If you’ve never been to a food show or festival in NYC, they can be quite a spectacle. They’re usually a bit oversold, and ticket-holders scarf down samples with relatively little thought and stand in long lines for freebies, even if they’re not sure what it is they’d be getting for free. They “flit”, as I like to say.
I’ve been accused of taking these events a bit too seriously, and I totally admit my part in this, but it’s because I take the joy of food seriously. Yes, I get that some people just wanna eat a huge variety of tacos or bacon or frozen yogurt on their Saturday afternoon. But me, I want to talk about the ingredients in the taco, the source of the bacon or, in this case, the dozens upon dozens of facets that make chocolate so indulgent, sensual, fulfilling and just plain fun. I want to stroll, not flit.
I have a feeling a few of you out there might feel me on this.
I attended the New York Chocolate Show with a chef friend not allergic to dairy so we could sample and chat and chew to our hearts’ content. Here are a few of our favorite things:
Håkan Mårtensson of Fika NYC
Okay, seeing someone sculpting chocolate just makes me happy, especially when it’s Håkan Mårtensson of Fika Espresso Bar. Håkan finds a lot of inspiration in fairy-tales and folk lore, apparent both in his sculptures and in the playful nature of the luxurious chocolates he’s created for Fika. Amongst the teeming amounts of truffles and hands grabbing for whatever they could get, it was a glorious moment to just watch his hands moving, unraveling a bit of imagination and observe others who stopped for a few minutes, mouths empty, to just take it in.
Fika also makes an incredible whiskey and citrus jam that knocked my socks off.
This was my hippie-heart’s favorite find of the festival: raw chocolates that are free of sugar, dairy, gluten and soy, packed with nutrient-dense superfoods and sourced from fair-trade purveyors from all the places you want your chocolate to come from. And, oh, right, they’re DELICIOUS! Some of my favorite were the Fleur de Sel, Peppermint, Almond Fig Spice and Mayan Heat. Options wildly off the cuff: Powerchock (“with superfoods for maximum protein assimilation and physical prowess!”), Sacred Feminine (“Let the herbs in this bar support every stage of a woman’s cycle”) and EnWhitenment (“White Chocolate w/o dairy, soy, or refined sugar. Become EnWhitened!”).
They were so yummy I bought a bunch of bars for stocking-stuffers (crossing my fingers that my family only skims these posts now and then).
Check them out: their brand, vision and contribution to health through deliciously sweet chocolate has my humble little thanks and stamp of dusty approval.
I think it was at Jacques Torres. I’m not quite sure, I’m horrible at taking notes. And this little gem of a sculpture wasn’t getting as much attention as I felt it deserved, it being somewhat high for people to see and the samplings below taking focus. But it made me happy. This photo will most likely be the screensaver of something or another in my office soon.
I couldn’t sample this, but my show-mate did note this as one of her favorites, one of the few she remarked upon later as being stellar in simplicity and taste.
Call me a dork, but the whole reason I go to shows / events is to learn things about food. I chat up artisans and whomever about why their product makes their tale wag: why are you passionate about what you’re making? Because if you’re not passionate about it, I just can’t relate (unless it’s Halal after a night of drinking or something, of course. Food isn’t always art, sometimes it’s just damned good food. Or sustenance. You know where I’m going with that, right?).
So my favorite time spent at festivals is often in watching the demos. I had not heard of Paul A. Young Chocolates or his book, Adventures in Chocolate, before. But Young sold me easily because (a) his presentation had the ease of someone who knew their trade extremely well and didn’t have to put on airs to impress anyone (b) his creativity in flavors was exciting and (c) the mulled-wine hot chocolate I sampled after was like everything good about winter and the holidays in a tiny cup, and I’m an even bigger nerd for the holidays than I am for cooking demos at food festivals.
I couldn’t sample any of Young’s truffles (a pumpkin, one with port and Stilton cheese, and I forget the 3rd) but my show-buddy was delighted by them. And I was so curious as to what I could eat of his recipes that I bought the book, and am psyched to really begin my study of chocolate. As a dairy-freer, it’s something I’ve stayed on the sidelines of before: how can you make a ganache without cream?! I’m ready to find out.
I was so intrigued that I made a camp-fire version of the mulled wine hot chocolate while in Vermont last weekend, literally on an outdoor grill. I used some leftover Mexican chocolate I had ground with cayenne, cinnamon and nutmeg, some leftover dark Ghirardelli chocolate from S’Moresing, and a bottle of Malbec. Not exactly the posh British original, but it was damned warming and satisfying around a campfire in 30 degree weather after a long drive and racing ATV’s through the chilly forest (recipes from that trip coming).
Oh, the Mulled-wine Hot Chocolate is on page 116 of Adventures in Chocolate. I suggest grabbing it. Would make a great Christmas gift too.
And just some pretty things: