From my past experiences at these food things, I was expecting the worst. Throngs of people, overwhelmed vendors, pushing, outstretched hands reaching for a bit of semi-sweet morsels, screaming kids, depleting inventory, and the lines, lines, lines.
But it wasn't that bad. It was, in fact, marvelous.
The absolute best thing about the Chocolate Salon was the opportunity to sample items from local chocolatiers. Some are working less than a mile away from me, but I never knew they existed. In the past, if I wanted exceptional artisan chocolate, I would order some from a boutique that I was familiar with in New York. But now my eyes are opened to a wide array of local choices that are as good as anything I've had. I heartily recommend any of the folks mentioned in this post - a box of some dark chocolate truffles would make a great holiday present.
As soon as I saw this door, I knew I had to go inside.
You down with VIC?
Yeah you know me!
Inside this wonderful room were a variety of chocolate liquers, dessert wines, aperitifs, and fortified wines. Yes, please.
I sampled some of the Vermeer Dutch Chocolate Cream liquor...
Creamy sweet goodness. Add some vodka and you got yourself a perfect chocolate martini.
Next up was a glass of Non Vintage Starboard Batch 88 port from the Quady Winery. Not as good as I've had, but it definitely was appreciated. Hell, who am I kidding? I had two samples and returned for a third. (It was useful at clearing away the chocolate buildup in my mouth. Besides, like I told the woman doing the pouring, there was a loooong line at the water cooler but a much shorter line for wine. I went the way of convenience.)
Then it was time for a taste of Electra, a beverage described as "a light, delicate, and very refreshing sweet wine. Made from Orange Muscat. It is a great picnic wine. Pairs well with apples, melons, and peaches." This was delightful - "like wine juice", the representative helpfully added. With an alcohol content of 4.5% it's like Orangina with a slight kick and immensely drinkable. I'm not sure what a "picnic wine" is, but you could drink this at any time you would like a nice glass of orange juice - breakfast, after a nice long bike ride, brunch, served to the kids when they come home from school, etc. ;)
Also inside the VIC room was a chocolate carving contest held by the California School of the Culinary Arts featuring Tcho Chocolate.
I voted for Entry 3 and so did the woman next to me. I hope they win.
Now I was feeling fine and ready for my first meal of the day.
Portland was represented by a charming mustachioed fellow showcasing items from the Neapolitan Printing & Company. This was my first chocolate stop and one of my favorites of the day.
They had chocolate mustaches on stick and a heavenly sea salt lavender chocolate.
They even had a chocolate Obama. Yes, we nom!
And of course this event wouldn't have been complete without a cupcake entry - Swirls Desserts. They were okay...
Xocai, the "heathy chocolate". These people were taking a perfectly good thing like chocolate and turning it in to a probiotic vegan beverage with antioxidants, no sugar, and blueberries that is equivalent to eating two pounds of spinach. Hmm. Way to turn chocolate into a drag.
Republica del Cacao is a single source chocolate company, all their chocolate hails from farms and collection centers that they own in Ecuador. Incredibly rich taste here. I struck up a conversation with the gentleman behind the table and he let me sample some of the real good stuff from a small bag. I could smell the heady aroma as he opened the package and it was exquisite.
Amella caramels create a cocoa butter caramel. I tried carrot cake caramel which consisted of carrots, roasted pecans, and cocoa butter caramel, and white chocolate. A little sweet for me, but still good. I think this just confirmed that I just really like dark chocolate.
One of my favorite stops was at Happy Chocolates headed by owner/chocolatier Susie Norris. She handed me a large piece of dark chocolate the size of a Snickers fun size bar with embedded Almonds. So deliciously creamy and smooth with a clean lingering finish...
The representative from AF2 (Auntie Fruf's Awesome Fudge) won for most creative hair. It didn't photograph well, but it was a leopard print.
The fudge was pretty tasty as well - not your typical cloyingly sweet stuff... it had a nice rich taste of dark chocolate.
The M collection from Mignon Chocolate of 60% Venezelan chocolate and dark chocolate ganaches had some beautiful pieces that were also very tasty. My favorite was the lavender with the pretty purple and lavender flowers.
Next up - breakfast chocolate, or chocolate and tea mashups from Tea Room Chocolate. Nothing to say except wonderful!
Of course I immediately thought of Wan-a-be when I saw this table and cued up for my chance to try the bacon sizzling bar from Christopher Michael, a chocolatier based in Newport, CA.
I'm a big fan of the salty sweet combo, but I didn't quite appreciate the pop rocks. Maybe it had to do with that childhood urban legend of eating pop rocks and drinking soda and having your stomach explode, but I just wasn't a fan of the sizzle. Points for creativity though.
Jade Chocolates had these wonderful cocoa dusted edamame that were healthy and delicious. lol They do all sorts of chocolate covered items (mangos, nuts, etc.) and their chocolate infuses Asian ingredients like green and jasmine tea, brown rice, roasted red chili, sesame seeds, and lapang souchong.
Clarine's Florentines were tasty crunchy treats. They're made from thinly sliced natural almonds baked in a golden brittle and the final step adds a coating of Guittard bittersweet chocolate. CF is based up North, but I'm sure you can place an order online.
One of Mr. Insom's favorite booths was Chocoveda, a chocolate that infuses Avuydera principles. I didn't quite understand it when the chocolatier was explaining it to me - something about healing properties, herbs, and chakras... I don't know. What I did know is that these chocolates packed quite a flavor punch. The ginger lemongrass practically made my eyes water. To call them assertive would be the understatement of the year... lol.
Another booth that Mr. Insom dragged me to was XT Patisserie. When the owner saw my camera he wanted to know if I was "press". I mentioned something about my blog and he pushed me to the front of the line. lol. Respect... I likes it. I conveniently left out the part about getting 3 hits a day. Their truffles were amazing. Mr. Insomniac shoved one in my mouth. "Here. Eat this." I took a bite and a flood of bright passion fruit hit my taste buds. Whoa. I didn't try any more of the pieces, but if that passion fruit is any indication, this might be the best chocolatier on the planet. lol
More chocolate from Chocolatique... those little white pieces were adorable white chocolate ghosts with a green goo lime center. Boo-yetiful. They won the prize for most varied flavor combinations - they had a root beer float and Christmas crunch brittle for tasting, but go to their website and you get all sorts of crazy things like peanut butter and jelly, chocolate chip hotcakes, and Brooklyn vanilla malted.
This peculiar item that resembled soap caught my eye from Sterling Confections. Apparently, they're hand painted truffle bars featuring an amalgam of flavor combinations and nuts. From left to right we have white chocolate raspberry and peppermint, rocky road, banana honey caramel, cappuccino liqueur with a twist, pineapple ginger macadamia nut, and double hazelnut caramel.
If you got tired of eating chocolate, you could spread it on your face. Sweet Beauty Spa based in Seattle was offering chocolate lip balm, body scrubs, body washes, and body creams. I was kind of feeling the chocolate body cream...
Or you could watch a movie about chocolate. Or rather buy a movie about chocolate. This woman didn't have a lot of people at her table. lol
This was the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back, CJ's Stix or Bitz or whatever.
Once I bit into this peanut butter filled pretzel surrounded by chocolate and toffee chips and felt the peanut butter spread against the roof my mouth, I was done. Not even the port could help me at this point. I sampled at a few more booths, but the joy wasn't there. I was starting to feel a little dizzy and my hands were shaking a bit. Time for some real food. We left around 1:45pm after an hour and forty-five minutes of chocolate gorging and the vendors looked like they still had plenty of product to go around (the event started at 11am). I didn't even hit several of the tables - apparently, there was some sort of roast your own marshmallow station that I totally missed but that you can read about on the gastronomy blog.
We drove to Elements Kitchen and I was feeling rather ill, but this place was just what I needed.
We were seated on a relaxing patio shaded by large yellow umbrellas. Everything on the menu looked tasty, but sadly they were out of the homemade biscuits. I ended up choosing a curry chicken salad with dried cranberries, toasted cashews, and Madras curry on homemade foccacia that was much better than I expected. I especially liked the accompanying green salad made from tender baby mixed greens. The waitress also brought me a sample of their homemade potato chips.
Mr. Insom got the duck sausage breakfast burrito which was also very tasty -duck confit, scrambled duck eggs, sweet potatoes, onions, and peppers with a side of Tomatillo salsa.