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Chocolate Show New York 2010

For years I’ve always thought about going to the Chocolate Show in New York but have never quite made it there.  I know folks who have the date of this annual fair imprinted on their brains so that an alarm goes off to get them in gear to buy the tickets to go to it.  It’s just never happened that way for me, despite the fact that I love chocolate and have such a large sweet tooth that I often give it up for Lent just to wean myself off of it a bit.

This was at the entrance to the show.  How impressive!

Yes, the dresses are made of chocolate.  I like the flapper one.

This year, as I’m writing more about food events around town for this blog, I decided to head over there to check it out for myself.  It was actually held in a much smaller space than the Fancy Food Show that I attended in June, which I was surprised to see.  The link to the fair gives a list of the participants. There were plenty of free samples to try, and some wonderful vendors with whom to speak about their products.  I walked away finding a few new favorite chocolatiers and had nice pleasant buzz from all the items we consumed.  Here’s the ones that I really loved and some others that I found really interesting. The ones that knocked my socks off:

Co Co. Sala Chocolate Lounge & Boutique

Located in Washington, DC in what used to be a less-than-savory neighborhood (actually right near the old 9:30 Club), this restaurant with chocolate boutique spin-off seems very cute from its website.  The chocolates look gorgeous and come in some interesting flavor combinations, including chocolate covered bacon.  What was really the test, however, was trying some of it.  They use high-end products like Valrhona to make their creations.  One of these, the white chocolate with sea salt and pink pepper was amazing (pictured right)!  It made me sneak back for seconds, after I spoke to the owner Bharet Malhotra and promised to stop in and see her when I in town again.  Right now, outside of Washington, these products are only available online.

How can you turn down hand-rolled truffles created by the winner of the Gold Medal in the 2008 Culinary Olympics?  Not easily.  Not only, did these chocolates look gorgeous in their display case, but they also tasted fantastic.  I wouldn’t have thought of putting chocolate truffle and gingerbread together, but Håkan Mårtensson did, and it was fantastic!  Creamy, smooth chocolate in a shell with chocolate and studded with gingerbread created a flavor explosion in my mouth with an extra punch of ginger at the end.  His lingonberry truffle was no different with its sweet-tart and chocolate combination. My favorite, however, was the one that he offered me at the end: a caramel with sea-salt crunch.  Sweet, creamy, buttery, and salty.  It reminded me of the Bourbon Vanilla Sea Salt Caramel ice creamthat I had at the New Amsterdam Ice Cream Festival this summer. With three locations in New York City, it will be difficult not to find an excuse to stop by and visit them.  And Håkan and his team have promised me that their coffee will rival what I used to get in Italy.

No doubt one of the most interesting samples that I had all day was from this New York State vendor.  The look of the chocolates was enticing enough with their simple but lovely packaging and well-crafted confections.  To get to try a sake-infused truffle was something else indeed.  Unlike the rum or bourbon balls of old, which still frighten me to this day, the liquor in this sweet was smooth and subtle.  It would make a very unique addition to a mixed gift box.  Right now, these are only available online.

Other interesting finds:

Originally launched in the UK, this chocolate company is a Fair Trade pioneer.  They work with a cooperative of cocoa farmers in Ghana and reinvest in the community from which they draw their business.  We sampled their raspberry and mint flavors.  Both had smooth, rich tones to them.  This chocolate is available at several retailers including Whole Foods and online.

These folks brought with them samples of a treat that is part-brownie, part-truffle because who really likes to have to choose, right?  Their Truffibites and Truffipops were enticing to the eye and the mouth.  These would be a unique treat for your next social gathering.  The other great thing about their products is that they carry a gluten-free line as well.  These are available online.

Italy also has a tradition of artisan chocolates, so I was pleased to see a few representatives at the fair.  If I’d been able to sample some of these truffles, I think that they would have gone into my top tier of tastes of the day.  Unfortunately, they didn’t have any that they could share with me.  It’s too bad because I had my eye on the white chocolate covered ones with gianduja, olive oil, sea salt, and hazelnut, which I was told were “ottimo.”  Right now, they are available at BuonItalia and are looking for other distributors.

One look at these lovely chocolates and you can see why they are an amazing gift or bridal/wedding shower idea.  They are also kosher, which is ideal for the holiday season coming up soon.  They will work with you on custom design ideas or you can choose from their art-worthy selection of Sweet Paper sheets.  These were really almost too pretty to eat, but then it is chocolate after all!  Contact them via email or telephone to find out how you can get your hands on these gorgeous items.

I’ve seen this family-run business’ products at Fulton Stall Market.  At one glance, you are drawn into the colors and smells of their teas, spices, and herbs.  It is just the most gorgeous array visually.  I can see how their selection would dress up anyone’s chocolate designs to create some unique flavor combinations.  As their website is still under development, the best way to reach them at the moment looks to be via email or at one of their in-person appearances.

All the way from Florida, these chocolatiers came to show everyone their wares.  We were able to try their Bananas Foster Truffles.  Amazing bursts of rum and banana and chocolate hit my palate.  These were definitely dinner party or special occasion chocolates, and they looked gorgeous to boot.  A box of these would be a wonderful gift.  They have a shop in Florida and sell online.

Buon appetito!

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