This past Sunday morning, instead of going to church like my less gluttonous Christian counterparts, I dragged Tiffany Toyota out to the Pasadena Center for the 3rd Annual LA Chocolate Salon. Armed with my camera, a bottle of water, and Tupperware, I arrived at the exhibition at 11:30 am, primed to eat as much chocolate as possible. For two and half hours, I did just that.
While others grew weary and complained of chocolate overload, I never felt like I needed to call a choco-interference. I was grinning like a sugar-crazed idiot the entire time, and was able to champion my way through many of the different vendors at the event. There is no way to award just one or even three of the bites I tried, the descriptor of “my favorite,” so instead I will do what high school seniors across America do at the end of every school year – I will award them superlatives. Or, if you prefer, “Dundie Awards” -- just like Michael did in Season 2 of "the Office."
My first stop at the Chocolate Salon was also one of the highlights of the event -- and I'm not just saying that because of the primacy affect. My second toasted marshmallow (caramel swirl) that I ate toward the end of my two-plus hour chocolate chowdown was just as tasty and ooey gooey delicious as the first one I sampled (s'mores). I did prefer the latter for obvious reasons (it contained chocolate).
In the five minutes I spent talking to one of the women helping with the Swirls Cupcakes’ exhibit, I heard no less than ten people ask (in whiny voices), “Can we sample the red velvet?” Ignorant fools. There is goodness to be found outside of the red velvet! And that goodness is called the chocolate ganache cupcake. With its fudgy top hat and moist interior, this cupcake would pair perfectly with my fat pants and a glass of milk. But is it better than my favorite bad boys at Sprinkles or SusieCakes? Not so sure on that one. I’d have to... ahem… order a red velvet from the Sherman Oak-based company for adequate research.
Prettiest (ie. most expensive) packaging…
While I blanched when I learned that six of the delicate florentines would rape my wallet of $10, the product does have quality (and damn fine looks) on its side. The candied almond brittle caressed with Guittard chocolate was one of my favorite bites of the day, and may just inspire me to perform a little experimenting in my kitchen to replicate them.
Most… err… interesting…
The Durian chocolate I sampled from Marti Chocolatt was… not to my taste. At all. But the rose raspberry quickly brought the smile back to my face.
Most likely to get me to pry open my wallet…
This Santa Monica chocolatier bowled me over with its root beer float chocolate – a hefty bite of root beer and exotic vanilla cream enrobed in 32% cacao milk chocolate. Then the chocolatier went and bowled me over again with its seasonal peppermint snowman filled with marshmallow and peppermint cream. The unique chocolates were another of my favorites of the day, and I left with three root beer floats and one snowman to enjoy this week ($5).
Least likely to be a Hanukkah present…
Christopher Michael’s Sizzling Bacon Bar
This chocolate bacon bar ain’t kosher by any stretch of the imagination. Thank God.
Most likely to be described as “yum-o!”
According to Bruce Nadler, the owner of the Marin county based company, Rachael Ray is a big fan of these chocolate dipped pretzels hand rolled in toffee chips. Despite that shortcoming, my mouth was still won over by the creative product and charming owner who started the company with his daughter. I’ve been craving both the original and peanut butter flavors since sampling them on Sunday. Yum-o, indeed.
Most likely to be mistaken for art…
Sterling Truffle Bar
Sterling Confections specializes in hand-painted truffle bars that are pretty enough to use as a centerpiece for a formal dining room table. Fortunately, they taste good too. The double hazelnut caramel with contrasting tiers of milk chocolate flavored with rich hazelnut puree, white chocolate infused with caramel and dark chocolate with a hint of ground hazelnut was almost as delicious as the over-effusive description implies. The rocky road with a filling of milk and white chocolate, almonds, marshmallows and a hint of vanilla was better. Now if only I could figure out how to cut the darn things without a butcher knife…
Pastry Chef Xuan Ngo and his partner Tuan Trinh were not only the nicest vendors at the exhibit, but also had the best variety of items to sample. From the sophisticated earl grey chocolates to the delicate vanilla macarons, everyone could find something to love from this table. I know it won’t be long before I’m stocking up on the macarons that are now available at Paris Pastry in Westwood.
Most likely to give Reese’s a run for its money…
Ococoa specializes in jazzed-up, adult versions of the candy aisle favorite Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Despite my adoration of most things chocolate and/or peanut butter, I never quite understood the big fuss about Reese’s chalky-tasting cups. Ococoa’s take is far more to my liking. The sample of the almond cherry dark chocolate I tried was refined enough to make me feel like a grown-up, but basic enough to keep my inner five-year-old happy. I’m dying to get my hands on the other flavors which include pistachio date, sesame fig, hazelnut chocolate, cashew apricot, marzipan truffle, macadamia guava, sunflower honey, and of course, classic peanut butter.
Most likely to make me do something stupid…
Dove’s Chocolate Martinis
Immediately after sampling the delightful chocolate martini, I found myself say, “Why, yes, I would be interested in hosting a chocolate tasting party. And why, yes, you can have my name and e-mail to contact me about it.”
Most likely to make me feel like a kid again…
Neopolitan Printing & Company
The Ants on a Log chocolate from this Portland-based company was another of my favorite bites – it tasted exactly like a peanut butter raisin topped celery stick, only covered in milk chocolate. I maniacally told the vendor that it was the best thing I’d had – ever. It was a total lie, and I have no idea why I said that, but they were yummy and I was high on sugar. The chocolate-covered mango was also good. But did not inspire me to make any hyperbolic remarks.