I WANT to like Ghirardelli chocolate. I mean, first of all, it’s local. In fact, I know people who have worked at the Ghirardelli factory in San Leandro. And they have an outlet store there. Not to mention the famous Ghirardelli square, where I hit up the chocolate festival every September.
Second of all, they’re my peeps – they’re Italian. Hence everyone’s struggles to pronounce their name.
And third, I grew up eating Ghirardelli. My favorite was the mint chocolate bars, which I frequently got in my stocking at Christmas.
Here’s the thing. Ghirardelli occupies that small, weird niche between crapola like Hershey’s and actual high-end stuff like Theo or Recchiuti or L’Amourette. (Two of which are also super-local to me – the last two – and both are tied for the absolute best chocolate I have ever had. Hmm… am I selling Valhrona short when I say that? Maybe it’s a three-way tie. I need to invest some dollars in this research and really put in the time and effort to, er, give YOU a solid answer.)
Ghirardelli, Godiva, and (god bless ‘em) See’s are the main players here. Chocolate that people think of as being really, really fancy and upscale, until they discover the promised land beyond. People go absolutely frigsane over Godiva, and it’s so full of corn syrup and artificial flavors and whatnot. BUT IT COMES IN A GOLD BOX, YOU GUYS!
I love them all in their own way; I have a coworker’s See’s fundraising order form on my desk right now. I just ate a square of Ghirardelli’s peppermint bark with dark chocolate. In a kinder world, I’d be reviewing that: it was plenty minty enough for me (in ironic contrast to the square of Theo’s mint chocolate I had just eaten), oddly crispy, very smooth, and generally very enjoyable.
But I have to slam Ghirardelli here for everything else that they do.
For fug’s sake – first of all, minus five points because their peppermint bark is no such thing. It’s akin to the Hershey’s Stripes that inspired this entire website. You know – with fake crunchy bits instead of crushed candy. There are fake brown bits in here along with the white. I don’t even want to think about that.
Then there is their recent craze for filled squares. Bleaugh! Cheap chocolate filled with flavored corn syrup. This should be declared America’s Official Candy Genre. Godiva – cheap (all right, medium) chocolate filled with flavored corn syrup. See’s – cheap chocolate filled with flavored corn syrup. …. I admit I can’t think of any more, but I swear this is a thing. Okay, wait, what about Mars bars and Caramellos and Snickers and Butterfingers and all of those things? Cheap chocolate! Filled with flavored corn syrup! I totally have a case here.
They tried to expand into real chocolate with percentages. But they gave them names like “Twilight Reverie” and “Toffee Interlude”. They are basically doing my job (mocking them) for me.
“Hey, do you have time on Friday for a Sea Salt Serenade?”
“Sorry. Friday I’m going on an Espresso Escape. We leave at 4!”
Anyway – the 72% is actually pretty good, but that’s it. The 86% is lethally bitter and flat-tasting. Okay, it’s not LETHALLY bitter – I just said that so I could make a joke about dying and going to Hazelnut Heaven.
Oh yeah, and the worst part: they don’t even make their old bars anymore! At least, if they do they keep it a secret. There’s no mention of them on the website. It’s all about bags of squares filled with corn syrup now. And bars filled with corn syrup. The mint-flavored corn syrup is no comparison to the old bars. And it gets goo everywhere. And while you’re trying to desperately suck up the goo, shards of chocolate are falling off and getting lost.
Lost… like the good chocolate they used to make.