The short answer: No. I have about 1,400 words around the long answer.
In 2016, three events stood out as potential chocolate overloads. Fortunately, none managed to quell my love of the dark stuff, but not through lack of trying.
In April, the first DC Chocolate Festival took place in the Westin City Center Hotel. (The second one is planned for April 29, 2017.) It was organized by Marisol Slater, owner of The Chocolate House, a chocolate boutique in downtown D.C.
The day-long event held six classes, and a large ballroom filled with twenty-eight chocolate vendors. And two features for the benefit of two excellent causes: a silent auction for D.C. Central Kitchen, and a raffle for the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund. I hadn’t heard of the Fund before, but I became better acquainted with them at the next event (and so will you).
I sat in on two classes. For the first, Lowe Bibby led us in a tasting of six different bars with distinct origins and styles. Mr. Bibby has reviewed almost 1,000 chocolate bars on his site, Chocofiles, so was uniquely qualified to guide us through the subtle differences in taste.
He provided a score sheet to rate bars from 1 to 10 based on a long list of descriptive terms, resulting in an “enjoyment rating.” The rating ranged from inedible through average, delightful, and heavenly, to favorite. I wonder if any were ever rated “inedible”? Of samples originating in places from Ecuador to Papua New Guinea, the top-rated bar on my scale was Manoa, from Hawai’i.
My second class was a chef demo: “Using Chocolate in Savory Recipes.” Co.Co. Sala is one of the best places in D.C. for innovative chocolate dishes, both sweet and savory. Executive Chef Santosh Tiptur whipped up some chipotle chocolate dipping sauce, served over cheese fritters. And, lagniappe – he supplied the recipe!
The exhibit floor presented a vista of taste possibilities. There were big, multinational corporations (Valhrona), tiny two-person artisans (Steven Howard Chocolates, our friends from the Olney Farmers Market), and every size in between. Many companies emphasized the unique qualities of their chocolate, and used some showmanship to stand out from the crowd. Others just relied on taste.
Of course, the former made for better photo ops.
And my purely subjective vote for the best mouthful goes to John & Kira’s whiskey ganache-stuffed figs.
Not only do these folks make fine chocolate (in Philadelphia, my home town), but their line includes bars and filled pieces made with flavorings grown in urban gardens, in partnership with schools and communities. They include information about their sources in their boxes and on their bars.
They are the model of a socially and environmentally-responsible company, and they do mail order.
Next: Is There Such A Thing As Too Much Chocolate? Part 2: Where The Pros Go