The Chocolate Life

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The Salon du Chocolat in NYC - The Chocolate Show

This weekend (November 9-11) saw The Chocolate Show in New York City. The show is organized by Event International, the company that organizes the Salon du Chocolat in Paris and more than 15 other cities around the world. New York is the only location that does that does not incorporate the Salon du Chocolat brand into the name.

I like The Chocolate Show for a number of reasons, including the fact that it brings out the core of the NY chocolate community every year while bringing people to the city that I only get to see once or twice a year. 

The New York show comes on the heels of the Salon du Chocolat in Paris (Oct 31 - Nov 4) and at the same time as the Salon du Chocolat in Lyon. I mention this as a preface to the effects of Hurricane Sandy. Three major shows in a two-week period is a lot of work and to some extent this was reflected in the organization and depth of offerings here at the New York show. For example, there was no opening fashion show and the show was shortened from its conventional four days to three. The show site suggests that visitors could expect 150 participants. The official show program lists about 55 exhibitors, a number that might be increased 50% if all of the speakers and presenters over the three days are also counted, so 150 participants was a stretch.

The conflict of timing also meant that some prior Chocolate Show participants from France did not make it this year, notably François Pralus (who was represented by his US distributor, though not with the variety of product that ended up being shown in Lyon, which is only an hour from Pralus' headquarters in Roanne).

But the big wrench in the works was undoubtedly Hurricane Sandy. The number of exhibitors - local, national, and international - was reduced by more than a dozen. Some of the exhibitors' businesses - notably NYC's Fika Choklad - were inundated by the hurricane. Other companies had trouble changing travel plans in the wake of the hurricane and the Nor'easter that dumped up to four inches of snow on Wednesday, less than 48 hours before the start of the show. Mott Green, of the Grenada Chocolate Company, mentioned that his flight to NY from Grenada was canceled. He was able to get a flight to Trinidad and catch a red-eye to NYC from there, otherwise he would have been late or missed the show entirely. Sorely missed were Guittard, probably the most consistent exhibitor at The Chocolate Show over its history.

On the flip side, Maricel Presilla (author of the must-owns The New Taste of Chocolate and Gran Cocina Latina) whose Hoboken, NJ-based restaurant Cucharamama and Latin grocery store Ultramarinos suffered significant storm damage, was able to staff a booth at the last minute. I saw her on Saturday morning when she told me that she left the show on Friday to return to Hoboken to reopen Cucharamama for service Friday evening. No small feats. Maricel was also serving grand chicken molé tamales on Saturday - a real treat. Maricel is a hugely valuable asset to the NY chocolate community, and if you have never been to Cucharamama, now is the time to go in support. (It's okay to go to New Jersey if you have any prejudices about it. It's not difficult to get to Hoboken on the PATH, and it's less than a 15-minute walk from the PATH to the restaurant. I've been there on several occasions and the food, drinks, and hospitality are never less than first rate.)

In addition to the weather having a visible impact on the exhibitor presence, the storm also had a huge effect on attendance. Friday was a very slow day compared with recent years, and Saturday, which started out with a rush, was noticeably beginning to slow down by the time I left, around 1:30. When I arrived at 10:30 there was no line when last year the line was hundreds of people deep. I did not go today, so I won't know how attendance stacked up until someone checks in with me. It's not clear if this year's weather problems will have an impact on next year's show. Certainly the organizers can't bear any blame for the weather, but the reduced number of exhibitors may be remembered by show regulars (who were heard to balk at the ticket prices), and exhibitors may remember the comparatively poor attendee turnout. Only time - and a 2103 show - will tell.

Pacari - the surprise runaway winner at the recent International Chocolate Awards - was in the Ecuador booth and featured founder Santiago Peralta whose travel schedule included returning to Ecuador after the Amsterdam Origin Chocolate conference then returning to Paris for the Salon du Chocolat before coming to NYC. Also in the Ecuador booth were Kallari with their new line of Sacha chocolate bars:

The other major bar introduction came from West Chester, PA-based Eclat. Their Good & Evil bar - which retails for $18 - is made using beans sourced in the Marañon River valley of Peru. These are not exactly the same beans used to make Fortunato #4, but they are sourced in the same general area. (The chocolate itself is manufactured in Switzerland, as is Fortunato #4, not in West Chester.)

The percentage is 4% higher than Fortunato #4, and the bar contains nibs, so it's not possible to compare the chocolate in the Good&Evil bar with the Fortunato, which is something I would like to do. The other feature of Good&Evil is the collaboration of two very well-known chefs, Eric Ripert (of Le Bernardin) and Tony Bourdain (author of Kitchen Confidential, and TV host) - Christopher Curtin (the third name on the bar) is the founder of Eclat. Neither Bourdain nor Ripert are known for their skills with chocolate, but there is no doubt that this celebrity co-branding will increase sales and make the $18 price tag more palatable to more people.

And that's it for today. I am catching a train to Stamford, CT shortly to attend the grand opening celebration for Fritz Knipschildt's Chocopologie.

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Comment by Clay Gordon on November 20, 2012 at 3:03pm

On the November 14th episode (click link to read about the episode and listen) of my weekly program, Straight From the Source on Heritage Radio network, I discussed some of the impact of Hurricane Sandy on The Chocolate Show with Maricel Presilla and Hakan Martensson.

While attendance was down - the organizers say it was down by one-third, some exhibitors estimate that it was less than half of prior years - Maricel was quick to point out that while some were dismissing the show entirely (with hundreds of thousands of home without power does it make sense to celebrate chocolate?) the show was a bright spot for the New York chocolate community to get together to provide some respite from the storm's effects and aftermath.

About 50 exhibitors were able to attend and many thousands of people did show up to enjoy chocolate and learn. The show also served as a place for chocolatiers affected by the storm to get together and reaffirm their commitment to their craft, to their colleagues, and to the communities they serve. It is an ill wind that blows no one good, and sometimes there is a chocolate lining to events.

Comment by Clay Gordon on November 13, 2012 at 6:13pm

A review of the Good&Evil bar on HuffingtonPost: Good & Evil Taste TestIs Anthony Bourdain And Eric Ripert's New Chocolate Bar Worth $18?

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