Photo by Todd Lappin.

The Urbane Grandmother leads you to hidden places in San Francisco that appeal to kids of all ages. Subscribe for free at www.TheUrbaneGrandmother.com where you can download her free app ‘San Francisco for Kids.

Oh, pity the poor chocolate-loving grandparent! What are we to do when our children insist that our grandchildren must not eat sweets - specifically chocolate? Their good health is of paramount importance and their parent’s wishes must be respected. But, major health issues aside, we must reason for the importance of a bit of chocolate from time to time. A little something-something to soften the impact of life’s rocky road, as it were. And for the importance of including chocolate in the celebrations in our lives.

Chocolate walked into my life when I was 7 years old. If you were to ask any San Franciscan of a certain age if they remember Blum’s they will reply with a quick “I loved Blum’s...did you ever have the …. fill-in-the-blank?’.  For some it was the Coffee Crunch Cake, for others, like me, it was the Hot Fudge Sundae (HFS). This was no ordinary sundae. This was the iconic HFS to which all the others I have consumed in the past 40 years have been measured. A tall parfait glass was filled 1/4 full with hot fudge. Scoops of vanilla ice cream next, more hot fudge, real whipped cream, toasted nuts and, of course, a cherry on top. But what set this HFS aside was the stainless steel pitcher of hot fudge that accompanied each order. Dark, thick, chocolate sauce that hardened when it hit the cold ice cream and turned into fudge. It was sensory overload. The hot sauce was the perfect foil to the cold ice cream. The crisp nuts provided just the right resistance and contrast to the smooth whipped cream. The trick was to get a spoonful of cold ice cream, hot sauce, whipped cream and crunchy nuts in your mouth at one time. All the while the clock was ticking. Linger too long and the entire concoction melted into a brown soupy mess.

I know that Blum’s HFS would not have loomed so large in my memory if I was allowed to have one any time I wanted. I only had them a few times a year - during the holidays after a performance of the San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker Suite or as a reward for a great report card. Which is just as well. Too much of a good (and chocolate) thing is just that - too much. The special becomes ordinary and mundane. The concept of a special treat disappears because there are no treats - there is open season on all that is sweet.

That Hot Fudge Sundae conjures up a feeling of happiness in the soul of this old child. A happiness brought on from the memory of generous, kind adults who wanted to acknowledge my accomplishments or commemorate our time together. Since the sense of smell, and therefore taste, is our longest memory, I propose we gift our grandchildren with the transformational experience of a piece of delicious chocolate early on. For it will be the sense memory of that lovely piece of chocolate and their time with you that will get them through the hard times later on in life. They may not remember that you were the first to give them the gift of the joy of chocolate but somehow you will be there with them again and again as a constant source of comfort.

Blum’s may be gone but San Francisco has a deep, rich chocolate history that began in 1849 and continues today.  Ghirardelli. Guittard. Both enterprising men who saw an opportunity during the Gold Rush when wealthy miners were willing to pay a lot of money for luxuries like chocolate. Once the gold rush was over, the real winners were the businesses that had provided services to the transient population of men and women on their way to (and from) the gold mines. Not unlike our more recent booms…

Chocolate Worth Eating in San Francisco

Guittard: Fog City News at 455 Market Street carries the City’s widest selection of chocolate bars including the E. Guittard line.

Ghirardelli: There is a retail store on Stockton Street but don’t miss the one at Ghirardelli Square that includes an ice cream fountain and an exhibit of chocolate making equipment.

TCHO: Pier 17 on the Embarcadero. Take the tour of the chocolate factory with children 8 and over only. This is the newest American chocolate company and they are doing a great job.

You can visit these spots on the same day, if you dare. Begin your walk at the Ferry Building. As you leave the building, head north along the Embarcadero to TCHO at Pier 17 then on the Ghirardelli Square.  It is an easy, level walk that will help you burn off those extra chocolate calories!