Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Chocolate Conference 2012!!!

This past Saturday was the Chocolate Conference & Festival in the Addison Conference Center. The event was organized by DallasChocolate.org. I really wanted to go last year but was out of town. I was determined to go this year!! 

I saw that Dr. Sue's Chocolate was participating so I contacted Dr. Sue Williams, who I've met earlier this year during the Dallas by Chocolate tour, to see if she needed any volunteers. :) Her chocolate barks are amazing by the way... hehe. She said she would love some help, so one of my friends and I joined her and her team at the conference center at 9AM on Saturday!

As you walk into the main room where all the vendors were setting up, the smell of chocolate just surrounds you. Love that smell! What a great day already! haha. Despite the terrible weather outside, chocolate makes everything better.

From 9-10AM was kind of like a media hour, before all the attendees arrive. We were fortunate enough to be there during that time to go around and see all the different businesses and their tables. And we got to try a ton of samples without fighting the crowd. Everything looked and tasted fantastic. There was SO much chocolate! I think we each had over 30 samples before 10AM. Good thing I ate a good breakfast. haha.

(Those with ** next to the name were my personal favorites of the day...whether it was flavor, displays, or craftsmanship.. Even though all were good!! :)


Nib Chocolates**
Owned by Stephen Smith, chocolatier. The shiny coating on the chocolates are really beautiful. He also has some interesting flavor combinations.
Rosemary Caramel...you can totally taste the rosemary. Really fragrant. I liked it a lot.
Yuzu Green Tea... you can taste the green tea, not overwhelming, really interesting.
The Chocolate Chip with Sel Gris cookie was yummy. Freshly baked that morning, the salt on top adds a depth of flavor. He also offers chocolate making classes (for more info you can visit his website).

Oh Brownie**
I tried one of their Totally Toffee Brownie (their original brownie with Texas made toffee bits) samples. Awesome!! It was super moist and the toffee bits added that great crunch.

Taza Chocolate
They specialize in Mexican chocolates. They are the only producer in the US of 100% organic, stone ground chocolate from Direct Trade certified cacao! Wow! Because of the grinding process pieces of cacao and crystals of sugar remain in the finished chocolate thus giving it a different consistency. If you've never had it before, it's a little grittier/more rustic than regular chocolate. They gave me a packet of information. It's really quite interesting! :)

It is a family owned chocolate shop near the Bishop Arts District. They were showcasing chocolate molds at the conference. Their table had some impressive displays of chocolates. Almond Truffle.. really strong almond flavors. So fragrant. I could smell it before I even put it in my mouth.

Le Cordon Bleu
Mini Chocolate Croissants

Wiseman House**
They are based in Hico, Tx. It is northwest of Waco (I had to google map it. haha). Kevin Wenzel is the owner and chocolatier. He was super nice!
Almond toffee samples. Best toffee of the day. Californian almonds with US and European butter.
Mocha Crunch (Belgium chocolate with French roasted coffee). Has a nice snap to it which covers the "crunch" part. And strong coffee flavor which also smelled amazing. I bought a bag of those. hehe.
Dark Chocolate Truffles 
I went back to their table countless times that day.. and took all my friends that came to the event. haha. Also got to try the Sipping Chocolate. Rich, luxurious hot chocolate drink. Mmmmmm!!

Dude, Sweet Chocolate
Located in Bishop Arts District, they have really made a name for themselve in Dallas. Most people I know have either visited them or want to go. They're known for the crazy combinations of flavors and ingredients. They make all sorts of different marshmallows too. Can you imagine chocolates with porcini mushrooms or steeped with tobacco?!? Whoa!!
Flower Child Truffle (Bergamot, Orange, Geranium). Quite interesting.

Chocolate Secrets
They are located on Oak Lawn. I've actually been there a few times. It's always packed. You can get chocolates, desserts, wine, tea, coffee, etc. They have live music some nights as well. Cute little cafe. They had so many beautiful samples. Vibrant, shiny colors... almost makes me not want to eat it. Almost.. :P
I tried the Absinthe (dark chocolate ganache with absinthe liquor similar to anise or licorice). I can definitely taste the alcohol. It had a very sharp flavor but not overwhelmingly alcohol. 2nd bite was stronger. Awesome! The shell was super thin and the inside was nice and smooth.Definitely something different than chocolates I've had before.
Lavender (dark chocolate with essence of lavender). I can smell the lavender as I eat the chocolate.

Pure Chocolate Desserts by Zach**
Zach Townsend is a Chocolatier and pastry chef. His table displayed so many photos of amazing desserts, we were instantly drawn to it. The cakes just made me drool! His featured chocolate was Dark Chocolate with Gianduja mousse/cream inside. Amazing! Absolute favorite of the day. It was like eating a dessert/cake or something in one bite. Wow... I can only imagine what his pastries taste like!! :)
His creations are not yet in production, but hopefully next year! In the mean time, he's offering chocolate and wine tastings for small groups. And look for some singles and couples classes for January and Valentines Day 2013. I've signed up for his mailing list and I look forward to the tastings and classes!!

Dark Chocolate Bakery
They had some delicious looking mini cakes on display. One of the few tables with something other than chocolate candies. Flourless Chocolate Cake made with Scharffen Berger champagne. It was really moist and rich. YUMMY!

Toffee Treats
The table was impressively displayed with platters of different kinds of homemade toffee and pretty packaging. I tried the Dark Chocolate Almond with Hatch Chile. It had a kick at the end and the heat lingers... It's a nice heat.

Dallas by Chocolate
They don't make chocolate, but they take you to all the places that do and there's samples! Check them out. It's great fun! I've done one before. They also do tours that are more than chocolates and desserts. :)

Offenbacher Gourmet Fudge
Homemade fudge...really rich! Chocolate Raspberry. I can smell the raspberry before I even taste it. The raspberry flavor was very strong which was good.

Cacao & Cardamom**
This table was so beautiful. Some of the prettiest chocolates I've ever seen. So many different colors and shapes and molds. Also a very impressive variety of flavors. They were all so exotic! Annie Rupani, the chocolatier, only just started making chocolate over a year ago! Wow... No formal training... we were so impressed! All flavors based on her travels and studies. There were a lot of ethnic and exotic flavors. Such as Masala Pistachio, Coco Curry, and Black Sesame Ginger!
Guava Tamarind (a tangy combination of guava and tamarind in a white chocolate ganache). I love guava and you can really taste it. :)

Absolutely exquisite!!!! Currently you can only order through the website.

Sublime Chocolate
They are located in Watters Creek in Allen. Apparently I've been in there once before and got to try a sample of their sipping chocolate with was amazing. They had a pretty impressive spread of samples.
Aztec Drink (sweetened with wild flower honey, lavender, chili, and cacao). The flavors were so complex and you can really taste all the different elements. It was warm from the chili and frangrant from the honey and lavender. Very unique!
Chocolate Caviar (Cocoa powder, simple syrup, sodium algenate, water). The chocolate flavor was pretty light but this is all about the texture. It was delicate and something new! Pistachio Ménage - YUM

Hank Dessert Bars
Although I loved all the chocolates, it was nice to see something else as I walked up to Hank Dessert Bars. They are all gluten free. She uses oats and other natural ingredients. The bars are lower in calories. I really liked the texture and flavors. The layer of smooth chocolate on top was nice. Even though I'm not gluten intolerant, I'm always interested in alternative eating and lifestyles. Plus I know people that can't have gluten. And unlike some gluten free desserts which can be dense and dry, these dessert bars were delicious.

Dr. Sue's Chocolate**
The first time I had Dr. Sue's Chocolates was during the Dallas by Chocolate tour. They were amazing. I think I ate at least 8-10 pieces of her different kinds of chocolate bark. I think my favorite was the Hazelnut Coconut.. and I don't even like shredded coconut!! Dr. Sue Williams is a physician turned chocolatier (not classically trained). So when she tells you chocolate is good for you, it's true! hehe.
All of her chocolates are made with the best ingredients from all natural fruits to local honey to European style dark chocolate. You can find where to buy her chocolates from the website. They recently started selling at the Plano Central Market as well. Also, for the holidays, she will be doing a orange cranberry bark (orange rind, orange covers cranberries), so look for that.

Bark chocolate
They had some interesting toppings on their chocolate barks. Such as gummy bears and bacon!! OMG. I love anything with bacon.
Sweet & Swine (72% chocolate. Newskies cherrywood smoked bacon, alder wood smoked sea salt). Awesome!!! She said this is one of their most popular flavors. And I'd have to agree.
I Am Healthy (goji berries, blueberries, hemp seeds, chia seeds, 72% chocolate). All the toppings are good for you. So you don't feel guilty eating more than one piece of this. haha!
Dia De Los Decadence (38% milk chocolate, pistachios, dried apricot, dried cranberry)

You may have seen this brand of chocolate in many restaurant menus. A lot of places use Valrhona chocolates in their desserts. They don't sell actual truffles or bonbons but I believe for their table, they used the chocolates to make some as samples... I had one with passion fruit filling. Tasty!


While gorging on chocolate samples is amazing, we couldn't do that for 7 hours. haha. I liked that there were Roundtables discussions and workshops throughout the day as well. I got to sit in several workshops. Each one taught me something new. And of course, there were plenty of samples in every one!


Creative Chocolate Molds: CocoAndre
The owner, Andrea Pedraza (chocolatier), opened her business in 2009. It is located in Bishop Arts District.
You can also find their chocolates at Eatzis and Central Market. She demonstrated the art of casting chocolate molds. And showed us different types of molds which can range from $3 to $55 each! Whoa... They Will be selling a set of molds with instructions in the next month or so. Makes chocolate making a bit easier! So look for that as we go into the holiday season. :)

The Chocolate Shop - Old School vs New School: Katherine Clapner (Dude, Sweet Chocolate) & Eric Case (Valrhona)
This was a really interesting and informative workshop. It wasn't a demonstration. Instead they sat on stage and talked... Gave us a lot of interesting info on the origins of chocolate, processes, new techniques and applications, etc. Later in the workshop, they would bring out samples and talk about the uniqueness of each one from the ingredients to making process to the flavor profile. They explained the difference between bon bons and truffles. Bon bons seems to be a more general category and Truffles are a looser bonbon. Truffles are more traditional in US. We also learned that a lot of the differences in chocolate prices are because of labor. It is a very labor intensive art.

"If you don't have the science, you'll never have the art."-Eric Case (Valrhona).

Valrhona Samples:
Lemon Cream covered with Milk Chocolate and Waffle Bits... Delicious.
Dark Chocolate with Gold Flakes on top.
Molded Chocolates: Raspberry Filling. Mold is sprayed with cocoa butter. Filled. Then bottomed out to create these. (Chocolate has to hook together. Has to be right temp. Quite difficult). The lines are cocoa butter done by a machine so it's very exact.
Milk Chocolate (Jivara) - 40%. Milk chocolate is made with milk fat. You don't need fine cocoa beans because flavor comes from the milk fat not the cocoa beans. It's got hints of malt.
Dark Chocolate (Manjara) - 64%. Dark chocolate has a lot more acidity, which is used to compete with cream. Pastry chefs love the acidity. The cream and acidity combines to bring a wholeness in your mouth... (Acidity hits the front of the tongue, and cream coats the middle of the mouth.) Great to pair with fruits or to make mousse. Acidity comes with the fermentation styles... Different makers all have diff fermentation processes.

Dude, Sweet Chocolate Samples:
Albatross Fudge (blue cheese and sea salt). You get a hint of the blue cheese saltiness and funk, but not enough to gross you out. haha. Very interesting!
Parique and Ngyambu Truffle (rolled in white and powdered sugar with vanilla bean). It has hints of dried fruit, smoked heat, and citrus. It was also steeped in tobacco. It has serious heat that kicks in after awhile. Really good. So complex! My favorite one during the workshop.
I was typing away on my phone trying to take as much notes as I can. haha. It's crazy how many different flavors can go into one tiny truffle!

Three Barks in 30 Minutes: Dr. Sue's Chocolate
Dr. Sue's workshop is something people can do for easy entertaining, or you can make and give away as gifts. She makes chocolate barks look really easy. We learned that you can store bark at room temp for up to 2 months. Or in freezer for a year. When you put it in the freezer, first cover with foil then put in a ziploc bag. This way it keeps out the moisture and smells from the fridge from being absorbed into the chocolate. Chocolate soaks up smells from other things. When you bring it back out, keep it wrapped and in the bag until comes to room temp. If removed from bag before completely thawing, the moisture will form on the chocolate and change the texture.
Dark chocolate, dried apricots, slivered almonds.
Dark and Milk Chocolate Layers (with white chocolate swirls).
Dark and white Chocolate Layers (topped with all natural peppermint candies). It also has peppermint oil mixed in the base chocolate.

Baking with Fine Chocolate - Pure Chocolate Desserts by Zach
Zach Townsend is a writer/author, turned baker. He has had some formal training, and has worked with some very prestigious people. He's also been featured in many publications including the winner of the 2010 IACP Cookbook of the Year. IACP - International Association of Culinary Professionals. Quite impressive! Since we loved his chocolates, we were very excited to sit in on his workshop. We also found out he was making a cake!!! :)
Flourless Chocolate Roulade (rolled cake with chocolate whipped cream filling). It was made with ganache, Whipped egg whites, and freshly whipped cream. We all got a copy of the recipe as well. I'm going to have to try it sometime. The cake was AWESOME!!! So light, almost like a whipped mousse. It's like eating a chocolate pillow. haha. I'm definitely looking forward to taking some of his baking classes.

It had been an amazing day. Such a culinary experience for me. I met some great people, ate an INSANE amount of delicious chocolate and learned a lot from the workshops. And judging from the crowd, I'd say the event was a success. Great job to DallasChocolate.org. The only suggestion I'd give is to show the workshops better. Either a different set up for the demos or better video. It was a bit hard to see what they were doing on stage sometimes! I hope they plan on doing this every year for a really long time. And I can't wait until next year!

And a special thanks to Dr. Sue for letting us tag along with her team!! It was truly a fantastic experience.

Overall Event: 



  1. I think I may have just died and gone to heaven coming across this blog!!!! YUMMMM

  2. Thanks Katia! I'm glad you like it. Stay tuned for more awesome foods! :)