So we pulled out of the hotel between 10 and 11, grabbed a breakfast sandwich at Pret a Manger, and took the subway down to 18th Street. On our way down the block to the Metropolitan Pavilion, we stopped for a few fresh reinforcements. I remember from last time, you need an occasional palate cleanser at the show.
Alrighty, cracking knuckles, stretching shoulders. Here. We. Go.
Spices and Tease had little scoops on long sticks and were selling their wares, including flavored salts, sugars, spices and teas (including several chocolate tea blends) by the baggie, tin or 3-tin sets. In the top left corner, that's a hunk of Hawaiian red salt they were chipping away at.
George Duran was there mc'ing some of the demos. Which, we discovered, were not following the printed schedule very closely.
American Heritage Chocolate were doing, which was making chocolate the way they did in the 1700's - rubbing cocoa nibs on this heated lava rock to make chocolate paste which is then combined with ingredients like cinnamon, nutmeg, anise, and more, and added to milk or water for drinking. I had a sample - totally intense and not like modern chocolate. Amazing. You can watch a video that explains it here.
Palmer's cocoa butter lotion makers even had a booth. But most vendors were chocolatiers, and many were French. Since I tasted Jacques Torres chocolate many years ago, it's been my favorite. And he's French, so in my mind French is good. But I hadn't really dabbled in a wide range of French chocolate, so I didn't realize just how superior it is.
At most booths, if you wanted to taste something they didn't have out, why they'd just open one up and cut it up for you. People trying to feed me chocolate! Here, let me get you a piece of this one! Amazing. Heaven.
In the end, Juli and I agreed on the two chocolatiers we liked the best, and not just for their French accents. They were the ones we bought from, and whose chocolate was just better than the rest - one was Francois Pralus (below - too bad that's the only shot I took of that booth!) The man himself was there and he totally looked like a French Paul Newman, ooh la la! At that booth I bought a tube of hazelnut creme (like nutella but thinner and much more hazelnutty) and a box of chocolate pearls, which I can't find on the website - little pea-sized chocolate balls, a mix of dark and milk, with a crunchy wheat center. They are so small but we couldn't believe the gorgeous chocolate flavor they had! You can eat them plain or put them on stuff - last night the girls and I had them on ice cream and then just ate a bunch out of the box. Juli got Brian a stack of single origin squares.
Our other favorite was Comptoir du Cacao. At first we were drawn in by their charming packaging, and the ooh's and aah's coming from chocolate tasters at their table. Then we tasted it ourselves and we basically couldn't get enough. Their "flaky pralines" won 1st and 2nd prize at the Paris Chocolate Show (when am I going to that one?) And their white chocolate, not usually my favorite, was out of this world. I bought some presents here, too.
- Jer's Chocolates had some seriously awesome chocolate-peanut butter bars, and Jer himself was so glowing and smiley I could have spent an hour at his booth.
- Christophe Roussel had some amazing salted butter caramels - I bought two boxes! He's also the one that made the chocolate kisses above, and he seemed a little stressed out at the show. But he was cute and French and some days it's hard to be fabulous.
- Aux Anysetiers du Roy makes these totally clever little fondues in a stoneware cup, that you can warm in the microwave or in hot water to melt, making yourself yummo fondue without a sterno, candle, pot or mess. Just dip what you like. And they have so many flavors! It was hard to choose. They even make egg-shaped ones for Easter, how cute is that?
- Salt of the Earth Bakery was there, handing out very generous pieces of brownies and cookies, and they were amazing. We tasted their signature brownie that's in your face on the website and Juli went back and bought two before we left - she said it's the best brownie she's ever eaten. We also tasted their chocolate-filled cookies and they, too, were amazing. My whole goal in life now is to go back and taste their mud pie.
On our way out of the show, about 3 1/2 hours later, I stopped at Spices & Tease again. How could I not get something? So I got a sampling of flavored sugars - pistachio, strawberry and pomegranate. I waffled whether to get some onion bacon salt but decided I'd dropped enough cash. Too bad, now of course I wish I'd gotten it. Can you imagine that on a baked potato?!
But I'm not worried. There's always next year.
Next post: the rest of Friday, including a lot of subway rides, and mac & cheese like you've never had it before!