San Diego is so cute.

Between the sunshine, the water, the palm trees, and the colorful little neighborhoods dotting the landscape, San Diego beckons to visitors and makes you want to explore. Since I was there for the race last weekend, I went in search of chocolate.

Little Italy is a gorgeous segment of town, chock-full – as you might expect – with Italian restaurants. The whole area has a charm and vivacity that kept it humming with visitors all through a coolish Saturday afternoon.

When in San Diego... find chocolate! Little Italy's Caxao and Eclipse near Balboa Park. A perfect day! | #TheChocolateTourist blog

Welcome to Little Italy!

When in San Diego... find chocolate! Little Italy's Caxao and Eclipse near Balboa Park. A perfect day! | #TheChocolateTourist blog

Even the manhole covers are cute in Little Italy

When in San Diego... find chocolate! Little Italy's Caxao and Eclipse near Balboa Park. A perfect day! | #TheChocolateTourist blog

Mighty fine day

And tucked away on a side street in San Diego’s Little Italy is a tiny shop, just six months old.

Caxao Artisan Chocolate.

Too much cuteness pointing the way to Caxao. When in San Diego... find chocolate! Little Italy's Caxao and Eclipse near Balboa Park. A perfect day! | #TheChocolateTourist blog

One of the cutest signs I’ve ever seen

On the way to Caxao, surrounded by cuteness. When in San Diego... find chocolate! Little Italy's Caxao and Eclipse near Balboa Park. A perfect day! | #TheChocolateTourist blog The storefront for Caxao Artisan Chocolate. When in San Diego... find chocolate! Little Italy's Caxao and Eclipse near Balboa Park. A perfect day! | #TheChocolateTourist blog

Serving handmade, small batch chocolate, coffee and tea. And cake.

I got to chat with the proprietor, Beatriz, who mans the counter, makes the chocolate, and has a blast. Not only does she lovingly concoct flavors and textures to please her customers’ tastes, but she hosts outdoor movies the last Friday of each month.

Movies and chocolate – two of my favorite things!

Unique seasonal flavors in Caxao's handmade chocolate bars. When in San Diego... find chocolate! Little Italy's Caxao and Eclipse near Balboa Park. A perfect day! | #TheChocolateTourist blog

When in San Diego... find chocolate! Little Italy's Caxao and Eclipse near Balboa Park. A perfect day! | #TheChocolateTourist blog

Featuring natural and seasonal ingredients – this dark chocolate bar mixes rose petals, lavender, pistachios and strawberries

Caxao's chocolate-covered hibiscus flowers. Flavor and texture akin to dried cranberries! When in San Diego... find chocolate! Little Italy's Caxao and Eclipse near Balboa Park. A perfect day! | #TheChocolateTourist blog

Champagne cake. Fudge cake. Caxao makes cake. When in San Diego... find chocolate! Little Italy's Caxao and Eclipse near Balboa Park. A perfect day! | #TheChocolateTourist blog

Cake. Why not?

Beatriz loves to hear customers’ responses to her unique flavors – trying something they’ve never tried, and it’s something she made. So rewarding.

Caxao is the ultimate result of a culinary class Beatriz took as a distraction from the J-O-B she was working every day. She was encouraged by her professor to focus on chocolate. “Chocolate is hard,” she admits, “you have to get everything just right. But it meant a lot that a professional chef would see such potential in me.”

Caxao chocolate found a home in farmers’ markets and local events, but Beatriz loves having her own shop. It’s one of a kind here in Little Italy, and a steady stream of traffic nips in and out during our Saturday afternoon conversation.

“There’s nothing else – no other food – that gives you that feeling. Chocolate is special.”

Right?

I couldn’t resist a taste of the chocolate-covered hibiscus flowers. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a flower before, save the rose petals incorporated into a chocolate bar here and there. Beatriz mentioned the flavor and texture would be similar to chocolate-covered cranberries and she was exactly right.

The tart, chewy flowers dredged in dark chocolate seem to wake up your mouth and satisfy your sweet tooth at the same time. And the shape and color of the flowers make a statement for any snacktime treat.

It’s a chocolatey delight that looks good and tastes good! Win.

When in San Diego... find chocolate! Little Italy's Caxao and Eclipse near Balboa Park. A perfect day! | #TheChocolateTourist blog

Eclipse Chocolate, right next to San Diego’s famous Balboa Park

When in San Diego... find chocolate! Little Italy's Caxao and Eclipse near Balboa Park. A perfect day! | #TheChocolateTourist blog

Serving a busy brunch every single day… I had to order mine with a side of chocolate

After an EARLY-morning 5k on Sunday – even after the post-race chocolate extravaganza – I was ready for some food. Thankfully Eclipse Chocolate had me covered, serving brunch every day and offering chocolate as well.

With side items like roasted white chocolate in the biscuits and gravy or chile burnt caramel hollandaise on your eggs, chances are you will order chocolate whether you really mean to or not.

And of course, I always mean to.

The quiche was tender and flaky, touched with the caramel hollandaise and definitely enhanced by the knowledge I had two chocolates waiting for me after.

Eclipse has a wide array of choices in their chocolate case, but I knew I wanted something spicy. Going with my newfound interest in caramels (and my alltime interest in truffles), I chose one of each.

The caramel was sweeter and softer than I would prefer (the kind that falls apart when you bite it, following its other half when you pull it away from your mouth and finding a home on your chin). But the heat from the chile complemented it nicely.

The truffle was similarly nice – a more tart roast and sweeter than I usually go for, but good and spicy. Chiles and chocolate! Such a great combination.

Spicy chocolate truffles and caramels from Eclipse Chocolates. When in San Diego... find chocolate! Little Italy's Caxao and Eclipse near Balboa Park. A perfect day! | #TheChocolateTourist blog

Cerrano pepper truffle and Salted chipotle caramel

So how was your weekend? Any chocolate adventures on your horizon?



Post filed under Cafes, California, Chocolate + Anything = Good, The Chocolate Tourist and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , .

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