Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Morning in Paradise

For years I have wanted to attend the Chocolate World Expo.  Unfortunately, Sundays are hard to spare for activities like this.  My horses live too far away for me to attend the expo and still see them.  I'm afraid if I choose between my horses and chocolate, then chocolate, believe it or not, is going to lose. 

If there are any advantages to Hurricane Sandy is that it kind of forced me to stay home this weekend.  I am very lucky that my power never went out.  Roads are pretty clear in my neighborhood (and where they aren't clear, it's easy to get around).  There were no floods in our garage or trees on our building. 

The only problem is gas.  With mile-long lines and day-long waits to fill up at the few gas stations that actually have gas in their pumps, I am trying to drive as little as possible.  I am hoping to save the tankful I had in the car before the storm.  (Thank goodness I no longer have to drive to work.)  This weekend a short drive to White Plains was far easier on my gas tank than a 70-mile drive to New Jersey.  I miss my horses terribly, but chocolate is a nice consolation.  Since Mom was as stranded as I was, she opted to join me.

I got there the minute the door opened.  I didn't take any pictures.  I suppose I should have, but I didn't know what the policies were about photography in the exhibition hall. 

 Mom and I decided our strategy would be to walk through all exhibits and then return to the ones we wanted to investigate further or make purchases from. 

I had eaten a light breakfast and hit the gym prior to the expo in preparation for the onslaught of samples.  One of my first stops was The Melting Pot restaurant.  They were selling $3 plates of fruit and cake with a cup of chocolate dipping sauce.  All proceeds would go to St. Jude's.  They were also selling $20 gift certificates to the restaurant itself for $10 with all proceeds going to St. Judes.  I bought the fruit plate.  I would love a cheap meal at The Melting Pot, but SPP has no interest in fondue.  He thinks it's pretty gross. I enjoyed my plate and moved on. 

I hit a stand called Fretzels.  These were pretzels coated in chocolate and just about every other kind of candy.  I am a sweet-salty nut.  Chocolate pretzels are right up my alley.  I was tempted to buy some right then and there, but decided to budget my appetite and my money.  As it turned out, I decided not to go back.

Another sweet-salty treat was at Bacon Bites, which sold chocolate-covered bacon.  I love sweet-salty.  I love chocolate.  I love bacon.  I can't get into bacon chocolate.  I just don't think they work together.  Bacon is good covered in syrup or brown sugar, but it's not so great in chocolate.  They were selling these adorable stuffed pigs at the booth though, with ears you could make wiggle.  A guy dressed in a cuddly pig costume walked around holding one of the stuffed pigs.  My mother kept saying, "These pigs are too cute to be made into bacon."

I visited the exhibit for the Rose Randolph Cookie Company.  I was almost on autopilot. I just grabbed a brownie bite and ate it.  The intense chocolate flavor hit me like a ton of chocolate bricks.  I told my mother (who was abstaining from samples because she hadn't eaten such a light breakfast), "This is the best brownie I have ever eaten."  I don't even think I was exaggerating.  I did go back later and purchase a container of brownies and let the two lovely ladies manning the booth how good I thought they were.  They had several other kinds of cookies on display for samples and purchase and they all sounded wonderful, but I decided not to overload my brain and my taste buds and stuck with just buying the brownies. 

I passed by a booth boasting of its rum cakes.  I wanted to try one, but ended up with a sample of a macaroon instead.  It was one of the better macaroons in this world.  Sometimes they tend to be just too-sweet blobs of coconut.  This one was rich and buttery.  I thought rum cakes would make a nice gift for someone, but I'm not sure the cakes would keep until Christmas and I have no immediate gift occasions coming up.

There were a few familiar faces.  One exhibitor was Auntie El's.  They are a farm market and bakery in Sloatsburg, NY and I often pass through that area on weekends and shop at Auntie El's.  I don't really think of them as a chocolate store though.  They have all sorts of baked goods.  Kevin is a HUGE fan of their pies (says they're the best next to mine) so I did buy him a personal apple crumb pie there.  Another exhibitor was Aigner Chocolates in Forest Hills, NY, where my mother-in-law resides.  One of our close family friends works for Aigner.  They have gorgeous, decorative, European-style bonbons and truffles.  They had some very pretty ones for Thanksgiving.  We opted not to buy any that day considering our friend will be coming over for Thanksgiving and will likely have some of those chocolates in tow. 

A few faces were a bit too familiar.  Pika's Farm Table and Dutch Desserts show up every week at my local farmer's markets.  I am always tempted by the rich chocolate tarts and pecan tarts of the latter, but I figured I can buy them any time.  Screme Espresso and Gelato Bar is right in the neighborhood of my office.  I had no real need to spend time at these booths.  There was even a Dove chocolate booth.  I can get Dove chocolate anywhere (although I was intrigued by the chocolate martini mixes they were selling).

There were plenty of savory options for those who needed a balance against the chocolate.  There were savory tarts and quiches abound.  Had I stayed long enough for lunch, I might have made some purchases of that type.  There were also pickles and dips and breads.

The expo also encouraged more than one vice.  Wineries and breweries also showed off their wares.  Although I am often in the neighborhood of Warwick Valley winery, I had never visited it before.  I didn't sample their ciders or wines, but I did try their cordials.  I brought home a nice blackcurrant cordial that will taste wonderful in glass of Proseco.  I also tried Americana Winery for the first time.  I like their wines, but ended up a little irritated with them.  Mom and I were looking for some good Thanksgiving wines.  I learned from Noble Pig that the best wines for Thanksgiving are Pinot Noir and Reisling.  Americana had a delicious semi-dry Reisling and a very interesting Pinot Noir.  I thought I had purchased a bottle of each, but when I came home, I discovered they had sold me two bottles of the Pinot. 

The expo had many many more offerings from gluten-free stuff (should have really spent more time at this booth) to vegan (chocolate wasn't that good) to weird health food products (better than the vegan, but not nearly as good as the "bad" chocolate).  It really became overwhelming.  I saw so many beautiful chocolates and tasted so many delicious chocolates.  One would think I'd have come home with my weight in chocolate.  After a while, you do sort of experience a chocolate overload.  You can't buy it all and you can't eat it all.  It becomes rather hard to make a decision.  Eventually indecision becomes the norm.  Do I like it enough to buy it?  Will I eat it or give it away?  Do I need to buy all of this and shove more calories down my gullet?  Thanksgiving is coming and some of the weight I lost has crept back on (I went from having lost 15 pounds to having lost 11-12).  If I can't make up my mind about what I want, I tend to reject all options.

When I came home and Kevin saw my purchases, he commented that I had purchased very little actual chocolate.  I had a box of brownies, a mini apple pie, and bottles of booze. 

It was a fun experience and I think it was worth seeing once.  Would I go again?  Possibly.  Maybe the exhibitors I bypassed due to overload were as good as, or better, than the ones I paid attention to. Maybe next year I'll try them.  It could be worth it to stay longer and enjoy some lunchtime savories.  I might buy more chocolate the next time. 

The world will not end if I miss it next year though.


Sue said...

Sounds awesome. I know what you mean about the indecision. I always think at things like this that I'll taste everything under the sun and then I just can't bear to.

Blond Duck said...

I want to go to Fretzels. The only tasty pretzel I've seen is a peanut butter stuffed pretzel.