The Chicago Fine Chocolate Show | Navy Pier | November 16, 2012
Photo: Chen Zou
People say diamonds are a girl’s best friend.
Well, they’re wrong.
An afternoon spent at the National Chocolate Show and Chicago Fine Chocolate Show proves that chocolate is, in fact, the far better companion. With more than 100 vendors offering sweet treats, there are more than enough reasons why chocolate ultimately wins out; but really, they had me at chocolate vodka.
Held in Navy Pier's Festival Hall B from this weekend (through Sunday, November 18), the dual consumer and trade shows feature all things chocolate for both industry professionals and their customers. Enter the venue and immediately find yourself with a piece of Pacari’s Ecuardorian Lemon Grass in your mouth, a refreshing combination of citrus and soy chocolate. Around the corner, 79 flavors of Fudge Ladies’ signature fudge await your choosing, including a creamy, melt-in-your-mouth pumpkin option made from the spice recipe of owner Debbie Pasquade’s great grandmother. Three rows later, 360 Vodka hits you with a Bailey’s-esque chocolate vodka that’s so rich it feels like you’re eating a truffle while you sip. Other highlights include Chocolat Uzma Sharif’s dark chocolates with fresh mint leaves and Toffee Break Desserts' award-winning raspberry toffee.
The event also features seminars and demonstrations on various chocolate topics , as well as a gallery of sculpture showings from the French Pastry School. The best part, however, is that these people are actually convinced that chocolate can be a part of a healthy diet. The makers of Crio Bru have found a way to make dark chocolate-covered Venezuelan cocoa beans with more antioxidants in just one bean than a half cup of blueberries. (Their cocoa brews from all over the world contain just 10 calories in an 8-oz .cup.) National Confectioners Association director of scientific and regulatory affairs Laura Shumow says new research reveals that the flavanols found in cacao can contribute to reduced cardiovascular disease risk when eaten in moderation. (See? Cheaper than diamonds AND good for health.) Needless to say, their persuasion was more than enough justification for nibbling on just one more sample again...and again...and again.
Finally, when it comes to combining art and chocolate (an attempt made by several vendors at the show), Flying Noir’s Karen Urbanek is in a league of her own. The Mendocino, California–based chocolatier paints mini-masterpieces atop each piece of her chocolate, and the designs aren’t the only part of the creation that leave you speechless. Her Sweet Heat, made of dark milk chocolate, orange blossom, sea salt, and habañero, is a combination of spicy and sweet that pleasantly surprised.
The Chicago Fine Chocolate Show is open to the public (tonight until 10pm, Sat Nov 17 10am–10pm and Sun Nov 18 9am–4pm) at Navy Pier, Festival Hall B (600 E Grand Ave). Tickets are $25 for adults (includes 15 sample tickets), $10 children age 3–12 (includes 5 sample tickets).