This week’s blog post is coming a couple days late, but given the timing of things, I felt more comfortable sharing this after the 15-year anniversary of 9/11. It would have felt tactless to share something relatively trivial on the day that marks something so significant.

After two years long years of hearing about, waiting for, and watching other people attend the Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival, I finally had the immense joy of attending the event myself.

I’m a self-proclaimed chocolate lover and dark chocolate snob, so I never thought I’d ever be one to say this, but I think the festival had even a little too much chocolate for me. (Or maybe it was just an excessive amount of sugar, not necessarily chocolate.) Brief respites, longer even than the amount of time it took to wait in line, were definitely taken between tasting booths.

In other words, my body was firmly reminding me that I’m well past the age where I can eat desserts with reckless abandon. Not that I ever did, but I’m pretty sad to report that my dessert stomach is starting to shrink.

Caramel brownies from Fairytale Brownies | Photo by Courtney Cheng

Each ticket allowed you fifteen different samples. I cleared out eight of the fifteen by trying chocolates, brownies, cookies, bread, ice cream, fudge, tea, and coffee before I had to admit defeat and go belly-up. It was sugar overdose.

By the time I called it quits, my body’s energy level was hovering somewhere between one cup of black coffee and a second glass of cold brew.

I ended up clearing my ticket by stocking up on the Ghirardelli chocolate squares (there was no way I was eating more sugar at the time), but I do have to make it clear: Every vendor offered chocolate-based foods and drinks that were delicious in their own right. To the vendors who generously gave out samples much larger than they originally intended — you’re all too kind.

My eyes were simply too large for my stomach.

My type of taste testing | Photo by Courtney Cheng

My favorite samples of the vendors I tried were definitely the ice cream scoops from Choctál Single-Origin Ice Cream. (The Festival didn’t have cake, or that would’ve taken the cake, hands down.)

Each of the eight ice cream flavors they offered had unique notes based on its country of origin and varied in texture. I, shamefully, do not remember where each of the scoops were from, but I do remember which scoops  I enjoyed most: The bottom right scoop of vanilla was from Indonesia and featured hints of cardamom; the scoop of vanilla on the far left was from Mexico and flavored with cayenne pepper.

Eating ice cream during a summer in San Francisco is perhaps not the most enjoyable experience (Mark Twain was very correct), but Choctál made the shivers extremely worthwhile. I’ve had a lot of ice cream in my life, but none all of them are far more coarse and dense than Choctál.

Scoops on scoops on scoops | Photo by Courtney Cheng

The hype surrounding the Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival is, of course, the promise of good chocolate and sweets (and alcohol, if you purchased a lounge ticket), but my bag of Ghirardelli chocolate squares isn’t necessarily my favorite takeaway.

During the first half of the year, I wrote a couple posts about how I wanted to achieve a better work-life balance and how I was finally enjoying my social life, even as an introvert. Over the summer, I was struggling a lot when it came to my friendships because moving away from everyone meant re-establishing routines and weekly meals — and learning to factor in parking struggles and longer commute times.

I’m in no way saying that I’ve fixed all of this, but the simple fact that I honestly just enjoyed myself at this Festival was an accomplishment for me. By the time I got home, I was utterly exhausted, but it had been a good day, one where I didn’t have half a mind elsewhere or even a quarter a mind on work. This is a small accomplishment, no doubt, but still a tiny celebration all the same.

And just like I took this last cupcake sample from the sample tray at We The Minis, I’m going to take this tiny success and run with it.

Hella Nutella cupcake from We The Minis | Photo by Courtney Cheng

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