One of the reasons I moved to the Northwest was because people “did stuff”. Everyone had a hobby. Everyone had a passion. Their passion and enthusiasm made me feel so normal…and healthy. I felt at home with gin snobs, single malt snobs, wine snobs, coffee snobs, olive oil snobs…and this weekend I was introduced to the chocolate snob. On Saturday I went to the Northwest Chocolate Festival. This event had quite a few “chocolate fans”, I mean who isn’t a fan of chocolate? I say that but I’m talking hardcore chocolate fans. Hardcore. Just as hardcore as Doctor Who fans. They make us perfume people look very “normal”. OK, we’re all equally crazy
The event lasts for two days. It includes workshops, demos, classes and tons of sampling. The smell in the building was amazing – rich, dark, earthy…chocolate. I decided to wear Providence Perfume Cocoa Tuberose to the event, wonderful choice even though I could barely smell it once I got upstairs.
For the first time in my life, I was able to sniff a cocoa bean pod. It smells like a chocolate gourd. Someone make a chocolate gourd perfume, please. I also was able to see someone make chocolate from bean to bar. And I got to sniff/taste chocolate from different origins and in different stages of roasting. Producing chocolate is very smell orientated. I found that as a perfume person, communicating with chocolatiers was effortless, instant bond. We use the same vocabulary, we pick up on the same things. I mean when someone says, “Smells soft blackberry marmalade with solid malt notes and hints of crushed cashews with toffee…tastes like acetylacetone with mouth-watering biscuit nuances“, you know you’re going to be BFFs.
This was the first time I have attended this festival. And here are my quick thoughts about the event:
Expensive. You pay $30 a ticket for one day. Once in you purchase chocolate. Chocolate isn’t cheap for many reasons, and good chocolate is never cheap. It was $60 for my husband and I to go. And then we spent more than I’d like to share once we were in.
Cash only in many booths. This was a problem for me. Yeah, I should have brought cash, but I forgot. And no, I’m not giving you my credit card info for you to enter it when you get home.
Crowded beyond belief. The place was over capacity. The crowds moved at sloth-like paces through the aisles. I was unable to visit many booths because it was surrounded by chocolate sample vultures. I went early to attend a chocolate trends workshop. There wasn’t even room to stand! This is an issue the planners’ must deal with in the future. Because of the crowd, I didn’t feel like I got what I paid for – no classes, no workshops and minimal samples.
All of the cons has to do with the crowd. I didn’t get to talk to vendors, ask questions, it was a zoo and poorly managed. I also joke that I got my flu shot while I was there. So many people and so many little kids putting their gooey fingers in trays of chocolate samples…it’s good for my immune system, right?
Chocolate. I did get exposed to some new-to-me brands and got to talk to some of my favorite brands. I got their info so I could research them once I got home. I have no complaints about the chocolate that I did try. And brands were very generous with their samples.
Passionate People. When I did get to speak to a chocolatier or roaster, it was awesome. We had some great conversations and I learned stuff. It introduced me to a new community of people I like. I plan on doing chocolate sampling classes in a smaller, better managed intimate environment in the future.
The smell. So many wonderful aromas.
I’m happy I went but at the same time I’m not. I recommend you spend $30 (the amount to get in to the festival) on any of the brands I’m mentioning below…it’s a better value.
Let me cover a few of my favorites and since this is a perfume blog, I’ll do a perfume and chocolate pairing:
Dandelion Chocolates – Valencia St., San Francisco (my favorite of the festival – EauMG’s Best in Show)
OK, so my favorite at the festival is not a PNW brand, oh, well. This line does bean to bar and they do it damn well. I highly recommend buying their trio to get a feel for how origins affect the smell and taste of chocolate. My personal favorite is their Elvesia of Dominican Republic origin that is tannic and has hints of “dried plums”. Pair the Elvesia with the new Diptyque Volutes EDP - smoky, spicy tobacco.
Amoré Chocolate – Shoreline, WA (‘burb of Seattle)
I can’t find a website for this line (no pics either), but their chocolates are nifty. They’re chocolate covered veggies! The beet truffle is stunning. Beet and chocolate are perfect together. (If you have a harvest of beets, make a chocolate cake, it’s awesome). Pair with DSH Perfume Cafe Noir - smoky, dark with coffee and amber.
Fran’s Chocolate - Seattle, WA
If you’ve visited or live in Seattle, you’ve probably tried Fran’s. It’s one of our chocolate brands that has been around. They’re epic now. Their chocolate covered figs are to die for. Seriously. I try to stay away from them. I recommend that if you can, try their Gray & Smoked Salt Caramels. They’re buttery and creamy with savory smoked salt. Sweet and salty. I would pair this salty, creamy chocolate with the spicy and jammy, Parfums DelRae Bois de Paradis.
Amano Artisan Chocolates - Utah
I would recommend this line to those that love dark chocolate. The one that stood out most to me was Guayas 70% of Ecuadorian origin. This dark chocolate has complex blackberry musk, floral and smoky flavors. Sounds like a great perfume doesn’t it? It would be a great perfume. I would pair it with something woody but floral like Sonoma Scent Studio Vintage Rose – a decadent jammy, wine rose with woods.
Blissful Wunders Confectionery Chocolats - Olympia, WA
This line is a “crunchy”, very “Olympia” line of chocolate truffles that use hemp nuts and are made with lots of hippie love. This is why we love Olympia! All flavors and varieties are also available in vegan forms making it a great gift for your vegan buddies (and if you live the PNW, you have many vegan buddies). The Lavender/Mint Chocolate Truffle (not pictured above) is rich and dark with a cooling sensation. I would pair this one with a creative fougère like Vero Profumo Kiki.
Taza Chocolate - Massachusetts
Most people are familiar with this stone ground chocolate company. I’ve been addicted to it for years, makes the best hot chocolate on the planet. I consider them my favorite “corporate” chocolate even though they aren’t “corporate”. I’m saying that I can purchase them anywhere in the country (Trader Joe’s carries the line) – “Mainstream” to use a fragrance word. I recommend their Guajillo Chili Chocolate. It’s spicy and sweet, makes a great hot chocolate to warm you up in the winter. Pair this spicy/sweet with a big white floral like Serge Lutens Tubereuse Criminelle.
Madécasse - Based in NYC, made in Madagascar
This line makes bars and baking chocolates. Packaging is perfect for gifting. They have a few interesting flavors such as Pink Pepper & Citrus (sounds like perfume, doesn’t it?). My favorite from theirs is simple – Arabica Coffee. It’s crunchy with nibs and we know that coffee and chocolate belong together….very few vices do, but this works. I would pair this one with a patchouli-rose like Juliette Has a Gun Vengeance Extreme. Actually Vengeance Extreme could benefit greatly from chocolate and coffee.
Below is the video made by the Northwest Chocolate Festival. It gives you an idea of what the event is like. Yeah, there were classes on how to teach you to get all sexy with chocolate…
Cocoa bean pod from Science Photo Library.