2004_11_food_chocpagoda.jpgWe told you it was coming, and now it's finally here: the Seventh Annual Chocolate Show New York, which began this past Thursday, November 11th, and ends this Sunday, November 14th. Gothamist knew that there'd be everything from a fashion show to cooking demos to art displays made of chocolate. But what we were really excited about was getting to try so many different chocolates, all in one afternoon.

We wondered beforehand if it were possible to get tired of chocolate from eating so much of it at once, and the answer is Yes... No... Maybe. Because for serious chocolate fiends like us, a bit of a chocolate hangover is worth the fun a once-a-year gorge such as this provides.

The trick is to pace yourself. Drinking water along the way doesn't hurt either. For those who enjoy dessert wines, free samples are on offer, but water seems the safest bet for simultaneously keeping the body hydrated and the palate cleansed and ready for the next chocolate sample. If your goal is to get your twenty-dollars' worth (or $15 with student ID), then be ready to take your time wandering from booth to booth.

We didn't manage to sit still for any of the cooking demos, but we did chat up a bunch of the booths, especially local favorites like downtown-hip Chocolate Bar, Jacques Torres' Brooklyn-based original Chocolate Factory and brand-new Willy Wonka-esque Chocolate Haven, Soho's impossibly elegant MarieBelle, and posh Payard Patisserie.

2004_11_food_chocbars.jpgChocolate Bar's booth offered up a few new items: chocolate soda (with a grown-up, not-overly-sweet flavor) and the "retro bars," which consist of filled milk and dark chocolates with childhood flavors such as peanut butter and jelly, caramel apple, key lime pie, and malted milk. The PB&J bar (milk chocolate infused with peanut butter and a layer of raspberry jam) most successfully evoked a sense of childhood nostalgia--it's a bar that we'll definitely seek out again.

At the Jacques Torres booth, we learned that the new "Chocolate Haven" location showcases the entire chocolate-making process from raw cocoa bean to finished chocolate truffle or bar, including conching and tempering. New products included peanut-butter-filled, chocolate-dipped pretzels and chocolate-covered fortune cookies (in requisite Chinese-takeout box). These sound fun but we will most likely stick with our all-time favorite of both "classic" and "wicked" hot chocolate (made European-style with pure chocolate, sugar, and hot milk).

In MarieBelle's booth, we sampled their equally amazing hot chocolate and the croquette au chocolat, a thick chunk of milk chocolate that has been blended with buttery shards of crepe. Think of the croquette as a candy bar radically reimagined by a French pastry chef. Heavenly. MarieBelle's new item was a line of chocolates especially for children, with "easy" flavors of milk chocolate, simple caramel, and the like, that might sway children away from M&M's and Hershey's bars.

Payard's booth offered the strangest chocolate by far: a smoked-tea (lapsang suchong) truffle, which reminded Gothamist of smoked fish mixed with chocolate. Not something we'd want to eat every day, but intriguingly strange enough to want to try it again. Payard also served a wasabi-infused truffle that went light on the wasabi--if we hadn't been told what the filling was, it might have been a difficult guess.

Gothamist also must recommend some special finds from around the country (and world) that are not for sale in New York shops but can be ordered online: Port Jefferson, Long Island's Sans Souci Confections served a very grown-up butter caramel, infused with real vanilla bean and dipped in bittersweet chocolate and flavored with the tiniest bit of salt, to allow the sweetness to bloom further.

We still can't get our mind off of the almost grassy quality of natural mint flavor that Pennsylvania-based Jubilee Chocolates infuses into their mint chocolates. After tasting their version, any other mint chocolate would seem horribly artificial by comparison.

Professionals' favorite baking-chocolate maker Valrhona offered up "les perles," a cross between a chocolate chip and a "pearl" of chocolate, that could be used to create a delicious decorative touch to all sorts of desserts. (Where to find Valrhona items in New York.)

2004_11_food_chocshow3.jpgThe award for longest distance travelled to the Chocolate Show would have to go to Mary's from Tokyo, which served up a green-tea ganache truffle that was very brightly colored and very sweet. They also had one of the more entertaining booths, what with their Japanese pastry chefs making these truffles on the spot.

If by the time you're reading this the show's already over, make sure you catch it next year. It's an only-in-New-York event not to be missed for anyone who loves chocolate.

See photos at Sweet Blog o' Mine.