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chocolate show (long)

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I went to the chocolate show, and then wrote up a freewrite for my writing class. I thought I'd share as a way of inviting discussion among other attendees.

At about 5:30 in the afternoon, in the middle of the crowded Manhattan Pavilion, I turned to my friend and fellow chocoholic and informed her that I could not possibly partake of another morsel of chocolate. She nodded earnestly in assent, and then directed me towards the chocolate-covered potato chips. We were at the annual Chocolate Show, a convention for culinary professionals, foodies, and chocolate looky-loos. And we were feeling sick.

There was chocolate of all sorts at the Show. There were pastries and brownies. The best were Peter Krump’s dense, gooey brownies, though I also had some lighter brownies with nutmeg and cinnamon that were magical. Petrossian’s dry and flavorless bricks had nothing to recommend about themselves. There were Swiss bars and French bars and homemade fudge and strawberries dipped in chocolate. There was chocolate mousse which I spilled on my cashmere sweater (luckily I had the sense to wear brown). There were also chocolate sculptures – fanciful costumes, the Statue of the Liberty, and even Notre Dame. And smartest of all, there was free Perrier to cleanse our palates. But Valhrona was nowhere to be seen – why? Too special?

Because we were there on a Sunday afternoon, the place was mobbed. Wherever there was a booth with samples, there was a crowd of people grabbing. This meant that for the most part, there was no chatting with the purveyors about their wares; there was only grab and move on. Despite this, there was a sense of comraderie and good will. Sometimes a chocolate devotee in the front of the mob would kindly pass back samples to those waiting behind her. People frequently stopped each other to ask, "is that gelato? Where’d you get it?" One of the most charming moments was when a mother and daughter approached a booth, and we all joked about how the 10-year-old enthusiast was not likely to sleep that night (little did I know I’d be facing the same problem some few hours hence).

Eventually the crowds thinned, and we were able to talk to some of the participants. At the booth for Phillippe Rollando and Christian Vautier (Parisian chefs), we learned how to make an anise hot chocolate by steeping star anise in milk. The chef (not Phillippe or Christian, but a freelance chef our age) explained the importance of adding a little bit of milk to the chocolate first, to melt and emulsify it, before adding all of the milk. This ensures and even mixture. Her concoction involved heavy cream as well as milk, and just a few swallows sent me into a fog. There’s a rush foodies and cooks get from imparting valuable information to each other, and I could sense that it made the hot chocolate-maker happy to show us the secret to a well-mixed drink.

Strangely, I didn’t get that same feeling from the cooking classes. These took place on raised platforms with microphones, and were a little distancing. I did learn that egg yolks chemically heat sugar, which was nice to know. Mostly though I admired the beautiful aluminum-covered refrigerator behind the demonstrations (and even more gorgeous, the blue refrigerator behind Peter Krump’s booth, probably meant to match one’s blue Le Crueset enamelware). The best part of the demonstrations was the samples handed out immediately after. I had the best chocolate ice cream I’ve ever had in my life – satiny and intense.

On the way out, a French man who had previously tried to get me to buy his chocolate bars suggested that we get a drink, and informed me that his charming, chocolate-smeared, five-year-old boy needed a mother. I smiled and declined. I decided instead to bring home a tiny jar of Le Turet chocolate pear preserves from a quieter French man who didn’t speak a word of English.

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  1. Thank you! That was fun reading.

    1. That was really evocative and fun to read. I especially liked the part about the chocolate devotee passing samples behind "her"...and about your cashmere sweater.

      I attended a chocolate show in London a couple of years ago, but it wasn't as fun as yours sounded. People were quite serious and didn't have much of a sense of pleasure - which of course is the purpose of chocolate! The highlights were the Belgian booth, where there were statues of Tin Tin {guess his weight, win the statue! I didn't win :-( } and the Ghanaian booth (I believe it was Ghana - or another major African cocoa producer) where the people in the booth were having their own fun, dancing to great music.

      1 Reply
      1. re: magnolia

        Thanks for reading -- London's show sounds fun, too.

        And thanks Erica for the brownie recipe source.

      2. A few observations/clarifications:

        The brownies you raved about, served at Peter Kump's booth, were the Supernatural Brownies from Nick Malgieri's chocolate book. They are indeed the best I've had, and quite easy to duplicate at home.

        Valrhona was there last year; each year it's a slightly different crowd. This year's, actually, was not quite so interesting as last.