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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I stopped to gawk at the cocoa butter at the Sunfood booth.
Then I saw the owner peel a raw cacao bean and let someone try it. I wanna try too!
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.
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.
They also featured chocolate-covered dried mangoes in orchid shapes. Pretty!
Arlene's Gourmet Toffees were artfully packaged to sell that day. I tried a small piece of dark chocolate-covered toffee. Yum!
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.
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.
Chocolate haunted house courtesy of Downey's Chocolates.
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...
...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!
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.
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?
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!
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.
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
3430 Peachy Canyon Rd.
Paso Robles, CA 93446
Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Chocolate All the Time
4159 Wanda Dr.
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Christopher Michael Chocolates
3305 Newport Blvd., Ste. D
Newport Beach, CA 92663
Tuesday to Saturday noon to 7 p.m.
Monday by appointment.
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.
Check website for retail locations.
3200 California St.
San Francisco, CA 94118
10% off online orders. Use code "salon2008"
Expires: December 15, 2008.
626-320-4404 or 877-424-6258
315 N. Verdugo Rd.
Glendale, CA 91206
Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory
78-6772 Makenawai St.
Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
808-322-2626 or 888-447-2626
Check website for retail locations.
PO Box 56043
Sherman Oaks, CA 91413
1925 E. Francisco Blvd., #5
San Rafael, CA 94901
11652 Riverside Dr.
Lakeside, CA 92040
3360 W. 1st St.
Los Angeles, CA 90004
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.