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SUGAR HIGH

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Picture a huge room filled with booth after booth of the finest chocolate. Imagine the sweet scent of cocoa baking. Let your mind’s eye wander over pyramids of dark chocolate truffles, milk chocolate candies filled with fruit-infused creams, bubbling vats of hot cocoa and crisp cookies studded with white chocolate chunks.

A peep show for chocoholics?

Not intentionally. It’s the fifth annual Chocolate Show, which was held the weekend of Nov. 15 at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Manhattan.

Maybe it takes a Parisian to understand America’s fascination with chocolate.

"When we learned that chocolate is the number one favorite flavor in the U.S. we knew that Americans shared our obsession," said Sylvie Douce, who, along with partner Francois Jeantet, owns Event International Inc., the Paris-based company that produces the Chocolate Show.

More than 20,000 obsessed New Yorkers attended this year’s show - billed as "a three-day celebration of the ultimate comfort food" - to sample the goods of more than 50 exhibitors. Free nibbles of fudge, cookies, truffles and hot chocolate kept the crowds moving from one booth to another. Attendees, who formed knots around each exhibitor’s booth, kept their comments to simple "Umms! Wows!" and "I’ll take that in a five-pound box."

In addition to edible chocolates, exhibitors sold chocolate-related items such as vintage postcards, chocolate-themed board games and every imaginable dessert cookbook.

Those inspired by chocolate extended beyond restaurant kitchens. Fashion designers collaborated with pastry chefs to create costumes - some with edible pieces - that were pure, delicious fantasy. Designer Nicole Miller and pastry chef Nicole Kaplan of Eleven Madison Park in Manhattan displayed "Colette Chocolat," a dress inspired by the French writer Colette. Scattered across the pale, cocoa-colored bodice were rose-shaped chocolates in tones of bittersweet and soft apricot. Peach colored ribbons, adorned with large cocoa-colored "beads" swung over the skirt.

Two theaters, sponsored by KitchenAid and Valrhona (a maker of fine chocolate) were erected for cooking demonstrations. Chefs donned wireless microphone headpieces while they mixed, beat and whipped chocolate into tarts, brownies and truffles. After the chefs made their complicated concoctions look like a mere flick of the whisk, the packed audience was then treated to samples of their handiwork.

After taking a bite of a delicious chocolate cake, a man put his fork down and whispered, "to die for."

Jacques Torres, whose factory and cafe in DUMBO supplies the area’s sugar addicts with chocolates, croissants and hot chocolate, was one of several Brooklyn-based chocolate purveyors who exhibited at the show and entertained theater participants.

Torres ladled out steaming cups of his Hot Hot Chocolate (named for the sweet ancho chilies and chipotle peppers that leave a lingering warmth in the mouth). The drink, generously seasoned with allspice and cinnamon, has the flavor and aroma of chocolate gingerbread with a rich, melted chocolate bar consistency. A dollop of fresh whipped cream would push this drink blissfully over the top.

Piled on his booth’s tables were deep tangerine-colored dried apricots dipped in bitter dark chocolate that are the most luxurious combination of chewy fruit and hard, crackling chocolate imaginable.

A few booths down, tattooed servers handed festival-goers tiny samples of the 50 flavors offered by Williamsburg Fudge.

In his commercial Williamsburg kitchen, Sam Biber, owner of Williamsburg Fudge, tinkers with each recipe until it’s "just right." Just right to Biber is an old-fashioned, dense, creamy square of fudge with a pleasing, not overly sweet flavor. Williamsburg Fudge offers familiar tastes like Belgium chocolate and maple walnut, and more esoteric flavors such as the seasonal pumpkin pie, Jack Daniels and dark orange. The bittersweet dark orange tastes like a Droste Chocolate Orange - the kind that magically falls into wedges when you give it a good slam against the table.

Williamsburg Fudge is sold in quarter-pound pieces for $3-$4. Look for Williamsburg Fudge at Squeeze Bar [198 Bedford Ave. near North Sixth St., (718) 782-9181]. Until Dec. 24, Biber will be selling his fudge at the Bryant Park Holiday Market 2002, in Manhattan’s Bryant Park (Sixth Avenue between 41st and 42nd streets).

This was the third year Doron Katz of Gold Star Imports in Red Hook sold his imported Cemoi truffles at the Chocolate Show. While other vendors built elaborate displays, Katz was content to stand quietly next to a white dish piled high with dark chocolate truffles. This unassuming setup drew true chocolate connoisseurs seeking dazzling taste, not glitzy packaging.

A Cemoi chocolate truffle, dusted with unsweetened cocoa powder, had the not-too-sweet quality of good, dark chocolate without the bitter edge. Katz’s Gold Star company is the exclusive importer and distributor of Cemoi truffles, made by the Cemoi Group, a private-label French manufacturer of chocolate confections. In addition to truffles, Gold Star imports four lines of chocolate with 40 different products including an organic chocolate selection, seasonal gift boxes of specialty chocolates, liqueur-filled truffles and premium chocolate bars.

Katz sells his chocolates online and in several Brooklyn outlets. Cemoi truffles can be found in many Brooklyn stores including the Park Slope Food Co-op [782 Union St. between Sixth and Seventh avenues, (718) 622-0560] and Southern Gastronom Corporation [239 Brighton Beach Ave. at First Place (718) 891-6569]. Priced at just $5-$7, this is a gourmet gift that nobody will guess was a bargain.

 


Jacques Torres Chocolate (66 Water St. between Water and Main streets) accepts Visa, MasterCard and American Express. For information call (718) 875-9772 or visit the Web site at www.mrchocolate.com.

Williamsburg Fudge, (718) 782-5512, accepts Visa, MasterCard and American Express. It is available at Squeeze Bar [198 Bedford Ave. near North Sixth St., (718) 782-9181].

Gold Star Imports (250 Lorraine St. between Smith and Court streets) accepts Visa, MasterCard and American Express. For information, contact Doron Katz at (718) 330-0187 or visit the Web site at www.goldstarchocolate.com.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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