My crabby taxi driver slammed on the brakes, rolled down his window and sniffed the air outside. "Geez, what's that incredible smell?" We were five minutes from San Francisco International Airport at the corner of Guittard and Rollins roads. To our right sat the 75,000-square-foot Guittard Chocolate Company. To our left, one of Guittard's biggest customers, the See's Candies factory, which produces 17 million pounds of confections a year. We were at the southernmost tip of what my friend Helen, a longtime San Francisco resident, calls "the fertile crescent of Bay Area chocolate."
Helen is not exaggerating. Four of the nation's 11 major chocolate manufacturers and a disproportionate number of its innovative boutique chocolatiers are to be found on an arc that begins south of San Francisco, sweeps up through the city and crosses the bay, ending in Berkeley.
"I don't live in San Francisco only because I love chocolate," said Helen, my guide along this arc. "But if you love chocolate, there's no better place to live than the Bay Area."