With so many of us going over to the dark side—when we shop for chocolate, that is—semisweet and bittersweet sales have jumped as much as 50 percent in two years, says Susan Smith of the National Confectioners Association. "As with coffee, everyone’s a gourmet now," she says. Craving a bite? Here’s how to go totally cocoa in three Western cities.
- PORTLAND CHOCOLATE WALKING & TASTING TOURS You’ll visit six to eight chocolate shops and boutiques on Savina Darzes’s walking tours. Highlight: The drinking chocolate at Sweet Masterpiece on the Pearl District tour; it’s made from melted dark chocolate and comes with a slice of chocolate cake. "There are 400 different chemicals in chocolate," Darzes says. "It’s the one food that really just melts in your mouth." She offers three tours: downtown, Pearl District, and Lake Oswego. Saturday. $42 ($37 for West Linn residents). (503) 557-4700, chocolatetastingandmore.com .
- SAN FRANCISCO GOURMET CHOCOLATE TOUR Nibble your way through seven downtown shops. Highlight: A visit to Fog City News, where you’ll taste several bars made with the same percentage of cacao but from such diverse nations as Ghana, Madagascar, and Venezuela. "Taste conjures memories," says tour leader Andrea Nadel. "Maybe you’ll taste a chocolate with a lot of caramel notes and you’ll remember eating caramels at the fair." Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. $49. (415) 312-1119, gourmetwalks.com .
- TOUR DE CHOCOLAT SEATTLE A van whisks you to five chocolatiers, including Oh Chocolate, where you get to create your own confections. Highlight: A take-home bag of malt balls, minibars, chocolate-flavored lip balm, and a discount coupon. "You bite into chocolate and you get an initial flavor," says Michel Brotman, co-owner of the Chocolate Box, where the tours originate. "Then as it melts on your tongue, you get a second or third flavor. If you want the full impact, slow down. If you eat it like celery, you’ll miss out." Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. $69. (888) 861-6188, sschocolatebox.com .
Photography by Kevin Candland
This article was first published in September 2009. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.