Due to a debacle at work, I was not able to give the Northwest Chocolate Festival as complete a coverage as I was hoping to. My plans were to listen to some of the panel discussions, watch demos, taste, take notes, get inspiration. All that I was able to get in was to get there in time to see some of my friend’s (one of Theo Chocolate's umpa lumpas) demo and then make the tasting rounds with some friends, not being as thorough as I should have been and not having taken notes. So my recollections here are purely the things that have stuck in my head as being stand-outs.
Most of our time was spent in the bean to bar room where the chocolate makers were. As I’ve said before, I’m not a fan of chocolate desserts. How I prefer to eat chocolate is to just eat the chocolate. I’m not interested in chocolate cakes or chocolate ice creams. Truffles are fine and dandy, but the fancier they look the more I’m not interested in them as food (certainly they are interesting artistically). I like rustic truffles, beautifully flavored and simply finished in a roll of cocoa powder, powdered sugar, coconut or ground nuts. So basically a good bar of chocolate is the way to go. That’s what was happening in the bean to bar room.
Hometown heros Theo Chocolate was there in force with their line of bars that I have much familiarity with— my favorites being the curry coconut, the mint and their good old, straight forward dark chocolate. I'm not the biggest fan of milk chocolate, but Theo's milk chocolate is delicious. Not every city has an actual chocolate factory, so if you're in Seattle, you should take the tour and shop their shop.
Next came Divine Chocolate. The actual farmers own a sizable portion of the company, so that struck me as rather unique. The highlight of their line was the milk chocolate with spice cookies in the bar. I had seconds of that. The 70% with real dehydrated raspberries was also tasty.
We moved on to the West African archipelago-based Claudio Corallo— with their guerrilla-chic packaging, and whose only store in North America is in Seattle. Believe it or not, they sell of a 100% cocoa. I can only see someone eating a whole bar of this as part of fraternity hazing. It was way too much for me and just the small taste I had probably was the principle cause of my headache later. However, tasting the 100% bar was edifying, as it provided a context to better judge and appreciate (and be thankful for) the addition of sugar. More to my taste was their 80% sablé. Crystallized sugar is mixed in to the bar to give it a delightful sandy texture. They also had a bar with ginger that was really delicious.
The flat-out highlight was Taza Chocolate’s line of Mexican chocolates. Holy molé! Each one of these was fan-flippin-tastic. The salt and pepper one was out of this world, followed closely by the vanilla. The Guajillo chili and salted almond were delicious as well. However the most interesting of their bar offerings was unsampleable. Apparently the five bars on the table were the last five bars in existence and were going for $9! It was a special edition bar made in the style of a specific region of Mexico where they wash the fruit off the beans before fermenting. This apparently changes the flavor of the cocoa to make it far more nutty. I knew I only brought enough cash to get me in the door for a reason. Slightly off the subject for a moment is perhaps the best offering of Taza Chocolate... their hunky chocolate-dripping model...
who is one of the chocolate makers and, we were told, is available (though she only laughed at us when asked which one of us would be more "appropriate" for him). Sigh...
There was a booth for a company that does trips to Belize called Cotton Tree Lodge, where you can see and participate in the process of making chocolate from tree to tummy. That sounds like it would be a ton of fun, so I better start saving my pennies, because the price was conveniently left out of the brochure.
The only clear dud was the company that hopped on the raw food bandwagon and makes raw chocolate bars. I don’t get it and I didn’t like it. And upon further reflection while writing this, some notable Seattle-area chocolate shops were not represented either, so I’m not sure what that was about.
We left the Northwest Chocolate Festival with well-exercised palates, me having discovered a new headache region, and each of us craving salad and baked potatoes. Next year, I will forbid a debacle from happening at work so I can go both days of the festival and remember to bring a notepad and camera.