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November 26, 2007

Safari Report Part Three

Two long posts and I still have things I need to address. Here goes.

First, in the first part of the show report I mentioned the artist doing collages who I couldn’t figure out who was. Finally got it! She is Christina Stahr and her chocolate work is called (ready for this) Chocolate Obsession Collages! I love the name (of course). But I love the idea and it's well executed too. So glad I actually looked at the program for the show or I'd never have figured it out. Couldn't remember the Chocolate Obsession connection. I'm bad.

Movin’ on!

I was glad to see Dagoba had a booth and I was especially glad to see that they had a number of bars that I had read about but never had a chance to try yet. So I took a stack of bars home with me (the classic Xocolatl, Lemon Ginger, Seeds, Superfruit, and Prima Materia with 100% cacao content!). I was tempted by the Xocolatl Nibs, but will try them later (I can’t get everything all at once).

Another company in attendance that I was familiar with was Theo Chocolate. I’d only had one of their bars before and they had a pack of their five Origin bars so I grabbed one to give it a shot (I was going to buy just a couple of bars until they realized that with the price they had posted it was cheaper to buy the bars individually – glad the mistake was caught and I was able to get more for less). As I said, I haven’t tried a lot of their chocolate, so I’m interested in how these bars are.

Bits and pieces….

Picked up a Nocturne bar from E. Guittard which I don't think I had never seen before. 91% cacao content on this one so it should be interesting.

Got to pick up one of Amano’s new limited edition Cuyagua bars. I love the small batch producers because they have the ability to take a small batch of really special beans and make a small run bar. There may be variance between individual bars and individual batches, but that’s one of the charms of the small batch. Each bar is an adventure.

Oliver Kita had some really great looking chocolate Buddhas. Very cool. And sadly that’s about all I remember from that booth.

Coppeneur had a really nice booth and I swear that they were talking up a brand new NYC location but I can’t seem to find any evidence of it. This bothers me. Anyway, I tried a bar with ginger and banana and it was pretty darn tasty.

After researching Coppeneur I find myself wanting to visit Fog City News in San Francisco.

Capital One? You can’t go anywhere these days without somebody trying to get you to accept a credit card. And Marriot Vacation Club. Why? I realize that they’re paying for space, but can we focus please? This is the New York CHOCOLATE Show.

Mad Mac! Macarons and Madeleins by the box. The looked lovely and I need to look into them in the future. I like macarons. They is yummy. And the Mad Mac ones looked very pretty and very tasty.

The chocolates from Anna Shea Chocolates were beautiful. I should have bought some.

Chocolate Bar NYC. I was planning on visiting so I just sort of looked at the pretty bars and shirts and stuff and moved on. I never got to the store/café so it’s on my list of things left undone (to be handled on my next trip to the city).

Cosmic Chocolate had some very attractive chocolate hearts (hand painted) and I grabbed some since I had never heard of them and would likely never have another shot to try them before Chocolate Show 2008. Their other big deal item was a small set with celebrity faces on them. A uber-gimmicky product like that makes me worry for the quality of the hearts, but they get the benefit of the doubt for now.

Mars had Java Twix samples, but they weren’t passing them out while I was in the area and the show got to be too crowded for me to be happy there any more so I went without.

There are a number of places I don’t even remember seeing (and some I know I saw and just can't remember) and I’ve got to get some of their chocolates at some point. No rush, I suppose, but I feel like I may have missed out on something somewhere.

Ok, I think that will do for now. Next up is a quick rundown of my quick tour of the city's chocolatiers. The ones I managed to hit.

November 25, 2007

Safari Report Part Two

Ok now, where was I?

Ah, yes. I had just partaken of the goodness that is the Smokey Blue Truffle. A pretty amazing little treat. Just a few short feet away was the booth from the lovely people from SweetRiot who make chocolate covered nibs in varying levels of dark chocolate and packaged in those little art covered tins. I had been hoping that the cinnamon version that they had for the holidays last year might be back, but no such luck. Still, it was nice to get a taste of an old friend.

Across the way from them was the booth for Chocolate Moderne, one of the chocolatiers I had been hoping to get a taste of while I was in the city. They make some very attractive chocolates with some very good sounding flavors. I didn’t pay them quite the attention that I felt they were due as I was planning to grab something from them later in the week as I worked the city over. In retrospect I really wish I had given them some more time as I never got around to finding any of their collections around town. Ah, hindsight.

I knew I was planning on hitting Cluizel and Torres actual stores while I was in town so I kind of breezed past them as well. Lindt kind of falls into that category as well, though I did spend some time talking cookbooks there (I need to add their cookbook to my collection). And on the subject of cookbooks the Barnes and Noble booth had a pretty impressive collection of them including a lot that I had never even seen and one that I had been trying to find a good copy of for a long while - La Maison du Chocolat. I’d seen a copy or two before, but they always tended to be in less than wonderful shape and now I finally got my hands on a nice clean copy.

Back around the corner, in the booth next to Lillie Belle was Fairytale brownies and I had a nice sample from them. They do a good brownie and are somebody I need to look at again in the future. Before I get to them, though, I have some local brownie action I need to address.

Chuao had a nice booth with samples of their bars. There are a couple of their bars that I hadn’t had the pleasure of trying before and this was a nice opportunity to remedy that. The Earl Grey was good, but the bar I was most surprised by was the Spicy Maya. I had tried the Spicy Maya hot chocolate last year and loved it and the bar was (at least to my memory) exactly the same as the hot chocolate. They are both fantastic. I’m looking forward to trying more from them.

Another “old favorite” I got to visit with was Charles Chocolates. Prior to this I had only had the opportunity to try their bars, but this time I had the opportunity to try a couple of their other pieces. First up was a Mojito Heart which, like it sounds, is a mojito chocolate in the shape of a heart. Quite tasty if you like mojitos. The crowd seemed to have a very mixed reaction to my eyes, but I enjoyed it. I also got to try one of their Orange Twigs which are, frankly, awesome. I missed out on the Caramel Almond Sticks, but I’ll get to try them, and the Tea Collection (tea and chocolate is my latest love) later on. Oh, I also got to say hi to Chuck Siegel, the man behind it all. Seems a nice guy.

The next of the places that I really fell hard for was John and Kira’s, from Philly. I feel bad that my attention was so easily captured by their cute ladybug (in mint, raspberry, and honey lavender) and honey caramel bee chocolates. My attention shifted quickly, though, and it was the figs that finally caught my eye. Their normal fig is filled with ganache and dipped in chocolate and look and sound great. The one I got to try was their Fig “Pumpkin” Bonbons. They have a whiskey clove ganache and a (orange colored) white chocolate coating. The coating and the stem protruding from the top make them look just like little pumpkins. And they taste amazing. One of my very favorite items from my trip. I’ve got to order more. They’re just fantastic.

The last place I’ll cover today is Mary’s Chocolate. They make the trip from Japan for the show and do I ever feel blessed for their attendance. First, their booth was one of the cooler booths at the show. They were actually coating and decorating chocolates in the booth and, even better, they were very accommodating to people who wanted to take pictures. And they were generous with the samples. They were handing out their Green Tea, Dark Sesame, and (apparently) Passion Fruit ganaches. The Green Tea is another of my favorites from the show. Fantastically smooth and tasty. The Dark Sesame is also great. While I was there I got (what I think was) a Toasted Sesame Truffle which was also very good.

Tomorrow I’ll finish yapping about the show itself with some talk about the booths that I sort of breezed through and some of the things I need to address next time I go (hopefully 2008). Then I’ll talk a little about the chocolatiers I visited in the city and wrap up the trip with some of the items I need to address next time I head for the big city.

November 21, 2007

Safari Report Part One

First off - I added some more pictures to the set - they're all in the same set as the previous entry and are tagged with "round2" for easy filing (a sad workaround for not being willing to go pro on Flickr just yet). The whole mess is found here as before or you can go down to the prior entry and use the cool little PictoBrowser thangaroo. There are no descriptions or real titles yet, but hopefully that will change in short order.

And on to the content!.

Sadly things weren’t timed quite as well as I would have liked them to be and I didn’t get to New York until Saturday evening so my only shot at the chocolate show was Sunday. So, after rambling about the city on foot Saturday evening, I got up bright and early and started my walk down to 18th to where the show was. I figured it would be nice to start things off with a bagel so I stopped at a place I had noticed the night before and got a shmear and sat and enjoyed it for a bit. When I had finished with my bagel I turned my nose back toward 18th and pushed on. Ended up getting there with more than a half hour to spare so I decided that I would switch gears to my original breakfast plan of hitting City Bakery, which, I had heard, had some of the best hot chocolate in the city. Got a cup with a fresh marshmallow and enjoyed that while killing time. Got to say it was one of the better cups I’ve had (and if you were around for hot chocolate week last winter you’ll know I’ve had a few). Not too thick to drink, not so hot it burns. It was pretty darn good and as the marshmallow slowly shrank it added a little extra sweet creamy something that was quite the nice addition.

But a cup of hot chocolate just can’t last forever and when it was gone I decided to add myself to the queue for tickets to the show. I hadn’t bothered with getting my tickets ahead of time so I was forced to wait in line. The line moved pretty quickly, though, and they gave out these little Valrhona chocolate stick things (and who doesn’t love free chocolate - good chocolate at that) so I wasn’t too worried about the line. Getting in to the ticket desk brought up one of my major complaints about the show. Tickets were cash only. And guess how many atm machines there were to help out those who found themselves short of cash during the day. ZERO. Bad form. Tsk. Cash only tickets aren't so much a problem if there are ample atms around, but that, alas, was not the case.

So, with ticket in hand I was able to finally get into the chocolate show, just a year later than planned. The first thing that greeted me was a nice little art exhibit of something I had been thinking of doing myself: sort of collages made of chocolate bar wrappers. I love the art and style that goes into a lot of the packaging and these showcased some very nice wrappers in a nice classy manner. I wish they had the appropriate info on the Chocolate Show website, but they don’t have it filled in so I can’t give props where due and that disappoints me. I’ll keep trying to figure it out.

She is Christina Stahr and her chocolate work is called (ready for this) Chocolate Obsession Collages! I love the name (of course). But I love the idea and it's well executed too. So glad I actually looked at the program for the show or I'd never have figured it out. Couldn't remember the Chocolate Obsession connection. I'm bad.

Anyway, after that we had some more chocolate art, which I took a couple of shots of. It’s nice. Reminds me of Ikebana which I quite like. I afforded it less time than I really should have, though. I was in a hurry to get into the show and make sure I managed to get my hands on a certain something before it disappeared.

After trying a generic mass-produced truffle (the kind you can buy a jillion of in a little box at the grocery) from someplace I will never remember the name of I quickly made my way to the Lillie Belle Farms booth where I got to chat a bit and try the award winning Smokey Blue Truffle. For those who are unfamiliar they took the award winning Rogue Creamery Smokey Blue Cheese and made a truffle with it and toasted almonds. It is pretty amazing that chocolate and blue cheese could go so well together, but it really works beautifully. It’s smokey, creamy, tangy and all around wonderful. One of the two best things I tried at the show. And one of the three best I tried while in New York. I bought a package of the truffles and a package of chocolate covered dried pears (I love dried pears) and when these are gone I’m going to have to order some more. They are one of those items that are just too good not to share.

More to come..... tomorrow most likely. I've been a bit busy baking today.

November 19, 2007

There's No Place Like Home

Friday evening I finally returned home and Saturday morning I had recovered the rabbit and settled in for a bit of rest and the big game on the tube (OSU v Michigan of course). I've got to admit I was (and still am) exhausted. It wasn't until yesterday before I even tried to get my thoughts organized as to how to address the whole adventure. The only thing that makes sense to me is to break it all up into smaller more digestible pieces. There is a lot of ground to cover and a lot to organize and I even have a lot of pictures yet to take. But I need to get started at some point, so this is it.

The first thing I'm going to do is to get the initial batch of photos uploaded. A lot of them didn't turn out as well as I'd like so a good number of them just didn't make the final cut. I really wish I had more decent shots from the Chocolate Show, but things were getting too painful there for me to stick around. But I did manage to get some worthwhile pictures and have shuffled them off to Flickr and into a new set for the whole Concrete Jungle Chocolate Safari (I do like the whole safari thing I've been doing with Jungle Jim's so why no carry it over to NYC). I'll be adding comments as I go, but for now the least messy of my pictures are up for perusal. The actual show report will follow shortly and will likely be spread over a couple of nights followed by the SoHo report and the Midtown and Union Square trips. And somewhere along the line I need to do some sort of basic wrap-up report.

Anyway, I'm back and finally getting started on getting it all out of my head (and camera) and onto the blog.

Here is an experimental PictoBrowser for you to play with or you can go to the actual set right here.

November 11, 2007

Of Sore Feet and Empty Wallets

Got into my hotel a little later than I had hoped and my plans of heading do SoHo to hit the big four down there kind of hit the skids. So I went for a walk instead. Up almost to Central Park and then down to 18th to check out where the chocolate show is and then back up to my hotel at 34th. I like the ability to walk all over the place. It works for me. But I wasn't wearing my walking shoes or socks so my feets were less than thrilled when I got back to the hotel. Eh, who cares. No pain no gain. And no blisters to speak of either, which is great.

So the only chocolate I managed on my first night in town was a Chocolixir from Godiva.

I think I made up for it today. There was, of course, the chocolate show. But even before than I headed over to City Bakery for a hot chocolate. Once I was done there I headed in to the show and was floored by some of the amazing chocolates (more on them in the big wrap-up post in a few days). Got to try the Smoky Blue Truffle (amazing) before they sold out and that was my big goal for the show. My other goal was to get over to Mary's Chocolates (from Japan) and give them a try and am I ever glad I did. I left with a lot of chocolate. And I headed back to the hotel.

And then, like the nutjob I am, I jumped onto the 1 Train down to SoHo so I could get into the places I missed out on yesterday. Hit Torres' Chocolate Haven, MarieBelle (which was insano-slammed - no space in the chocolate bar at all), Kee's Chocolates, and finally Vosges. And I even had time for a slice from Famous Ben's Pizza while I was at it.

So I got off to a good start. Had hot chocolate twice, a proper bagel once (reminds me of my favorite bagels from home), pizza twice, Whole Foods salad bar once (I gotta eat at least a little healthy here and there), Godiva once, bought a little bit of street art, and hit four Chocolatiers ignoring the ones I hit at the show itself.

Not a bad 24 hours.

And guess what: I was a good little blogger and took pictures! I got back to the hotel and took more pictures of my loot. And then I realized: I forgot my usb cable. Unless I buy an sd reader of a cable my pictures are trapped on my camera. le sigh.

I'll post pictures later. I promise nothing in terms of quality and not huge numbers when it comes to quantity, but I did take pictures where and when it seemed prudent (I didn't in Vosges and MarieBelle because they were super crowded and I wasn't allowed at Kee's but I got some nice pics at Torres Chocolate Haven and some nice shots at the Chocolate Show).

Gotta run. My salad is getting warm.

November 9, 2007


♫ On a Jet Plane! ♫

It hasn't been easy and things have really come down to the wire, but I think I'm pretty much ready to take off tomorrow for the Big Apple and the big big New York Chocolate Show. Got my stuff all packed up and my lists of places I want to see all put together and all my maps mapped and my house-sitter all ready to sit my house and.... I think I'm really pretty much ready. Got a couple of things to take care of in the morning and then I hare off to the airport and take off. I'm a little disappointed that I'll only get one day at the chocolate show, but you can't have everything and I plan on making up for it in inventive ways.

A large chunk of the trip is taken up by the training class, but there is a lot of time around the class that I can make use of and I have plans on hitting around ten different chocolatiers as well as some other interesting places over the course of the week. My camera is kind of on it's last legs right now, but I'm going to try and coax it into taking some pictures along the way. It should be a good time.

Now I plan to get a good night's sleep, rise nice and early, and get myself to New York.

November 1, 2007

Post-Halloween Chocolate

Halloween is the one chocolate holiday that I don’t really need to go shopping after (though that won't likely stop me). In general I’ll have bought a bag or two of candy on the off chance that somebody shows up at my door on beggar’s night and in general I’ll still have that same bag or two of chocolate the morning of November 1st. What can you do? I don’t want to be that guy who has kids show up at the door and has nothing to offer them. So it’s the day after Halloween and here I am with my expected two bags of leftover chocolate. There aren’t a lot of kids in the neighborhood (there are more dogs than kids so they had trick or treat for the dogs which I thought was nice), but there are neighborhoods that butt up against mine that do have kids so I figured I'd better be prepared. The total count for the evening: three dogs, no children. Ah, well. Such is life. Now I have candy for my candy bowl at work.

The nice thing about having all this leftover candy is that when I grabbed my candy I picked up some things that I had never tried (in miniature form, of course). In the mix were Milky Way Midnight (the dark chocolate vanilla nougat Milky Way) and Dark Chocolate Snickers. The Dark Chocolate Snickers didn’t strike me as too much different than the normal one. Snickers tends to be about the nougat, caramel, and peanuts (which, they assure us, it is “packed with”) and the chocolate is just along for the ride. The dark chocolate adds a little something extra, but it's still got all the things that make Snickers great. Good stuff. The Milky Way Midnight I can’t comment on as far as differences are concerned. I’m not a big Milky Way eater (I tend to grab a 3 Musketeers instead for some reason – not sure why because I do love the Milky Way action) so I can’t say if it’s all that different from the base model. I can say I really liked the Midnight. It was quite tasty and all of the remaining ones have been added to my personal candy stash rather than the candy bowl.

I know I haven’t been posting a whole ton, but I have been eating other chocolate. I’m slowly nibbling my way through my Godiva spoils (and just got another card in the mail for more free chocolate – they’re out of control!) and have had a few interesting items at work one of which provided a painful learning experience. If you have an office or cube with a southern-exposed window (in the northern hemisphere) then your chocolate may be at risk. I have black cabinets in my cube and I had a whole bag of Harry and David truffles in it and after returning from the weekend I found them to have merged into one monstrous truffle beast. An entire bag of truffles I won’t be able to share (and will be forced to eat myself – naturally). I’ve got to figure out where and how to store my chocolate for the weekends so this doesn’t happen again.

As for the other things I’ve been eating, well, they’re going to get a separate post of their own rather than bulk this one up further.

And if you’re into the bargain chocolate thing I suggest you act fast! They need to clear shelf space for the Christmas chocolate so the remaining Halloween goodies are probably going to disappear very quickly. I know at the store I go to for lunch they already have Christmas chocolate on an end-cap so I’m betting that they’ll have the whole Halloween aisle cleared out sometime today and fully replaced with Christmas swag. Good luck shopping!