San Francisco has a chocolatey heritage—our city is the birthplace of Guittard, Ghirardelli, and Scharffen Berger. So it's only fitting that the world's largest gathering of craft chocolate makers should kick off here in the city.
Coming to the Palace of Fine Arts March 6-8, the inaugural Craft Chocolate Experience is about as close as we're ever going to get to a grown-up, gourmet Willy Wonka fest.
Touted as a learning experience as well as a tasting and shopping event, the three-day happening will feature cacao-centric talks, an Insta-worthy cacao-bean ball pit, and a massive marketplace of more than 90 artisanal chocolatiers from 25 different countries.
If you're in it for the shopping, look out for Letterpress Chocolate's small batch dark bars; La Folie Real Chocolate's pop art–inspired "Love Is Love" box of colorful lip-shaped candies; Bisou Chocolate's Champagne- and Hennessy-spiked truffles; and 3D Candies' sugar-free, keto-friendly caramels.
Want to get more out of the experience than just something yummy to take home? Join a painting-meets-chocolate workshop or get tickets to one of several chocolate pairing classes ($30) with the likes of Ritual Coffee, Umami Mart, and Cowgirl Creamery. Plus, look out for the pop-up cafe from Dandelion Chocolate's executive pastry chef, Lisa Vega, where you can score such goodies as cacao pulp frescas, chocolate chip cookies, and Nutella twists. You can also catch Vega, as well as Che Fico's Angela Pinkerton, whipping up chocolatey goodness on the pastry cooking stage.
After eating your weight in chocolate, head to one of multiple stages for discussions with the best in the cacao bean biz. Topics will include Pioneers of Chocolate, Empowering Women in Cacao Farming Communities, and The Science of Tasting. Experts doing the talking will include John Scharffenberger; Michael Recchiuti; Tcho chocolate maker Brad Kintzer; renowned pastry chef Francisco Migoya, and more.
Firm believers in chocolate for dinner can pregame the main event at Friday's opening night celebration (tickets are $95 at Eventbrite) where, in addition to getting early access to the marketplace, ticket holders will be treated to chocolate-themed specialty cocktails and deserts, plus some savory bites from La Cocina for good measure. All that sugar and caffeine may keep you up all night—you can dance it off to Bay Area–based band Brilliant Bluegrass as well as dancers and musicians from Peru.
// Craft Chocolate Experience, March 6-8, at Palace of Fine Arts, 3601 Lyon St. (Presidio); tickets ($35/one-day GA, $65/VIP, $145/weekend) are available at eventbrite.com; for more information, go to craftchocolateexperience.com.