Impressive samples from ChocoArt
We live in a cool, cool world. Come January, ChocoArt will have a new website up and running where you can upload an image and they'll create a two- or three-dimensional sculpture in chocolate, made on a fair-trade cooperative in Ecuador and shipped to you in 4-6 weeks.
ChocoArt's Jesus, Joseph and Mary
There were lots of stunning little sculptures in chocolate at ChocoArts' table, but this one particularly showed off how detail-oriented and artistic their work is.
Fleur de Xocoatl
Gnosis Raw Chocolate
First off, Gnosis chocolate is delicious. When I discovered them last year at the show, I spent half a day's wages on bars for holiday stocking stuffers. I buy them two bars at a time and inevitably end up giving one away within hours because I want people to share the joy of eating them.
The vegan, gluten-free, organic, raw, refined-sugar free, soy free chocolate (made on recycled paper and printed with vegetable ink) proves that sweets don't have to be bad for you or less than fully indulgent. Their line is packed with healthy fruits and medicinal herbs, blended in flavor combinations that are bright and lovely. "Gnosis products celebrate health, exquisite flavor, and integrity... Made with respect for the origins of cacao, the well-being of our society, and Earth’s natural majesty."
The company was founded and runs out of Long Island City, and for the rest of November is donating 5% of online sales to the American Red Cross for Hurricane Sandy relief.
More chocolate, please.
Gnosis Cocao Nibs
Gnosis' founder Venessa—aka "ChocolateGirl"—sources raw beans from Bali, Ecuador, Madagascar, Grenada and Peru, then lovingly blends them into bars, trail mixes and powdered cocoas. 5% of online purchases in November go to the American Red Cross for Hurricane Sandy relief. Holidays are coming; stock up, people.
Éclat's Good and Evil
Chefs Eric Ripert and Anthony Bourdain worked with Master Chocolatier Christopher Curtin on Éclat's Good and Evil chocolate bar, which premiered this weekend at the festival. They source the beans from cooperatives in the upper-north-west of Peru, a good two day's drive from the nearest airport. There the beans get weighed and the growers get paid that day with no middle man to disrupt the service. During the penultimate refining stage, the beans are gently conched for about 60 hours, making for a super-smooth, dreamy mouth-feel. We loved how it was heavy with floral notes, but the tiny cocoa nibs were soft and and broke easily.
Grenada Chocolate Company
Over 20 years ago Mott Green moved to Grenada to live pretty much off the grid. There he noticed that cocoa farmers weren't getting their fair share of the trade. In 1999 they started the Grenada Chocolate Company, where they make certified organic chocolate bars on part of their 150 acre cooperative. The bars are relatively simple (varieties of cocoa percentage and new ones with a touch of salt or cocoa nibs), but the sense of terroir (yep, we're going there) is so present that the line is unique and exciting without frill.
Chef Maria Luisa Rodriguez
It's hard to imagine this docile-looking woman packing a punch—but just take a bite of her Jazz Brownies and you know she doesn't play games.
Chef Maria Luisa Rodriguez' Jazz Brownies
Warning: Do not go to Chef Maria Luisa's website if you're very hungry and don't like to cry—even a sample menu on her simple site is enough to evoke a tantrum of want. Her Jazz Brownies—"captivating riffs on the savory rhythms of chocolate"—evoke similar passions. The bite-sized bursts play on four flavor combinations: orange zest, coconut-black pepper, sesame, and spicy dulce de leche. They're hand-made in small batches. Email [email protected] for orders and info.
True story: Years ago a close friend of mine (we'll call her Alice since I don't know how legal this was) came back from working for a summer in Ecuadorian Amazon with a box of wax paper-wrapped bars of chocolate to try to get into the hands of people-in-the-know. They were from a small cooperative of hard-working people making delicious things called Kallari.
Fast forward years later and I'm standing outside the Chocolate Show event space and a friendly face in broken English asks me if I can help get him inside, as he has to work the table at Kallari chocolate. He's the one on the right, here.
In the years between these two meetings, Kallari moved on up to being sold at Whole Foods and a few other stops around the city. They're one of the few cooperatives in the world that is 100% owned, produced, and marketed by members—in this case, 850 indigenous Kichwa families in the Napo region of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Their rare, single-sourced beans are incredibly fresh when they go from farm to store shelf within 4 months, making for a very soft, barely-bitter dark chocolate with incredible flavor notes. Go to their website to feel even better about eating too much of a good thing.
Mariebelle's chocolates are just so fun and romantic that it's hard not to eat one without a dramatic Marie Antoinette wave of the arm. The exotic chocolates (she uses a lot of tropical fruits and liqueurs) are boxed beautifully and make you want to stock up to impress out-of-town relatives with how chic and so New York you've become. They're indulgent, wildly artistic and refined at the same time.
Mariebelle Chocolate Bars
If something simpler from Mariebelle is what you desire, the line also includes bars in both traditional varieties (plain milk and dark chocolate), and those with some oomph (dark chocolate strawberry, white chocolate with Japanese matcha).
Oliver Kita Fine Confections
In person, Chef Oliver Kita is smartly dressed and gently matter-of-fact. But his chocolates have an air of romance to them, with collections named "Soothing," "Fashion," and "Inspiring," and flavor blends like blood orange, lapsang souchong and spice, or coconut, bergamot and lime. We were most wowed by his vegan and nut-free line; how he makes vegan chocolates taste so smooth and creamy we have no idea. Dark, slightly-bitter chocolate pairs gently with tart fruits and spices. Definitely something we'd feel smart about giving (or buying under the pretense of giving and then devouring "accidentally").
Oliver Kita's Woodstock Buddha
This solid dark-chocolate dude was inspired by Cat Stevens and is one of Chef Kita's hottest sellers. Look at that Buddha belly!
Francois Payard Patisserie
There's something you just come to expect from third-generation pastry chef Francois Payard. I personally get excited when I see his classic orange boxes and brown ribbons. We love Chef Payard's dainty macarons and chocolates containing so much flavor punch. After a bit of delay from Hurricane Sandy, Payard's newest location opened last Thursday on 3rd Avenue and 74th Street. Go say "hi" and indulge in a dessert and wine or tea pairing in the salon.
Prestat, The Queen's Chocolate
Evidently the Queen of England's favorite flavor combination is dark chocolate and mint. The gold-clad purveyors at Prestat would know—they've supplied the royal family with chocolate confections for around 35 years. We loved the fruity, pungent raspberry bar but felt most pampered by their classic truffles, which melted gently and then burst dramatically with a wallop of caramel. They're also exquisitely packaged, contributing even more pomp and circumstance to a solid product.
There's something about sustainably-sourced, single-origin, fair-trade (you get the idea) when it comes to chocolate. But there's also something about classic Belgian chocolate with all the fun and nostalgia we sometimes crave. Rogue Confections uses edible sugar papers to decorate their vintage-looking creations. Yep, that's chocolate right there, a much better present than a tchotchke from Times Square.
The International Culinary Center's "Dessert Still Life"
Among the purveyors slinging sweets at the festival were creations of art in chocolate. This table was from Chef Kir Rodriquez and some of his Classic Pastry Arts students.
No Chewing Allowed!
Why no chewing allowed? Because these French-styled truffles are meant to be savored—they melt in your mouth with the slightest bit of pressure. Their adorable decorative tins will be on sale for the holidays at the shops at Bryant Park.