I love chocolate; I mean capitol L love chocolate. I've been on the lookout for a chocolate conference like the one I stumbled across a few years ago. I especially love speaking with artists who make their own chocolate and trying out new brands that I've never heard of. I've been a little tentative though since my last outing was such a spectacular failure. But, when I heard about "The Big Chocolate Show" through a chocolate blog I read (Chocolate Noise, check it out) I thought I would give it a shot. (I said I love chocolate, of course I read a blog or two.☺)
This time I decided not to bring my girls, not that they don't also love chocolate – but they tend to get bored with too much shopping. I'm glad I didn't, there were kids at the show but the experience was much better as an adult's only event. My husband and I needed a date and I am happy to say, this was just what we needed.
The show was held at the Terminal Stores in NYC. It's a nice venue – a long, wide hallway with stores on either side, it was crowded but there was still plenty of room to move around. There were plenty of places to sit and there were lots and lots of exhibitors showing off their chocolate. This show was ALL about chocolate, really really good chocolate. There was even an exhibitor displaying machines to make chocolate in your home kitchen (which, hmm, not sure I'm ready to jump down that rabbit hole...).
Check out this cool chocolate sculpture one of the chocolatiers was working on. Hee hee - you can just see his hand down in the corner - affixing another mushroom. I definitely had a thought about gobbling up one of those mushrooms... thankfully I was able to restrain myself.
It wasn't a perfect event, of course. There were a few annoying little details that would have been better had the staff handled them differently. A good example, there were classes that were offered as part of the ticket price and then there were other classes that were offered at an additional cost. Unfortunately, it was entirely unclear which was which. Of course the class I really wanted to take was an additional fee. (Pairing wine with chocolate - I couldn't resist). Not only that, but their signage for the classes only showed the times for the morning sessions, they didn't have an updated list for the afternoon times and they didn't give us a paper ticket. The stage manager in me prickled at this a bit and even though we tried to commit our class time to memory, we still had to go back and ask just to be sure.
The class itself was ok. I'm not sure I learned anything new, but it was pleasant. The instructor was nice and he did go through the proper steps to taste wine (although not chocolate, which was maybe a bit odd). And we were provided with four samples of wine and four samples of decent chocolate. If we had had some cheese we would have been all set! (We actually did stop later for cheese at a nearby cheese shop - so we hit the trifecta by the end of the day...). The take away lesson for the class was everyone has a different palette so everything you think is right. Well, ok, I mean - I don't disagree that you should eat what you like but I was hoping for a little more insight than if you like it then it's great.
All that being said, the star of the event was the chocolate and that part was glorious. The assortment of chocolate at the Big Chocolate Show lived up to its name. There were so many brands of chocolates to try that my husband and I weren't able to try them all. Our palette's were just too tired and we couldn't eat any more chocolate. I know! Too much chocolate! I would not have guessed that I could hit that wall, but I did. Luckily it took a lot of really great chocolate to get to that point.
My favorite find of the day was Gotham Chocolate. They are out of the kitchen of Gotham Bar & Grill and fancy my surprise when I found out they had a location right in Union Square, NYC (so close to where I work!) I tried their 70% dark Independent bar and I was hooked. The chocolate is smooth but unmistakably chocolate, strong but not overpowering. It's chocolate that is a treat all by itself. I plan to keep it in my regular rotation. They also make some beautiful bon bons that I didn't have a chance to try, but you can bet I'll make a pilgrimage to their store to check them out.
There wasn't just solid chocolate at the show, but also truffles and a couple Chocolate Liquors. Such a disappointment right? (Ha!) I was all over trying some of that. (Another good reason we didn't bring the kids). We found this white chocolate and cream liquor by Coole Swan that I'm absolutely going to search out to buy a bottle (or two!). Unfortunately the event didn't have a liquor license so the best we could do was have a small taste. It tasted similar to Baileys but creamier and more delicious. On second thought, maybe I shouldn't have this in my house, it might cause some problems. Well, some problems (and calories) are worth it.
Near the end of our visit when we decided to look at chocolate and not eat it, We met a very nice chocolate artist named Moran Epstein. She was working her booth with her partner (pictured above). They run a company called Drizzle where she uses modeling chocolate to make the sweetest collection of chocolate dresses. It was all edible so it probably tasted as sweet as it looked. We mentioned that we worked in the theatre industry and she immediately started showing us the chocolate masks she was currently working on. It was all custom and handmade and beautiful. I have a bit of a confession - learning to sculpt with chocolate is on my bucket list so seeing her creations was pretty inspiring.
All and all, my husband and I had a great time. We came home with a bunch of chocolate and confections as well as some new brands to seek out. I had a blast. If you are a chocolate lover, this is definitely an event to check out.
Before I finish up, I want to leave you with a recipe for one of my favorite things to bake with chocolate – brownies! Only slightly adapted from the Supernatural Brownies at the NYTimes. These are fudgey and very chocolatey without being too sweet - they are a house favorite that are sure to please.
Chocolate Fudge Brownies
Slightly adapted from Supernatural Brownies by Julia Moskin (who adapted it from Nick Malgieri). I originally found it in the NYTimes. These brownies are the best I have ever had. They are dense and fudgy and oh so utterly chocolate.
- 16 Tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (70% or so)
- 4 large eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup (200g) dark brown sugar
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
- 1 cup (120g) all purpose flour
- 1 cup chocolate chips (optional)
1. Butter a 13"x9" baking pan, line the bottom with parchment paper and butter the parchment. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 350°.
2. In a large microwave safe bowl, melt the chocolate and the butter together either on low power. Melt in 30 second bursts, stirring between each until the chocolate is just melted. Cool slightly.
3. In a stand mixer, whisk the eggs. Add salt, sugars, and vanilla bean paste and whisk until combined. Whisk in the chocolate butter mixture.
4. Fold in the flour until just combined. If using chocolate chips, fold them in. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 25 to 27 minutes or until shiny and beginning to crack on top. Cool in the pan on a rack.
Makes 15 large or 24 small brownies. If you need a small batch you can make half the recipe and bake in a 8"x8" pan and bake for 20 min.