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Special Report: DallasChocolate.org Chocolate Conference in Dallas

Expert panel spills the beans on chocolate

The  hot ticket ticket in town this weekend for foodies was DallasChocolate.org’s Chocolate Conference 2010. For eight hours on Saturday, the program was devoted to learning  and sampling chocolate.

The day kicked off at 10 a.m. There were about 100-150 people present. By 1pm the numbers had swelled considerably and the registration line stretched out the door. I’d say DallasChocolate.org’s organizer Sander Wolf has captured Dallas’ attention.

First event was a Round Table of local chocolate luminaries.And lume they did. Just about every local artisanal chocolatier was on the panel.  Members of the audience could fire any question they wanted. It was interesting to note that these small producers are  specialists and if they don’t carry or make the kind of chocolate you want,  they gladly recommend a fellow producer.

Their products are almost invariably 60%+ cocoa by weight, compared with 15% in Hershey’s Dark Chocolate. They usually use no artificial preservatives and produce small batches or to order. They mainly sell from their storefront, so to speak. Jump for  links to the best chocolate makers and a recap of the delightful day of indulgence.

UPDATE: PegNews has some great photos.

The session, “How To Taste Fine Chocolate”, was led by the mysterious Madame Cocoa, a gal from Austin who goes by Adrienne Newman is some parts of her life. She eats chocolate the moment she wakes up at 5:30am but has no pimples. She explained lots of things I didn’t know. Like, chocolate goes back deep into Mayan culture (Early Pre-Tupperware era, 1000BC) when it was fermented into an alcoholic beverage. The guy seated next to me thought that was quite a feat, as chocolate contains virtually no sugar. Something else (corn?) must have been involved in order for fermentation to occur. I just wondered how, in the era of microbreweries, such an excellent sounding beverage can have disappeared.

Madame Cocoa introduced Art Pollard, founder and owner of Amano Chocolate, who was even more mysterious. This guy had given up his career as a computer programmer and killer of software bugs to make chocolate and meet real bugs. He is not a chocolatier (i.e. someone who turns a bar of chocolate into an edible creation, that might be same shape as the family dog, with all the weave of the fur faithfully reproduced and a cherry for the nose). Art turns cocoa beans into chocolate bars and  sells to chocolatiers. He traipses through tropical rain forests in order to meet with growers. He was very excited because, in his business, it’s all about the beans, which differ enormously depending on where they are grown (very similar to wine nerds). He told us that a competitor  just lost an exclusive on Chuao (Venezuela) beans and he’d snapped it up. These sell for $5.70LB at the farm vs. $1.90LB for more prosaic beans. No wonder the vehicle of choice for the farmers is the Aston-Martin Vantage (the version with the flappy-paddle gearbox). He gave us chocolate samples wherein the taste was astringent and dense and with a long finish.

Later, full-time chocolate eater Clay Gordon fielded questions in “Everything You Wanted to Know About Chocolate”.

As well as seven hours of seminars, including baking and decorating classes, the conference also featured a chocolate sampling hall where each of the vendors above offered free samples and sold product throughout the day. Each attendee got twelve tickets, exchangeable for twelve items, and a box to take them home in.

Here are links to the finest chocolate folks in the area:

J Dorian

Coco Andre

Wiseman House Chocolate

Collin College

Le Cordon Bleu

Nib Chocolates

Sublime Chocolate

Paciugo

Toffee Treats

Dude, Sweet Chocolate

David Collier