Chocolate Show Gripes

Bloomsberry chocolate

It’s hard to believe that chocolate can make someone grumpy, but that was the case at New York’s 10th annual Chocolate Show last Friday. The show has declined in recent years, with cheap-o brands slowly taking over the artisan booths. Of course there were stand-outs, but do you really need another cliche “chocolate is delicious” wrap-up? Instead, I’m going with the more entertaining (and arguably more useful) Worst in Show.

Greedy if you ask me!

$2 water
Photo: Niko/Dessert Buzz

When the Chocolate Show first began, it only cost $5 to get in and sample chocolates from all over the world. Two years ago, the admission ballooned to $25, and this year, it again rose to $28. In the words of a fellow chocolate lover: “Greedy if you ask me!” Upon entering, the coat check costs $2 (you can’t really skip out on this in chilly NY), and water costs another $2 (you need something to wash all that chocolate down). You’ve just spent $32 without eating a single piece of chocolate.

Sample Snobbery

A note to the booths: please stop hiding your samples. Visitors just spent $28 on admission and are entitled to a taste. They don’t enjoy inquiring about a possible sample, hearing a long sales pitch and then getting their requisite treat at the end. Ironically, the more the vendors gushed about their chocolate, the worse the product tended to be.

cacao beans
Photo: Robyn Lee/The Girl Who Ate Everything

Some vendors offered samples up front, but they came with tweezers and little spoons. I understand we’re all concerned about cleanliness, but when there’s 20 people waiting in line, using chopsticks to pick up pebble-sized chocolates is hardly efficient. At the very least, please offer more than one spoon per bowl. And when vendors slice a piece of a truffle and insist on handing it to me, I just think, “I’m perfectly capable of picking up my own chocolate!” True, there are some people who horde samples in plastic containers, but it’s not fair for the rest of us.

matcha truffles
Shiki Matcha Crunch truffles, why must I pay $2 to sample you?

The worst policy is not even offering samples at all. I think the chocolates should sell themselves, and if I can’t try them, I won’t buy them.

The Bad and the Irrelevant

Being a chocolate show, you’d think that every booth sold something related to chocolate. Let’s just say that this year’s show offered one-stop shopping, so you could get a Capitol One Visa card, a subscription to the NY Times and book a Marriott vacation.

so-called French truffles
Photo: Robyn Lee/The Girl Who Ate Everything

Two booths sold cocoa-rolled truffles that were ostensibly from France and had hydrogrenated vegetable oil. The French would roll in their graves if they had to eat these!

Mars chocolate
Photo: Niko/Dessert Buzz

Mars also had their own booth. Not only were they out of place, but they pretended to be up to par with the prestige chocolatiers. They bragged about selling 100% real chocolate, but did you know that they’re part of the Chocolate Manufacturer’s Association, the same trade group that wanted to replace cacao butter with shortening in chocolate? Last month, Mars turned around and said they’d only sell chocolate with 100% cocoa butter, as they always have. That’s not true. Dove dark chocolate (which I admit tastes pretty good) has milk fat and technically isn’t pure chocolate.

Bueller, Bueller, anyone?

The same chocolate lover above reported that some exhibitors had no idea where their cacao beans came from or whether they were bought for a fair price. Call me a snob, but how and where cacao is grown makes a world of difference in the finished product. When vendors don’t know their product, it’s unattractive to the consumer.

Gobo's vegan chocolate cake

In another puzzling case, Gobo restaurant demoed a vegan chocolate cake, which called for vegan flour and vegan cocoa powder. It pains me to say this, since Gobo and its sister restaurant, Zen Palate, are among my favorites in the city (and the owners are really nice), but I almost laughed at those ingredients. Flour comes from a plant. Cocoa comes from a plant. When are animals involved? If you can find me animal-derived cocoa, I’ll give you a lifetime supply of vegan cocoa as a consolation.

For the Chocolate Show highlights, visit Dessert Buzz and NYCnosh.

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18 Comments »

  1. Casey said,

    Thanks for the report. Had been considering the possibility of attending at some point, but seems it’s no longer worth it. In the Twin Cities the annual chocolate “extravaganza” has always been somewhat, well, as you described this event. Thought I’d find a substitute. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I enjoy yours.

    November 14, 2007 at 2:54 am

  2. Ashley said,

    After you commented on my site I clicked on your name which linked me to your old blog. I was trying to figure out how to comment on the delicious looking and sounding white chocolate matcha shortbread you’d made then saw the link to your new site. :) Well not new anymore but anyway. Where I live we have a food show that comes once a year called Eat Vancouver that I’ve been to a couple of times but it’s mostly disappointing as it’s mostly just big brand names. That’s hilarious that they put vegan flour and vegan cocoa powder.

    November 14, 2007 at 6:50 pm

  3. Jessica "Su Good Sweets" said,

    Casey, I look forward to reading more of your chocolate reviews! The show is okay for people who have no experience in chocolate, so they can sample a bunch of brands in one place. There are also a couple must-have chocolates, like Mary’s from Japan (which you can’t get in the states any other way). I wouldn’t recommend paying that fee over and over, since the exhibitors tend to be similar every year. Also, if you can get in free as trade or media (like I did), it’s worth a look.

    Ashley, we food bloggers are hard to please. Most people I know don’t mind big brand names.

    November 14, 2007 at 11:49 pm

  4. Cakespy said,

    OK, this was only like the best post ever. I haven’t been to this show, but having attended trade shows in general, I feel a lot of this pain. You had me laughing so hard I almost cried when it came to the “Why oh why must I pay $2 to sample you!?” part. Seriously–you’ve taken the time to attend and paid a bunch of money to get in. It’s a chocolate show…they’ve got to ante up!

    November 17, 2007 at 1:24 pm

  5. Jessica "Su Good Sweets" said,

    Jessie, ha, glad I was able to make your day. I don’t like being snarky, so I had reservations about posting this.

    November 18, 2007 at 2:43 am

  6. Cakespy said,

    No, not at all! Snarkiness can be fun sometimes. And I think your complaints were valid! :-)

    November 18, 2007 at 2:17 pm

  7. Niko said,

    I can’t believe that two truffle vendor’s had trans fat in their products! That’s terrible. Which ones were they? If you don’t want to out them publicly you can just email me but I am curious. Also, this report wasn’t overly snarky just honest and more than charitable towards the noted offenders. Gobo best stay on their toes as Blossom just opened uptown and they have killer vegan desserts…

    November 19, 2007 at 4:50 pm

  8. Jessica "Su Good Sweets" said,

    Hi Niko, I have no reservations posting the names of those trans-fat truffle makers. Shortening is the cardinal sin in food, not just chocolate! One booth was Goldstar Chocolates (pictured). I don’t think they actually made the truffles, though. The other booth was between Chocolove and those chocolate post cards. I’ll have to consult the map (which will take a week, since I’m out of town), but I intend to add their names to the post.

    November 20, 2007 at 2:20 am

  9. Chief Family Officer said,

    I looooove chocolate, so I really enjoyed this post! (Found it via YumSugar, BTW.) I can’t believe some of the things the vendors do! I look forward to reading your post about the good stuff :D

    November 21, 2007 at 12:20 am

  10. jeff said,

    Nice review of the show.

    A couple of caveats though. Some of us who exhibit there spend a considerable amount of money and time to attend. I sent ahaead and gave away over 400 lbs of samples. As my chocolates regularly cost $48 per pound retail you can understand the significant layout attending this show costs. the booth costs $3800, airfare and hotel in november regularly run over another $3000, shipping our product from the west coast runs about 41200 and did you know they charge us 4400 for an internet hookup to run crdit cards?, add to that the expense of staying in manhatten for a week-(cab fare, meals, subway) – and we are laying out significant amount of money just to show off our wares. Forgive me if my samples werent enough.

    I do agree with you though that the schwag vendors are becoming more and more prevalent. Those guys at the entrance with their saturated fat laden “french” truffles are a blight on the industry and should be hung in the town square. It dumbs down the chocolate show and the scam artists who perpetuate that garbage hate me for telling everyone i see oggling their product to “read the label”…..

    some of us are artisans and the show is the one place annually where we can attract the proper media attention to get our names out to a national audience. its the only reason i do it. I lost $4000 this year and sold out of product. BUT- our product was presented on CBS Early show, Wall Street Journal, Good Morning America, and a handful of print publications. Pretty cheap media exposure in my book; nut I am true artisan chocolatier. I feel you pain.

    November 23, 2007 at 10:36 pm

  11. Jennifer said,

    We were in NY at the time of the show but decided not to go. I would love to go some time. Hopefully, it will be worth it by the time I get around to going.

    BTW, I just found your blog and am enjoying reading the archives!

    November 24, 2007 at 3:07 pm

  12. Kieran said,

    Great post. I’m still jealous, though!

    November 28, 2007 at 3:59 pm

  13. Jessica "Su Good Sweets" said,

    Jeff, it sounds like a tough situation for the customers and exhibitors. I had no idea that you shipped all that chocolate. Thanks for offering credit card payment. It’s a nice touch, but $4400 to hook it up is insane! It makes you wonder where all that money goes.

    I tried one of your fruit truffles last year, and it tasted fresh. Was looking forward to trying more this year (especially the blue cheese), but when I went there were just plain bars. Until next year, I guess.

    December 7, 2007 at 12:08 pm

  14. Robin said,

    This is off the main topic of the post, but I’ve been seeing “vegan” in puzzling places, too. I just noticed that Whole Foods sells “organic cane sugar” right next to “organic VEGAN cane sugar.” Is there something going on with our sugar (and possibly our chocolate) that we haven’t even thought to worry about yet? Yikes!

    December 13, 2007 at 1:04 pm

  15. Jessica "Su Good Sweets" said,

    Robin,
    Unless otherwise specified, cane sugar is white because it’s “purified” with bone char. For this reason, some vegans insist on beet sugar (which may bake funny) or vegan cane sugar. In this case, vegan sugar isn’t redundant!

    December 13, 2007 at 10:44 pm

  16. Lauren said,

    Ooh, still sounds amazing with all that chocolate in one place!

    “Hydrogrenated vegetable oil” = not trans fat, unless it was “partially.” Fully hydrogenated oil = saturated fat. :)

    December 21, 2007 at 1:10 am

  17. Lorrie said,

    Cocoa can have dairy product in it. You have to check the labels. Robin filled you in on the sugar issue. I don’t have a clue about the flour but would be interested in that! Do I win the lifetime supply of cocoa??? I love my chocolate!

    October 30, 2008 at 9:16 pm

  18. Twinkle said,

    I was looking for a place to express my disappointment. Thanks for the straight forward comments. I fully agree with your assessment. I’d like to add that the pavilion was too small for the crowd… Paying on line for efficiency then waiting on line for hours. ell no! Not enough vendors. What r vendors saying?? We thought the the vendors didn’t come because it was a rip off on their end and jeff confirmed that. Where were the chocolate adult party favors? Ooops to cheesy for the high brow crowd. What about chocolate for the diabetic crowd. Not fun! Too cost for vendors and attendees. Yet another old time 42nd St ripoff. Getting worse not butter.

    November 16, 2010 at 8:14 am

1 Links to this post

  1. Dessert buzz » Blog Archive » Weekend sugar rush: NY Chocolate show, Tastings New York

    [...] One year Bouchon Bakery made S’Mores and then handed out about 200 of them.  Though some are annoyed with the increases in price over the years, the demos make the show well-worth it if you leave [...]

    November 6, 2008 at 8:38 pm

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