The exciting thing I am discovering after researching fine chocolate in earnest since 2009 is that there are chocolate events being held around the world, and you can find one in some part of the world at pretty much any given time. As we’d been in northern California to meet chocolate makers in San Francisco and explore the world of wine and chocolate in California wine country (see recent posts for more on this) last September/early October, it seemed a no-brainer to stick around for the Los Angeles Chocolate Salon, a chocolate event put on the folks at TasteTV.
Although it was called the LA Chocolate Salon, the event was actually held in Pasadena, California, a city of just over 137,000 residents located in Los Angeles County, 10 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles. I really like Pasadena. The scenery reminds me of Palm Springs, and because of its smaller size, traffic is manageable, you feel safe to meander the streets, and pretty much everything we needed or were interested in was of close proximity to the Pasadena Conference Center (the event venue) and the Sheraton Pasadena Hotel where we were staying.
Having been to much larger chocolate events like the Salon du Chocolat in Paris which now has as many as 550 participating chocolate-related exhibitors, I was a bit disappointed in the ultra-small size of the LA Chocolate Salon with only approximately 35 participants. And the stark lower-level windowless room in which the Pasadena event was held did not add to the ambiance. But for the most part, the chocolate we tasted was excellent. Even more concerning than the lack of character in the event’s venue was the fact that because there was a limited number of vendors, there were lineups at each and every chocolate stall we wanted to visit. We spent as much time waiting in line, as we did actually talking to the chocolatiers and sampling their chocolate. Kind of takes the pleasure out of what should be an extremely pleasurable event.
Here are a few of the chocolatiers I met that impressed me. Let me start with Joe Terpoghossian, owner of Mignon Chocolate, with shops in Glendale and Pasadena. Mignon has some really creative flavour blends such as Tequila Ganache, Ginger with Sea Salt, and Saffron Marzipan that will make your taste buds sing. As well, the Mignon bars are visually appealing and the fresh flavours of the Mixed Berries bar make eating a chocolate bar a lot more fun!
I also enjoyed speaking to chocolatier Michelle Crochet of DROGA Chocolates of Los Angeles. Michelle has a really cool concept with her City Caramel Collection in which she’s accented caramel with flavours that remind her of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York. I loved them! Check out DROGA’s website as the hi-res visuals will have your mouth watering in a matter of seconds.
Mark Lewis of Marco Paolo Chocolates based in Van Nuys, California is a super talented chocolatier whose speciality is the double-layered chocolate truffle. Lewis is a true artisan, and handpaints each of his beautiful chocolates. You’ll find chocolate tasting tips and other interesting info on the Marco Paolo’s website.
I could go on. There really were some amazing chocolatiers and chocolate makers at this show. Until I began searching my notes, photos, and memory banks, I’d forgotten just how much I enjoyed them. There were also some interesting speakers at the show, which all in all, did make it worthwhile as a chocolate travel expedition.
Have you been to Pasadena or the Los Angeles Chocolate Salon? If so please share some of your highlights with us.