Thursday, June 10, 2010

Napa Luxury Chocolate Salon Awards

I went to Napa last Sunday, June 6,  for the Napa Luxury Chocolate Salon. What a chocolate treat! What I particularly liked about this Chocolate Salon was the intimacy. There were about 30+ chocolatiers and confectioners, a few wineries and a few other specialty purveyors. This smaller number of exhibitors really allowed me time to talk with people about their chocolate. I tasted lots of new chocolate and chocolate products. Just a few notes I jotted down. Here's a link to the Award Winners.

I use Guittard in baking a lot, so it was wonderful to be able to taste so many different chocolate with different amounts of cacao. The 72% Queztacoatl (sp?) has no cocoa butter. It was delicious. My favorite was the 70% 9 bean blend. Very complex.  I even liked the 91%. Not bitter at all. Guittard makes such a good consistent product.

At Gateau et Ganache I tried La Rose a bittersweet chocolate ganache truffle infused with rose black ta and rose essence. It really smelled and tasted of roses. My favorite though was their Le Coco Coconut. Reminded me of coconut patties my grandmother used to bring back from Florida...but this was elevated into a wonderful truffle with coconut inside and sprinkled on top.

Saratoga Chocolates, one of my favorite companies, there was a lot to taste. Their Blueberry-Tinis were sensational. They're composed of dried blueberries rehydrated in Vodka, dried and then rolled in dark chocolate. Heaven! All their truffles were great, as expected. I loved their big Chocolate Saratoga Chocolates sign, too.

The Sterling Truffle Bars are so beautiful. They're like modern paintings. Love cutting into them. The chocolate reminds me of cookie dough, but it's delightfully rich--and it's chocolate! There's something about cutting off a slice from a log of beautifully colored chocolate!

Socola had a very rich jasmine tea truffle. I think that was my favorite this time, but I love all their truffles. The Vietnamese espresso truffle was outstanding, too.

Had a long talk at the Snake and Butterfly table. Located locally in Campbell, CA, they produce an organic Bean to Bar. Their countries of origin are Ghana and Madagascar, Papua New Guinea and Venezuela at least that's what I discussed. I tasted the bacon caramel truffle which was smooth, rich and absolutely fabulous. It's made with agave not corn syrup. Yum. Their green curry paste truffle (Thai Truffle) was delicious.

I tried an amazing Black Lager sea salt truffle from Vice Chocolates, another local chocolate company. I love their anise and fig chocolate bar. All their truffles were great, and don't even get me started on their Salty Dog!

Clarine from Clarine's Florentines was there. What a pleasure to meet her. She really loves her brittles.  You might remember, Clarine's Florentines was one of my favorite brittles from the San Francisco International Chocolate Salon. The brittle is made by hand in small batches using thinly sliced natural almonds that are mixed with butter, sugar, honey and cream and then baked until bubbly into a golden brown brittle. The final step to creating "heaven in your mouth" is to give Clarine’s Florentines a coating of Guittard bittersweet chocolate. They're gluten free. Absolutely yummy. This is now a staple at my house.

Jade Chocolate's Dragon's Breath was terrific. It's made with 65% bittersweet chocolate, roasted sesame seeds, lapang souchong, and a little bit of red chile pepper.  I also like the edamame and chocolate.

Au Coeur des Chocolats was making Smores with hazelnut Cookies and their dark chocolate. You can never have enough variety in your smores-and everyone loves a blowtorch! Their chocolates were great, too.

For a change of pace, although there was a brownie mix available, Little Sky Lavender had some wonderful lavender cookies--made from their mix. The ones I tried were made with olive oil rather than butter, and they were like eating a piece of heaven. You really taste the lavender.

This is far from a complete report on my Napa Luxury Salon experience, and I will have more to say in the future. By the way, there will be a San Francisco Luxury Salon in November. Limited tickets and limited vendors. Stay tuned for more information.

Best in Salon went to Vice Chocolates and Au Coeur des Chocolats, but there were winners in lots of categories from Best Truffle to  Best Dark Chocolate and all the rest, go HERE.


marla {family fresh cooking} said...

Oh lucky you being able to join in on this fun chocolate salon! I love fine chocolate too....this is quite the experience!

Janet Rudolph said...

Yes, Marla, it's tough work, but someone has to do it. :-)

Nuts Over Toffee said...

How lucky are you to have the job of tasting such wonderful chocolates? Very very lucky! I believe I feel my sweet tooth begining to awaken after reading your blog.

Can anyone attend?

Beach Combing... said...

Janet - this sounds like a fabulous event. Want to try to Black Lager Sea truffle....

Janet Rudolph said...

Beach Combing:
Lots of chocolates are using different types of sea salts..gray from France, pink, etc. really makes the sweet chocolate pop!

Janet Rudolph said...

Nuts over Toffee (and I'm nuts over your toffee!):

Yes, these salons are open to all. Hope to see you at one soon.