SHOP EAT – Cartier Jewels and Chocoholics Paradise

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I have to say Saturday was a great day. It started with going to the Cartier and America exhibit at the Legion of Honor museum in San Francisco. Talk about bling! More diamonds, emeralds and rubies than I’ve ever seen in one place. The focus was on American women who bought or wore Cartier jewels. At the turn of the 20th century it was fashionable for women of a certain social status to wear tiaras, whether or not they were royalty, and you’ll see a lot of them here. Seems like a quaint trend, can you imagine wearing a crown now? Some of Grace Kelly’s jewels are on view, including her 10 carat diamond engagement ring. Then there’s the set of jewels that Mike Todd gave Elizabeth Taylor — diamond and ruby necklace, bracelet and earrings. Wow. And, many of the Duchess of Windsor’s pieces (aka Wallis Simpson). Also on view, a behind the scenes peek at the drawings and how the jewelry is made. If you go get the audio tour. Runs through May 9, 2010.

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The rest of the day I spent walking around and tasting artisan chocolate at TasteTV’s Chocolate Salon at Ft. Mason. This is even better than Willy Wonka’s chocolate river! More than 50 chocolatiers were offering samples of their sweet treats, from across the country. I have to confess, I hit chocolate overload about half way through, so I didn’t get to taste everything. Here’s the best of what I did try:

Saratoga Chocolates – Strawberry balsamic truffle. One bite and the sweet concoction of strawberries and balsamic vinegar explode in your mouth.

Ococoa – They bill their chocolates as “the grownup peanut butter cup,” and the sunflower honey and butter cup is to die for.

Neo Cocoa – Here it’s the “heart” of the truffle — the filling — that takes center stage. Loved the lime zest chocolate.

Vice Chocolates – As far as vices go, chocolates aren’t so bad. Really like the fig and anise seed bar.

Posh Chocolat – These sweets are made in Montana, not exactly the center of the chocolate foodie world. Doesn’t matter, the couple who makes these chocolates have created a world of interesting flavors with chocolates of single origin Ecuadorian dark chocolate. Some work very well, and one I wasn’t crazy about. Likes: The Turkish coffee caramel, the bacon caramel applewood smoked sea salt, and the coconut pineapple caramel Hawaiian pink sea salt. Salt is a common theme in their recipes. The strangest combo here is the white truffle oil caramel with flakes of Cypress sea salt. Putting bacon in chocolate is one thing – truffle oil is just going a bit too far.
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Little Sky Lavender Farm – Something different – yummy brownies infused with lavender! They sell the brownie mix so you can make them at home.

Jade Chocolates – These Asian flavor-inspired chocolates win big in the eyes of the Chocolate Salon judges. Their Genmai chocolate bar made of milk chocolate, roasted brown rice, roasted green tea and jasmine tea won 1st place for Best Flavored Chocolate in this year’s salon. The Terracotta bar with tamari almonds and pink sea salt won New Product Award 1st place.

William Dean Chocolates – Got my vote for most colorful confections. But never did get to try, the line was way too long!

Vermeer Dutch Chocolate Cream Liqueur – vodka-spiked chocolate is an indulgence.

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