People, what better substance is there on earth? It makes children do this, and it makes us feel like children who are doing this. Honestly.
The Luxury Chocolate Salon in Pasadena has been around for only 4 years, and I've been lucky enough to go 3 times. Most recently, LAST SUNDAY! Whee!
This story begins a few years ago when I met a really nice woman named Diana Malouf at The Chocolate Salon. We got to talking enthusiastically about chocolate-making and her fledgling chocolate business, Ococoa. Today I'm happy to say she is doing really well with Ococoa, and was exhibiting for the second year at The Chocolate Salon.
Ococoa is a really unique company, making delectable chocolate butter cups - not just peanut butter (which by the way is the best I've ever had) but flavors like sesame fig (drool) sunflower honey and macadamia guava!! That's all different nut-butters folks, how cool is that? Rich comfort food meets exquisite gourmet.
She was gracious enough to get me in for free this year so I could stuff myself silly and report to all of you. Thank you Diana!
I regret my camera battery died before I was able to get a better photo of the Ococoa booth, but she (and most importantly, her butter cups) will be at Artisanal LA Downtown, October 23rd and 24th. So go try some and buy some!
Of course, there were more chocolates to try. So after stopping off at Ococoa, I strolled around and found a few favorites. Behold:
My newest and most favorite this year was Amella Caramels, covered in chocolate and made with cocoa butter. HOLY BANANAS!!!! I could not believe how fresh and chewy-chewy-tastic these caramels were! Caramels are pretty much the sexiest thing ever, when done right, and these brought me to the brink of madness. Dense, smooth, melting... that slight give and creamy bitterness from the chocolate shell around it... GLLLAARARARGGGG! Even the way they were cut in little squares got me all pumped up and happy.
The passion fruit flavor was by far the best. It was like drinking a freshly squeezed glass of juice. The white chocolate covered carrot cake (carrot cake!!) was also a unique and tasty treat. I love their box design too. Do me now Amella Caramels. Do me now.
A favorite I remember from last year was back again - Clarine's Florentines. If I had more money I would buy these in droves and pass them out for Christmas. Chewy, crunchy and nutty-sweet, they do one thing and do it so well. Light almond brittle coated with chocolate. Bliss.
Marti Chocolates is another favorite from years past. Local to LA and home of the unforgivably sexy goat cheese truffle, they are truly unique. Yes. Yes. I said goat cheese. I didn't get a great photo, but since they are local you can hopefully go check them out yourself! The centers of their truffles are the most fresh and bright and gooey I think I've ever had, with the best flavors expressing the company's ties to the Phillipines: citrus, durian and mango. Super drool.
Then there was The Chubby Chipmunk
I'm so used to seeing tidy little hand-painted truffle squares ala France, that these big, decadent globs of chocolate took me back a bit. They were sampling the truffles dug-out and displayed on tiny spoons, almost like ice cream. They were so rich and intense, immediately melting and creamy... it got me all excited. The toffee crunch and New York cheesecake flavors were my favorites. Cheesecake truffle!!! Lord how I dreamt of shoving one of those golf-ball sized babies right between my teeth and chomping down with glee. Or swallowing one like a python eating an egg, and just let it melt in my throat. *droool*
The Chubby Chipmunk's truffles are the opposite of the hip, French style confectionary we've all gotten so used to seeing, and for that I'm grateful. As much as I respond to tidy, artistic beauty, we all need to be reminded that getting dirty and going for the extreme from time to time (preferably more than that) is really the best way to live. Owner Mary Tautkus further inspired my earthy motto when she told me a story about the first time she was making truffles with her chocolate tempering machine. The thing had broken in transport so it malfunctioned in the middle of it all, leaving her with a bowl of melted chocolate. Of course she did what any reasonable chocoholic would do: scoop it out and smear it all over her face and hands. That, my friends, is a woman after my own heart.
Now go eat some chocolate and enjoy it. And for the love of God, get it all over your face.