September 27, 2013 in Chocolate! (and other less exalted food experiences)
On Sunday we attended The Northwest Chocolate Festival held in Seattle’s Convention Center. It covered two floors: the bottom floor held workshops conducted by Northwest’s premier chocolatiers, while the top floor was crammed with vendors offering—yes, it’s true!—free samples of their artisan chocolates. Well, hello!
We skipped the workshops because a) we didn’t have enough time; b) I had four boys with 0 attention span in tow; and c) there were free samples upstairs! And there really were…lots of them.
La Chatelaine Chocolat Co. had the best salted caramels, and I know because I tried them all.
The Troubadour Baker booth laden with cookies looked divine, but alas, they didn’t give samples of those. Instead, we had a heyday sampling their sugars by dipping a toothpick in water and then dipping it in Turkish Hot Chocolate Mix, Chai Sugar, or Not Just Cinnamon Sugar. What a fun way to sample sugar, and it was effective too. I bought the Not Just Cinnamon Sugar because it was so good, and when the vendor explained that I could use it on French toast, I nearly swooned with just the thought of it.
Intrigue had one of the nicest workers there. I tried the Jamaican Hot Chocolate Truffle even after she warned me it was hot due to the inclusion of habanero chilis. It was delicious…until my mouth caught on fire. I turned back to the worker, and bless her heart, there she was with a toothpick loaded up with a Basil truffle designed to soothe my mouth, and I didn’t even have to ask! (The Basil chocolate was delicious, by the way.) Plus they had cute T-shirts and if you go online, they offer some fantastic classes, like a Flavor Exploration Class and a Truffle Making Class, both of which include wine and truffles…yum!
Cocotutti had some of the most beautiful chocolates there: little squares dusted with colored iridescence. Their Liquid Vanilla Caramel was divine. They had a lot of other intriguing flavors as well, but honestly, after my first taste of the Liquid Vanilla Caramel, why wouldn’t I keep sneaking samples of that same flavor?
Forte Chocolates had the most exotic flavors in their Savory chocolate line. The Gusto line included flavors like Rosemary & Sea Salt in White Chocolate and Lemon & Pepper in White Chocolate, which were absolutely delicious. (I bought one of each.) I sampled the Balsamic Vinegar in White Chocolate with a great amount of trepidation, but it was fantastic. (I bought that one too…they were having a special.) In fact, I convinced a fellow cautious chocolate festival attendee to try it too, but I have no idea what he thought because I ducked back to sneak another sample of the Lemon & Pepper: chocolate samples wait for no one.
Brevin’s had some of the most intriguing fudge flavors I’d ever heard of, like Maple Bacon, Firecracker (with habanero peppers), Merlot, and Orange Cream. My favorite was the Lemon Cheesecake. Who knew you could make a lemon fudge?
Divine had the best ginger-flavored chocolate of the day. Their bar was a 70% Dark Chocolate with Ginger and Orange that was a wonderful blend of creamy chocolate and chewy pieces of ginger and orange…and I don’t even like the combination of orange and chocolate!
Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate had several things going for it: a Bronze Medal in Single Origin Dark 72% Belize Toledo, a delicious Black Fig chocolate bar, and the coolest business cards: little coasters!
Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery was a fun booth! We got to sample their sauces, including a delicious Vanilla & Butter Caramel Sauce. We also tasted their Smoked Chocolate Chips, about which I can only say…huh. They are known for their molten chocolate cakes in tiny mason jars that they would cook up for you right there at the festival in a mere 15 minutes!
My favorite chocolate bar of the day was Olive and Sinclair Chocolate Company’s Mexican Style Cinn-Chili, a cinnamon-chili chocolate with granulated sugar that gave it a bit of a crunch. Naturally, they had sold out of their chocolate bars and only had samples left, so I decided it was fair to have more than one sample. They have some other exotic flavors online, like Buttermilk White Salt & Pepper and Bourbon Nib Brittle. If these don’t sound like your traditional Northwest flavors, it’s because they’re not: they came all the way from Tennessee!
I am already planning next year’s visit. I will hit all the vendors again, but next time I’d like to attend a couple of workshops too, and I’d love to get a hold of the list of award winners and do a taste test myself of the gold, silver, and bronze medalists. In the meantime, I have the chocolate I bought to entertain myself with, plus the links to all the online shops. I think I’ll survive the year just fine.