Tag Archives: Todos Santos Chocolates

Kara’s Cupcakes, San Francisco

Some folks swear by Sprinkles, and Yummy Cupcakes in Burbank is always great in a pinch, but our favorite cupcakes on God’s green earth come from the crazy good Kara’s Cupcakes in San Francisco.

Christine and I first discovered Kara’s while making our regular pilgrimage to Ghirardelli Square to buy some of their yummy Ghirardelli Drinking Chocolate.

If you haven’t tried this stuff, then you have not had truly incredible hot cocoa, amigos. It’s delicious…and since we first tried it a couple years back, Ghirardelli Drinking Chocolate has become one of the staples of our kitchen: salsa, eggs, tortillas, and Drinking Chocolate. Not necessarily in that order…but, I digress. Back to the cupcakes!

Kara’s has two locations in San Francisco, the one mentioned above at Ghirardelli Square and another storefront in the city’s happening Marina District just off of Chesnut Street. And though we usually frequent the one at Ghirardelli just out of convenience, I gotta say that the Kara’s in the Marina has a much bigger menu to choose from.

And what a menu it is! Even the most basic-sounding cupcake here is out-of-this-world incredible, but we have two favorites that actually start me drooling just thinking about them. Christine’s favorite is Kara’s dark chocolate Fleur de Sel, which is basically a chocolate cupcake with caramel filling, ganache frosting and fleur de sel sprinkled on top.

I’m not kidding, that cupcake is the most perfect union of chocolate and sea salt outside of those dreamy little morsels we had at Todos Santos in Santa Fe. Just incredible! And best of all, it travels well. You know, in case I pick one up for her while she’s busy shopping the Gift Show downtown.

But my favorite is, and always will be, the outrageously-good Banana Caramel. Now, I know not everyone loves bananas like I do, but wow…this banana cupcake with caramel filling and silky cream cheese frosting will change your life, baby! I have never had a cupcake as good as that one…and trust me, I’ve had a lot of cupcakes in my life, yo. This one is cupcake heaven!

Also good are the Coconut and Kara’s Karrot cupcakes, but if you only have time (or money!) for one $3.25 cupcake, I’d say go with the Fleur de Sel or the Banana Caramel. And if you are a true lover of cupcakes, then you have to stop what you’re doing right now and head on up to Kara’s…seriously, you’ll die!

Oh yeah, and I just saw on their website that they recently opened another Kara’s in Palo Alto…so, that’s even less of a drive from L.A.! Yay!

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Todos Santos Chocolates

OK, first off, I kinda want to sue Frommer’s for leaving this place out of their “Santa Fe, Taos & Albuquerque” guidebook. I lived and died by that book when I was in New Mexico — not to mention last summer when their “Nashville & Memphis” guide never left my sweaty hands — so I was stunned to find someplace as cool as Todos Santos Chocolates & Confections missing from their hallowed pages.

Todos Santos sign! (March 2008)
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Ginger and I stumbled upon Todos Santos one afternoon and returned at least one more time, but Christine and I made this joint our home away from home in Santa Fe. Seriously, we made a beeline for this place every time we went downtown…and well, that was a lot.

Located just a short walk up Palace Avenue from the main plaza, Todos Santos is nestled inside the heart of the historic Sena Plaza directly across from the legendary La Casa Sena restaurant. Never got around to trying the restaurant (like many eateries in Santa Fe, they keep kind of odd hours) but the gourmet chocolates at Todos Santos are truly out of this world.

Todos Santos chocolates in all their glory! (Feb. 2008)
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In fact, owner Hayward Simoneaux — who was spectacularly friendly and actually started to recognize Christine and I as “regulars” after a while — was named one of the 10 best artisan chocolatiers in the country by Chocolatier magazine in 2001. And man, does he deserve the title. Everything we tried in his shop was downright magical…

Our favorites were a dark chocolate mouse number with reddish fleur de sel on top and a dark chocolate morsel filled with homemade peanut butter that literally melted in your mouth. You never had peanut butter this velvety! Also good was a little dark chocolate horn filled with red chile cream…amazing!

And the chocolates are just the beginning, as the interior of the tiny shop itself looks like some crazy-cool fiesta scene from the Golden Age of Cine Mexicana. Beautifully decorated with colorful paper flowers, masks, Virgen de Guadalupe ornaments and tons of gold and silver (and even chocolate!) milagros, the place was breathtakingly cool.

Mas Todos Santos chocolates! (Feb. 2008)
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Todos Santos interior! (Feb. 2008)
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And the packaging was even cooler. Simoneaux’ bold, vivid boxes and wrapping were just as amazing as the chocolates inside…and, best of all, shockingly affordable. The funky little glass and silver box we bought below was like $10-12 and was filled with three or four of our favorite chocolates to boot. Hell, you’d pay almost twice that much for the chocolates alone in Los Angeles.

Cooler still was what happened my last day in Santa Fe. Knowing I had one more shot at securing some tasty take-home treats for Christine, I headed down to Todos Santos alone and was delighted to find the store completely changed for Easter. Everywhere you looked were bright spring colors, chocolate bunnies and a dazzling new array of handmade chocolates. Man, I wanted to buy everything…

Todos Santos packaging at its finest! (Feb. 2008)
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Luggage weight restrictions being what they are, however, I narrowed down my selections to a few individual pieces in another super cool box and two small bags of Easter goodness. One was filled with dark chocolate covered almonds lightly dusted with cocoa, and the other was filled with individually-wrapped caramels infused with chipotle pepper spice, that were even better than they sound. As Ginger would say: “Yummers!”

But perhaps my favorite thing about Todos Santos was the smell. If you could bottle that shit, it would sell like, well…chocolate-scented hotcakes. The aroma in that place was positively otherworldly, and I swear, if you stayed in there long enough (as we did on several occasions) you started to smell like chocolate…which, all things considered, is a pretty tasty way to start your day.

So, gracias, Todos Santos…your chocolates will live on in our dreams!

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