I was so excited for this event. I love chocolate; no, that's not strong enough, I adore chocolate. It is an essential part of my life. Chocolate, wine - I'm good. So when I saw the signs go up for a whole expo on chocolate and right in my back yard, I bought tickets right away. I have been to one expo before - a few years ago in Manhattan - and it was so cool. Chocolate everywhere; makers, creators, even a sculpture of Times Square made entirely out of chocolate. I was in love and I wanted to repeat the experience. This is where my head was at when arrived at the Cradle of Aviation Museum.
We had purchased tickets in advance and it was a good thing because the event was sold out and they were turning people away at the door. The line for ticket holders ran all the way around the parking lot and we were told it would take us an hour to get to the front. It ended up taking about 45 minutes, still a while to stand with two young kids in the sun. The line was actually longer when we got to the front door (we could see the end wrapping all the way around back to where we were.) My hopes were still high though - it just meant it was popular, right?
Not exactly. Come to find out there were only two people scanning tickets and then one person stamping. They were either seriously understaffed or trying to stem the flow of people coming in or both. By the time we finally made it in both my husband and my children were in a pretty grumpy state. But chocolate was on the horizon - it would all be good soon.
Having an expo event like this at a museum sounds like it could be a win win - at least it is revenue for the museum and it made the expo seem a lot bigger than it was. In practice though, it meant you were fighting both people and exhibits to get close to tables. Some tables, especially by the front door were near impossible to get to. There were so many people that there was hardly room to walk, let alone browse the baked goods. There were crowds surrounding the tables and there were people who wanted to walk past, all trying to occupy the same space. It made talking to the people running the tables impractical at best.
The biggest disappointment, however, was when I realized this wasn't really a chocolate showcase. Sure – there were some chocolate to be found (one table had gigantic whoopie pies... seriously gigantic), but it was buried amongst all kinds of different food offerings – popcorn, wine, cider, cheese… so much. There were very few chocolate makers, only one that I was actually able to speak with. I had thought that with the huge bean-to-bar movement and all the new chocolate makers around that there would be a larger turn out, which was very disappointing. There were a few Chocolatiers but for the most part they seemed to be focused around buzz words… raw, all natural, gluten free, vegan – sometimes the table signs had all of these labels plus more.But mostly there was a real lack of chocolate. If I were expecting to go to a food fair, I wouldn't have batted an eyelash. This was billed as a chocolate expo and beyond the gratuitous chocolate fountain in the front; I left this fair just shaking my head.
After we fought our way through the crowds for a bit, I began to think that this was entirely different from the last one that I had visited. A quick Google search later and yup, it sure was. It turns out that the event I had such fond memories was actually The Chocolate Show. It was on 18th street in Manhattan and the last time it happened was 2012. So, I made a mistake and it was a bit of a waste of time. The girls were miserable and I was mostly disappointed. This is not an experience that I would repeat. I saw the same types of venders at the great Flea Markets in LIC that are a lot less hassle.
There were a few bright spots – we didn't leave empty handed.Here are some of our favorites:
Oliver Kita was the one Chocolate Maker/Chocolatier that I spoke with.He was very nice and his chocolate is decent.I bought a bar of the 70% dark chocolate with Himalayan Sea Salt.I found it a mellow chocolate with a smooth texture, maybe a bit over powered by the sea salt.
Downeast Cider House really caught my attention. It is really great and I had wanted to buy some cider from them right then and there, but they weren't allowed to sell it at the Expo (what?!?). Luckily, I was able to find it in one of my local super markets. It has such a clean taste – very clearly apple – and dangerous. It is so good that you need to be careful drinking it, it is hard to remember that it is alcohol. Very refreshing drink and I think I will make sure to keep some in my fridge, especially when my mom comes. (She has celiac but doesn't really like wine…this will be perfect for her.)
More Good Syrups & Mixers - this company we have seen a few times in our area and we were pretty thrilled to be able to pick up some more of their product. We use it to add to our seltzer we make in our Soda Stream. They actually made a special chocolate flavor for the Expo – which was certainly unique for a non-chocolate retailer at this fair. More Good uses all organic ingredients and the syrups are very good. Even the chocolate one, I was surprised – I thought for sure it would be too sweet. But it is unique and definitely chocolate without tasting like a watered down hot cocoa. We bought two bottles.
That was my trip to the Chocolate Expo. It was mostly disappointing, but at least we left with a couple treats.