For those who know me very well, not one of them would doubt that I am a true, dedicated chocoholic. The Chicago Fine Chocolate and Dessert Show (CFCDS) ran Friday, October 19th-20th at Navy Pier in Chicago, Illinois. When I went that Sunday, I knew that it would be a day of heavenly, chocolaty bliss. My friend, Lisa, who came with me to the event, is a fellow chocolate lover. We had waited impatiently for months!
The CFCDS was the ultimate chocolate and sweet tooth extravaganza. It was a fine chocolate, dessert and culinary event, which included national and international chocolates and creations by independent companies and award-winning chocolate makers. The show offered over 250 vendors of delicious, mouth-watering samples, as well as items to purchase. There were seminars by the Fine Chocolate Industry Association, live pastry and cooking demos by the award winning French Pastry School, and also delicious wine, beer and spirit tastings. Chocolate art galleries and sculptures decorated the hall.
One inside the CFCDS hall, we looked around and weren’t sure where to start. There were too many delicious vendor booths. My empty stomach and shopping bag were ready to be filled with as many samples as I could manage. There were chocolates and desserts to be eaten, wine and beer to be drunk, and gourmet culinary companies to learn about.
Highlights for me during the CFCDS included the wonderfully buttery and chocolately T’s Toffee, the perfect handcrafted truffles, almond butter toffee and fudge from Four Brothers Chocolates (especially their dark chocolate banana and Earl Grey tea truffles), and the Chocolate Rouge Wine Company. I happily gobbled blueberry dream and cream cheese pancakes from the Babycakes food truck, savored tart and think balsamic vinaigrette samples from Seattle’s Gourmet Blends, observed the hammering of a chocolate and candy pretzel pizza, and drank spiced hot chocolate with vanilla ice cream dipped in liquid nitrogen (which resembled a smoky potion) from Trump Tower’s restaurant, Sixteen.
Gelato Chicago specializes in over twenty-eight flavors of gelato, gelato truffles and pops, nine flavors of sorbet and frozen chocolate covered bananas. They have been sold in award-winning hotels and on major airlines. All of their product ingredients are organic and natural from local farms.
I am a sucker for homemade, rich, creamy gelato. I got to sample Mr. Kahn’s sea salt caramel chocolate gelato pop. The caramel and sea salt gelato was smooth and delectable-a perfect combo of salty and sweet on my tongue. The dark chocolate shell and crunchy toffee topping just added extra deliciousness to the confection. I would have tried the other yummy-looking samples (chocolate and vanilla chocolate), but I was stuffed from the other show samples...
Another interesting part of the CFCDS that I found fascinating was the trade show. The trade show was private and only for business consumers. However, with my press badge, I was granted access to it. The trade show was an interesting experience. There was a wide variety of vendors and businesses advertising their companies and services. I enjoyed looking through and gathering information on chocolate/dessert companies and businesses, international chocolate connoisseurs from Italy, Indonesia, etc, product packaging design, and organizations that supply chocolate makers with the finest cocoa beans from around the world.
One trade show vendor that stood out for me was Luker Cacao, a chocolate maker that specializes in selecting the finest cocoa beans from Ecuador and Columbia, as well as pure cocoa butter and 100% natural vanilla. They import nationally and internationally. I loved sampling all their dark, milk and white chocolate covertures pieces, ranging in cocoa content from 37 to 64%. I started with the white chocolate and worked my way up through the dark.
I wish the next trade show vendor resided in Chicago so I could visit frequently. It was called Danora Cocoa, a cocoa powder factory and distributor located in West Java, Indonesia. They specialize in high quality cocoa powder, cocoa liquor, cocoa butter and cocoa cake. Danora Cocoa offered several different varieties of powder samples. For me, being a dark chocolate fan, I chose the darkest one available.
Finally, I loved the Kavlia vendor booth, a luxurious packaging and printing company from China. The booth was covered from top to bottom with beautiful samples of the company's paper, packaging, and print products for chocolate, dessert and other foods. I am a graphic designer and this booth helped me appreciate my passion for fine package design.
I left the chocolate show stuffed with wonderful chocolates, desserts, and further knowledge of the chocolate making process, as well as different traditions based on individual preference. I look forward to visiting the show again next year!
For more information on the 2013 Chicago Fine Chocolate and Dessert Show, and next year's show, please visit the website.
Photos: Jennifer Lunz