23rd Annual Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival

My parents were in town for the weekend and we weren’t sure what to do with them. They like to eat, but my dad’s knee has not been cooperating which means his range on foot is not very high. The wifey found out that there was a Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival happening in San Francisco and we thought it might be fun to take MD. Side note: I always thought Ghirardelli was spelled Ghiradelli until we bought tickets online. All these years I had no clue! Another thing I had no clue about was this chocolate festival has been going on for 22 years already. That is a looooong time. This post won’t be the typical post as I’m putting a lot of pictures up and will only touch on the highlights of the day.

Before we got to San Francisco we traveled by ferry from Alameda. It’s actually our preferred method to get to the city because we don’t have to drive, it’s pretty cheap ($5.30 each way with a clipper card for adults), and we can enjoy the beautiful scenery along the way. I recommend anyone wanting to go to and from Alameda or Oakland to San Francisco to try it if you haven’t already. They stop at the Ferry Building and Pier 41 near Fisherman’s Wharf.

There were about 35 stations to use 15 tastings. When we got there we didn’t really have a strategy. But in our mind’s we thought it would be hard to choose to from so many different offerings. After we started though, we figured things out and got into a groove.

They start you off at a Ghirardelli chocolate tasting booth where you can get chocolate squares, 2 squares costing you one spot on your tasting ticket.

Right off the bat we were down a few tastings.

Krispy Kreme Donuts had a booth and featured a chocolate caramel pretzel donut.

Not all the vendors marked off a spot on your ticket. Some were just there to advertise and get their product out there like Rebbl coconut milk elixers.

One time at least 3 or 4 years back I stumbled upon Smashmallow online while trying to find Christmas gifts for my family. It was not available in hardly any local stores at the time but I really wanted to get some as gifts. What did I do? I actually called their corporate headquarters and someone answered! They were shocked that I was calling to find out where I could get these. At the time their online store locator was not accurate and I made a failed attempt to acquire some at I think a Sprouts. She was very nice and checked for me and directed me to a mom and pop market near San Juan Capistrano. It’s funny thinking back on this because I see them everywhere now. They are in Safeway, Target, Nob Hill, you name it. And they have expanded their product line quite a bit. We especially enjoyed their rice crispy treats.

One of our favorite bites came in the form of a mini popsicle from Pepito’s Paletas. It was a Mexican Abuelita Chocolate flavor with 100% cocoa, Abuelita chocolate, cinnamon, brown sugar, and heavy cream.

Some vendors marked your ticket off but also sold some of their product if you wanted more. Never to turn down a good beef jerky, we caved and bought a bag for $5 of the Original Peppered from True Jerky. And just like the Smashmallow story, we just spotted them being sold at Pak N Save in San Leandro. I don’t remember seeing this brand before, but I’m sure I will spot them now.

Like I mentioned before this is the 23rd year Ghirardelli has been hosting the Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival. All profits go to the San Francisco based non-profit Project Hand which “provides healthy meals, nutrition counseling and a sense of belonging to those in need in our communities.” They had a booth with some chocolate goodies but also had a $5 wheel that the wifey could not pass up. Again, all this was going to charity so the thought of getting something useless never occurred to me. Never.

Luckily for me, the very nice and wonderful staff member sort of willed the wheel to land on the Mac lipsticks the W yearned for. Happy wife, happy life is the saying right? 😉

I had never heard of Michael’s Chocolates before, but they had by far the longest line. We didn’t feel like waiting. The artisanal and fancy chocolate did look nice though.

Up a few floors in their fountain plaza area they had a few more booths and a stage where they conducted classes and demonstrations.

This raspberry chocolate tart from McCormick and Kuleto’s was one of our favorite bites of the day.

Unfortunately the one we were most excited about fell flat. What a sad display of a melted hot fudge sundae.

Right before we called it a day and had used all 15 of our tastings we were able to catch the last demonstration of the festival. It featured Michael Brown, the pastry chef at the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco and his assistant. I couldn’t catch the name of the dessert they made for us but I am glad we stayed til the end.

Hands down it was the best bite of the day and it didn’t even cost us a spot on our tasting ticket! If I recall correctly there is a thin biscuit layer, with a bunch of different chocolate layers. One containing more whipped cream than the other. And finally a thin chocolate layer on top with a gold dust decoration on top.

Final Thoughts

Would I go again to the Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival? Maybe. I think if friends wanted to go or if someone was in town and we were looking for something to do I might go again. But I don’t think this is an annual festival I need to mark my calendar for every year. It was priced reasonably at $24.75 on Groupon or Goldstar, which was nice. The best thing is all of it goes to a good cause. I thought there could have been more variety of chocolate flavors. I wished there were more savory options incorporating chocolate. If they had maybe 3 or 4 vendors that had like a mole, or a chili, or even a cocoa crusted baby back rib dish, it would have made the difference. There’s only so much chocolate bars, chocolate fudge, and chocolate candies one can enjoy all at once. Having said that, I did have fun and it gave us something to do with my parents for half of the day.

If you do decide to go next year, here are some tips that will come in handy:

Tip #1 Bring sunscreen and a hat – It is very sunny with limited shade.
Tip #2 Bring tupperware or ziploc bags – At times you will go to 2-3 vendors who place a pile of chocolate in your hand. Said chocolate will melt soon after unless you insta consume them.
Tip #3 There is a VIP upgrade you can purchase that allows you access to even more vendors that include alcohol in their offerings. 21+
Tip #4 If you go with multiple people, have everyone try different things and leave some tastings left to go back to your favorites – Wasting 1 of your 15 on a dud is no bueno.
Tip #5 Bring water – There didn’t seem to be too many places offering water and your body needs a break from the sweetness.
Tip #6 Go to the demonstrations – They may have some of the best bites you will have at the entire festival!

Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival

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