The Tour of All Tours: A Chocolate Walking Tour

I have what I call selective seeing. While many people evidently acquire a case of selective hearing as they grow older, I've acquired a case of selective seeing. I only see the words I want to see.  Take for example last spring, when I was researching my trip to California. I was quickly perusing the media packet I had received and was quickly picking out some of the activities I wanted to do when toward the end of the packet I saw the words: "San, Francisco, and chocolate". Sure, there was something about a three-hour walk, when I clearly remembered huffing and puffing up San Francisco hills a few years prior, but when you're given permission to eat chocolate for three hours straight, not much else matters.

As a writer, I always do plenty of research upfront before committing to an activity. The San Francisco gourmet chocolate tour with Gourmet Walks was an exception to that. I figure if I'm touring San Francisco and doing so with chocolate in hand, then there can't be much that is deplorable about that kind of experience. I can think of worse ways to spend a Saturday morning.

I went into the tour with few expectations. I was a couple days into a 10-day trip in San Francisco and the idea was starting to be planted in my head that I may soon be calling San Francisco home after a stint of traveling for several months. I was ready to settle down and I saw this as a great introduction to San Francisco. Who knew, maybe I would find a lovely belle on this chocolate tour and really never want to leave. All this time that guys spent trying to pick up girls at bars and maybe it was the chocolate shops of San Francisco where the real courting went down.

When I arrived at the designated meeting spot inside the Embarcadero Hyatt Regency, I wondered around aimlessly before I was motioned over by another guy who appeared just as enthusiastic about chocolate as I was as he waved me over. I was reluctant. While I'm not sure what a tour of chocolate lovers are supposed to look like, this group seemed to have more of the appearances of an Oprah book club. Nonetheless, I meandered over as I found a seat at the end of a large group of older married women, as our tour guide, John Cruger, the only other guy in attendance, welcomed me. Before we even stood up to start walking I was handed a couple chocolates and a "chocolate bag", in case I needed to pace myself along the way. It was already off to a great start and I knew this was going to be a tour unlike any that I had ever taken.

Before the San Francisco chocolate tour with Gourmet Walks, I never considered San Francisco as what I would refer to as a "chocolate destination". When I thought of chocolate, I typically thought of Europe, and especially France. However, chocolate has a long history in San Francisco. You've probably heard of a little sizable chocolate company named Ghirardelli, which was founded in San Francisco. But Ghirardelli doesn't sound very American, right? Domenico Ghirardelli, originally from Italy, moved to the Bay Area in the mid-1800s during the California Gold Rush to start the famous chocolate company. Ghirardelli has now grown from its humble beginnings as a general store in Stockton, California to become one of the most well known chocolate manufacturers in the world and the second-oldest manufacturer in the U.S., next to Baker's Chocolate. It's only appropriate that one of the stops on the chocolate tour was at a Ghirardelli shop.

But wait, there's more! In fact, if I were to recommend to you the best chocolate shops to visit in San Francisco, Ghirardelli wouldn't be at the top of that list. However, one that would be at the top is Teuscher. Teuscher has the best truffles. How do I know? Well because Oprah said so herself! If that's enough for you, then you can skip on down, but if not, I'll try to put Teuscher's champagne truffles into words. The truffles are a unique, smooth blend of butter, fresh cream, and chocolate with a champagne cream center. This is enclosed with a dark chocolate ganache followed by a milk chocolate coating. Drooling yet? The proverbial icing on the cake is the powdered sugar, one of my favorite toppings and the reason for my love affair with beignets. It may just be the best chocolate I've ever had. I just closed my eyes and let it hang there on the top of my tongue, wondering what it would take to replicate that experience for the rest of my life without turning into Sherman Klump.

My favorite stop along the chocolate walking tour didn't actually come at a San Francisco chocolate shop, but actually at a newsstand, Fog City News. Fog City News is at its core a newsstand, but not your typical newsstand. While it has many of the most popular newspapers and magazines, it also has many publications that are hard to find, such as European magazines. However, they've upped the ante for newsstands by providing premium chocolates from around the world. This includes chocolates from Spain, Germany, Italy, Belgium, and Switzerland. It was here that I saw chocolates that were so pretty that I almost didn't want to eat them because of their presentation. Nevertheless, I caved. While many people probably see reading as a comfort activity, Fog City News has gone a step further by providing some comfort food to go along with it.

All total there are seven stops along the three-hour chocolate walking tour. If you want to, you could literally be eating chocolate the entire tour. However, that's what the chocolate bag is for and I put it to good use. I simply couldn't eat all of the chocolate and ended up taking a lot of it home with me. The tour is $50 and includes discounts at 10 San Francisco chocolate boutiques. Tours are available Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, but make sure you get your tickets ahead of time. Gourmet Walks also has other tours that I've yet to do, including an Asian street food tour and Napa wine and food tasting.

Thank you to Andrea Nadel and John Cruger for hosting me (Photos courtesy of Gourmet Walks). I've recommend this tour to many people even before I wrote this and will continue to. If you do one tour in San Francisco, make it this one. What other tour will allow you to see San Francisco and eat so well?

What's the most unique tour you've ever taken?