Did you miss Part I? For some of our favorite vendors and our thoughts on coffee & chocolate, basil & chocolate, and even broccoli & chocolate, check out the first post.
Before anything else, I’m just going to get this out of the way:
Some sensual body art happened. In case you’re wondering how those thin slices of vegetables stick, the answer is that the artist licks them. And yes, we did watch for awhile.
These are cacao pods:
We saw lots and lots of cacao pods. They come in different varieties and therefore a variety of colors. They also change colors as they ripen. It wasn’t all that long ago I really had no idea how chocolate was grown and processed. Then we went on a tour of the Theo Chocolate factory in Seattle. I always recommend this to people visiting town or as a fun date or family activity for locals. They show you where chocolate comes from and how they roast it. Oh, and you get to eat a lot of their amazing chocolate.
At the Northwest Chocolate Festival, we learned even more about how chocolate begins. We got to see the parts of the cacao pod up close and personal. As gardeners and bee keepers, it was interesting to learn there is only one pollinator, the tiny midge fly. The flowers are open for only two days before they drop off. In that time a tiny midge fly has to pollinate it, and it takes five or six months to form one of these pods that each contain only 20 to 40 beans.
Above is a pod with the beans removed. I was fascinated when a volunteer told us the piece left in the middle where the beans had been attached is called a placenta. And next are the beans removed from the pod, still covered in mucilage:
Mucilage sounds pretty gross, right? It seemed a little less gross when we read the description on one of the posters at the fest: a sweet fruit called mucilage that tastes similar to a mix between peach, marshmallow and lechee fruit.
Okay, yum. In the photo above they were doing a little fermentation experiment in a beaker on a heating pad. In reality, at the plantations where they are grown the beans still covered in mucilage are carefully fermented and dried. Without fermenting, the beans are bitter. Pretty cool, huh?
We also got to see cacao nibs turned into chocolate old school style. Stone ground! They just mixed in a little bit of powdered sugar, and we got to try a taste. Stone ground chocolate has a grittier, toothsome texture that is actually quite good. We tried and really enjoyed several flavors of stone ground chocolate from one of the vendors, Taza.
Taza Mexican-Style Stone Ground Chocolate
I’ve seen this stuff at our co-op here in Olympia and plan to figure out a use for some ASAP.
Our only complaint about the festival would be how challenging it was to get into any of the classes or demonstrations. There was way more demand than seats. We showed up 25 minutes early to the caramel demo and were too late. We learned our lesson and strategized better the next time around. We really wanted to see a cooking demo about the savory application of chocolate, so we stood in the back for half the preceding demo so we could grab seats as they opened up. Chocolate lovers are serious business.
We might have been disappointed after all that effort when the savory chocolate dish was not vegetarian, but at least Levi got to enjoy one of the smoked bacon and chocolate crespelles. He rated it an 8 out of 10, and he is a tough judge. We enjoyed learning more about making crepes from scratch. They used cocoa powder, hazelnut meal, and a little quinoa for texture. The crepes were stuffed with chocolate, sage, and smoked bacon, folded twice and refried in butter. The recipe is online here, and I hope to try it soon. I might even have to attempt a savory chocolate dish using chanterelles and a little smoked cheese. If only there had been a chocolate and cheese pairing demo!
We had tons of fun at the festival. Since it was $20 per person and we ate so much chocolate, we tried not to bring any chocolate home. Levi was so impressed by Ritual Chocolate made in Colorado (with only two ingredients: chocolate and cane sugar), he pulled out his own money and brought home one of these bars:
This kid rarely has money to spend, so that’s a strong statement.