Sunday, January 26, 2014

Ghirardelli Chocolate

I do a lot of chocolate tastings.  As such, I've reviewed many of the small local chocolate makers, along with some of the bigger producers.  I've held off on reviewing Ghirardelli because they are so big that they don't really count in my mind as a local producer, but their chocolate factory sign is an iconic piece of the San Francisco waterfront so ... I'll go with it.

I've mostly only tried their signature squares.  Since I never intended to publish a review on them I didn't take notes on most of the varieties I tried over the past few years, so this is a fairly short review.

Overall, Ghirardelli is good for mainstream chocolate.  It isn't amazing, but its certainly better than Hershey.  Some of the creamy, milky squares can be satisfying when I'm really in the mood for that sort of thing, but their dark chocolate is not very complex or interesting.  I don't really see a reason to buy their chocolate, but I wouldn't be offended if someone gave me some.

As always, subsequent tastings are denoted inside brackets.


  • Peppermint Bark Square: Tasting notes: These used to be my favorites.  Available only around the holidays.  Milk chocolate bottom, white chocolate top with peppermint layer.  [ Not as pepperminty as I recall, but still decent ] [ Kinda meh.  Milk chocolate isn’t anything special, white chocolate is just there, not that minty] [ Pretty sweet and mostly white chocolate] [ Nothing good here really, just crappy chocolate and not very intense peppermint. ] [ Very forgettable.  Milk chocolate isn't creamy, nor flavorful, just ... there.  Would be better with dark chocolate.  White chocolate also isn't creamy, and the pieces of peppermint aren't very abundant, making the entire thing not very minty.  Meh. ]
  • Milk & Caramel Square:  "Milk chocolate around gooey caramel center".  Tasting notes: pretty mediocre milk chocolate, caramel filling way too sweet and not complex. [ Mediocre, generic chocolate, gooey, kinda boring caramel ] [ Creamy but totally generic milk chocolate, just sweet oozy caramel.  Better than Hershey calibre chocolates, but certainly not high end.  ]
  • Milk & Hazelnut Crisp Square: “Decadent hazelnut filling with delicate rice crisps, surrounded by rich milk chocolate.”  Tasting notes: Unremarkable.  Just standard milk chocolate around a crunchy hazelnut filling.  The milk chocolate was not creamy.  The filling had a good hazelnut flavor, and the rice crisps added a good crunch.
  • Milk & Truffle Square: Tasting notes: very creamy milk chocolate, “filling” is pretty much the same as shell.
  • Sea Salt Soiree Intense Dark square: “The luxuriously deep and velvety dark chocolate in Sea Salt Soiree is infused with bursts of sea salt and roasted almonds delivering unrivaled chocolate intensity.”.  Tasting notes: Mediocre dark chocolate, few bits of almond, not very good.
  • Sea Salt Escape Square: “Milk chocolate with sea salt and roasted almonds”.  Tasting notes: Creamy milk chocolate, nice little crunch from tiny bits of almond, decent salt level on finish.
  • Pumpkin Spice Caramel Square: "Luscious caramel infused with spices and pumpkin, enveloped in velvety milk chocolate." Tasting notes: Seasonal special.  Creamy milk chocolate, slightly spiced very gooey caramel filling.
  • Dark & Raspberry Square: "Delectably luscious raspberry filling made with real fruit surrounded by intense dark chocolate."  Tasting notes: I did not like this at all. The dark chocolate was very mediocre.  The raspberry filling was ... nasty.  It was strangely thick, and seeds in it, and was just not well flavored.  Would not get again!


Caramel Meltaway, Dark Toasted Coconut, Soft Toffee Truffle. (Clockwise from Top)
These were all part of the Signature Collection box of truffles.
  • Dark Toasted Coconut: Sweet coconut filling inside a dark chocolate shell.  The coconut was not flakes exactly, but it was grainy.  Not really enjoyable.  There were also a few coconut flakes in the chocolate itself.
  • Soft Toffee Truffle: Milk chocolate coating, sweet filling that had an off taste to it. Not toffee-like at all.  Almost burnt, but not quite.  Just not good.  Stale tasting?
  • Caramel Meltaway: Milk chocolate shell, creamy filling, again, did not taste good at all.  Stale?

Ice Cream

They also have a big ice cream shop with decadent sundaes.  When my sister last visited, we went to get one.  I was disappointed since I thought they'd have amazing hot fudge, but the ice cream was good.
  • Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream: Decent mint flavor, but pretty standard ice cream.
  • Nob Hill Chill Shake: They describe this as a drinkable sundae, made from vanilla ice cream, their hot fudge, and then topped with chocolate chips.  It was really delicious, with a great chocolate flavor, and I loved the crunch from the chocolate chips on top.
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