The writer received complimentary entry to Salon du Chocolat.
It’s that glorious time of the year…when dreams come true and indulging in decadent treats transforms the holiday season into one endless chocolate-soaked bacchanal. I mean, if you do it right.
What better way to kick off the season than to welcome the internationally renowned Salon du Chocolat back to New York? After a crushingly long eight-year hiatus, the event returned triumphantly in November, welcoming thousands of eager attendees to the Javits Center where chocolatiers from around the globe shared their artistry while cooking demonstrations, edible art installations, and specialty liqueur and beer pairings took place throughout the exhibit hall. The first afternoon of the two-day event also featured the eye-popping Signature Salon du Chocolat Fashion Show, with dazzling gowns and towering headpieces crafted by a select cadre of chocolate artists, pastry chefs, and costume designers and strutted along the runway by live models. The pieces remained on display for the rest of the show.
Samples of bonbons, bars, caramels, cocoa-dusted truffles, ganache, and nutty barks were plentiful, but you could catch just as much buzz from chatting with vendors who had inspiring, funny, and impressive tales to tell about how they began their businesses, what they’ve discovered along the way, and how being part of the chocolate-making and chocolate-loving communities has shaped their lives.
Chocolate brands were represented from faraway locales including Haiti, Vanuatu, Japan, Brazil, and New Zealand; classic European makers such as Swiss Läderach, French Valrhona, and Belgian Neuhaus; and both newcomers and established favorites from every corner of the U.S., including Hawaii, San Francisco, Brooklyn, Cape Cod, Asheville, and Austin.
In the Area
If you’ve read this far and can’t wait another moment to get your hands on some fresh, handcrafted, bean-to-bar goodness, plan a trip to one (or more) of these local and not-too-far-to-drive discoveries right here in the tri-state area.
MADE Atlantic City Chocolate Bar
Married couple Mark and Deb merged the first half of each of their names to create MADE Atlantic City. It’s a telling detail about this brand…the whole enterprise was begun out of a shared commitment when the pair decided to give up their careers in the foodservice industry and take the plunge into creating a business together. They have since, Deb explains, “put a lot of love into it.” As corny as it sounds, you can really taste it in every bite.
Opened less than two years ago, MADE Atlantic City Chocolate Bar is the only bean-to-bar shop in New Jersey where the entire chocolate making process is done on the premises. In addition, the shop, which is open Thursday through Sunday, features a 15-seat bar serving seasonal handcrafted cocktails (including their signature Confession Manhattan that apparently lives impressively up to its name), one-of-a-kind desserts, and wine and chocolate pairings. Deb is proud to point out that the Chocolate Bar pioneered the revitalization of Atlantic City outside of the casinos, and she and Mark are thrilled to see the area becoming a destination with new restaurants and music venues coming to life.
What to try/buy: Don’t miss the Cappuccino Bar with a smooth incorporation of coffee bean and cacao nibs, the Dark Orange Bar bright with citrus, and the Dark Sea Salt Bar. Their Cacao Tea, in a lovely gift tin, is made with ground roasted coca nibs, cinnamon, vanilla in silk tea bags. MADE will also create personalized wrapped bars using customers’ own photos and text.
MADE Atlantic City Chocolate Bar
121 S. Tennessee Ave
Atlantic City, NJ
Harlem Chocolate Factory
Founder and head chocolatier Jessica Spaulding’s enterprise promises “the essence of Harlem in every bite.” Discovering the Harlem Chocolate Factory at the Salon du Chocolat reveals a lovely bit of karma when you learn that Jessica’s passion for chocolate began when she made yearly visits to the Salon as a child. She recalls biting into a green tea confection from Japan at the show and being stunned by the ability to have such a vivid cultural experience through chocolate.
Determined to translate the culture of Harlem into a unique chocolate experience for others, Jessica developed bonbons, truffles, turtles, bark, and sauces that capture a range of intense flavors and taste combinations. Signature bonbons include such fillings as lemon ginger jam, smoked peach caramel, banana vanilla bean ganache, red velvet, roasted sweet potato, bourbon ganache, and candied rose petals. Barks in dark, milk, and white chocolate are layered with quinoa, bacon, or strawberry rose. A pair of delectable sauces feature bourbon chocolate and rum caramel.
What to try/buy: The showstopper was their hand-painted Dark Chocolate Brownstone Bar, a gorgeously rendered Harlem brownstone façade gleaming in edible gold – beautiful and luscious. Jessica calls the bonbons her “babies”; check out the Speakeasy Collection of Bourbon Hazelnut, Cognac Caramel, and Rosé Champagne.
Harlem Chocolate Factory
2363 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd
New York, NY
Le Rouge Artisan Chocolates
Celebrating the fifth anniversary of its store opening in Westport, CT, Le Rouge has been building its brand even longer. Founder Aarti Khosla created the tagline “From Paris to Punjab” to represent the international flavors and flair she infuses into her work. Raised in India, and having lived, worked, and traveled in many places around the world, Aarti began pursuing a dream to “capture the flavors from around the world in the divine language of chocolate” years before establishing the shop.
Today, Le Rouge Chocolate is a haven for chocolate lovers where confections are created in small batches using fair trade dark chocolate and the freshest ingredients. Each piece is hand-painted and hand-decorated, and feature such exotic flavor profiles as pistachio caramel, bourbon-infused ganache, masala chai, halva, wasabi ginger, and matcha honey, to name a few. The shop is both a chocolate boutique and a café, serving a variety of hot chocolates, espresso drinks, a signature line of European ganache cakes and other plated desserts.
What to try/buy: Aarti’s “Give a Little Love” campaign, first launched in 2016 in the heat of political upheaval, is reintroduced this season with a gorgeous masala chai-infused dark chocolate heart fashioned into a hanging ornament. Ten percent of sales go to charities that support children and empower women around the world.
Also new are enticing little sets of Hot Chocolate Bombs (stocking stuffer alert!) crafted from the same top-quality chocolate used in Le Rouge candies. These lovely rounds of flavor, including dark, milk, raspberry white, and masala chai dark chocolate, are submerged in any heated milk to create an indulgent beverage.
Le Rouge Chocolates
190 Main Street
2 Chicks with Chocolate
Now with locations in Metuchen and Middletown, 2 Chicks with Chocolate offers insanely beautiful artisan bonbons, along with barks, bars, and cocoa tiles. Their hand-painted and cleverly packaged Wine Collectionand Box of Booze sets are Instagram-ready gift perfection.
Gotham Chocolates is a specialty line of award-winning bean-to-bar chocolates, signature bars, and seasonal bonbon collections crafted and sold within Gotham Bar & Grill in NYC’s West Village. Artful packaging and sensuous chocolate blends using cacao sourced from places like Bolivia, Ecuador, and the Dominican Republic make these irresistible.
Laurie & Sons, based in East Harlem, makes dazzling boxes of jewels you can eat. If you want to literally knock someone off their feet, gift them a collection of hand-painted bonbons with such flavors as chocolate hazelnut gianduja with coffee cream, wild strawberry with balsamic reduction, and peanut butter with salted caramel and passion fruit.
Notables a Little Further Afield
Mademoiselle Miel represents the kind of discovery you visit the Salon du Chocolat to make. A modest, artful, and hyperlocal business from St. Paul, MN, Mademoiselle Miel pairs single-origin chocolate with rooftop honey, maple sugar from neighboring trees, and unique seasonal flavors. Honey bonbons, artisan bars, and Honey Hot-Cocoa Bombs are lovingly crafted and wrapped in compostable packaging designed by the artist owner.
Dandelion Chocolate, located in my old stomping grounds of San Francisco’s Mission District, is one of those classic two-guys-in-a-garage startup stories. Since 2010, chocolate-obsessed friends Todd Masonis and Cameron Ring have been sharing craft chocolate from their urban factory. They “roast, crack, sort, winnow, grind, conch, and temper small batches of beans and then mold and package each bar by hand.”
Charm School Chocolate is all about turning the vegan chocolate experience up to 11. And, as the name implies, about charming your dang socks off in the process. Spend a few minutes with chocolate maker Josh Rosen, in his dapper bow tie, and sample the bars and bites they “craft with compassion” using coconut, rather than milk or other dairy products typically used in traditional chocolate making, and wait for it…swoon! Retail store is located in Hunt Valley, MD. Locally, bars are sold at MOM’s Organic Market in Cherry Hill.
As nearly every business now sells online, this is a fantastic time to peruse the incredible options for gift-giving that Salon du Chocolat encompasses. Click on links included throughout this post but for even more, you can find a complete list of the vendors and their website info here.
Happy Chocobrations to all!