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Seattle Luxury Chocolate Salon

16-Jul-2008
 
 
 
 

 

Sunday I attended the first Seattle Luxury Chocolate Salon sponsored by Taste TV and held at the Bell Harbor Conference Center.  I had actually been asked to be on the tasting panel, which just meant that in addition to tasting I had a list of categories for which I was supposed to nominate chocolate companies.  This was a hard, if enviable, task.  I tried very hard to have a little taste from every chocolatier but even that small amount soon became chocolate overload.  And I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t taste the entire line-up each chocolatier was offering – that would have sent me over the edge for sure! 

 
In case that sounds like a complaint it’s not.  Just sort of setting the stage so you know the context for my comments to follow. 
 
So let me provide you with the list of official winners.  This is from yesterday’s news release: 
 
The Awards for the 1st Annual Seattle Luxury Chocolate Salon have been selected by our team of expert panelists, and can be seen on the Salon website here. Sample awards include:   

  • Best Dark Chocolate: Amano Artisan Chocolate
  • Best Milk Chocolate: Theo Chocolate
  • Best Truffle: Posh Chocolat / Cadeaux Chocolates
  • Most (I believe this should be "best" not most) Gift Set: Petits Noirs
  • Most Artistic Designs Cosmic Chocolate
  • Best Organic or Fair Trade Products: Theo Chocolate
  • Most Gifted Chocolatier: Fiori Chocolatiers / Cosmic Chocolate
  • New Product Award Kekau Chocolatier / GrendelSweets Handcrafted Chocolates
  • Chocolate Pioneer Award Dilettante Chocolates
  • Some of my nominations lined up with the winners and some did not, but honestly there were very few ways to go wrong with all the chocolate talent in that room.  And, I find, that with chocolate as with many other things, personal preference plays a big role.  I tend to skew towards the dark chocolates while others may prefer milk chocolates better.

    The one thing I found a bit surprising is that flavored chocolate has become so popular that "plain" chocolate does not even exist in many of the companies’ products.  And I think that’s a shame.  I had the idea that I’d try all the plain chocolate to try to keep judging on a level playing field but soon found I wouldn’t be able to do that.  So here are just some observations from my tasting.  Listed in random order….

    Cocoa Chai: The truffle I tried was a little spicy and very smooth – very good. They were nicely decorated, nothing too garish or odd.  The only thing I was surprised at was I asked if she used a specific type of chocolate and her answer seemed to indicate there was not a real rhyme or reason to which chocolate was used.  Perhaps she didn’t fully understand my question. 

    Cadeaux Chocolates:  I loved these chocolates.  Very smooth.  I had a bittersweet espresso and it was perfect.  The espresso was present and it enhanced not overpowered the chocolate. 

    Kekau Chocolatier I actually tried three of their samples because the flavors were so interesting.  All were good, but my favorite was the smokey blue cheese.  I know, sounds weird but it was really good.  And I just realized that the blue cheese they use is from Rogue Creamery – no wonder I like it so much!

    E. Guittard: I sampled their 91% cacao bar among other things.  It is way too bitter for eating on it’s own but for baking or to use with a sweeter chocolate it would be perfect.  I use their various chocolates quite often in baking and always love them. 

    Poco Dolce:  They have the most gorgeous understated packaging.  I’m not really sure why it appealed to me so strongly but it did.  I am sad to say that I didn’t have a chance to really taste their chocolate.  I had one small bit of one type and I thought it was okay.  I meant to come back when the table was less crowded, as I felt my taste was not representative, but didn’t have an opportunity.

    Alma Chocolate: Alma touts their chocolates as being (almost) sin-free.  Some might take offense at their nod to the spiritual world with designs based on world religious icons but it seemed very light and rather whimsical to me.  I tried one of their salted lavender caramels and it was heavenly!    

    Oh! Chocolate:  Thinking this was a new venture I asked the guy some questions only to find out they’ve been in the Seattle area for about 20 years!  How have I missed them?  Especially with all the press they’ve received over the years?  I don’t know but I’m glad I know about them now.  They had two chocolates that I really liked.  The first was a Pinot-Noir flavored truffle that was topped with pink peppercorns.  It was delightfully spicy!  The second was a blackberry chocolate with good blackberry flavor that wasn’t too strong but complemented the dark chocolate.  And they’ve just opened a Madison Park store… 

    L’estasi Dolci:  I tried two of their offerings but found they were not really to my taste.  I found both the mint-ginger truffle and the Pinot Noir truffle to be just too sweet, although the taste of the mint-ginger was good.

    Amano Artisan Chocolate:  I loved talking with these folks.  They were really knowledgeable and handled their tasting more like I was expecting; sort of like a wine tasting.  They were tasting three premium chocolates, all 70% but each sourced from a different country and each with different characteristics.  I think these were the only guys who talked about holding the chocolate on your tongue and letting it melt to realize all the characteristics of each type.  I was really surprised that wasn’t a common theme as that is the only way to really pick up on chocolate nuances.  This table was educational as well as interesting, similar to a wine tasting but with chocolate!

    Grendel Sweets:  They were too sweet for me.

    Cosmic Chocolate: I liked the sample of chocolate I had here but I would probably never buy these chocolates. Most of the designs I found to be a bit garish or more suited to teenagers than adults.  And their website drives me a little crazy, too. 

    Dilettante Chocolate: I think I’ve been guilty of taking Dilettante for granted.  Sometimes I forget about those tried and true companies – especially if they are successful and grow outside of the bounds of what we consider "artisan".  But growth and tenure aren’t always bad and Dilettante proves that.  Their chocolates are still excellent.  And I had a great time talking with Dana Davenport, the founder.  So amazingly knowledgeable and his love of the business was so evident. 

    Island Angel Chocolates:  In talking to the man at Island Angel I was really looking forward to sampling his chocolates.  He seemed so interested in what types of tastes I preferred and recommended a lavender chocolate for me.  I did not like it at all.  I was so disappointed.  I wanted to like it.  And now I don’t know if it was just his recommendations were off or if I really didn’t like their recipe.  I think it was the latter, unfortunately. 

    Posh Chocolat: I sampled one of their Fleur de Sel Caramels.  I think the underlying chocolate was good but there was too much salt on the candy to really be able to tell. 

    Theo Chocolate:  I’m already skewed when it comes to Theo.  I really like their chocolate.  Although they had all of their bars available to sample I restrained myself to two new bars, the Hazelnut Crunch Milk Chocolate and the Fig, Fennel and Almond Dark Chocolate.  Both were good and I do like their milk chocolate as it is 40% cacao.  Still my favorites are their Origins bars. 

    Lula’s Chocolates:  This seems to be the only casualty of the day.  I’m pretty sure I really liked these but I can’t read my notes!  Dang it.  But I must have liked them because the part I remember is that they are currently only in California but will soon be in Whole Foods here in Seattle.  That and that Lula was the grandmother who’s recipes are used today.  ;-)

    Claudio Corallo Chocolate:  This was another table where I learned a lot!  I really liked these people and the photo at the top of the post was taken at their table.  What you are looking at are the roasted cacao beans.  I tried them.  They are a bit bitter but not as much was I’d expected and you can see where the final taste of the chocolate comes from.  I tried their 75% chocolate and I liked the taste but felt it was a bit grainy. 

    Fiori Chocolatiers:  I only tried one of their samples and it was so good!  I had the Lavender y Miele which was the most lovely and delicately flavored chocolate!  Hints of lavender and a bit of sweetness (but not too much!) from the raspberry blossom honey enhance the gorgeous chocolate perfectly!

    Intrigue Chocolates:  I’ve had these chocolates a few time and always find their flavors intriguing….  On Sunday I had a sample of their St. Basil.  That herb is just lovely with chocolate. 

    I’ve missed a couple but got nearly all of them.  In addition to the chocolatiers there were a couple of tables with chocolate spa products and one brownie maker.  All in all, it was a nice event and I encourage you to go next year. 

    I took photos of nearly every table, however betweent the lighting and the crowds none of them are really great.  However, they will give you an idea of each of the chocolatiers offerings.  You can see them here.  

               

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