Tuesday, February 28, 2012

TASTE TV's Spring Chocolate Salon - Fort Mason - 3/4/12

Spring is around the corner, and with that comes the 6th Annual International CHOCOLATE SALON which will be held at Fort Mason. Instead of cherry blossoms, my thoughts at this time of year turn to always to chocolate.  It is the knowledge that I will not be disappointed that brings me back every year.

TASTE TV's Chocolate Salon is like walking into Willie Wonka’s factory with your own golden ticket.  The Olympics for chocolate artisans, this event brings chocolatiers from across the globe to compete.  They are there to have their point of view experienced, to promote their businesses and express their passion for making the perfect bite of chocolate. They have all got a unique voice.  Some have discovered new ways to incorporate more brilliant color in the shell of a truffle, some are masters of shape, some are alchemists of substance.  Others have tried combining spices and ingredients as yet unseen in a chocolate mixture, allowing the attendees to try new recipes at the event, sometimes for the first time.

These inventive and inspired chefs will be bringing their A game to the Salon.  Many of the vendors compose a new generation of earth-conscious entrepreneurs who inspire us by their insistence on using beans from free-trade farms, which along with green technologies are re-inventing the industry as we know it.  Some have even gone to great lengths to ensure that the populations of their source countries will share in the profits.

Many of these chocolate companies are family run, and their generational pride is palpable.  Treasured recipes, perfected for decades and passed down through family members are perfected and served up at this elite event—  the perfect opportunity for these pioneer chocolatiers to share their recipes with the world.  They offer their confections with such genuine enthusiasm that one cannot help but taste it in each truffle, bar and every tiny chip of chocolate.   Siblings, cousins, couples and friends have come together to collaborate and along their journey have discovered much, all of it meant to be shared with the world.  They are inspiring.

Offerings feature ingredients sourced from places like Bolivia, Venezuela, and Trinidad; much of it organic.  Cacao beans from the hidden forests of the Amazon are processed into treats of remarkable flavor and depth.  A myriad of chocolate treats are presented to the public:  raw, milk, dark, light, soft, crunchy, even sweet and savory.   Among my favorites in the past have been Snake and Butterfly hailing from Campbell, California, Vice Chocolates from Oakland and newcomer Sixth Court Artisan Confections.  Amano Artisan’s product is outstanding, and their fair trade program is particularly ambitious in its goal to uplift the humble cacao farmers with whom they do business.  Toffee Talk simply makes the most amazing toffee.  A basic time-honored treat, it has the perfect chew and is always a pleasure to eat.  I have difficulty stopping at one piece, as with one bite, I am six years old again and sitting at my grandmother’s knee.  There are so many that I couldn’t possibly list them all here, but take my word for it, there is something here for everyone.  Even those who don’t like their candy very sweet.

Each vendor is seeking a way to make the world a better place: whether by furthering an understanding of where this mystical substance comes from, and what it takes to bring it to table, or just to make the perfect piece of candy.  All hope to be elected that year’s reigning Salon Winner, and every year picking a winner gets harder and harder on me, so I can imagine it’s the same for all judges.  I am grateful that I have been lucky enough to participate as such for the past several years.

What will you experience if you attend? 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 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.

These photos are from the Fall Chocolate Salon.  Enjoy, then I’d suggest you buy a ticket and check it out for yourself.  Make a memory of your own.

These are just a few of the magnificent artists that will populate this affair, among them culinary artisans from across the country and around the world:  21st Amendment Brewery, Alquimia Organic Tequila; Amano Artisan Chocolates; Alter Eco Fair Trade Chocolate; Be A Gourmet 25yr old Balsamic Vinegars; Bread Project (non profit); CC Made; Christopher Michael Chocolates; Chuao Chocolatier; Clarine's Florentines; COCOA; CocoTutti; Dandelion Chocolate; David Bacco Chocolatier; Farm Fresh To You; Firehouse Grill and Brewery; Guittard Chocolate Company; Jade Chocolates; Jerk'NPickle artisan beef jerky; Kallari; Kika's Treats; La Chatelaine Chocolat Co.; Monterey Chocolate Company; Neo Cocoa; NewTree; Nicole Lee Fine Chocolates; Quady Winery; R&B Cellars; Rigolo CafĂ©; Saratoga Chocolates; Sixth Course Artisan Confections; Skylake Ranch; Slo Down Wines, Pacific Grove; Snake & Butterfly; Socola Chocolatier; TeaRoom Chocolate Company; Toffee Talk; Toffeeology; Truffles in Paradise; Urban Legend Cellars; Vice Chocolates; Victoria Chocolatier; William Dean Chocolates; Winery SF (Treasure Island)

More information can be found at http://sfchocolatesalon2012.eventbrite.com.