Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Seattle Chocolate Salon
I used to fantasize about being locked overnight in a chocolate shop, eating my fill of sweet chocolate treats. Who knew that one day my wish would come true?
Last weekend I attended the Seattle Chocolate Salon. This was a chocolate lovers' heaven. Over 20 makers of high-quality chocolates displaying their wares and giving out samples. That's a serious amount of chocolate to sample, but I was up for the challenge.
I had a friend along to help me sample and give balance to my opinions. She's a dark chocolate lover and I tilt toward milk chocolate, so we covered the offered spectrum well.
We worked our way around the conference room, tasting, asking questions, taking pictures, collecting brochures, and then going all the way around again to do a bit of shopping.
You might think a room full of chocolates would be a bit monotonous, but each chocolatier highlighted a different aspect of their craft. Some of the chocolates were so beautiful I don't know how you could bite into them. Gilded, pressed, garnished, and shaped; they were like edible works of art.
Some tables featured intriguing flavor combinations - Thai chili with lemongrass, dulce de leche chipotle, and habanero mango. Peppers and basil were popular flavors around the room. There was even a beer and potato chip truffle!
A couple of tables highlighted the sourcing of their chocolates with cacao bean pods and cocoa beans to touch, as well as information about the people who grow and harvest their beans.
The only downside to the Chocolate Salon was that the air conditioning was not working on one of the hottest days in Seattle. I felt sorry for the chocolatiers trying to display their wares in less than ideal circumstances.
All of the chocolatiers were excellent, but I'd like to highlight a couple of my favorites.
Andy's Handmade Chocolates - Andy is an IT guy by day and amazing chocolate guy the rest of the time. He makes each piece by hand and it shows. They were the smoothest chocolates I've ever tasted. Because of the short shelf life of his products (especially the dipped fruits), they aren't available through a store, only through orders on his website.
KeKau Chocolates featured some of the most beautiful chocolates at the show. Artistic garnishing and molding complemented the wonderful flavor combinations they feature.
Guittard chocolates is not a new name, but they were there to remind the bakers in the group of the range of products they carry and the consistency of their quality. I've baked with Guittard for quite a while and have never been disappointed.
Cadeaux Chocolates won best truffle in the show, and it's not surprising. They are delicious and beautiful, making a box of Cadeaux chocolates a fitting gift indeed. My friend bought two assortments and they were attractively wrapped and boxed.
Intrigue Chocolates features truffles that are not robed in chocolate, merely rolled in cocoa powder so there is not interference with the intense flavor of the truffle. The Basil truffle was like chewing on a basil leaf that had been dipped in chocolate! I bought a sampler of the six flavors that they featured at the show and plan on sharing one a day with my family. Small bites, happy faces.
Island Angel Chocolates gives the traveler yet another reason to visit beautiful Whidbey Island. Gorgeous truffles, brittle, toffee, fudge, and espresso's should be enough to lure anyone onto a ferry. My friend was particularly tempted by the handpainted tiles on which they displayed their truffles. These are available on Whidbey, as well.
Lula's Chocolates - Scott Lund of Lula's wasn't there to sell, but gave away a small mountain of luscious truffles, wrapped caramels, and amazing salted chocolate-dipped caramels. When I get to Monterey, Lula's is definitely on my itinerary!
Dilettante Chocolates has been a staple of the Seattle chocolate scene for as long as I can remember. Rather than getting old and stale, they just seem to improve and innovate. My favorite thing to put in my mouth at the salon was their chocolate-covered Bing Cherries. Amazing! And they're available at Trader Joe's, so I can get a fix whenever I do a T.J's run. Also, good news for Dilettante devotees, their Seattle store on Capitol Hill is moving to a new location with a restaurant and bar featuring, naturally, chocolate liquers. The grand opening is slated for Labor Day - mark your calendars!
And possibly my favorite from the show was Oh! Chocolate. The guys running the table were friendly and laid back, happy to meet everyone. Their chocolates were fabulous. The truffle topped with red peppercorns was an incredible taste and texture experience and my family swooned at the other samples I brought home. I am so happy that they have a retail store that's 15 minutes from my house!
If you are kicking yourself because you didn't get to go to the Chocolate Salon in Seattle, there will be two more this year. Chicago in September and Los Angleles in October. Don't miss out on the fun!