Bowls of cacao beans, vats of liquid chocolate, and stacks of truffles invaded the Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea this past weekend as the Chocolate Show touched down in New York. French event planners Sylvie Douce and Francoise Jeantet have taken their trade show around the world in order to give the public a glimpse into the inner workings of gourmet chocolate. The 12th-annual event featured exhibits from international chocolatiers, as well as chocolate fashions and spa treatments, chocolate-related books and author signings, and demonstrations by top chefs.
Stepping into this world of chocolate houses and chocolate fountains was like winning a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s factory. Each exhibit seemed to offer something more wondrous than the last, with stunning works of edible art and, of course, free samples galore.
William Dean‘s chocolates were almost too pretty to eat (almost). The Florida company’s chocolates are airbrushed or decorated with transfer sheets of colored cocoa butter, producing chocolates that are like miniature masterpieces. Their cassis confection, a blend of hazelnut and blackcurrant, won this year’s Best in Show award. Unfortunately, they have yet to open a location even remotely close to New York.
The city, however, was well represented on the chocolate front. Pure Dark‘s stocked its booth with its signature barks–sheets of rich dark chocolate studded with delicacies like dried fruits, nuts, and cocoa nibs. Just in time for the Chocolate Show, the West Village company announced the launch of its customizable build-a-bark. The individualized slabs can now be prepared to order with a wider variety of ingredients, including sea salt and spice blends.
Not every exhibit featured a chocolatier. Dove Chocolate Discoveries presented its new program, which aims to spread the appreciation of fine chocolate through its growing ranks of chocolatiers. But, like Tupperware, the program seems to be tailored to the suburban housewife set. Rather than plastic containers, they’ll be armed with cupcake kits and chocolate fondue sets, to host their own at-home tasting parties.
Chocolate was also utilized for more charitable causes at the show. Equal Exchange has dedicated itself to fair trade, co-ops, and sustainable farming since 1986. That includes cacao, sugar, and vanilla farmers from around the world. On Halloween night this year, Equal Exchange promoted reverse trick-or-treating, in which child volunteers went door-to-door, handing out fair trade chocolate to the adults who would normally indulge them with treats. Sounds like a different kind of chocolate army.
The exhibit from the Cotton Tree Lodge, a resort in Belize, offered something more–a chance to witness cocoa beans being transformed into refined chocolate, all on one tabletop. Visitors to the actual lodge can actually learn the same process–roasting, winnowing, crushing, and conching–during a weeklong chocolate-making program there. No word, though, on how much this dream vacation actually costs.
While the goal of the show supposedly was to open the public’s eyes to this marvelous world of chocolate, after two hours of immersion, the thought of sampling more free goods sounded less appetizing. Turning into Augustus Gloop had to be avoided at all costs, and in the end, the show seemed to cause more of a stomach ache than an aching desire to consume more of the cocoa-y sweet stuff.