Whether you love the day or hate it, we can all agree that Valentine's Day is good for at least one thing: an excuse to indulge in all things sweet and gooey, chocolate-covered and caramel-smothered. And this February 14, whether you're with a special someone or rockin' it single style, San Francisco has no shortage of ways to make the day a little sweeter.
For this very special Valentine's Day edition of "Made in the Bay," we're showing you the love with a look at – and a taste of – some of the best candy crafted right here in San Francisco.
Single for Valentine's Day? Not to worry on Valencia Street, where Dandelion is located. Valencia is the veritable catwalk of SF's uber-hip Mission neighborhood, meaning it's the place to see and be seen – and maybe shot by Cupid.
But we digress! The sweetest spot on Valencia, Dandelion is an artisan, bean-to-bar chocolate factory, meaning they carefully select their own cocoa beans, then roast them, grind them, and turn them into hand-molded chocolate, all right here in the Mission. Keep in mind that Dandelion isn't the kind of place you go for bars studded with nuts, sea salt, or bits of bacon: the store is proud of its purist approach, noting that the only ingredients in its chocolate are "cocoa beans and cane sugar." Instead, the flavor profile of each bar is created solely by the origin of the beans it's made from.
On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights, pop in for a 20-minute tour of the factory (tickets are free but must be reserved in advance); stick around afterwards for some of the city's best hot chocolate or to sample single-origin chocolate sourced from around the world.
Another cocoa-fueled institution, Tcho has quickly become one of the most recognizable names on the local chocolate scene. Tcho subscribes to a "New American Chocolate" school of thought, meaning they're serious about pure quality, but not afraid to experiment. The company's whimsy is evident in many of its flavors: Galactic Gelato, Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, and Mokaccino make appearances next to classics such as Serious Milk and Dark & Nutty.
Tcho also offers free tours of their factory-store at Pier 17. Tours are held at 10:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. each weekday – be sure to reserve your spot in advance.
Little John's Candies
Famous since the 1920s for its English toffee, Little John's has only two locations: one in Los Angeles and the other right here in San Francisco. The SF's store's an easy walk from HI-SF City Center, which is fortunate, since you may find yourself making repeat visits. This place actually lets you watch how your new addiction is made: huge glass windows into the on-site factory allow you to marvel at toffee being cooked up or dipped in chocolate. Other awesome edibles here include marzipan, chocolate-dipped dried fruit, and all manner of bite-sized caramels.
Hooker's Sweet Treats
We couldn't talk about the best sweets in SF without a shout-out to one of our favorites: HI-SF City Center neighbor Hooker's Sweet Treats. What makes Hooker's so nice we're mentioning it twice? Three words: Handmade. Salted. Caramels. Blended with chocolate and espresso, globbed onto cashews and pecans, or united at last with marshmallows and graham crackers in a caramel-s'more mash-up – it doesn't much matter which caramels you try; odds are you're leaving happy.
All Together, Now
If you're looking for more of an all-inclusive SF-made candy binge, you're in luck: there are good people all over the city who've gathered products from the best of the best local makers all under one roof. You'll want to make sure you stop by Bi-Rite Market, a high-end grocery store carrying some of the best local foods across the board. In the candy aisle, you'll find Sweet Revolution caramels, square-shaped Tcho bars, and Poco Dolce chocolate tiles. Bonus: Bi-Rite's also got its own creamery, where folks often line up down the block for scoops of roasted banana, brown-butter pecan, and salted-caramel ice cream.
In the Noe Valley neighborhood, there's a store called Chocolate Covered whose name just about says it all. This place stocks the good stuff from over 350 chocolate makers, many of whom are local. Look for bars, squares, bon bons, and more crafted local by Jade, Michael Recchiuti, Charles Chocolates, and Poco Dolce.