Chocolate event the second: Elevate Chocolate, a semiannual gathering for chocolate professionals held the day before the Fancy Food Show, by the Fine Chocolate Industry Association. In the summer of 2016, at a hotel off Times Square, an afternoon and evening were packed with smaller table talks, a large general education session, and much tasting.
It bore a superficial resemblance to the DC Chocolate Show, but the audience was full of chefs, chocolatiers and other professionals. The exhibits included box printers, tempering machine sellers, mold makers, puree purveyors, and source chocolate growers.
There were also chances to taste the full range of a company’s single-origin products.
The programs? A deep dive into the factors of a successful chocolate business; the genetics of structural groups; and heirloom cacao tree preservation. But there was plenty to fascinate a humble food writer, including two sessions on flavor profiles with cacao liquors and cacao beans. There is a serious effort to remove the subjectivity in rating these two vital precursors to finished chocolate products.
It was interesting to contrast the approach of these professionals to the tasting session at the DC Chocolate Show. There are dollars and careers riding on flavor nuances, affected by many variables in the varietals, cultivation, processing, storage, and transport of cacao, ergo, much more precision involved in the rating of flavor profiles.
Which brings us to the presentation from the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund. This organization was formed to preserve endangered varieties of cacao by pushing back against environmental change, deforestation, and economic forces threatening the livelihoods of farmers and the diminishing of genetic diversity. They conducted a sampling of chocolate made from rare and exotic heirloom trees.
The speakers also included Fran Bigelow of Fran’s Chocolates, founded in Seattle in 1982, and now a world-class company. President Obama has a well-known fondness for her salted caramels. She was one of the earliest producers of the treat in this country, and “couldn’t be more surprised” when they became wildly popular.
Another speaker, Clark Guittard, of the eponymous company, could be the industry’s rock star. He’s the current FCIA president. His badge bore 4 ribbons, the most of any: Exhibitor, Presenter, Board Member, Sponsor.
And then there was this guy: Brian Wallace, Founder, Maker, and Alchemist of Endorfin Foods, the archetype of an artisan chocolate maker, gave me a sample of his “Passion” – Dark Coconut-Mylk Chocolate with Ginger and Rose bar. It was excellent: smooth, complex, changing from moment to moment as it melted in the mouth.
He was attending the Elevate event, but without participating in the formal tasting. He promised me a whole bar if I visited him at the Fancy Food Show the next day – so I did.
And bonus – I scored a bar of his “Turkish Coffee” – Dark Coconut-Mylk Chocolate with Coffee and Cardamon. It’s almost as good as the Ginger and Rose bar. I recommend them both!
Next: Is There Such A Thing As Too Much Chocolate? Part 3: Far Afield