their suppliers around the world including an upcoming trip to the Dominican Republic.
To top it all off, Dandelion’s locations are both in fantastic parts of the city to visit, especially if you are a visitor to the city. The first location is in the Mission District. Spend some time walking around Dolores Park and admire Mission High School (perhaps the best looking high school I’ve ever seen!) Do not miss the Women’s building on 18th street near Valencia. The building is covered with the most beautiful mural and in fact, the whole area houses some stunning graffiti (especially on Clarion Alley). And then there is good Mexican food…everywhere…
We also visited Dandelion’s Ferry Building location where we got a hot chocolate to go in a cup that has a little space for a tiny brownie cookie. If you are visiting San Francisco visit both locations. The Ferry Building is not only a good spot to start a walk along the Piers but the building itself is full of beautiful food shops.
Verdict: What else can I say. Love Dandelion. Dandelion Chocolate, 740 Valencia St, San Francisco, USA