Best of the Fancy Food Show 2011: Chocolate ParadiseFriday, January 28, 2011
The Fancy Food Show is one of my favorite events of the year. I mean really, when else is it completely acceptable to graze all day on nothing but chocolate, cheese, and charcuterie…and sample all the top notch olive oil and vinegars on the market. Sadly, I wasn’t able to attend the SF show this year. Good thing my trusty correspondent, Adam Carr has a good appetite. Adam will be rounding up all his favorite finds in this year’s Fancy Food series. First up, the sweet stuff!
There was a lot of candy at the Fancy Food Show, so much that I half expected Gene Wilder to pop out in a purple suit and start singing about pure imagination then have a bunch of little orange guys cart me away for being too indulgent.
Bissinger’s Chocolates brought it again this year. Their Apple Ghost Chili Caramel combined my chili chocolate obsession with my sea salt-caramel obsession. It melded sweet, sticky, salty and spicy in one amazing piece of confectionary. After I cleared the caramel from my teeth I cleansed my palette with one of their Yuzu Gummy Bears, which brought a unique flavor to a classic treat.
Xan Confections combined style with substance, offering a sample from their Jewel Collection. They flavored a chocolate dipped caramel with earthy ancho chili. Its multitude of flavors was complimented by a visual makeover; the candy sported a gem-cut shape and a sparkling purple exterior. Apparently they’re also agave-sweetened, dairy-free, and gluten-free. Xan Confections also dished out tastes from their BigMouth Collection. My favorite included a vertically-inclined treat of stacked marshmallow, crispy brown rice, caramel, peanut butter, and a chocolate coating.
I was overwhelmed by the selection of truffles Hauser Chocolatier brought to the show. I could’ve stood at their booth for an hour tasting all of their goodies, and in retrospect it might have been a good idea. Of the ones I tried, my favorite was their Blueberry Port Wine Truffle. I love blueberries, but oftentimes blueberry candy tastes strange. This truffle wasn’t strange in the slightest, and the port wine added an intriguing complexity.
I was a big fan of the flavored chocolate bars from NewTree, a Belgian chocolatier. They tout the health benefits from the natural extracts added to their chocolates — for example, the Mint bar contains green tea extracts rich in antioxidants, the Thyme bar has lightly toasted flaxseeds which will provide you with 50% of your daily Omega 3 fatty acid, and the Pink Peppercorn bar includes natural guarana extract which energize. A little gimmicky? Maybe. But delicious? No doubt. I can’t speak to how the Apricot Milk Chocolate bar helps women “maintain balance and well-being” with its natural soy isoflavones, but I can vouch for how tasty it is with subtle, floral, golden apricot notes enrobed in rich milk chocolate.
Packaged brownies tend to leave me unimpressed, but Blissful Brownies lived up to its moniker. This was the only booth I hit three times in two days. On the second day I took an extra loop around so I would appear to pass by naturally. When I think about what I want in a brownie, and what I want with a brownie…I end up with Blissful Brownies. They just nailed it. I thought the Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownie might be too much, but then I realized that such a concept is impossible and had another sample. That was my clear favorite — don’t ask me to pick a second (I love them all so much, it would be like picking a second favorite child).
There were a ton of salt-sprinkled caramels at the show, but only one salt-sprinkled honey chew carved out a spot in my foodie memory bank. Put Your Money On Honey, from local newcomer Droga Confections, put a scrumptious spin on the in-vogue treat. I loved this so much I would try to get legislation passed so I could marry it (too soon?).
More on the show to come…