This article has nothing to do with the usual Neechin topics, no translations, no games, not even me reporting on any projects I have going on. Instead it’s about chocolate. Very good chocolate. From the Chocolate Show in New York City. Because life is more than just about books, words and games… there’s sugar too.
Saturday, November 10, 2007, I head out, pop onto the subway, go to 125 W18th in midtown and pay my $28 entrance fee to get into the show at the Metropolitan Pavillion & Altman Building. The show opened 2 hours earlier, and already there were many people inside. Thankfully the line for tickets at the door moved rapidly, taking perhaps 10-15 minutes.
Inside, were booths after booth of different chocolate vendors, large and small. Most importantly, just about all the booths offered what we came here for, free samples! How many samples could you possibly eat? Well, as much as you can handle. Just take some (let’s be polite and not greedy now), then walk off, and come back in a bit, and take some more if you really want. For the record, my friends and I stayed at the show for about 6 hours. Noon until 6pm. We were walking and eating about 4 of those 6 hours.
My camera was a bit dodgy, so many shots didn’t come out well. So the few pictures I’ve picked out to put here covers about 10% of the goodies I looked at that day. I really need to pick up a new camera after thanksgiving…
So, what did I see that didn’t get onto my camera?
First, the people at Sweetriot were giving samples of their chocolate covered cacao beans. I wrote on their business cards to remind myself of them “beans of doom” because their darkest chocolate+bean combo was a super strong bitter punch in the face. It sends shivers down your spine and makes your eyes pop open. Their milder milk chocolate blends have much less punch, but are pretty tasty. The dark beans would be perfect for late night studying or whatever, when you need that extra blast of caffeine and shock.
Debrand had a few amazing ganache bits. My particular favorite was a small one that had honey flavoring inside. I can’t for the life of me remember the name right now, and their site is down at this very moment. But by the time I swung by later in the day all of the small boxes were sold out, and only 2 of the expensive large boxes were left.
Lindt was there, with their usual chocolate bars and truffle balls. All things considered they weren’t as good as some of the more expensive high end stuff, but weren’t utter crap in comparison either. Not what you’d expect from the usual “larger corporation vs small boutique” comparison. Godiva was nowhere to be seen.
Neuchatel had chocolate covered potato chips, and other chocolate coveredfoods. Pretty good on their own, but I felt somewhat sorry for them. I had the feeling that lots of people, my friends and I included, would swing by and eat a few pieces just to get the salt to bring some relief to our burnt out taste buds…
I also saw someone dressed as a monkey wearing a blue t-shirt walking around, the mascot for Peanut Butter & Co. It was kinda amusing, kinda disturbing at the same time.
First off, cute decorative chocolate art type things. The bunnies and owls and the like in this shot aren’t for sale, they’re decoration only for this show, but they’re cute. If I tried hard enough I could probably read the tag off the label in the shot, Michel—-something, but nothing particularly pops out in my memory of that booth.
Next is a Laughing Buddha. This one is actually for sale. I think it was for $25 or so? Specially made for this event. The detail in the mold for it is actually quite impressive. I’d just feel really bad smashing one up and eating the pieces…
Next, come John & Kira. I’m rather sad that these two are the only pictures that came out nice. There were a set of ladybug bugs too that were really pretty. However, one set I didn’t take a picture of looks vaguely like orange pumpkins, but when you bite into one, an amazingly strong and fruity flavor assaults you. It took me a few moments to get over the wonderful texture and unexpected flavor to realize that it’s like I’m eating an actual fig transmuted into a truffle. If I had more cash on me, I might’ve bought myself a box…
Next, briefly visiting the other hall were some super glitzy designer chocolate ball… things. By the time I got here, it was the end of the day, so I didn’t even have the concentration to remember what booth this was, but they’re pretty!
The second hall was more ‘artsy’ to a degree. In that there was the “Chocolate fashion show” exhibit, which was just chocolate-based clothing on mannequins. I don’t understand such fashion, so I’ll just not comment. there was also a lounge with demonstrations involving chocolate and alcohol, Cognac and Chocolates, that sort of thing. That seemed interesting, but the place always had people and I was more interested finding a drink that could cleanse my tired palette than go well with chocolate… A cold beer, or good tea would’ve been nice. Water had to do…
Next is another booth that I don’t have the name of at the moment. They focused on simple traditional chocolates. Pralines and light combination with nuts and things. The explained that they were avoiding the trend of adding creams and all sorts of stuff into chocolate. Either way, very good stuff, even for a tired palette.
For midday break, my friends and I sat down and watched Jacque Torres make a chocolate turkey with marshmallow eggs. I also got his autograph for my sister, and she’s rather ecstatic about that.
Speaking of Jacque Torres, his “Menage a tois” bar sold out by rather quickly. Thankfully, if I ever wanted some I could just visit one of the two stores in the city. He also apparently likes chocolate covered cereal, because choco-Cheerios and choco-corn flakes were on sale. Cute stuff, but uhhh…. not for $5.
Then, we come to the booth that my friends were most excited to get to. Mary’s Chcolate that came all the way from Japan with their amazing ganaches and truffles. What made my friends so excited was that Mary’s doesn’t have a US distributor, and doesn’t sell online overseas.
Mary’s has two major draws. The first are their ganaches. The green tea flavor is for green tea fans. Each one is coated in strong green tea powder — so strong that it stained my hand a bit until I found water, and very bitter. Their black sesame one has very strong roasted sesame flavor. They also had a passion fruit one that was less of an assault on your senses, and ends on a sweet fruity note. All these, you can get for $6 a box, which probably holds something around 25-30 half-inch cylinder-y balls.
The other major draw of Mary’s are their amazingly decorated truffles. The truffles themselves taste very smooth already, but the handiwork that goes into each truffle sets them apart.
In that little table, there’s a seasonal flavor/flower for each month, and all of them are hand decorated. What happens when the decorating goes bad? They’re set aside and don’t see the light of day. They’re not really even set out as samples for people.
However, the guys working are fun and will offer the “shippai-yatsu” (failed things) to you if ask. My friends and I spoke to them a little bit (in Japanese of course) and it seems that Mary’s goes to the chocolate shows in Paris and New York only, and then fly back to Tokyo. Not much in the way of sightseeing etc for the staff it seems.
When I head to Japan, not to mention next year’s show, I’ll have to buy myself a few small boxes of something.
Finally, I’ll end this article with my amazing discovery of the show. Charle’s Chocolates and their tea chocolate boxes.
I’m not too huge a fan of green tea, which was why Mary’s ganache didn’t make me fall in love exactly. However, I love black teas and fragrant teas. As samples, the Jasmine and Oolong teas were set out when we walked by. I had an Oolong, and it tasted like a warm cup of tea sweetly melting in my mouth, which was wonderful. However, it was when I took a Jasmine sample that I immediately reached for my wallet… after pausing to swallow the chocolate first of course.
The thing about the Jasmine is that it’s more fragrant than even the normal jasmine teas I’ve drank, let alone. I already knew this was no ordinary grade of Jasmine tea here, but Charles himself explained that he had to use the highest grade Jasmine tea available to make those truffles, because only that grade wouldn’t go bitter if steeped for too long, which you essentially have to do in order to make the chocolate. Well, that’ll do it.
Anyways, I normally hesitate when plonking down $30 for a case of 20 pieces of chocolate (5 flavors, 4 pieces each) but not this time. And good thing I did too! My friend decided to go buy a set later that day, and came back to report that they were all gone.
So yes, tonight, while I work on Narcissu Side 2nd some more, I’ll be nibbling on a little peace of tea-flavored heaven.