There are few if any flavors or foods more universally beloved than chocolate. I know I can't give it up even though it is a potential contributor to the formation of kidney stones – and I have had kidney stones! So when I had the opportunity to attend the NYC Chocolate Show at Pier 94 earlier this month, I jumped on it.
My first taste of the show was the night before when I attended the NYC Chocolate Fashion Show, which was followed by a preview of the Chocolate Show. That preview was sparsely attended and I had the opportunity to speak to a few chocolate makers and taste a few samples. The chocolates I was most impressed with that night and some of the most impressive of the show belonged to the Newport Beach, California chocolate maker, Christopher Michael. His chocolates were beautiful, boasted inventive combinations, were well balanced and delicious. In particular, I enjoyed his passion fruit caramel, the mojito and the rosemary truffle. The bon bons were not too sweet and the flavors were distinct and crisp. As of the show, Christopher Michael did not yet have an East Coast distributor, though I know there was plenty of interest expressed.
I returned the following morning and by the time I left the show later that afternoon, I said something that I never thought I would have heard myself say, "I have had enough chocolate!" Although a number of high profile chocolate makers and companies were absent such Michel Cluizel and NYC's own Kee's and Marie Belle Chocolates, there were more than enough to make me dizzy with the variety. Very little was less than excellent, though I paced myself and restricted myself to those vendors that really interested me or were unique. Of course Valrhona was present. They have always been at the top of my chocolate preferences and the show proved to be no exception to that. Amedei from Italy was also present. They had samples of some of their chocolate "crus", but were not providing any of some of their more interesting looking products such as their chocolate and fruit blends, "Toscano Red e Blond." Other notable companies with good product included Chuao, Guittard, Jacques Torres, Payard and Barry Callebaut.
Chuao, in particular, had some of the more unusual products including a "firecracker" with dark chocolate, caramel fudge, chipotle, salt and pop rocks. The pop rocks in the chocolate reminded me of the bob-bons of Oriol Balaguer. His were the first incorporating pop rocks in my experience. I first had his back in 2004 and they were truly a revelation. The "firecracker" was tasty and fun – the pop rocks really do provide a nice sensation. In addition, they had some cool spiced chocolates, including some with szechuan peppercorns.
Guittard was the only company selling large volume packages (5kg) of chocolate at a discount. I took advantage of that with plenty of holiday baking coming up. Barry-Callebaut had one of the better traffic draws as they had a pastry chef, Derrick Pho, sculpt a bust of the newly elected Barack Obama out of chocolate.
As I was swimming through this sea f chocolate there were a few other vendors that stood out to me. Cotton Tree Lodge is a resort located in Belize that offers their guests an opportunity to experience "bean to bar" chocolate making at their lodge in Belize. They have a one week program that provides participants an opportunity to visit local cacao farms, partake of hands-on chocolate making workshops and make their very own chocolate bars. Pralus is a French company with a wide range of chocolate sources that makes their own tasty chocolate directly from beans. Serendipitea's products were relatively unique and good – chocolate infused teas. I particularly liked and bought their "Strawberry Kisses – Chocolate and Strawberry Fruit Blend" with Rooibos tea.
I became reacquainted with some products I first encountered and fell in love with at the 2007 NY Fancy Foods Show – the chocolates from France's Madamoiselle de Margaux, in particular their mint twigs. I bought a case of them and their chocolate covered cherries to give as gifts.
The products that most caught my attention though during this show were the ganaches from Mary Chocolate Co., LTD, a Japanese chocolate co. that unfortunately is not usually available in the U.S. I tried three that really blew my mind. One was a green tea-chocolate ganache. Another was chocolate and sake and the third had soybean flour. For me the product of the show was the green tea ganache.
The show was not only about tasting chocolate samples. There were a number of demonstrations as well. The day I was there some of the highlights included a demonstration by Francois Payard, "Making a Pudding Cake" and another by Francine Segan entitled "Chocolate Pasta." In addition she provided good historical background on chocolate. Her pasta was not literally made from chocolate. Instead, it was spaghetti prepared with a classic brown-butter and sage sauce and finished with "Chocaviar" chocolate pearls that melted and created a sauce as the spaghetti was swirled. She provided a sample for everyone in the audience. It was delicious and something to keep in mnd as a fun dish for a future dinner party. Unfortunately, I lost track of time and missed the presentation by Steve Klc. There were a few presentations the following day including ones by Michael Recchiutti and Derek Poirier that I would have liked to have seen, but unfortunately I had to head back home.
Al in all it was a fun time and a rewarding visit. I hope to attend again in the future.
For more photos, please see the Photo Album.l