Following a fitful night’s sleep, I awoke at a little after 10:30 a.m., groggy, perspiring, dehydrated, slightly nauseous, and suffering from a major headache. In short, I was experiencing a major chocolate hangover. And after last night’s chocolate-themed festivities, I suspect I‘m not the only one.
The party kicked off at approximately 7:00 p.m. with Themis Velgis, owner of Yaletown’s Chocoatl, presiding over chocolate fountains (one milk, the other dark), dipping fruits and marshmallows, handmade truffles and cakes, and various chocolate drinks including a winning rum and dark chocolate combo that set my head swimming.
For those partial to solid chocolates and bars, there was a sampling table that included selections from across the globe: Amedei and Domori from Italy, Michel Cluizel from France, El Rey from Spain, Pierre Marcolini, Vosges, and Christopher Norman from the U.S. Flavors ranged from pure subtlety (like my favorite Amedei Chuao) to more exotic offerings like the Oaxacan guajillo y pasilla chillies with bittersweet chocolate, and coconut curry milk chocolate. Of all the bars, one seemed to be the clear favorite: the 3400 Phinney Chocolate Factory bread & chocolate dark chocolate bar from Theo. Check it out.
Over in the truffles and filled-chocolates part of the room, the selection was all the more exotic and creative. Representing from Chicago was Vosges and their truffle collections: the Aztec collection (which included Ancho chili, Ceylon cinnamon, Mexican Vanilla, and Dulce de Leche), the collezione Italiano (which included Taleggio cheese, Tuscan fennel pollen, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Sicilian sea salt), the Aboriginal collection (which included ribbery, wattleseed, quandong, and forest berry), the Green collection (which included such Asian flavors as green tea with white chocolate and cherry blossom, kaffir lime with dark chocolate and coconut, cardamom with dark chocolate and white poppy seeds, and pandan leaves with dark chocolate and cocoa powder), and the Exotic collection (which included a wide array of flavor combinations like ginger and wasabi with sesame seeds and dark chocolate, Hungarian paprika and dark chocolate, and Chinese star anise and fennel). Representing from New York were heavy hitters like Pierre Marcolini with his degustation truffles and connoisseur collection in their sleek black packaging, Christopher Norman with a ballotin box and the stunning hand-painted luxury tea collection (unique teas like green tea, lapsang souchong, China Rose, and tropical mango blended with chocolate ganache), Martine’s chocolates with a gorgeously-crafted collection that included white chocolate violins, milk chocolate Egyptian masks, and dark chocolate pianos), and Mariebelle with an artful blue and brown collection. Representing the home of Cheyenne Mountain and the state of Colorado was Wen Chocolates and some wonderfully creative and spectacular-tasting truffles that included bourbon-vanilla truffles sprinkled with lightly salted peanuts, savannah truffles made of Ecuadorian dark chocolate infused with Ukranian honey pepper vodka and topped with chili mango and Hungarian hot paprika, and Triglav truffles made of white chocolate infused with lime, spiced rum, and white pepper, then hand-rolled in white chocolate and rolled in toasted coconut and lime zest. Also from Wen – candied ginger, chocolate cherries, and some out-of-this world toffee. Representing Montreal was Genevieve Grandbois and an eclectic mix of chocolates including passion fruit and dark chocolate ganache, maple butter with maple syrup and caramelized pecans, a dark chocolate and extra virgin olive oil blend, and even a ganache infused with Monte Cristo cigar leaves. Representing Calgary was one of my personal faves, Bernard Callebaut, and an excellent assortment compliments of Arctic Goddess. And, finally, representing Vancouver, with undoubtedly the most experimental selection, was DC Duby and their ice wine collection (a peach and citrus Riesling, strawberry and apple Cabernet Franc, a Vidal tropical and orange, and a Vidal oak-aged apricot and lychee), their harvest collection (apricot chanterelle, stilton rhubarb, kabotcha coconut, and pear parsnip), their aroma collection (cinnamon or clove, raspberry emulsion, rose hip emulsion, cinnamon oil praliné, and vanilla bean), their classic collection (mango-coconut, cinnamon-coffee, passion-caramel, and hazelnut-nutmeg), their estate collection (truffle past and Canadian whisky gel that my writing partner Paul particularly adored), Chardonnay with pineapple and vanilla, Cabernet Sauvignon with cassis gelee and pepper praline, and Pinot Noir with strawberry and licorice), their wild Canadian truffle collection (black truffles and cocoa nibs, ginseng brandy and roasted sunflower seeds, icewine and roasted hazelnuts, and maple roasted squash and toasted pumpkin seeds), and most impressive of all their limited collection – a two element eating experience in which the chocolate creation is topped with a second corresponding element for a unique taste and textural experience (for instance, Hungarian Tokaji wine is blended with a crème brulee ganache and topped with butterscotch-scented caramelized almond, or Connemara whiskey gelee in a honey malt ganache topped with malt-scented caramelized puffed barley). Wow. They were all great but Martin Gero singled out Wen Chocolates and Chef Poole’s Bananas Foster truffle in particular. Even Themis, owner of Chocoatl, lauded Wen’s craftsmanship and use of top quality ingredients.
Special mention should be made of Martin Gero’s buddy, Aaron Abrams (aka Kanayo from Atlantis’s second season mid-season two parter The Lost Boys and The Hive) who proved fearless in sampling any chocolate I happened to throw his way from the balsamic vinegar blend to the taleggio cheese ganache. I hope he’s feeling alright today.
All of the evening’s chocolates were accompanied by various red wines, ports, and icewines. For those seeking a palate-cleanser, there were a couple of savory alternates including some fabulous sushi assortments from Yuji’s.
Finally, the nice thing about chocolate parties is that they rarely last past 11:00 p.m. as, by this time, everyone has succumbed to a sugar crash. Given the amount of chocolate left over, guests were encouraged to put together some doggy (not for their doggies) dishes to go along with the cute orange double-truffle take-home boxes Themis had put together for the event.
All in all, a successful soiree. And once I’ve fully recovered, I’ve got to start planning my ice cream party.
Okay, for those requesting a pic play-by-play:
#1: Martin Gero and Aaron Abrams arrive ready to party.
#2: Carl “Gimme the Chocolate!” Binder.
#3: Themis Velgis and his assistant Marco set up.
#4-5: Chocoatl handmade chocolates and truffles.
#6: Dipping fruit and marshmallows for the chocolate fountains. Naturally, I skipped the fruit and drank straight from the fountain instead.
#7-10: Chocoatl cakes.
#11: A selection of chocolate bars.
#12-16: Vosges chocolates.
#17: LA Burdick.
#18-19: Pierre Marcolini.
#20-21: Christopher Norman.
#22-23: Martine’s Chocolates.
#25-29: Wen Chocolates.
#30: Genevieve Grandbois.
#31: Fudge Fatale.
#32: Bernard Callebaut compliments of Patricia.
#33-40: DC Duby.
#41: Our friend Jackie and friend.
#42: Porcelana de Pedegral – world’s most expensive chocolate.
#43: Mendiants and gianduja.
#44: Wen Chocolates chocolate and coffee toffees.
#45: Weiss chocolates and Michel Cluizel dark chocolate-covered cocoa nibs.
#46-47: Sushi from Yuji’s including Tanaka-san’s signature roll.
#48: Aaron finds the chocolate-vinegar combination…weird.
#49: The usually camera-shy Lawren Bancroft-Wilson gives the party the thumbs up.
#50: Jane Loughman and John Smith check out the spread.
#51: Andy Mikita polishes off his sushi.
#52: Our friend Lily hitting the sushi.
#53: Alex Levine and sworn enemies Carl Binder and Martin Gero face off.
#54: A pleased Alan McCullough surrounded by ladies.
#55: David Hewlett shows us how it’s done.
#56: My accountant Al whooping it up.
#57: Ivon Bartok pacing himself.
#58: Jodi and Fondy.
#59: My friends Steve and Jodi – and me.
#60: Carl feels the sugar rush.
#61: Themis and Marco working their magic.
#62: The take-home truffles.
#63: John Smith ready to hit the road.
#64-65: The aftermath.
#66: Some of the ladies wind down.
#67: Themis helps himself.