The International Chocolate Panel held last night at the 92nd Street Y brought together chocolate experts and fine vendors from around the world for a night of discussion, tasting, shopping and ultimately, over indulgence of all things chocolate. The night started off with a discussion from a panel of chocolate experts including Francois Payard of Payard Patisserie and Bistro, Bill Yosses of Joseph’s Citarella Restaurant, Stephanie Teuwen, creator of the marketing firm Teuwen One Image and producer of New York’s famous Chocolate Show, and Clay Gordon, self-proclaimed chocolate expert and founder of The New World Chocolate Society. Moderated by culinary historian Alexandra Leaf, panelists commented on their experiences in the chocolate world and the evolving role of chocolate in our lives today.
The recurring theme in the panel’s discussion was the change in the way Americans eat chocolate over the last ten years. Francois Payard commented that there was once a time that the Hershey Kiss was the only chocolate most Americans knew, and over the last decade he has seen a definite shift in New York’s preference from milk chocolate to dark. This observation was confirmed by Stephanie Teuwen who commented that when the Chocolate Show started eight years ago attendees were disappointed with the lack of milk chocolate offered, but now come to the show interested in criollo beans and looking for the finest dark chocolate made by premier chocolatiers. Attention to chocolate has also increased, marked by the rise in the Chocolate Show’s attendance from 5,000 in 1997 to over 30,000 in 2004.
Much discussion was also given to the trend of incorporating more exotic spices into chocolates like curry, ancho chili, ginger and even wasabi. The panel agreed that this adventure in chocolate was exciting, but may never replace the classics like caramel and praline as their favorite. The new spices are often fun to try once, but aren’t meant to eat regularly.
When asked to comment on why they became involved with chocolate Bill Yosses summed it up nicely when he said “Chocolate just has a thrilling effect on people”. Pioneers like Hershey and Cadbury have created entire worlds around chocolate, more and more people are turning to chocolate as a new career, and enthusiasts will spend large amounts of time and money involving anything chocolate. Even though fine chocolate is often an expensive treat, Clay Gordon reminded us that at least we have the ability to buy a piece of the best chocolate in the world for less than a cappuccino.
Immediately following the panel a full tasting of over 50 different kinds of truffles and chocolates from international vendors was available. The highlight of the night was Green and Black’s Organic chocolate from England (the chocolate is made in Northern Italy). During the discussion the panelists were asked to do a blind taste test of Green & Black’s 70% dark chocolate, and each expert claimed it had a fine taste and texture and were very impressed, all without knowing the label. During the tasting I was able to try samples of the 70% dark, espresso, white chocolate and caramel bars myself, and all varieties lived up to the experts’ analysis. The espresso bar ($4) is one of the best coffee flavored chocolate bars I have ever had, and the taste perfectly lingers in your mouth after you finish eating it.
I was also very impressed with the assorted truffles and marquis bars, a cross between a truffle and a brownie, from Long Island based confectioners, Sans Souci.
My favorite new flavor of the night was Chocolat Moderne’s lychee truffles, which come decorated like beautiful roses in a gold lined box. Chocolat Moderne is one of the best examples of a new chocolatier successfully using exotic spices to create interesting flavors that don’t overwhelm the senses. Their perfectly smooth dark chocolate bistro bars come in flavors like Sesame Samba, La Dolce Grapefruit and my favorite, Banana Flambée.
The quality and variety of chocolates available at this chocolate extravaganza perfectly suited the growing sophistication of all in attendance. Crowds rushed the tables for samples and took away as many as they could carry. At the end of the night the refreshments provided by Sanfaustino and Gotham Wines & Liquor helped all the chocophiles wash down their treats, and provided a perfect cap to a night full of chocolate.
The Chocolate Show
November 9, 2005 – Opening Gala and Chocolate Fashion Show
November 10 – 13, 2005 – Chocolate Show
Metropolitan Pavillion & Altman Building
125 West 18th Street (between 6th & 7th Avenues)
Tickets: Adults $20, Seniors (65+) and Students (with ID) $15, Children (6-14) $10
Green & Black’s,
2 Valentine Place,
London SE1 8QH
011-44 (0) 207 633 5900
Sans Souci Gourmet Confections
138 East Main Street
Port Jefferson, New York 11777