The Embarcadero–Something New and Something Old

I like nothing more than discovering something new.  Well, new to me anyway.  Last weekend, a typical warm spring day in the city, I decided to go for a walk along San Francisco’s waterfront.  Starting out from the Ferry Building, and after working my way through the bustling weekend Farmer‘s Market, I headed west along the Embarcadero, toward the Golden Gate Bridge.  Definitely a day’s walk, but I had Flat Stacey photos to finish taking.

Walking along, I noted all the changes taking place along the Embarcadero.  New restaurants.  Pier renovations.  Public promenades.  And as I approached Pier 17, I saw a new storefront and a sign above the window that read “TCHO Tasting Room.”  I wondered, what the heck is TCHO.  So, I went in.  Evidently, a chocolate factory has set up shop on Pier 17 and the small storefront serves as a tasting room/coffee shop/chocolate store.  Its just big enough for a small counter, where coffee and chocolate drinks are served and the free tasting chips are mounded on plates, two wire shelving units holding displays of packaged chocolate squares, and about six people.  The first thing to catch my eye was all the color in the room.  Each color represents a flavor on their Flavor Wheel: six flavors from Citrus (yellow) to Chocolaty (dark brown).  All their flavors are currently blended with dark chocolate, which is not a problem for me.  Dark’s my favorite.  But their beta version of a milk chocolate is available on their website.

I am excited about having a new chocolate factory in San Francisco.  The TCHO factory is in the pier behind the storefront.  The woman working the tasting room mentioned they will offer tours in the near future.  They pride themselves on making their chocolate from the bean, and carefully choosing the source, trying to promote social change.  So they’ve partnered with cacao growers to help incorporate best growing and harvesting practices.  And the care they put into the source reflects in the final product.  The chocolate tasted so fresh and it became smooth and creamy as it melted on my tongue.  They are definitely a welcome addition to the waterfront.

There have in fact been many changes along San Francisco’s waterfront.  It all started several years ago when the palm trees that line the Embarcadero were planted.  I remember thinking, why are they planting palm trees…in San Francisco…along there.  Back then, the Embarcadero, between Market Street and Pier 39, was a wasteland.  A stretch of road traversed mainly by tourists on their way to Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf or people who worked in the decrepit buildings that lined the water.  There was no reason to stop along the way.  Now many restaurants have popped up and piers are going through renovations, one by one.  I read that even the Exploratorium, which has long been housed at the Palace of Fine Arts, will be moving to Pier 15 in a few years, after some serious renovation.  Sketches of proposed changes are inspiring.

But upon approaching Pier 39, and then Fisherman’s Wharf beyond, the changes end.  Abruptly.  The shops along Pier 39 haven’t changed since I moved here 12 years ago, and I imagine since long before that.  The buildings and tacky storefronts along Fisherman’s Wharf are all circa 1950’s—featureless and without character.  It’s the land that time forgot.  Sure, droves of tourists still flock there.  It is the Wharf, world famous for steamed crabs and sourdough bowls filled with chowder.  And perhaps I’m a bit jaded because I live here, but I’m often embarrassed at the site of that area.  Its lack of character that is prevalent throughout most of the rest of the San Francisco.

Perhaps the change that is spreading out from the Ferry Building’s clock tower will eventually reach Fisherman’s Wharf.  Only time will tell.

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