The New York Chocolate Show, as its tagline states, is “the world’s largest event dedicated to chocolate.” …Or to many, heaven on earth. …And for me, the cause of a three-day chocolate high. As I admit in my “about” section, as healthy as I may attempt to be, chocolate will always be a part of my life. I choose to believe the studies that say chocolate is good for you. You know, antioxidants and all. I currently limit my cocoa intake, but sometimes you just have to let loose.
Last Thursday, opening day of the 2011 event, marked my second year volunteering in the kids’ zone of the Chocolate Show. In 2010, the children’s section was hosted by Karen of Young Chefs Academy in Forest Hills, NY. We had a blast showing kids how to trace pictures with chocolate on waxed paper turning images into an artistic treat. There were also stations to make chocolate spoon lollipops, decorate a chef’s hat, and roll out chocolate pasta. This year there wasn’t a sponsor for the children’s activities, so we volunteers took the lead with the Chocolate Show’s designated activities, two of which were repeats: decorate a chef’s hat and make a chocolate spoon lollipop, and as something new we made chocolate-pretzel sculptures and snack necklaces. My creations served as samples:
Kids were definitely excited to have a whole hands-on section where they could do really do something and eat even more chocolate. The show itself is geared more toward adults with free samples of chocolates that sell in the range of $5 to $30. Free entry for volunteering and as many samples as I can smuggle? Yes, please!
I wasn’t planning on actually buying anything, but Salt of the Earth based right next door in the West Village broke me. I have a thing for chocolate with sea salt, and this bakery takes it up a notch with high quality baked goods. You could tell they were new to the show because their sample sizes were quite generous with half a big cookie or a fourth of a brownie. They even encouraged me to try three types: orignal fudge, Mayan with cinnamon and hot pepper, and the OMG with caramel. A box of Mayan brownies ended up coming home with me for Mike, but I wish I had picked up the OMG too. If you live in NY, you can find them at a few locations in Manhattan and they’re looking to expand to more retailers.
Once I justified my purchase with the fact that I gained free entry to the $35-$40/ticket show by volunteering, I decided I could splurge on a few more vendors. Peanut Butter & Co won out, along with four others. To my dear family, forget you saw this. One of these just might be a present for you.
A box of one of my favorite truffles that I sampled, a stack of chocolates sourced from various countries, colonial chocolate, the beloved brownies, 2 Chicks peanut brittle, some chocolate PB and some maple flavored PB.
The American Heritage Chocolate is something I’ve never seen before sold exclusively at historic sites in the US (…and the Chocolate Show). It’s a finely grated chocolate drink, made simply with water for a rich cocoa or it can be used in baking. It is made with all-natural ingredients and no preservatives using only ingredients available during the 17th century. Anise, red pepper, nutmeg, orange, and cinnamon, vanilla, salt, and sugar are all part of the mix. It’s definitely got a kick to it.
Some of my other favorites I didn’t pick up, but would recommend:
I’ve seen these bars sold around the corner from me; I will now be on the lookout for the Mint Dark Chocolate.
Pumpkin spice and eggnog pretzels: Not chocolate, but soooooo good. Seasonal, so they must be good for you, right?
Some Payard chocolates. My favorite bite was the handmade Picasso, a ganache infused with earl gray tea in the creamy center, retailing $1.50 a piece – but you can try one or two gratis. Do you want to go to the show yet?
As it turned out, these were my favorite truffles pictured on the right, but by the time I got here I had already hit my budget.
To round out the day, some strawberry sorbet cleanses your palette. Or have some more chocolate. Either way.
One of the best parts of the show (aside from all those samples) are the cooking demos. Last year I watched Jacques Torres create a chocolate Christmas tree and gorgeous chocolate presents. It’s posted on youtube if you want to watch. This year Giuseppe Castellano of Tiella Restaurant was making chocolate pappardelle in mascarpone pistacchi balsamic sauce while I was there, so I popped in to see.
Oh. My. Gosh. Amazing. I love that chefs prepare extra dishes backstage so everyone gets a decent sized bowl to sample. In hopes that all of the dishes are this good, I definitely plan on checking out Tiella soon.
And remember the exhibitors’ free samples I mentioned? I brought home at least 50% more than last year. A ziplock bag or two come in awfully handy, as does a big smile. For the most part I took only one and palmed it, placing it in my stash for later. Some looked so good I just had to eat them and get one extra for the road.
Wait, you didn’t think that was it, did you?
Ah, yes, there it is.
If you can attend or volunteer on a weekday, it’s much less crowded. You can have a longer chat with the exhibitors and score more chocolate. I’m sorry to say my samples are all gone already. But I’ll happily take more chocolate if you’re offering!