Once again the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) served as the backdrop for a food celebration this one hosted by Dessert Professional.com. The annual Top Ten Chocolatiers Hall of Fame event on Wednesday, January 27th was an indulgent festival of chocolates with deep flavors, new combinations, and stunning presentations.
Navigating my way through the main ICE floor in FiDi I was given directions to make a few turns but after the first turn I simply followed the intense smell of chocolate which led me to my destination. ICE staff offered pockets of people hors d’oeuvres while weaving through the incoming crowd. This was the pregame before tasting all the decadence that the Top Ten Chocolatiers had on-hand.
If you thought you’ve eaten good chocolate any time in your life prior to attending this event one taste from the Top Ten would set you straight immediately. Hershey? Shut your mouth! Ghiradelli? Pfft. Cadbury? Please. Godiva? Meh. The unique flavors developed by each chocolatier are unmatched. Once you have their chocolate your standards elevate tenfold. So try being satisfied from a Snickers after trying Anette Right DeFendi’s balsamic rare facets with strawberry that looks like a prized ruby and shines like one. Or tasting the silky smooth chocolate shell with no granular texture but actually melts as soon as tongue hits your lips/tongue from Stick With Me’s banana bonbon. The flat and crispy Rocher’s made by EHChocolatier that I admit I had several of whenever I found myself drifting back to that particular table. The Indian components in the mango lassi white chocolate filled piece. The subtle habanero in Oliver Kita’s semi-sweet chocolate hearts. The richness and visual beauty of these chocolates was enough to have you peer at them for a few minutes before daring to taste a piece. Once you did indulge though? There was no turning back and, admittedly, some gluttony happened on my part.
Also a sense of sorry took hold as the event came to an end and chocolatiers tried to get rid of their goods. When would I be able to have these bites again? (In the case of Stick With Me the shop is located in SoHo, NYC. Sweet!) But for pieces that range with origins in Rhinebeck to California to Mexico there was an actual pain in my chest that I may never taste these again. Admittedly this was dramatic thinking as most of the honored chocolatiers offer shipping for their goods. As is I’m saving the balsamic gems for a rainy, or stressful, day eager to taste the sweet and fruity ganache filling yet resisting to truly relive the magic.
Top Ten was a celebration of chocolate, the range of creativity of the chocolatiers, and the stunning imagery it could be molded into as well as the uniqueness of chocolate combining citrus or heat or seaweed or tea. It made me rethink how I look at chocolate as a treat to see it as a new path for imagination when developing something for others to savor. Chocolate stores are the new cupcake shops in New York City with new ones selling raw bars at hefty prices in their own store fronts that also serve as cafes, at Smorgasburg, or in specialty stores. Brooklyn specifically is a spot where Daniel Sklaar of Fine & Raw is located as well as more hipster brands that may or may not utilize high quality ingredients straight from the cacao bean. So, at least in NYC we’re not at a loss for the “good stuff.” But Top Ten incites a need for me to broaden my palate even more, delving into smoky/tart/deep/rich/tangy flavors on the ever growing range of chocolates available around North America and the world. Well, damned if Top Ten didn’t further broaden my horizons. I may never eat a Snickers again…