2012 Chocolate Show New York: Truffles, peanut butter…and jewelry

It could have been an omen of things to come when this author walked straight into this year’s New York edition of the Chocolate Show without having to wait in line (on a temperate Saturday afternoon, nonetheless).  However, the decreased number of enthusiastic fans of the namesake ingredient was no indication of the lack of quality to be found amongst the vendors.

Held again at The Metropolitan Pavilion – a venue still perhaps a bit cramped for more than 50 vendors, two presentation stages and a special children’s area – old stalwarts and new faces alike offered their very best for the Show’s 15th year in this city.  At veteran exhibitor No Chewing Allowed!’s booth, repeated renderings of the company’s mascot, a delightfully drawn boy with his eyes closed and tongue extended to lick off patches of chocolate around his mouth, served as a fun reminder to enjoy the act of savoring chocolate slowly.  The classic recipe of this French truffle, which the company used to sell in only one flavor that richly melts on your tongue, is now joined by candied orange peel, raspberry nugget and toasted almond versions.  If that is still not enough, fans can also bring home hot chocolate mix.

For a different type of melt-in-your-mouth goodness, fellow Show regular Peanut Butter & Co. served up scoops of its wonderfully-flavored namesake product.  Although one would not typically expect a peanut butter company to claim stake in a chocolate show, a representative of the company explained simply, “Chocolate and peanut butter belong together.”  It makes sense then that the brand’s most popular sellers at the show are Dark Chocolate Dreams and White Chocolate Wonderful.  In fact, the representative revealed that this is one of the brand’s best-selling shows out of the venues they go to annually.  Move over, jelly – it looks like chocolate may just take your place in sandwiches everywhere.

While established companies may participate in the Chocolate Show because it proves highly lucrative for them, smaller brands and individual chocolatiers set up booths with hopes of gaining market exposure.  In Aditi Malhotra’s case, it is also to spread her love of all aspects of the chocolate-making process besides just the finished product.  Her one-and-a-half-year-old company, Tache, grew out of what she saw as the “many opportunities in the industry…[using this] very malleable ingredient.”  After graduating from the French Culinary Institute and working at Morimoto in New York, Malhotra decided to attend the Glion Institute in Switzerland.  She now has her own store in New York’s Lower East Side, where she also offers chocolate-making classes, and what she affectionately calls “a Willy Wonka factory in the basement.”  Her personal favorites are a spiced chai truffle in dark chocolate, a bourbon truffle dipped in 75 percent dark cacao and coated in nuts, and a French caramel kiss made with 75 percent dark chocolate and homemade caramel.

Prestat, a brand founded in 1902 and famed in the UK as the Queen of England’s chocolate makers (they supply Her Majesty with an annual Easter egg filled with their signature pieces), also had a booth to promote greater brand awareness.  Launching in the States only last year, this is the company’s second year at the show.  While they are currently in small distribution through gourmet markets scattered throughout the US, this brand is perhaps ready for the wider American consciousness, if the chocolate samples available are anything to base an opinion on.  Fragrant, rich and endlessly edible (especially the dangerous wafer thins, which may disappear from the box faster than you would wish because of their small individual size), these chocolates are whimsically packaged in boxes and ornament baubles in jewel tones of chartreuse green, royal purple and sari pink.  One recently-launched flavor, a green tea chocolate wafer, was creamy and delicious and actually smelled like a cup of the tea itself.

Seemingly out of place at first in an exhibition devoted to chocolate, French company Manu Création’s jewelry booth made more sense once you stepped closer to take a look at the miniature ice cream cones, pastries (including the ubiquitous French macaron) and pieces of candy dangling from delicate silver chains of necklaces, bracelets and earrings.  Each tiny dessert is made from Fimo, a type of polymer clay that is shaped and then either baked or allowed to air dry, and owner Myriam Dutrey and her family then attach each piece by hand to make the jewelry.  Even at the show, Dutrey’s pre-teen daughter, who also charmingly served as her translator, worked on necklaces.  Their most popular piece is a long necklace, on the end of which dangles a tiny glass jar with even tinier chocolate cookies.  In business for five years, this is their first year at the Chocolate Show in New York because they wanted to explore international sales opportunities.  If their crowded booth and whimsical products are any indicators, we may be seeing more of Dutrey and her family’s creations in the US soon.

The Chocolate Show also featured presentations from pastry chefs and lecturers throughout the day, as well as book signings by some of them.  The usual chocolate fashion display was toned down this year in favor of impressively-carved chocolate sculptures, including one of Lucille Ball as Lucy in the infamous chocolate factory episode of “I Love Lucy.”  In addition, Screme Gelato Bar made fresh gelato on the premises.