Monday, October 31, 2011

FALL CHOCOLATE SALON - San Francisco - November 13, 2011

As the seasons change and we approach the holidays, I’m usually not thinking about Christmas.  The first Halloween pumpkins and water-cooler chatter of the possibilities of who can make the most inventive costumes doesn’t bring me straight to Christmas trees and sugar plums.  But my thoughts do turn to something sugary.  Here in the Bay the approaching year’s end can mean only one thing: the Fall Chocolate Salon put on by Taste TV at Fort Mason.  Cause they, well, they have chocolate.

And not just any chocolate.  TASTE TV’s Fall Chocolate Salon is the Willie Wonka of chocolate experiences.  The World Cup of Chocolate Salons.  Held at Fort Mason, artisans from all over  arrive with all manner of magical concoctions and set up their wares to be tasted.  They are there to be experienced, to be promoted and to be judged.  Since it’s a competition of sorts, these artisans have delivered the best of their best, in the hopes of being among the chosen. But they are also there to expose us to the unimaginable variety of choice that is the face of modern chocolate manufacturing.

In this big sprawling room can be found an array of the best chocolates available in the world today.   Concoctions featuring sourced cacao from places like Bolivia, Venezuela, and Trinidad; some even from the hidden forests of the Amazon.   These beans have been harvested from across the globe and have been processed to make a myriad of chocolate treats:  raw, milk, dark, light, soft, crunchy, even sweet and savory.

I was not surprised to discover that many of these chocolate companies are family run, and their pride is palpable.  Treasured family recipes have been perfected for generations.  Elite events like this are the perfect opportunity for these proud descendants of pioneer chocolatiers to share their bounty with the world.  They offer their confections with such genuine enthusiasm.  They are not merely selling, they are aglow with the joy of what they offer.  They are inspiring.  Some have developed new or perfected versions of beloved childhood favorites, some have invented completely new recipes.  Siblings, cousins, couples and friends have come together to collaborate and along their journey have discovered much, and all of it should be shared.

These are magnificent artists.  They have discovered ways to incorporate more brilliant color in the shell of a truffle.  These are inventive and inspired chefs who have found flavor combinations as yet untasted.  And they will often be presented here at the Chocolate Salon.  Among the vendors can also be found a new generation of earth-conscious entrepreneurs who inspire us by their insistence on using beans from free-trade farms, and green technologies, ensuring that the populations of those source countries will also share in the profits.  They want in their own way to help the world benefit from our global delight in chocolate.

This fair is more than merely a contest or a “candy” extravaganza.  It is a giant tent of love, full of amazing expressions of human inventiveness manifested in chocolate.  Truffles in every color of the rainbow.  Bars of every shape and size.  Flavors spicy, sweet and savory.  The palate is assaulted with it all —   coconut, ginger, jalapeno, pineapple, mango, coffee— and it just goes on from there.  This is a room chock-full of chocolate, but it is also a place where the air is laden with the scent of cacao, and the artisans who have found their muse in this mythical substance of history, have outdone themselves to come up with a new and intriguing variation on ways to reinvent it for the world.

More information can be found at  I suggest you go and check it out.  Make a few memories of your own.

Postscript: It’s a great place to shop for the holidays, if you can think about them while overwhelmed with the glory of all the chocolate.  The packaging is gorgeous, sexy, pretty and inventive.  A little something for everyone.

Among the participants this Fall are  Amano Artisan Chocolate, CocoTutti, ChoclatiQue, Snake & Butterfly, Permano, Willet's Mini Creations, Leonidas Fresh Belgian Chocolate, Saratoga Chocolates, Victoria Chocolatier, Nicole Lee Fine Chocolates, Sterling Truffle Bar, Toffeeology, The TeaRoom Chocolate Company, Monterey Chocolate Company, Marich Confectionery, Sixthcourse Artisan Confections, Toffee Talk, Dandelion Chocolate, MDP Signature Chocolates, Au Coeur Des Chocolats, Seattle Chocolate Company, Butterfly Brittle, Be A Gourmet, Jack & Jason's Pancakes & Waffles, Urban Legend Cellars, The Winery SF, Jerk'NPickle, TasteTV, and more.

More information can be found at  I suggest you go and check it out.  Make a few memories of your own.