Sunday, October 05, 2008

2nd Annual Los Angeles Luxury Chocolate Salon - Pasadena

How much chocolate can a food blogger eat if she could eat as much as she wanted?

Not as much as you'd think...

Last week I received an email about the 2nd Annual Los Angeles Luxury Chocolate Salon. How's that for a mouthful? $17.50 advance tickets, $20 at the door, for all the chocolate I could eat from about 30 gourmet chocolatiers. Let me in for free please? And so they did. My love of "free" and "chocolate" has no bearing on the outcome of this post...

...or does it? ;)

The event was held at the Pasadena Center. This was the left side of the room half an hour after doors opened.



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And the right side of the room. I decided to start right in the middle, by the pillar, with the chocolatier who was giving out full-sized samples. What can I say? Oink! Oink!





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By the time I walked downstairs, the tray had emptied and I had to wait while Valerie Confections refilled the samples of truffles with black pepper and fleur de sel (the fancy grey sea salt). That's not my hand grabbing the sample, although I don't blame the woman for getting a jump on everyone else in the crowd. These truffles were smooth and rich, the black pepper had a curious bite but blended in perfectly, and the sea salt added a nicely contrasting flavor finish. All in all, a great start to a chocolate-filled afternoon.



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I wended my way over to the right and figured I'd just make a big circle around the room. Next up was Mignon Chocolate. The marbled green tea chocolates really looked like marbles didn't they? I got a partial sample of the green tea and the flavor was quite strong, just the way I like it.


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I also tried part of the pomegranate flavor. It reminded me of pomegranate juice. I was more enamored with the designs on each piece though.



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Next was Chocolate All the Time where the owner, Susie Norris, tried to chat with each person while hurriedly cutting pieces for everyone to sample. She graciously let me try both wasabi and gold leaf chocolates. I've never eaten gold leaf before! It didn't have any taste, but the novelty factor alone made this quite a treat. The wasabi didn't have as much of a kick as I'd hoped, but both chocolates themselves were wonderful.



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I think the wackiest award must go to "Sacred Steve," the self-named "King Oompa Loompa" of Sacred Chocolate. I tried a marvelous chai- and curry-infused chocolate called "India Sunset." He also makes medicinal chocolates. A mushroom flavor that I was too scared to try and an "Amazonian" flavor with 17 kinds of herbs that was positively herbal. Blech! I had to override the taste with a sample of white chocolate that more than made up for it.



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I stopped to gawk at the cocoa butter at the Sunfood booth.



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Then I saw the owner peel a raw cacao bean and let someone try it. I wanna try too!



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So here's David Wolfe of Sunfood showing you a raw cacao bean and letting me sample one. It's good! Put me on YouTube he said. So I did.




I stopped to grab some chocolate coins from the Dove Chocolate booth, but I wasn't in the mood for chocolate-covered strawberries and marshmallows. I'm saving my stomach for the gourmet stuff! I ate them later though and they were good.



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Jade Chocolates served chocolates with Asian flavors. I ended up trying all four flavor samples and loved them all! Genmai - roasted brown rice, roasted green tea, and jasmine tea. Dragon's Breath - roasted sesame seeds, lapang souchong tea, and ground red chili. Orient Espresso - oak-roasted espresso and cardamom. Mahal - ylang ylang, Indonesian cinnamon, and coconut.



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They also featured chocolate-covered dried mangoes in orchid shapes. Pretty!



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Arlene's Gourmet Toffees were artfully packaged to sell that day. I tried a small piece of dark chocolate-covered toffee. Yum!



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Then came one of the most adventurous and my favorite booth at the whole event. Marti Chocolatt featured durian, pandan, and jackfruit flavors. Owned by Filipino-American Tonet Tibay, who studied at Ecole Lenotre in Paris, these chocolates seamlessly blended Asian flavors with the most luscious chocolate.



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I sampled durian, buko pandan (pandan with bits of young coconut), jackfruit, and jasmine citron flavors and could have piggishly stood there eating them all. The flavors were true to life, the freshest versions of each fruit that you could possibly imagine, blended with high quality chocolate. The fact that she made durian scrumptious should tell you something! The booth was so popular that they were constantly refilling and refilling the samples.



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Chocolate haunted house courtesy of Downey's Chocolates.



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Tried a small sample of cabernet sauvignon from Calcereous Vineyard. It was supposed to pair well with chocolate, whatever that means. You know I don't have a sophisticated wine palate. I hurriedly gulped down my sample when I saw...



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...chocolate cream liqueur! I used to buy a bottle of Scottish chocolate whisky whenever I visited, but it's been years and years. This Vermeer Dutch Chocolate Cream Liqueur was excellent! Smooth, creamy, chocolatey. It boasted 17% alcohol, a blend of pure Dutch chocolate, premium vodka, and rich cream. The guy even nicely wiped off the bottle and positioned it so I could get a photo. And I got a free mini bottle too. I'm hoarding so you can't have any!



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By now I was quite full of chocolate and was about to quit when I saw these pretty plumeria-shaped chocolates from the Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory.



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So what's a criollo? A representative explains the different varieties of cacao beans.




Here's a close-up of the pods and the beans. Funky huh?



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I turned around and ran into Javier of Teenage Glutster. I was actually surprised that I hadn't seen any other food bloggers. Guess I was just there too early. We chatted a bit and he urged me to try the gourmet marshmallows from Plush Puffs. I was going to bypass it, too much sugar at this point, but then I saw the little gel burners. Make my own S'mores!



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I ended my chocolate day with Christopher Michael Chocolates and a sample of the lemongrass chocolate. Look at all the other artful chocolates on display.



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That was it! I could not possibly fit in anymore. By this point, the room was rapidly filling up. I'm glad I got there when I did since I didn't have to fight (Too much!) for the chocolate.

2nd Annual Los Angeles Luxury Chocolate Salon
Check the website for upcoming salons in San Francisco and Seattle.

Many of these chocolatiers have online only shops, or distribute to other retailers, so please check the website first. Addresses below are to the shops and/or the offices. If hours are listed, then the address is also a retail store. Please double-check first though before heading out to the location.

Arlene's Gourmet Toffees
11545 Sorrento Valley Rd., Ste. 303
San Diego, CA 92121
858-509-3037

Calcareous Vineyard

3430 Peachy Canyon Rd.
Paso Robles, CA 93446
805-239-0289
Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Chocolate All the Time
4159 Wanda Dr.
Los Angeles, CA 90027
323-660-9757

Christopher Michael Chocolates
3305 Newport Blvd., Ste. D
Newport Beach, CA 92663
949-566-9810
Tuesday to Saturday noon to 7 p.m.
Monday by appointment.

Dove Chocolate

Downey's Chocolates

23902 Aliso Creek Rd.
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
949-226-8086 or 877-815-0814
Tuesday to Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sunday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Jade Chocolates
Check website for retail locations.
3200 California St.
San Francisco, CA 94118
415-933-8719
10% off online orders. Use code "salon2008"
Expires: December 15, 2008.

Marti Chocolatt
Online only.
626-320-4404 or 877-424-6258

Mignon Chocolate
315 N. Verdugo Rd.
Glendale, CA 91206
818-549-9600

Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory
78-6772 Makenawai St.
Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
808-322-2626 or 888-447-2626

Plush Puffs
Check website for retail locations.
PO Box 56043
Sherman Oaks, CA 91413
818-784-2931

Sacred Chocolate
1925 E. Francisco Blvd., #5
San Rafael, CA 94901
415-342-0527

Sunfood
11652 Riverside Dr.
Lakeside, CA 92040
800-205-2350

Valerie Confections
3360 W. 1st St.
Los Angeles, CA 90004
888-706-1408
Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Saturday noon to 4 p.m.

Vermeer Dutch Chocolate Cream Liqueur

Check the website for retailers.

*****
1 year ago today, Misoyaki Salmon.

14 comments:

  1. That's a whole lotta chocolate WC! And based on Sacred Steve's getup, I would have definitely gone for the shroom chocolates first;) Great find with the Fil-Am chocolatier too. Did you get a chance to taste the barako?

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  2. You must be in a very very happy mood after that! Hahaha! Those lil pumpkins at the Chocolate Horror House so cute. Did you try?

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  3. omg what a great event, and you got in for free! A decadent afternoon it is, filled with so many different types of pretty chocs... I enjoy feasting on the photos even though I couldn't feast on the actual chocs, hehe

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  4. I barely restrained myself from licking the screen. I've never been one for chocolate bars, but this, this just brought out my closet chocoholic.

    The black pepper truffles sound amazing. And the choc liqueur. And the s'mores. And the...

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  5. Wow! You went to heaven and back. Mango covered chocolate...hmmm that will go on my list of things to replicate.

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  6. WOW! I'm far from a chocoholic, but these pictures and your descriptions have given me a little craving. The durian and pandan chocolates have piqued my interest! I'm glad you included the links at the bottom.

    BTW, that picture of Sacred Steve and his assistant made me giggle like a school girl. They look like quite an interesting pair.

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  7. Wow, great FULL review.

    I'm still working on mine...full time school (having nothing to do with food!) and foodblogging don't go well with each other!

    Anyways, I was surprised I didn't see more foodbloggers neither, or maybe, they were keeping true to that whole "incognito" food writer thing...

    Glad to see you there though.

    see 'ya

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  8. I'm actually not the chocoholic in my family, but I am already drooling over the many varieties available! Wow! Wait till Hubby and Daughter see this! :)

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  9. Could you go into more details about the flavor of the chocolates? You described the fruit or spice flavor, but what was the chocolate it was paired with like? Sweet? Bitter? Milky? Good chocolate always makes great Christmas presents and these all look so interesting!

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  10. How cool, I read about this, but I thought my mouth would get a little tired of tasting chocolate all day. I love all of the different varieties though.

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  11. glad you're taking your food blogger duties seriously....what a day well spent, too! here in portland we're more apt to get invited to the hemp-food show...unfortunately.thanks for sharing the choco-love!!

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  12. Thanks for coming to the Salon last week, it was fun. Now that we know that LA likes this kind of tasting event, next year we'll expand to more space, more chocolate, and a lot more wine.

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  13. I can't even imagine being surrounded by that much chocolate - I'd probably short circuit from too much excitement... just looking at the photos, I am quite giddy.

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  14. Marvin,
    That was precisely why I was too scared to try the mushroom chocolates! I should have tried the barako! Honestly, I was getting sooo full of chocolate!

    PP,
    No, the haunted house was just for show. No samples. :(

    Wiffy,
    Feasting on photos is better for your waistline. ;)

    Dee,
    Haha! Yeah, almost everything I tried was amazing.

    SIS,
    I was thinking I could do that too!

    Darlene,
    Not a chocoholic? How could you not be? Yes, I really surprised how tasty the durian chocolate ended up being.

    Javier,
    It was nice running into you too! Can't wait to see your write-up.

    Ning,
    Hope your daughter got an eyeful, especially of the yummy Filipino chocolates. :)

    MIS,
    Ah, sorry, too many chocolates all ran together in flavor. :P They were almost all dark chocolate, and all of good quality. It was what they were paired with that really stood out for me so that's what I described.

    Esi,
    I was only there for an hour. I love chocolate, but I really can't eat too much of it.

    BB,
    It's tough, but someone had to do it. ;) Not hemp. I think PDX could do microbrew tastings for sure!

    TasteTV,
    Thanks for inviting me! Hope to do it again next year!

    MN,
    I was quite giddy when I got there. I had just enough and stopped at the point where I just wouldn't enjoy it anymore. It helped that I had a lot of small samples instead of gorging on just one.

    ReplyDelete

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