Sweet NYC: Fancy Food Show

by Valerie Beck, Chocolate Expert and Chocolate Broker

Fresh new business cards from moo arrived just in time
Fresh new business cards from moo arrived just in time for my trip to the Fancy Food Show.

New York City – the “Big Apple” – turns into what I call the “Big Truffle” every summer during the Fancy Food Show. Chefs, brands, and chocolate makers from across the country and around the world set up displays, so that retailers, the media, and brokers can come see and sample what’s new.

As a chocolate consultant and broker, who never misses a chance to visit friends, clients, and my favorite shops and museums in NYC, the Fancy Food Show is a joy every year.

Good morning, NYC and Freedom Tower, from the Queensboro Bridge
Good morning, NYC and Freedom Tower, from the Queensboro Bridge.

The trends I focused on at the Show this year were craft chocolate (small-batch chocolate made from fair trade or direct trade cacao), fine chocolate (made with premium ingredients for chefs and consumers), and fine pastry and dessert (made with premium ingredients).

While in NYC I also received a special delivery of a new Dutch chocolate brand not yet sold in the States, attended a mini college reunion for classmates who live in or near New York or who like me were traveling there, and did some chocolate scouting (click here for the separate blog post on the heavenly chocolate and pastry I scouted) – scroll on for Fancy Food Show deliciousness!

Starting with standouts in craft chocolate:

One of the best chocolate bars I have tasted in some time: Madagascar by Willie's Cacao
One of the absolute best chocolate bars I have tasted in some time: Madagascar by Willie’s Cacao of England. Exquisitely smooth, pure, flavorful craft chocolate, with a fruity zing.
Raw craft chocolate by Raaka, Belize origin, aged in bourbon casks, for a rich and appealing intensity
Raw organic craft chocolate by Raaka of Brooklyn, Belize origin, aged in bourbon casks, for a rich and appealing intensity.
Blue Bandana craft chocolate, part of Lake Champlain Chocolate
Blue Bandana craft chocolate, a promising new brand that is part of Lake Champlain Chocolates of Vermont.

Some favorites in the fine chocolate category, also organic of course:

Having fun with Pacari founder Santiago Peralta and Team Pacari
Having fun with Pacari founder Santiago Peralta and Team Pacari, who came all the way from enchanting Ecuador with some enchanting new flavors such as rose chocolate, and my favorite lemongrass chocolate!
Made in Switzerland, finished in Brooklyn, organic and accessible Milkboy Chocolate
Made in Switzerland, finished in Brooklyn, organic and accessible Milkboy Chocolate.

Some fine pastry and dessert hits:

Loved the vegan chocolate gelato and more by star chef Nancy at Nancy's Fancy
Loved the ultra-premium vegan chocolate gelato and more by James Beard award-winning chef Nancy Silverton of Nancy’s Fancy.
The new macaron kits from Dana's Bakery grabbed a lot of fun attention.
The new macaron kits from Dana’s Bakery grabbed a lot of fun attention.
In my
In my “not chocolate but still delicious” category: Liege waffles by newcomer The Belgian Kitchen. #dipitinchocolate
Always love tasting what's new from Grey Ghost Bakery.
I always love tasting what’s new from Grey Ghost Bakery, and was delighted to experience some spiciness in the new Chocolate Cayenne cookie. #aztecrevivalism
Creative cookie-mix-in-a-jar by Sisters Gourmet
Creative cookie-mix-in-a-jar by Sisters Gourmet.

I love placing great artisan brands into great upscale stores, and am already looking forward to the next Fancy Food Show.

“Keep eating real chocolate!”

Your friend in chocolate,

Valerie

Met up with my college reunion class for a New York mini reunion while in town, wearing my very first baseball cap ever, which I purchased a month earlier at our full reunion on campus!
I met up with my Harvard College reunion class for a New York mini reunion while in town, wearing my very first baseball cap ever, which I purchased a month earlier at our full reunion on campus. We had a blast, and one classmate had a way of snapping fun semi-candids!
I sampled this secret new in-development Dutch brand to my mini reunion gathering, which I had just received from a brand executive who brought it to me at the Show from The Netherlands. Everyone loved the milk chocolate with speculoos (waffle cookie), with one taste tester/classmate proclaiming that it tasted like an upscale twix bar!
I sampled this tasty new in-development Dutch brand Johnny Doodle – organic, of course – to my mini reunion gathering, which I had just received from a brand executive who brought it to me at the Show in NYC from The Netherlands. Everyone loved the milk chocolate with speculoos (waffle cookie), with one taste tester/classmate proclaiming that it tasted like an upscale twix bar!

Valerie Beck, The Chocolate Queen

CEO/Founder Chocolate Uplift

www.valeriebeckchocolateuplift.com

chocolateuplift@gmail.com

Instagram: @chocolateuplift

The Law of Chocolate: Cocoa Blue Chocolates

by Valerie Beck, Chocolate Expert

Precise sophistication with a dash of whimsy
Luscious truffles made onsite at Cocoa Blue Chocolates

Would you be surprised if I told you that one of the best new chocolate shops in the US is in central Illinois, 200 miles from Chicago?

Cocoa Blue Chocolates is a first-class chocolate kitchen and boutique, in Rochester, Illinois, a town of 3,600 people located 7 miles from state capital Springfield, Illinois.

Exploring and tasting at Cocoa Blue
Cocoa pods and chocolate truffles: exploring and tasting at Cocoa Blue

Chocolate follows laws of temperature, starting with the fact that cacao trees like to grow in hot, humid climates near the equator. But good chocolate making or chocolate shops don’t necessarily depend on geography; some of the best chocolate in the world is made in the Midwest, such as Askinosie chocolate which led the bean-to-bar or craft chocolate movement and is located in the Ozarks of Missouri. And how many people would have predicted a generation ago that then-downmarket Brooklyn would become a hotbed of upscale craft chocolate?

Sweet heartland
Sweet Illinois heartland

So what was I doing in central Illinois? In my role as a professional speaker, I was invited to give a talk to an influential philanthropic ladies group in Springfield, IL. Click here for my blog post on that tasty talk, and on sweet Springfield. I had heard about Cocoa Blue and reached out. I boarded the train in my hometown of Chicago, and my first priority after getting off the train in Springfield, where my fabulous host from the ladies group picked me up, was to visit Cocoa Blue!

In a historically significant building in Rochester, Illinois
Cocoa Blue is in a historically significant building in Rochester, Illinois. Rain? What rain? Chocolate! Truly, our farmers had been hoping for this rain.

Cocoa Blue chocolatier/owner Joshua Becker makes delicious truffles, chocolate bark, and more, using top-quality ingredients. It was a pleasure touring his kitchen and shop and talking with him about his vision to create classic chocolates, his pastry and chocolate training, and the new tempering machine he’s ordered – another law of chocolate is that it must be “tempered” or properly crystallized through correct temperature changes while mixing, otherwise it won’t stay smooth or glossy. For more, see David Lebovitz’s famous post on How to Temper Chocolate.

Tempering chocolate in the kitchen at Cocoa Blue
Tempering chocolate, in the current tempering machine, in the kitchen at Cocoa Blue

Another law of chocolate: chocolate seems to attract former lawyers! Joshua and I are both former attorneys (and indeed so is Shawn Askinosie).

If Springfield’s “favorite son” Abraham Lincoln, a lawyer, hadn’t become the 16th President of the United States, would he have become a chocolatier? Pure speculation of course! But, before Lincoln, the Founding Fathers certainly loved chocolate – for instance, Benjamin Franklin used to sell it out of his print shop in Philadelphia – but that’s a story for another day.

In the kitchen at the recreated Lincoln White House at the Lincoln Museum
In the kitchen at the recreated Lincoln White House at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, which I visited in Springfield and which is one of the most exceptional museums in the US. If you follow me on Instagram, you know I often stage chocolate on beloved blue and white china at home with hashtags #blueandwhiteforever and #blueandwhiteobsession. What a treat to see one of the classic patterns at President Lincoln’s museum too. I (barely) resisted the urge to place a Cocoa Blue bonbon on one of the plates and snap an Instagram!
In the kitchen
In the kitchen at Cocoa Blue

Joshua and I discussed similarities in our backgrounds: he became interested in becoming a chocolatier after spending time in The Netherlands as a study-abroad student; my transformative chocolate moment that ultimately inspired me to start my business took place while studying in Paris, when I tasted my first piece of truly fine European chocolate.

We both went to law school and became lawyers, and both exited that profession for something sweeter: Joshua attended Le Cordon Bleu, fulfilled his dream of becoming a chocolatier, and embarked on the next phase of his journey by opening Cocoa Blue. I started the original Chocolate Tours, grew my business across the US (including in Philly, where our chocolate tour groups paused outside Ben Franklin’s above-mentioned chocolatey print shop), exited the tour business, and am now the founder/CEO of Chocolate Uplift where my talks, consulting and brokering work, and Chocolate Freedom Project take me to places as diverse as New York City, Ecuador, and central Illinois. Click for a podcast on my story of leaving the law.

Delicious Illinois chocolates by Cocoa Blue for my Springfield talk on chocolate wellnes
World class chocolate: outrageously delicious Illinois chocolates by Cocoa Blue for my Springfield talk on chocolate wellness

Back to Cocoa Blue’s exquisite chocolates: I was impressed by the purity of flavor, precision of technique, and respect for the classics, plus Joshua’s special creative touches. For example, the dark chocolate truffle was rich yet clean, with pure chocolate notes – precisely what a top-quality classic truffle should be.

Luscious truffles made onsite at Cocoa Blue Chocolates
Handmade: precise sophistication with a dash of whimsy at Cocoa Blue Chocolates

Then there was the marvelous chocolate macadamia bark. Macadamia nuts aren’t frequently paired with chocolate, but I think you’d agree with me that they should be after tasting Cocoa Blue’s white and dark versions. The creaminess of the nut harmonized with the creaminess of the chocolate, while the roasted and salted aspects gave a nice counterpoint to the sweetness.

Look what came home with me: magnificent white chocolate macadamia bark
Look what came home to Chicago with me from Cocoa Blue: magnificent white chocolate macadamia bark. The dark chocolate macadamia bark didn’t make it home, or even to a closeup photo, as I ate – savored! – it so quickly. #blueandwhiteforever #blueandwhiteobsession

Cocoa Blue Chocolates are delightfully classic, deceptively simple, and deliciously innovative.

“Keep eating real chocolate!”

Your friend in chocolate,

Valerie

With Joshua Becker of Cocoa Blue
Dark and white macadamia bark in hand, with Joshua Becker of Cocoa Blue

Valerie Beck, The Chocolate Queen

CEO/Founder Chocolate Uplift

www.valeriebeckchocolateuplift.com

chocolateuplift@gmail.com

Instagram: @chocolateuplift

Chocolatasm: Light Touch, Strong Success

by Valerie Beck, Chocolate Expert and Chocolate Broker

Artisan chocolate by Chocolatasm
Artisan chocolate by Chocolatasm

As soon as I saw the chocolates by Chocolatasm on Instagram, I knew they were something special. When I tasted them, I was impressed with their exquisite subtlety and delicate yet impactful flavor combinations. And when I spoke with the chocolatier behind the brand, I knew he was a true professional.

Sweet innovation
Sweet innovation

Chef/chocolatier Paul Kearins was born in London, worked as a pastry chef and chocolatier in Amsterdam, and now lives and creates in Blue Ridge, Georgia.

When I asked him how he develops his unique flavor combinations such as white chocolate with lime and muscovado sugar, or milk chocolate with honey and blueberries, or dark chocolate with lemon and Ethopian coffee, he told me that ever since childhood he’s had the ability to remember smells and to combine them in his mind with other smells.

His olfactory creativity plus his skills as a professional chef and chocolatier come together magnificently in his brand Chocolatasm.

Light touch, big impact
Light touch, big impact

To taste Chef Paul’s delicious creations is to experience a gentle and pure poetry of chocolate and other flavors. His chocolate doesn’t overwhelm, it delights. Chocolatasm is available at beloved upscale lunch spot and market Foodease inside Chicago’s Water Tower Place (a popular Chicago Chocolate Tours spot back when I operated the original Chocolate Tours as founder/CEO), and I’m thrilled to have brokered the relationship between such a special brand of artisan chocolate, and such a fabulous seller of artisan foods.

On the shelf at Foodease in Chicago
On the shelf at Foodease in Chicago
Before they got to the shelf at Foodease: in the kitchen at Chocolatasm
Before they got to the shelf at Foodease: in the kitchen at Chocolatasm
Valentine's Day every day
Valentine’s Day every day

For a peek behind the scenes, enjoy this Chocolatasm video.

Keep eating chocolate!

Come see me on Instagram too! Your friend in chocolate,

Valerie

Valerie Beck, The Chocolate Queen

CEO/Founder Chocolate Uplift

www.valeriebeckchocolateuplift.com

chocolateuplift@gmail.com

Social media: @chocolateuplift

5 Chocolate Facts

by Valerie Beck, chocolate expert

Cocoa beans, also called cacao, from which chocolate is made
Cocoa beans, also called cacao, from which chocolate is made
  1. Chocolate comes from fruit

Chocolate is made from cocoa beans – also called cacao – which are the seeds of the fruit of the cocoa tree, native to South America. That’s why real chocolate (artisan chocolate, not industrial chocolate) is high in antioxidants, magnesium, fiber, vitamins, and other nutrients, making it a “superfood.”

Askinosie chocolate bar, made from Ecuador cacao and topped with cocoa nibs
Askinosie chocolate bar, made from Ecuador cacao and topped with cocoa nibs
  1. Real chocolate is low in sugar

An entire bar of artisan dark chocolate has less sugar than one serving of commercial yogurt, tomato sauce, or breakfast cereal. “Bean-to-bar” chocolate, also called craft chocolate, is a back-to-basics trend resulting in delicious artisan chocolate. It’s made with only two ingredients: cocoa beans and sugar. There’s no need for palm oil, soy lecithin, or any harmful or unpronounceable ingredients!

Chocolate heart by Chocolatasm
Chocolate heart by Chocolatasm
  1. You don’t want to risk not eating chocolate

Artisan dark chocolate can lessen the risk of death by stroke and heart disease by up to 45% according to a recent study. Also, people who eat dark chocolate at least once a week have a lower body mass index than people who never eat chocolate, because cacao boosts your metabolism. Hence the name of my popular talk: “Eat Chocolate, Be Skinny!” Why are the health benefits in dark chocolate, by the way, and not milk chocolate? Because milk blocks the body’s ability to absorb chocolate’s nutrients.

Kids should go to school
Kids should go to school
  1. You can avoid slavery chocolate

Today, 70% of the world’s cacao comes from West Africa, where 2 million children are forced to work in hazardous conditions on cocoa farms, so that the developed world can have cheap chocolate. Moreover, most West African cocoa beans are of lower quality due to climate change and diseased cocoa trees. Choose fair trade or “ethical chocolate” instead of “slavery chocolate,” and look for labels that indicate the origin of the cacao, just as you would for wine or coffee. This way, you and your family will enjoy delicious and sustainably made chocolate that’s good for farmer, foodie, and field. Ethical chocolate costs more, but it lasts longer – you might eat a bar in a week, instead of 30 seconds – it’s better for your body, and it lets kids go to school instead of to unpaid labor.

A small sample of the wide array of ethical chocolate
A small sample of the wide array of ethical chocolate
  1. The Chocolate Freedom Project is coming to a school or office near you

What is the Chocolate Freedom Project? It’s walking and talking to raise public awareness of where chocolate comes from. I’m planning to walk to Hershey, Pennsylvania, to raise awareness of child slavery on West African cocoa farms, and to promote ethical chocolate brands. Along the way, I’ll speak at schools, offices, chambers of commerce, and associations, and to food bloggers and community groups. Visit www.valeriebeckchocolateuplift.com, or contact me at chocolateuplift@gmail.com to schedule a presentation anywhere, schedule permitting.

Keep eating chocolate, and eat real chocolate!

Your friend in chocolate,

Valerie

3rd from right after speaking in Springfield Illinois
3rd from right after speaking in Springfield, Illinois
Fruit meets fruit with a Dorite doughnut at the Chicago Federal Plaza farmers market
Another way to enjoy fine chocolate: fruit meets fruit with a Dorite doughnut at the Chicago Federal Plaza farmers market
Handmade chocolate raspberry caramel candy bar by Whimsical Candy
Great chocolate is great in any delivery mechanism: handmade chocolate raspberry caramel candy bar by Whimsical Candy

Valerie Beck, The Chocolate Queen

CEO/Founder Chocolate Uplift

www.valeriebeckchocolateuplift.com

chocolateuplift@gmail.com

Instagram: @chocolateuplift

The Community of Chocolate: Cocoa + Co.

by Valerie Beck

When people ask me where to find bean-to-bar chocolate, or slavery-free / ethical chocolate, there’s a new store I now add to the list: Cocoa + Co. in Chicago.

Handful of paradise on opening day at Cocoa + Co.
Handful of paradise on opening day at Cocoa + Co.

People also often ask me for a good chocolate cafe or coffee shop in Chicago, and I add Cocoa + Co. to that list too.

Spicy hot chocolate at Cocoa + Co. #aztecrevivalism
Spicy hot chocolate at Cocoa + Co. #aztecrevivalism

And, when people ask me how to tell if a chocolate bar comes from ethical sources, I give them the answer – below.

But first, imagine a chocolate shop where you can support the community of fair trade and direct trade cacao growers, support the community of artisan chocolate makers and chefs, and enjoy your own community of friends while enjoying some of the finest chocolate brands in the world. Such are the glories at Cocoa + Co.!

Store owner Kim Hack carries some of my favorite bean-to-bar chocolate brands, such as Dick Taylor and Original Beans. I’ve also found new favorites through her, such as Marou and Omnom, which I’d followed on Instagram and finally tasted and fell in love with after buying them at Kim’s shop!

Look what came home with me from Cocoa and Co.: Omnom Chocolate
Look what came home with me: Omnom Chocolate

Kim also brings in fresh local pastry and bonbons, has space for private chocolate tasting parties, serves luscious drinking chocolate, and has a well-curated chocolate grocery and cookbook selection.

Chocolate covered s'mores bonbons made for Cocoa and Co. by Veruca Chocolate
Chocolate covered s’mores bonbons made for Cocoa + Co. by Veruca Chocolates
Pretzel croissant by Beurrage and drinking chocolate at Cocoa + Co.
Pretzel croissant by Beurrage and drinking chocolate at Cocoa + Co.

These are wonderful components of the community of chocolate, wouldn’t you agree!

Back to our question of how to tell if the chocolate bar in your hand comes from ethical sources: read the label for what it says, and for what it doesn’t say.

That is: look first for the origin. If you see a country or an estate of origin listed, chances are already high you’re holding a bar of ethical chocolate. Just as a bottle of wine or bag of coffee tells you what country or estate the product comes from, an ethical chocolate bar will tell you that too. The label might say Peru, or Madagascar, or the Camino Verde Estate in Ecuador which I visited last year, or another location, so that you’ll know the source of the cacao that went into making the chocolate.

Marou Chocolate, made with cacao from Vietnam
Marou Chocolate, made with cacao from Vietnam

You can also look for a fair trade symbol, but there are multiple certifications and an ethical cacao farm may or may not have them.

Now look for what the label doesn’t say: if no origin is listed, you can be relatively sure the cocoa beans came from West Africa, which produces over 60% of the world’s chocolate, and which does so with a scarred supply chain often involving diseased cacao trees, poor flavor bulk cacao, and even child slave labor. This is the supply chain of the big chocolate manufacturers who sell in grocery stores and advertise on TV. And this is why I’m organizing a Chocolate Freedom Walk, to raise awareness of where our chocolate comes from, and to promote ethical chocolate with fun tastings and giveaways at my speaking engagements and along the route.

Ethical cacao is not only ethical, it tastes infinitely better, gives you various flavors such as earthy or fruity based on the soil (terroir) and the art of the chocolate maker, needs no artificial ingredients, and gives you the health benefits that you’ve heard about. And it includes you in the sweet chocolate community of growers, makers, and enjoyers, which you can also join at Cocoa + Co.

three tarts
Brownie by Three Tarts Bakery at Cocoa + Co.
old town
Chicago’s newest chocolate shop is located in the lovely Old Town neighborhood
cocanu and john kiras
Cocanu meets John & Kira’s – the latter are dear Philly friends from my days opening Chocolate Tours across the country! – at Cocoa + Co.
with Cocoa + Co. owner Kim Hack (left) on opening day at her shop
with Cocoa + Co. owner Kim Hack (left) on opening day at her shop

Onward and upward!

Your friend in chocolate,

Valerie

Valerie Beck

Chocolate Expert, Sweet Speaker, Chocolate Consultant

www.valeriebeckchocolateuplift.com

www.chocolateuplift.com

chocolateuplift@gmail.com

@chocolateuplift

Sweets and Snacks Confidential

Sweets and Snacks Confidential

Some of my former “Big Law” colleagues tell me they’re jealous that since I left the practice of law years ago, now instead of going to Bar Association conferences, I go to conventions called the Sweets and Snacks Expo and the Fancy Food Show!

Love the chocolate spread from Emmy's Organics, with all clean ingredients - vegan, gluten-free, GMO-free - shown here at snack time chez moi. It's easy to upgrade your chocolate spread, and all of your chocolate, with brands like these!
Brought home the delicious vegan chocolate spread by Emmy’s Organics from the Sweets and Snacks Expo…
... need more Emmy's Organics chocolate spread!
… and now need to get more at the Fancy Food Show!

Chocolate makers, confectioners, and chefs exhibit their latest offerings at these delicious conferences, and store buyers, media, and others show up to see and sample what’s new. There are also educational sessions, awards, and parties, as thousands of people from the industry come together.

I’m headed to the summer Fancy Food Show in New York this week, and am thrilled to report on this spring’s Sweets and Snacks Expo here. SSE was again held in sweet home Chicago, and it was filled with wonderful old friends, exciting new friends, and a particular encounter with Big Chocolate that perhaps shouldn’t have surprised me but did. Keep scrolling for:

     Chocolatey Reunions,

     Sweet New Friends, and 

     Oh Dear.

View from McCormick Place in Chicago, site of the Sweets and Snacks Expo
View from McCormick Place in Chicago, site of the Sweets and Snacks Expo.

Chocolatey Reunions

Wine and chocolate tasting at Lindt, with wines developed specifically for the brand
Wine and chocolate tasting at Lindt, with wines developed specifically for the brand.
With dear friend Chef Ann of Lindt
With dear friend Chef Ann of Lindt.
scho-ko-lade
A fun iteration of functional chocolate: Scho-Ko-Lade energy chocolate contains an added caffeine boost.
My racy photo: with dear friend Chef Michael of Chuao Chocolatier in the best SSE booth ever, to promote his new breakfast-in-bed (or breakfast for dinner) themed chocolate flavors
My racy photo: with dear friend Chef Michael of Chuao Chocolatier in the best SSE booth ever, to promote his tasty new breakfast-in-bed (or breakfast for dinner) themed chocolate flavors, made with with fair trade Venezuelan cacao as always.

New Chocolate Friends

Beautiful hand-painted Sulpice Chocolat
Beautiful hand-painted Sulpice Chocolat.
Congratulations to Chef Anne of Sulpice Chocolat on achieving fair trade certification!
Congratulations to Chef Anne of Sulpice Chocolat on achieving fair trade certification!
Classic and delicious Swiss Chocolate from new Milkboy Chocolate, also fair trade, with the white chocolate vanilla bean as a particular standout
Classic, delicious, sustainable Swiss chocolate from Milkboy Chocolate, with the white chocolate bourbon vanilla as a particular standout.
Smooth and flavorful Nibmor Chocolate, part of the wonderful fair trade contingent, and also woman-owned
Smooth, flavorful, and fair trade Nibmor, short for “nibble more.” 
Nutresa private label of Colombia, ethical chocolate from South America without the taint of child slave labor from cacao farms in West Africa
Nutresa private label of Colombia.

Oh Dear

Have you heard about the Chocolate Freedom Walk that I’m creating, to raise public awareness of child slave labor on West African cocoa farms and to promote fair trade alternatives? I talked about it with three members of the Hershey’s corporate relations team at the Sweets and Snacks Expo, and their response surprised me.

Sweets and snacks should not involve child slave labor.
Sweets and snacks should not involve child slave labor.

You see, I wanted to give Hershey’s and other large commercial chocolate brands the opportunity to share a press release or other communication about steps they are taking toward sustainability and developing ethical chocolate supply chain sources, as it’s well known in the chocolate world that 60% of the world’s chocolate is made from cocoa beans from West African farms, where child slave labor occurs.

Instead, the corporate affairs people replied defensively. The team consisted of a man and two women. The man became animated and aggressive, and asked how the artisan fair trade chocolate brands would like it if he protested them. The two women shut down and froze, saying not a single word; not “leaning in.”

Oh dear.

Back to the excellent fair trade white chocolate by Milkboy Chocolate.
Back to the excellent fair trade white chocolate by Milkboy Chocolate.

Meanwhile, I’m optimistic about the bigger picture, because everyone wants to know where our food comes from, and we love delicious and healthful chocolate.

And I’ll keep you posted on the Chocolate Freedom Walk!

Chocolate is love, and here’s to the creativity and love that go into America’s favorite flavor: chocolate.

With Nibmor founder Heather Terry. Eat real chocolate!
With Nibmor founder Heather Terry. Uplift through chocolate!

Your friend in chocolate,

Valerie

Valerie Beck

Chocolate Expert, Sweet Speaker, Chocolate Consultant

www.valeriebeckchocolateuplift.com

chocolateuplift@gmail.com

Follow me on instagram or your favorite social media @chocolateuplift.

“Uplift Through Chocolate!”

Chocolate Scouting at Dose Market

Chocolate Scouting at Dose Market

Let there be balloons: festive Dose Market at the Chicago Cultural Center
Let there be balloons: festive Dose Market at the Chicago Cultural Center

Picture chocolate, pastry, fashion, jewelry, and more, under one roof.

Picture that roof over my favorite building in Chicago, the Chicago Cultural Center (which was the main branch of the Chicago Public Library when I was a little girl).

That was the scene for the April edition of Dose Market, a dynamic marketplace that showcases chefs, designers, and makers of all stripes. The market was co-sponsored in April 2015 by the Lake FX conference for artists and entrepreneurs, which added an extra touch of excitement.

At Dose Market: salted chocolate cranberry orange toffee by Terry's Toffee, a longtime favorite
At Dose Market: salted chocolate cranberry orange toffee by Terry’s Toffee, a longtime favorite

Add the fact that among the makers showcased were longtime chocolate friends, and soon-to-be-made chocolate friends, and of course I attended. I attended, I chocolate scouted, and I enjoyed.

What exactly is chocolate scouting? That’s my term for exploring the world and finding delicious chocolate and pastry. It’s something I’ve always done: on any trip to a new city, even as a child, I always wanted to find the best chocolate. That hasn’t changed, and I chocolate scout where I live and where I travel, for business and for pleasure.

Dose Market at the Chicago Cultural Center featured some exquisite and creative chocolate and pastry offerings from old friends…

Rare Bird Preserves, including chocolate blueberry
Rare Bird Preserves, including chocolate blueberry, owned by dear Elizabeth Madden, a French Pastry School grad
With dear Terry of Terry's Toffee
With dear Terry Opalek of Terry’s Toffee

And from new friends…

Deeply impressive chocolate raspberry tart and macarons by newcomer Verzenay Patisserie, a delightful husband-and-wife team
Deeply impressive chocolate raspberry tart and macarons by newcomer Verzenay Patisserie, owned by delightful husband-and-wife team Aqeel and Arshiya Farheen. Arshiya is the chef, and she graduated from Ferrandi culinary school in Paris.
Gingerbread cookies year round from Dough Dough Bird
Gingerbread cookies year round from delicious Dough Dough Bird, owned by new friend Julie Goding, a French Pastry School grad
Intriguing mole bread by Zapps Grains, with cacao and chipotle
Intriguing low-glycemic mole bread with cacao and chipotle by Zapp’s Dancing Grains

I look forward to chocolate scouting at the next Dose Market!

Sweet home Chicago
Sweet home Chicago

Your friend in chocolate,

Valerie

Valerie Beck

Chocolate Expert, Speaker, Consultant

www.valeriebeckchocolateuplift.com

Join my Instagram party

“Uplift Through Chocolate!”

Chocolate and Cherry Blossoms

Chocolate and Cherry Blossoms

Washington, DC, is particularly sweet in spring, when cherry blossoms bloom, and chocolate innovation springs forth, as I re-discover every year on my springtime trip to our US capital.

snickers cake at the partisan
Housemade “snickers” cake at The Partisan
Cherry blossoms in Stanton Park
Cherry blossoms in Stanton Park

DC’s cherry blossom trees were originally a gift from Japan, facilitated by author and traveler Eliza Scidmore, who fell in love with the sweet blossoms in Japan and enlisted the wife of President Taft to help coordinate the trees with Japan in 1910 and 1912.

Today, the city blooms beautifully in spring not only at the “usual” sites such as the Tidal Basin with its spectacular views of the monuments, but also in special and strollable corners of the city such as Stanton Park, and restaurant-rich Dupont Circle.

Dupont Circle
Dupont Circle
Firehook Bakery, Dupont Circle
Firehook Bakery, Dupont Circle

As for chocolate, we chocolate lovers know it is a gift as well. Chocolate comes from cacao, which is the seed of the fruit of the cocoa tree. The Aztecs believed cacao was the fruit of the gods. At beloved Co Co Sala chocolate lounge and boutique, the chocolate is heavenly indeed.

Co Co Sala roasted peanut chocolate bar
Co Co Sala roasted peanut chocolate bar with chocolate pearls
White chocolate "Valrhona Blonde Perles" at Co Co Sala
White chocolate “Valrhona Blonde Perles” at Co Co Sala

Chocolate blends nature and art, and it’s perhaps that juxtaposition of natural forms and artistic vision that has drawn me to the Alexander Calder mobile at the National Gallery of Art in DC, ever since I first experienced it on a DC visit at age 8 and wanted to bring it home with me. The glorious 76-foot work wouldn’t quite fit on the airplane, and I’ve visited it on my trips to DC ever since.

Saying hello to my old friend, the Calder sculpture at the National Gallery
Saying hello to my old friend, the Calder at the National Gallery

Back to our regularly scheduled chocolate, it’s always a treat to see another longtime friend in DC, Jane Morris of J Chocolatier, who creates unique and flavorful artisan chocolate bars, such as my new favorite from her, the fig/walnut/pepper chocolate bar, which she sells from her adorable weekends-only perch atop a charming boutique on Barracks Row.

The fig/walnut/pepper bar by J Chocolatier
The fig/walnut/pepper bar by J Chocolatier

In addition to visiting old friends, I always love making new ones, and was thrilled by DC’s newest doughnut shop, District Doughnut, where the goods are pastry-inspired, fresh, light, not too sweet, and absolutely delicious and delightful.

Light-as-air doughnuts at District Doughnut
Light-as-air doughnuts at District Doughnut
With owner Greg of District Doughnut
With owner Greg Menna of District Doughnut

Here’s to sweet travel!

Your friend in chocolate

Valerie

Valerie Beck

Chocolate Expert, Speaker, and Consultant

Visit www.valeriebeckchocolateuplift.com to book a speaking engagement or for more info.

chocolateuplift@gmail.com