Thursday, June 25, 2009

It's All About the Chocolate

I'm excited about my latest article publication, and my latest venture in the food writing journey --a feature story in the June issue of Bay Area Business Woman that highlights the 3rd annual International Chocolate Salon held in March at Fort Mason in San Francisco. I am proud to say I have officially graduated from the world of Snickers and M&M's (OK, they have their moments as well), to the world of Dagoba, Chuao, and Theo.

I learned that in 2008, chocolate sales were a whopping $17 billion, and that organic chocolates are currently the fastest growing snack in the country, with US sales jumping to $94 million. Event highlights included spa products, exotic flavors like "sizzling bacon bars," (maybe don't try this at home), and fast growing celebrity brands like Cocoa Bella, Jade Chocolates, and the old favorite Ghirardelli. Highlights of the article include:

*Interview with Lisa Averbuch, founder of Loft Liqueurs, the country's only organic spirit company.
"I saw that there was a gap in the marketplace, and I had a great product in the making, so I just went for it," Lisa states. Her delicious flavors include lavender, lemongrass, and spicy ginger. I tasted the lemongrass and it was off the hook!

*Interview with Jeanne Lindberg, owner of San Mateo's Jeanne's Fudge, which also was very rich and yet light. I admit I am not a fudge fan, but after my taste test, I'm changing my ways and heading to Jeanne's.
"I've been told countless times by people that this is the best fudge they ever had," Jeanne says.

It was interesting that many of the chocolate entrepreneurs I interviewed had one thing in common: a "seize the day" approach that led them to go for it. This is a good business lesson for many of us. It was also interesting that even in a down economy, chocolate was clearly recession proof, with many of us treating ourselves to small indulgences.

A few tips on interviewing chocolatiers for tv or video (note: I have a vid in the works)
1. Introduce the chocolatier to the audience
2. Listen to the processes, themes, and ingredients that distinguish one chocolate from another.
3. Accept the offer (that you most certainly will get) to taste a piece, and pick the yummiest looking one (don't take too long, someone else might grab it!)
4. When you taste the chocolate, carefully savor the textures, and identify key ingredients. Some gourmet chcocolates, for example, contain olive oil. Explain what the chocolate tastes like to the viewer, and be specific.
Don't just say, "tasted great!" We know that already.

Have you written about any food trends, and what about guilty pleasures? And, what's your favorite brand of chocolate?

The Salon was sponsored by Taste TV, a leading new media food, wine, and lifestyle network.

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