Blog: Chocolate World Expo
In what’s been dubbed the largest chocolate themed event of the year, the Lexington Armory played host to the Chocolate World Expo all day long on Sunday, with dozens of purveyors of all things sweet and savory setting up pop up shops inside, away from the ominously gloomy New York City weather outside. With over 60 distinctive vendors each doling out generous portions of all you can sample fudge and chocolates, as well as hot sauces, dips, cheeses, and so much more, the Chocolate World Expo certainly expanded beyond the limited realm that the event’s name suggests. But each additional non-dessert item was a welcome surprise to this writer’s taste buds, as we wound up leaving with several stocking stuffers for family and friends.
The Chocolate World Expo kicked off at 10am sharp, proving that it’s never a little too early to begin downing drenched candy samples for many of us. But getting inside early was an absolute must, with so many different vendors to visit and chat with- you could literally spend an entire afternoon within the Armory’s friendly confines. We started out by wetting our whistle with different purveyors of local beers and wines and Chatham, New York’s Chatham Brewing was glad to oblige. Widely considered the Hudson Valley’s best brewery, we went wild for the company’s ‘Bourbon Barrel Brown Ale,’ a smooth vanilla infused beer that was infinitely drinkable by typical brown ale standards, and one that we made return visits specifically to re-taste. The selection at Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery meanwhile, may have had the most eclectic setup of offerings and with over a dozen or so wines, cordials, and even hard ciders to choose from, their stand routinely had some of the lengthiest lines of the afternoon.
With our tongues moistened with tasty beverages, we took some time out to enjoy the ear candy before making our way toward the digestible variety. Dozens of patrons quickly grabbed up many of the available chairs in front of the stage as Ob-La-Di performed two full sessions of cover tunes by The Beatles throughout the day. The booming music served as a fun backdrop while perusing the handouts from each table and also for a sugar-high dance party once we’d polished off a few too many helpings of Mitchmallows gourmet flavored marshmallows, amongst some of our favorite samples of the entire Expo. Other standouts included The Chocolate Swirl’s seemingly endless selection of truffles, brownies, pops, and cupcakes, Just Buns’ innovative cinnamon and brown sugar sticky buns, and Isn’t It Sweet’s handmade chocolates, truffles, and an awesome gift display of chocolate dipped oreos, which made our mouths water with excitement. Admittedly, we forced ourselves to splurge when we saw the fully operational chocolate fountain on display at Chocolate Works, whose Kosher certified smooth rich chocolate paired excellently with a skewer of fresh strawberries, and literally made a mess of our previously spotless chin.
While chocolate was the day’s celebratory dessert, we wound up spending more time at the more hearty stands. Highlights like Yolando Pesto’s creamy “Red Pepper Pesto” spread was a revelation atop the crunch of a Ritz cracker, while Palatine Cheese’s outstanding flavored “Cheese Curds” caused lines to pile up like there was a buffet being offered to each guest. But we’d have to judge our favorites of the day based solely on the samples that we were forced to purchase based on taste alone. Puckers Gourmet had perhaps the most eye catching stand of the entire expo, handing out samples of pickles and kimchi for excited guests. Their award winning “Sour Krunch Kraut” was both light and delicious, while their expansive pickle selections ranged from mild half-sours to horseradish to even spicy varieties for more experimental eaters. Meanwhile, situated next to Puckers sat Torchbearer Sauces, makers of natural, gluten-free gourmet sauces similarly running the gamut from mild to ‘you can’t taste your tongue’ hot. One taste of the tangy and sweet “Carolina BBQ” sauce had us sold, as we quickly handed over our wallets and packed the jar away for later use.
Rather than limit itself to sweet confections the 2012 Chocolate World Expo was an outstanding collection of small businesses, all handing out delicious samples of locally produced foods. The smorgasbord of offerings was wide ranging, with some being a little out there- chocolate covered pickles being one. But the experience of attending brought us out of a rainy Manhattan afternoon and into a festive and seasonal market of eats, giving us the opportunity to chat up some local business owners and hear their inspirational stories of growth. Oh, and to also taste a ton of outstanding food samples. That of course, was a given.
- Jane Van Arsdale