Tag Archives: seattle

Seattle chocolate extravaganza

It’s a tough life, this chocolate gig. This weekend, I’m off to Seattle to judge not one, but two, chocolate contests.

Seattle Luxury Chocolate Salon
Taking place from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 14, the Seattle Luxury Chocolate Salon features a selection of chocolate bars and confections from (mostly) the Pacific Northwest. This event used to be in July, so I’m glad to see it moved to a more sensible time of year. I think it paid off for the organizers, because this event is sold out!

This will be my second year judging, and I’m looking forward to learning more about new-to-me companies. I’m also pleased to be leading a chocolate-tasting workshop at 3:30 p.m. If you’re attending, please say hi!

The Chocolopolis Serious Chocolate Contest
I’m a huge fan of Chocolopolis; in fact, it’s often the first place I stop when I’m Seattle. On Sunday, May 15, they’re hosting the Serious Chocolate Contest, which challenges arm-chair pastry chefs and chocolate bakers (their words, not mine—though I’m happy to borrow) to use bean-to-bar chocolate in creative ways.

The deadline for applications is 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 14. Apply now!

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Theo Chef Sessions limited edition confections

The idea of limited edition is kind of like eating seasonally. Something that’s limited edition is less likely to be taken for granted, though you run the risk of turning it into something precious. Or, worse, a marketing scheme.

Thankfully, in the case of limited edition things that are actually kick-ass and that, when they become available you need to snap one up immediately, there’s the Theo Chef Sessions limited edition confection collection. (Say that five times fast.) Featuring collaborations with some of the top chefs from Seattle, Portland and San Francisco, this might be the only opportunity you’ll have to try things like carrot caramel, pine resin ganache or candied beet pate de fruit.

Theo Chef Sessions limited edition confections

Standouts in the collection were the Chris Cosentino (Incanto) agro dolce brittle, a crispy crunchy brittle with pine nuts, capers and currants. Your brain expects sweet and it gets salty and savoury. I wanted more of the Maria Hines (Tilth) tamarind lime chili caramel, with its juicy, complex flavour profile. And, featuring the most traditional flavours of the bunch, the creation from Jerry Traumfeld (Poppy) didn’t disappoint with the huckleberry pate de fruit and cinnamon basil white ganache.

This limited edition (whee!) collection is only available for Valentine’s Day, so get ’em while you can.

Disclosure: The lovely team at Theo Chocolate sent me a box of these, gratis.

“Chocolate from Bean to Bar” in Northwest Palate

Happy New Year! Somehow, it became 2011 and I want to know where my flying car is. Or my jetpack. I’m not picky; one of them will do. Though really, if I had to choose I’d want a transporter a la Star Trek, because that would really cut down on transportation time.

While we’re waiting for technology to catch up to our expectations, why don’t you take a gander at the January/February 2011 issue of Northwest Palate? My article on bean-to-bar chocolate appears on page 26, and it features interviews with the lovely Hodie Rondeau (Xoxolat, Vancouver), Lauren Adler (Chocolopolis, Seattle) and Aubrey Lindley (Cacao, Portland).

Summer competitions: Seattle chocolate salon, Vancouver blueberry festival

Ahhh, summer. All I want to do is sit on a porch eating cherries, discarding the stems and pits wherever they land. Maybe, if I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll cut up some watermelon and have a seed-spitting contest—but only if I know I can win. Or hey, there’s always long afternoons on sunny patios with endless pitchers of sangria.

Still, it seems to be a season for competition. In fact, there are two coming up next week: the Seattle Luxury Chocolate Salon and the Vancouver Farmers Markets blueberry bake-off. I’m happy to say that I’ll be judging at both of them.

Seattle Luxury Chocolate Salon

As luck would have it, this chocolate salon always coincides with a heat wave. Call it fate. It’s a little unfortunate, since it makes it difficult to really taste the chocolate (less snappy, more squooshy) but it’s still great to see a room full of chocolate fiends. With a nice mixture of bean-to-bar producers, confection makers, this is usually a fun event.

Tickets are $25 at the door. The event runs from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Sunday, July 11 at the Bell Harbor Conference Center (2211 Alaskan Way, Pier 66).

Vancouver Farmers Markets blueberry bake-off

I make a weekly trip to the Main Street farmers market, where I load up on gorgeous fruits and vegetables. Whether it’s luscious cherries, delicate summer squash or insanely fresh spring garlic, the market is one of the highlights of my week. I go for the hard-to-find stuff: collard greens, zucchini flowers, heirloom tomatoes. And I have been known to walk away with pounds and pounds of fruit: cherries, apricots, strawberries, raspberries.

And now, blueberries!

To celebrate the bounty of B.C. blueberries, the Vancouver Farmers Market is having a blueberry muffin competition. I’m, ahem, helping them out as a judge. I’m charitable like that. They’re accepting entries until Monday. More information is available on the blueberry muffin competition entry form (opens a pdf).

And even if you’re not entering, check out one of the faboo farmers markets that run across this fine city of ours.

Chocolopolis turns two

I don’t have kids, but my friends seem to be reproducing at an alarming rate. Most of the offspring are pretty young, but the first of the pack are nearing the exciting age of two. I think this means that their parents need to bolt down anything remotely breakable, protect all walls and fabrics with some eco-friendly replacement for Scotchguard, and generally prepare themselves for the Terrible Twos.

Can you tell how excited I am for this?

Well, Chocolopolis is turning two next week, and I’m pretty darn excited about that. Aside from being run by the lovely Lauren Adler (self-described Chief Chocophile), it’s a great place for chocolate bars, bonbons and education. It’s an accessible place to start learning about what makes good chocolate, where it comes from and why you should care where it comes from. And with the serious list of events that they’re hosting next week, you have ample opportunity to check out this store—for the first time or the nth time—and learn about great chocolate.

Chocolopolis
1527 Queen Anne Avenue North
Seattle, WA
(206) 282-0776

Chocolopolis anniversary week events

Events at the store are free and open to everyone.

Ongoing throughout the week:

Annual Golden Bar Giveaway

Somewhere on our shelves are three bars with golden tickets hidden inside.  Anyone who purchases a bar containing one of the golden tickets will receive a free bar of chocolate every week for a year. Who will be the lucky Charlie this time?

Chocolate Passport

Each day of our anniversary week will feature a different cacao-producing region (Madagascar, Venezuela, etc).  Purchase a bar from the region featured each day and earn a stamp in your “chocolate passport” (only one stamp per customer per day).  “World travelers” who earn 5 stamps by making purchases on five days will receive a free Chocolopolis tasting bar and a truffle.  Collect all 7 passport stamps and receive the bar and a truffle plus free entry to a future Chocolopolis chocolate class or event.  Luxury travel minus the jetlag!

Sunday, July 11

11am – 5pm:  Chocolopolis at the Chocolate Salon

Be sure to look for the Chocolopolis booth at Seattle’s third annual Luxury Chocolate Salon.  Save room for samples of our hand-made truffles and our mendiant bar, a delicious bar topped with dried fruit, nuts & vanilla-infused sea salt.  We’ll also be unveiling our talented confectioner’s latest creation. NOTE:  Tickets for the Chocolate Salon are $20 in advance, $25 at the door. The Seattle Chocolate Salon is held at the Bell Harbor Conference Center in downtown Seattle. Visit http://www.tastetv.com/sf-seasalon_tix.html to purchase tickets.

Monday, July 12

1pm – 3pm:  Hands-on Event for Kids

Everything is better when dipped in chocolate–even your kids!  At this fun event our younger customers will get to play chocolatier, dipping a variety of treats into melted chocolate, then enjoying the fruits of their labor.  Stop by any time between 1 and 3.

4:30pm – 6:30pm:  Meet the Chocolate Maker: Amano Chocolate Tasting

Award-winning bean-to-bar chocolate maker, Amano Chocolate, will be sampling their lineup of single-origin chocolate bars sourced from regions as diverse as Indonesia, Madagascar, and South America. Taste their passion for chocolate yourself.

7pm – 9pm:  The Inside Story on the Cacao Trade in Ghana

At this special presentation, Dr. Kristy Leissle will share the inside story of what it’s like to live on a cacao farm in Ghana. Sample chocolate while enjoying videos and photos taken by Dr. Leissle during her visits to Ghana. No reservations are required, but space is limited for this free event, so make sure to be there on time if you’d like to participate.

Tuesday, July 13

1pm – 2pm:  Tasting for Moms

Calling all moms!  Chocolopolis would like to thank you for all you do.  If you have 15 free minutes, stop by today for a complimentary guided tasting of 3 chocolates, offered at 1:00, 1:15, 1:30, and 1:45.

6pm-8pm:  Meet the Chocolate Maker: Claudio Corallo Chocolate Tasting

From his base on the island of Sao Tome off the west coast of Africa, Claudio Corallo grows heirloom cacao and crafts it into a range of outstanding products. Enjoy samples of Corallo’s unconched chocolate as Claudio’s representative, Marie-Françoise, shares the story of this fascinating artisan.

Wednesday, July 14 – Bastille Day

1pm – 2pm:  Book Reading for Kids

Our mouth-watering story hour will feature a dramatic reading of Curious George Goes to a Chocolate Factory. Curious George introduces kids ages 4-8 to the joys of monkeying around with chocolate.  Kid-friendly chocolate samples will be provided during the reading.

2pm – 5pm:  French Chocolate Tasting
Celebrate Bastille Day in an appropriately delicious way.  Throughout the day we’ll be screening a video on lauded French chocolate maker Michel Cluizel (in both French and English). While watching, enjoy samples of rich, creamy chocolate from a variety of French makers.  Feel free to BYOB (bring your own baguette) and improvise a celebratory pain au chocolat.

6pm-8pm:  Meet the Chocolate Maker: Pralus Chocolate Tasting

Later in the evening we’ll narrow our focus to master chocolate maker François Pralus.  A company representative will share the story of the venerable François Pralus and his ongoing quest for perfection.  Put the story into context with samples from Pralus’ vast range of smooth, intense chocolate bars.

Thursday, July 15

6pm-9pm:  Customer Appreciation Party

Enjoy cheese, crackers and chocolate, and enter a drawing to win a visit to our “Chocolate Surplus Room”.  As a special treat, sample our mysterious, luxurious Egg Cream soda –a delicious chocolate drink that contains neither eggs nor cream — expertly made by a genuine soda jerk from Brooklyn.

Friday, July 16

6pm – 9pm:  Chocolate That’s Good for the Cacao Farmer

Taste chocolate by chocolate makers who purchase cacao directly from the farmer. A delicious way to learn a bit about Fair Trade certified, direct trade and profit-sharing programs that benefit the farmers and result in better-quality cacao (and tastier chocolate!).

Saturday, July 17

11am – 5pm:  Frozen Chocolate Tasting

Beat the heat (fingers crossed!) with samples of our frozen drinking chocolate.  And if you’re feeling lucky, join the search for any Golden Tickets that remain.

6pm – 9pm:  Guess-the-Ganache Challenge

Take the truffle challenge and put your taste buds to the test! Step up and see if you can distinguish the origin of the chocolates used in three of our single-origin truffles in a blind tasting. Enter your answers on a ballot to be eligible to win a box of truffles.

Sunday, July 18

3pm – 6pm:  Meet the Chocolate Maker: Theo Chocolate Tasting

Learn more about Seattle’s very own bean-to-bar artisan chocolate maker as a representative from Theo Chocolate shares the lowdown on their production process.  Sample Theo chocolate and ask any questions about Theo’s products and progressive trade policies.

Strawberry rhubarb pie. Leaf lard crust. Divine.

Strawberry rhubarb pie with leaf lard crustThis post is totally not chocolate-related, but it’s officially summer (even the sun knows it, finally!) and the farmers market is full of goodies. Like strawberries and rhubarb. And pig fat.

I’ve spoken with the lovely Kate McDermott before about her wondrous pies. Kate makes The World’s Best Pie, as I discovered last summer. She swears by leaf lard, and I’ve been altogether too lazy to track down a source of it in Vancouver.

Leaf lard is the fat from around a pig’s kidneys, and is highly prized for its clean flavour and magically flaky pie properties. I finally found a source for it in Vancouver, and bought mine from Gelderman Farms at the Main Street farmers market. Give them a call or drop them an email, let them know how much you want, and they’ll have it for you at their next market date.

I bought three pounds of frozen leaf lard from them and rendered half of it in my crockpot. I used Cheeseslave’s handy how-to, and it worked like a charm. However, whereas most instructions call for the rendered lard to be strained into mason jars, I poured mine into a loaf pan lined with parchment paper. Once it solidified (overnight, in the fridge) it lifted out of the loaf pan easily. I now have a brick of white fat hanging out in the back of my fridge, wrapped in parchment and stored in a ziptop bag.

Word to the wise: while most instructions say that rendering fat produces a rather, erm, distinctive smell, I don’t think it’s unpleasant. However, it definitely smelled porky in my apartment for about six hours. I happened to be making peanut butter ice cream at the same time, and it got me thinking about peanut butter and bacon sandwiches…but that’s another post for another time.

Of course, all the fun of leaf lard is in making pie with it. I’ve worked with store-bought lard before and just find it off-putting. It’s strange-tasting, greasy and slick—and while it does produce a pretty flaky crust, there’s something missing.Strawberry rhubarb pie with leaf lard crust

So I made pie. And it is the best pie that I’ve made so far. I went a bit overboard with the sugar for the filling, but I’m so distracted at the exquisite flakiness of the crust, the crisp sound that it makes when you plunge your fork into it, and the delicate, buttery sweetness of it that I don’t even care about the filling.

Now that, my friends, is good pie. And I’m wholly convinced about the leaf lard thing.

Claudio Corallo Chocolate

(My sincerest apologies to the Chocolate 201 folks who are waiting for Claudio Corallo tasting notes. Consider this a meandering introduction to man and his chocolate. The Claudio Corallo tasting notes are in the next post.)

Claudio Corallo store in SeattleI confess that Claudio Corallo Chocolate was one of my primary reasons for doing Chocolate 201. Period. I think it’s one of the best—if not the best—expressions of what artisan bean-to-bar chocolate is and should be. Don’t get me wrong: the others that I highlighted in the series are immensely talented chocolatemakers who do a wonderful job. But from a philosophical standpoint, it’s hard to beat Claudio Corallo.

I’ve mentioned before the numerous steps that go into the transformation from cacao bean to chocolate bar. For most, this process includes harvesting, fermentation, drying, roasting, winnowing, grinding, conching and tempering. Not only is that a lot of steps to get right, but with each step you get further away from the original product. And, as happens with mass-market chocolate, the number of steps means that you can end up with something totally divorced from the starting product.

There are a number of reasons why Claudio Corallo is different from all other chocolatemakers, but I think there’s one important distinction: He grows the cacao himself, on the tiny islands of Sao Tome and Principe where he lives. Other chocolate makers work directly with farmers or buy plantations, but Claudio actually grows cacao. He takes immense pride in this.

Claudio CoralloWhen I had the out-of-this-world experience of meeting him earlier this year, he made a point of saying that he isn’t a chocolatemaker; he’s an agriculturalist. His mission is to grow the best beans that he possibly can, and then to do as little to them as he delicately transforms them into chocolate. He’s a soft-spoken, reserved man. As he doesn’t speak English, we communicated in French. (Very. Slow. French.) He speaks with such passion about what he does, and though he’s reserved, he got quite excited about certain topics, nearly buzzing in his chair. He is adamant about expressing the true chocolate, and paying attention to the little details.

Little details like picking out the germ from each cacao bean. Each cacao bean starts from a germ, which is a fibrous woody thing about 1 centimetre long. It doesn’t taste very good, and it doesn’t have a very nice texture. Most chocolatemakers leave the germ in because it’s so arduous to remove it. Claudio insists that the germ is removed, and his staff go through each bean and remove the germ by hand before it is ground.

From there, most chocolate is conched, but not Claudio’s. His chocolate goes straight to the tempering table where it is spread into thin slabs, then hand-cut and packed into spacey-looking silver packets. Chocolate is typically conched to decrease the particle size, drive off undesirable flavours (acetic acid—vinegar—being one of them) and enhance desirable flavours. Claudio doesn’t conch his chocolate because he wants it to be an expression of the bean, not some polished-up version of it. It speaks to the pride that he takes in the starting material; it’s so good, why mess with it?

The end effect is a chocolate that tastes like cacao beans: specifically, Claudio’s cacao beans. He makes a 100% bar, and it isn’t the least bit bitter. It’s aromatic, nutty, earthy and full of all kinds of flavours that I’ve never tasted in chocolate before. It tastes wild, like a wet forest floor. And I mean that in the most wonderful way. Despite no added sugar, the chocolate doesn’t taste bitter.

Claudio Corallo product lineWith such fanatical control over each step of the process, you’d think that there would only be pure chocolate bars. Well, you’d be wrong. There are inclusions—that is, stuff in the chocolate—like sandy sugar, candied ginger, candied orange and cocoa nibs. And each one is done in a very particular, analytical way.

I’m not the only one who’s completely enamoured with Claudio Corallo’s chocolate. The BBC did a short film about Claudio Corallo, and he was mentioned in an excellent article about chocolate and terroir in Gastronomica’s Winter 2010 issue.

There are also pictures and information about Claudio’s operations on his website. See how chocolate gets transformed from bean to bar.

Claudio Corallo’s flagship store is located in Seattle, WA. The next time you’re in town, stop by for a visit.

Claudio Corallo Chocolate
2122 Westlake Avenue
Seattle WA 98121
206.859.3534