It seems 2011 whizzed by with a blur of events, deadlines, travels and thankfully chocolate! As I reflect back over the past year I am happy to say it was a year filled with exciting chocolate events, charitable chocolatiers, fascinating discoveries and tasty samples! I continue to be amazed by the stories behind the chocolate and 2011 brought some very interesting ones indeed. Here is a look back at some of my favorite chocolate stories from 2011.
For my article, Rescue Chocolate: A Unique Blend of Sweetness and Charity, I had the opportunity to interview Brooklyn resident, Sarah Gross, who has successfully combined her passion for animals and her love of vegan chocolate to create Rescue Chocolate. Each month Sarah chooses a different animal rescue organization to receive 100% of the profits from the sale of her chocolates. She offers appropriately titled vegan chocolates such as Peanut Butter Pit bull, Foster-iffic Peppermint and Mission Feral Fig to name just a few! Rescue Chocolate has helped numerous organizations since its inception in 2010 including the Animal Relief Coalition, Miami Humane Society, Austin Pets Alive, Philadelphia PAWS and the United Animal Nations to name just a few. Way to go Sarah!
Who doesn’t love a sweet success story? Allison Kaye definitely has one with her company, First Prize Pies. Formerly an art studio manager, Allison ‘s crumbling career took a completely new direction after she entered the 1st Annual Pie Bake-Off in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood where she took – you guessed it – First Prize! She began offering her pies by the slice at Roni-Sue’s Chocolates (Roni-Sue is Allison’s mother and also one of my favorite chocolatiers!) Allison’s pies quickly gained popularity and she baked herself into an unplanned but delicious new career!
This past year I also encountered a couple of creative girls whose involvement in the theatre led to sweeter pastures! Lisa – the owner of The Chocolate Swirl – was formerly an off-Broadway theatrical stage manager. As an intern on a limited budget, she was in no position to bring in lavish gifts for everyone on opening night. Instead she used her creative talents to shower everyone with lots and lots of truffles. She became affectionately known as the “truffle intern”. Lisa eventually took a break from the theater, attended a pastry program at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York and now spends her days creating sweet treats like Brownie Pops! Another theatre girl, Nora Vetter, followed a similar path. First introduced to baking in 4-H Club, Nora began flexing her creative baking muscles a decade later when she was cast as “Essie” the candy maker in “You Can’t Take it With You”. She too brought confections as treats for the cast during the run of the show which was the start of “Nibbles by Nora”. Nora’s unique claim to fame is the Cupcake Kebab – mini cupcakes in vanilla, strawberry and chocolate threaded onto skewers and separated by wafer cookies and marshmallows. Love love love this!
Education has also been a big part of 2011 as I learned more about the history of chocolate from Rodney Snyder who serves as the North America History Director for The Historic Division of MARS, Incorporated. Rodney and his team have conducted extensive research to bring the true history of one of our favorite foods to life. Rodney’s demonstrations of chocolate making techniques using the primitive tools available during Colonial America are fascinating as well as educational. You can read more about opportunities to participate in these demonstrations in my article Chocolate: History never tasted so good.
One of the most fascinating conversations I had this year was with Ray Major who has spent the last 32 years making chocolate on four continents. Ray heads the development team at SCHARFFEN BERGER Chocolate and is responsible for sourcing the world’s finest cacao beans. His travels in the last year have included Peru, China, Jamaica, India, Nicaragua and Papua New Guinea where he has braved jungle vegetation and snakes in search of the perfect cacao beans!
As your National Chocolate Examiner, I take my responsibility of bringing you the best in chocolate news, experiences, information and tastes very seriously. Because of this, I am willing to make the sacrifices necessary to attend all manner of chocolate events – no matter how tough. There is the annual New York Chocolate Show that requires mingling amongst the chocolatiers gathering samples of chocolates and cocktails while ogling the amazing chocolate fashions and carvings – including a bust of President Obama carved from (of all things) white chocolate! This year there was also a tasting at Chocolat Michel Cluizel to sample a new line of tantalizing truffles, a chocolate and wine tasting at Chelsea Market with Professor Chocolate and the requisite visit to The Chocolate Spa in Hershey, Pennsylvania to try out the latest chocolate body wraps, cocoa massages and other decadent offerings. Oh how I have suffered for you – my readers – in 2011. And, of course, my New Year’s resolution for 2012 is to take that suffering to an even greater level – just to prove my dedication! Happy Chocolate New Year to all of you!