A sweet treat doesn't have to be a cliché, so long as you skip the pre-boxed Nuts and Chews from See's and give the gift of something artisanal, local, or homemade. Back in early November, Nick and I went to the Fall Luxury Chocolate Salon at Fort Mason, where we tasted tons of different chocolates from Bay Area chocolatiers (picks 2 and 4 below are standout finds from the event); after speaking with vendors and hearing about the care that is put into crafting the right blend of flavors in each bar or truffle, it's clear that an extra unique chocolate makes a great gift. But if you are looking to go the homemade route, you can always try my recipe for Ginger Spice Cookies.
| 1. Petite Bouchée Salted Butter Caramels ($6 for 3 oz.)| These are the best caramels I have had in the States. The term caramels au beurre salé, or salted butter caramels, is exactly the way to describe what these are; you can just taste how these are made from not much more than caramelized sugar and butter as they dissolve away in your mouth.
| 2. Snake & Butterfly Maple Syrup & Bacon Brittle Bar ($5) | Bacon-flavored everything seems all the rage these days but of the bacon-themed chocolates I sampled at the Chocolate Salon, this was definitely the best. It was bacon-y enough to taste it and the maple syrup flavor acted as a nice bridge between it and the chocolate.
| 3. Kara's Cupcakes ($3.25 each) | Kara's Cupcakes is my favorite of the cupcake bakeries. The cakes are always perfectly moist no matter what time of day I buy or eat my cupcake and the buttercreams are the right texture and sweetness. Nick and I recommend: Fleur de Sel, Meyer Lemony Lemon, and Sweet S'mores.
| 4. The Tea Room Jasmine Milk Truffle ($4.50 for 2) | I never thought that jasmine tea and chocolate were flavors that I would find mixed together but The Tea Room, which specializes in tea-infused chocolates, does it just right. Rather than clashing, the floral jasmine acts as an added layer of flavor on top of the creamy milk chocolate.