Strategy and stamina

Posted on July 16th, 2009

I attended the Seattle Luxury Chocolate Salon last weekend. In principle, it sounds like heaven on earth. A room stuffed to the brim with chocolate bars, chocolate confections, and even chocolate spa products? Good heavens to Betsy, I say.

If you stop to think about it, it’s actually a really challenging situation. There was no way I was going to taste everything, so first I had to figure out which ones were interesting enough to taste. That narrowed it down from 27 exhibitors to about 10.

Still, ten is a lot. Especially considering that most tables were sampling anywhere from 5-15 items.

I started with the bean-to-bar producers, and there were some pretty impressive chocolates in the room. I look forward to the next time that I’m in the same room with Amano Artisan Chocolate, Theo Chocolate and Claudio Corallo Chocolate. Each company has a slightly different approach, and it makes for really interesting conversation – and incredibly delicious chocolate.

Next up, the confections. There were a lot to sample, so I had to be pretty brutal. If I didn’t like one sample, I’d try one more. And if I didn’t like that one, then that was it.

I definitely lingered at the Chocolopolis table, working my way through their guided tasting of five single-origin chocolate ganaches made with chocolate from  different producers. It still surprises me how this seemingly simple thing – cacao, cocoa butter, chocolate – can taste so different, and the tasting definitely drove this point home.

I enjoyed the Saint Basil truffle from Intrigue Chocolates, though some of the other flavours were less remarkable. I’ll keep an eye on them, because I think they’re doing some interesting things.

William Dean Chocolates were showing off their cuckoo creation: a bleu cheese ganache on top of a pecan marzipan, dipped in dark chocolate. I appreciate the effort – and the pecan marzipan was a wise choice – but in the end, I’m not a fan of bleu cheese and chocolate. (For the record, I’m also not a fan of curry and chocolate.)

I also sampled their pate de fruits in raspberry and pear flavours. The flavours are nice, but the textures are a bit firmer than traditional pate de fruits. I mentioned this, and it turns out that it’s intentional. The firmer texture is meant to appeal to the company’s clientele in Tampa Bay. Sigh. At least it’s a case of someone knowing what the real deal is, and then consciously working around it – and not just a mistake.

In total, it took me five hours to navigate the room. Mind you, I wasn’t eating the entire time. I spent a lot of time talking to people, some time in seminars, and some time walking around aimlessly in an attempt to digest faster.

And listen to me, griping on about having to eat too much chocolate. What’s that I hear? Oh, don’t worry. It’s just the world’s smallest violin, whining away in the distance.

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