DallasChocolate.org Chocolate Conference
© The Flash List | August 2010
“You’re not going to buy your wine or steak at [a convenience store],
but you buy your chocolate there. That’s a tragic mistake.”
Art Pollart, Amano Artisan Chocolate
Eating steak that contains only 15% beef seems unthinkable, and yet we’re sometimes content to eat mass produced chocolate that contains a mere 15% cocoa. Why? Because many of us haven’t truly experienced fine, high quality chocolate.
It was a passion for chocolate that led Sander Wolf, an information technology professional, to become the founder of DallasChocolate.org, an organization dedicated to educating people about chocolate. Sander hosted this year’s Chocolate Conference, bringing together some of the area’s best chocolatiers who showcased the newest delights and innovations of the chocolate industry and offered informative classes on the subjects of tasting and cooking with chocolate.
The event (a well air-conditioned, indoor summer festival, really) was a chocolate lover’s tasting extravaganza with a wide and impressive selection of fine handcrafted chocolate confections just beckoning to be sampled. For the minimal price of admission, attendees received tickets for ten tastings along with a fantastic opportunity to indulge to one’s heart’s delight in treats such as:
* The Dos Rios bar by Amano Artisan Chocolate which at 70% cocoa and with flavor notes of bergamot orange, cinnamon, and clove, had a very unique and extremely pleasing taste that was robust yet silky smooth.
* Rich, creamy, Merlot infused dark chocolate truffles by Addison’s J Dorian Chocolatier.
* Chocolate truffles from Allen, TX shop Sublime which contained small pieces of maple syrup soaked bacon.
* Small cups of decadent sipping chocolate by Wiseman House and their Mocha Crunch, crushed Colombian coffee beans covered in dark, Belgian chocolate.
Ten samples not enough?
Additional tasting tickets were available along with a selection of packaged products that could be purchased from individual vendors.
Still want more?
For ticket holders who wanted to learn more about appreciating chocolate, optional classes were offered at no additional charge on a number of topics including “Decorating with Chocolate”, “Baking with Fine Chocolate”, as well as a question and answer session entitled “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Chocolate” led by Clay Gordon, publisher of The Chocolate Life and author of Discover Chocolate (which, by the way, we have read and highly recommend).
We attended “How to Taste Fine Chocolate”, hosted by Adrienne Newman, also known as Madame Cocoa, who taught the origins of cocoa and basic tasting techniques. Afterward, Art Pollard, founder of Amano Artisan Chocolate, explained the entire bean-to-bar process in “Chocolate Making 101”, a class which included both ‘lecture’ and ‘lab’. Evaluating the quality of cocoa beans by eating various types of his chocolate? Now that’s a school we definitely didn’t mind attending!
During tasting sessions, in the classes, and at the “Chocolatiers Roundtable”, vendors (a virtual who’s who of Dallas chocolatiers) were more than happy to spend time discussing their products, their backgrounds, their specialties, their personal preferences, and even other chocolate companies that they enjoy. The participants were as varied as they were intriguing:
Kevin Wenzel from Wiseman House Chocolates makes the most amazing toffee we have ever tasted. His secret is real butter, although the milk chocolate and crushed almonds that surrounded the toffee will certainly make the 1½ hour trip south of Fort Worth to his Hico, TX shop very much worth the drive. Kevin conveyed that Wiseman House offers a hand crafted, artisan product made by real people in a community environment which cares about integrity, each other, and the products they make.
Katherine Clapner, owner of Dude, Sweet Chocolate, revealed that her tastes were about as polar opposite from the rest of the panel as a person could get. While some foodies appreciate softly melding, subtle tastes, Katherine likes things bold and even bitter. As a matter of fact, she only uses dark chocolate for her creations and she mixes it with exotic flavors such as guajillo chili pepper or even effervescent orange pop rocks.
Dorian Isenberg of J Dorian Chocolatier grew up watching Julia Childs and has been cooking since he was eight. He was mentored by master pastry chef, Jacques Torres, and creates gourmet handcrafted truffles in the same European style. That is to say, as Dorian explained to us, his chocolates have a pleasant mouth feel (texture), are designed to be eaten in one bite, and are made of chocolate that blends well with whatever he puts inside.
Art Pollard, founder of Amano Artisan Chocolate, is a chocolate maker involved in every step of the process that he refers to as the “insane amount of work” that goes into transforming cocoa beans into chocolate bars. A scientist by training, and ever in search of the "ultimate chocolate", Art visits plantations around the world to find and hand-select the finest cacao on the planet.
Others participating in the conference included representatives from Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek; Le Cordon Bleu; Sublime Chocolate; Nib Chocolates; CocoAndré; Toffee Treats; Collin College; and Paciugo.
Adventure is the key to unveiling new tastes and ideas, and the best way to discover the best chocolate that Dallas has to offer is, according to Kevin Wenzel of Wiseman House, to “just start nibbling”.