2013’s “Best Chocolatiers” Announced

Based around the International Chocolate Salon held late last year in San Francisco, the 2013 Best Chocolatiers and Confectioners in America Award winners were announced this week by TasteTV, which created the contest and event.

I was a judge at the Salon, where I got to sample amazing artisanry and talk to the artisans themselves.

Mindy Fong of SF-based Jade Chocolates was premiering her latest product: dried green mango with a chili-lime spice rub atop chocolate tiles. I snapped a picture of these spicy little guys:

Wendy Lieu, who operates SF-based Socola Chocolatier with her sister, crafts truffles flavored with guava, lychee, durian, black sesame, bacon, pumpkin, PB&J, tea, Vietnamese coffee and Sriracha Flying Rooster sauce. The latter “are hot, but not super-hot,” Lieu said — but I did not want to test her on that, so tried the other flavors instead. Yum!

Tonet Tibay of LA-based Marti Chocolatt shattered all expectations with her astoundingly smooth, sumptuous durian truffles.

“Whenever I find a really fresh durian, that’s when I make these,” said Tibay, an alumna of l’Ecole Lenotre in Paris. Having grown up in the Philippines, “I realized that a San Francisco crowd could like durian. I wanted to take the goodness of durian, its custardy creaminess, and separate it from that fermented-fish smell that is really an acquired taste, to create some heavenly thing that you have to savor.”

She also makes gorgeous truffles with pineapple and other tropical fruits.

San Leandro-based Tea Room Chocolates specializes in GMO-free chocolate bars infused with many types of tea: mint tea, Mayan chai, chamomile tea, caramel honeybush tea, Earl Grey, raspberry rooibos, maté and more. TTR’s Ethan Ash told me that black teas are far easier to use in chocolates than green teas, because the flavors of black teas are more assertive while those of green teas can be elusive.

These were among many participants. And the top-tier winners are….

Amano Artisan Chocolate, CocoTutti, Forte Chocolates, La Chatelaine Chocolat Company, Marti Chocolatt, and Sixth Course Artisan Confections.

Second-tier winners (the equivalent of silver medalists) are AMELLA, Chocolot, Chuao Chocolatier, DEUVO Gourmet Sweets, Droga Confections, Feve Artisan Chocolatier, Marco Paolo Chocolates, Mignon Chocolate, Socola Chocolatier, The Tea Room, Toffee Talk, and William Dean Chocolates.