So, when it comes to chocolate, I'll be the first to admit, I'm an amateur. I'm working on developing my palate, learning more about it all, but I'm not a professional food critic. BUT just how many shoppers ARE professional food critics? Mr. Eau-la-la may think bacon flavored chocolate is so cutting edge, such a brilliant contrast of flavors. But after trying it, I just think it's just gross. Am I wrong? I don't think so. In fact, I bet if you read one food critic saying it was the greatest and 10 average Jane's saying it was God-awful, you'd go with us average Jane's and save your money.
Now I'm certainly not saying the food critic is wrong - hey, he's an expert. I'm just saying that the Internet lets us see the opinions of a lot more people and then decide for ourselves. So all I can do is tell you what works and doesn't work for me. And I am totally not a food snob. I like the cheesy garlic biscuits at Red Lobster as much as some of the fancy breads in upscale restaurants.
At the Chocolate Show there were lots of upscale chocolatiers. As I mentioned earlier, some were really nice and approachable and some apparently consider themselves above dealing with the unwashed masses. (Why you would man a booth at a Chocolate Show if you felt this way is beyond me. If you are so fabulous, send a peon. Heck, maybe some of these people were the peons! In that case, those chocolatiers need new peons.)
One booth I went to was the Christopher Norman Chocolates booth. Three people were in the booth, one man standing, two younger "kids" lounging in chairs. The older man seemed kind of pissed off that so many people were swarming and none were buying. I don't think they were giving samples, but I'm not completely certain. I was trying to buy, to give them my money. I asked the man what he would recommend, but he blew me off. When I pulled out cash to make a purchase, suddenly everyone was nice. I would have bought more if they had been helpful.
The chocolate caramels I bought were lovely, very colorful (art is their thing - they are artists who use chocolate as a medium).
If you visit their website, you can see fancier things:
Did they rock my world? Nope. Were they expensive? Yep. Overall do I have a good impression of the company? Nope. And if I'm honest, it has a lot to to with the people. If they had bothered to take some time with me and find out what I might have liked, maybe they could have sent me home with something that would have been great. Remember those of you in business - "you can arouse and stimulate my palate" (as Christopher Norman Chocolates promises to do) but if you treat me poorly, I'll go somewhere else - like over to Chocolate Moderne whose caramels blew these away!!
Another company there was Eclat Chocolate http://www.eclatchocolate.com/. I got to speak with Christopher Curtin, Master Chocolatier, for quite a while. He was really nice and would tell me about a chocolate and then grab one so I could try it! He was terrific. He gave me one of his Moroccan Mints - whoa! It tasted like mint straight from the garden. It surprised me. (We're not talking that usual York Peppermint Patty stuff - this is real mint.) But I have to say, it was a a little strong for me. I'm not a mint lover. If you love mint - this is for you.
Chris helped me put together a box that I would like - no ginger, no lavender - hey, what can I say? I've tried it, I'm just not wild about those flavors in my chocolate. So Chris hooked me up with what I like - caramels:
The ones that I got and pictured here are:
A sister to Éclat’s award-winning caramels, the Calvados features a soft and creamy apple-favored caramel surrounded by dark couverture.
Light and smooth caramel with hints of Tahitian vanilla, covered in a dark couverture chocolate and accented with Fluer de Sel sea salt.
One of the stars recognized in Vogue’s “World’s Best Caramels”, this light and creamy caramel is enhanced with Tahitian Vanilla bean, accented with Fleur de Sel sea salt, and enrobed in a milk chocolate coating.
Another of our award-winning caramels, Pear Caramels feature pear caramel covered in nicely balanced milk chocolate.
Now Chris knows what he's doing - he was the first American to be awarded the honor of German Master Pastry Chef and Chocolatier in Cologne, Germany. He also took the time to talk with me at the show AND to respond to my e-mail asking him exactly what chocolates were in my assortment.
A quote on their site says - "World's greatest caramels... these are the candies to order."
Jeffrey Steingarten Dark Victory, Vogue, February 2007
Who am I to even try to review these? After all, Steingarten writes for Vogue! I like Chris, I like the chocolate. But I like my caramel, well, more caramelly. I like rich and gooey caramel and this was very light, liquidy. For a light, delicate, refined taste - Eclat Chocolate is the one. If you're like me and you like gooey, sticky, a little chewy caramel - we have to take our ghetto selves somewhere else.