Charles Chocolates Tour and other Berkeley Tastings

On Saturday, June 7, 2008, some friends and I toured Charles Chocolates. Unlike Scharffen Berger, whose factory I toured two years ago, Charles Chocolates doesn't make their own chocolate. Rather, they buy chocolate from others and fashion it into a variety of sweets.

It was a short tour. We learned a little about the history of the company and the building they're in, about the difference between enrobed and molded chocolate (getting to see the former in action), and about how they put the patterns on chocolate ("like a rub-on tattoo"). During the tour, we tried cabernet sauvignon pate de fruit (chewy), chocolate covered caramel (enrobed) (chewy center), and something else (also with a chewy center). After the tour, we did a tasting, eating a chocolate square (with an odd explanation about how it's salted or not--I didn't quite follow it), a lemon marzipan (which we were told had more almond than sugar, unlike other marzipans) (I didn't like it; others said it was the most unusual of the chocolates we tasted), an almond cluster (almond fragments in milk chocolate), a passionfruit heart (I like the strongly fruity center), a bittersweet peanut butter item shaped like a butterfly (much like a fancy Reese's Peanut Butter cup).

I bought a few chocolates to try later at home: blood orange yankee, bittersweet peanut butterfly (I liked it before; I wanted another), and mojito heart and raspberry heart (because I liked the passionfruit, I figured I might like these).

After our tour and tasting, we decided to stroll down Berkeley's ritzy 4th Street. As it turned out, this allowed us to do additional tastings: olive oil at Stonehouse Olive Oil; cheeses and spaghetti sauce at the Pasta Shop; spreads, olive oils, and salts at Napa Style. We also stuck our heads in some home furnishings stores.

To continue the pattern, we left 4th Street for Solano Avenue, and walked down it briefly until we found Solano Cellars and Bistro. We sat and chatted and some of us tasted generous pours of flights of wine. I had a fruity, minerally pinot gris (2006 Kracher "Illmitz") from Burgenland, Austria, that, though appealing, for some reason I didn't finish.

Inebriated to varying degrees, we headed to dinner at Zachary's, killing a bit of time in the adjacent Pegasus Books while we waited for a table.

Finally, we briefly strolled in yet another part of Berkeley, Telegraph Avenue, before calling it a night.

Here are the pictures from the day.

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