Last weekend, I travelled to Seattle for the Northwest Chocolate Festival. One of the many hats I wear these days is working with my friend’s business, Chocolate Alchemy, and we were giving a demo on roasting cocoa beans. This classified the excursion as a business trip in a sense, which just tickles me, because I had always been intrigued by business trips and this one was all about chocolate. It also provided the opportunity to travel up to Seattle and visit my brother and his new business, The Kraken Bar and Lounge. Yep, you heard me right. I went on a business trip to a chocolate festival and we have a bar in the family. Life is exciting.
The festival was a lively congregation of chocolate makers and chocolatiers from far and wide. I was very pleased to see all the bean to bar chocolate folks are making, and even more excited to taste it. If you are asking yourself, what in the world is bean to bar chocolate, read on and let me step up on my educational podium for a moment.
I liked this banner at the festival because it answered the question so well and stated it so succinctly. Beyond that, it’s the movement of chocolate back to being a real, hand-crafted food. They are a bean after all and a crop grown by farmers. It’s not just something we get from factories and big corporations like Hersheys and Cadbury anymore, it’s something you can find locally made and even make yourself from scratch. And each origin of bean has a different dynamic flavor, not unlike coffee and wine.
During my evenings in the city, I had adventures eating delicious food and visiting my brother’s bar. He’s a musician in addition to being a bartender and a cook, and I had the good fortune of catching an impromptu performance of his Mariachi band on the sidewalk out front. We also got to have Saturday morning breakfast at the bar, which is not something you get to do every day.
We walked down to Pike Place Market and enjoyed all the delightful displays of fruits, vegetables, cheeses, fish, baked goods and every other wonderful thing one can imagine occupies an open air urban market. I hadn’t spent much time there since childhood trips to the big city, and I had a whole new appreciation for the local food scene as an adult. I will never be an urbanite, but the availability of such a wide variety of wonderful things all coming together in one place is an aspect of city life I can fully appreciate.
And for breakfast one morning, I discovered Le Panier, a very French bakery. Perhaps it is because of my French roots, and my mother’s efforts to expose us to French food that I have developed this deep love of French bakeries. Baguettes, croissants, madeleines and pain au chocolat make me deeply happy.
The roasting demos were well attended both days, and I think folks got a lot of good information from the Chocolate Alchemist. I enjoyed passing around beans and nibs, and giving people who might have only experienced chocolate as something that comes from a factory an in person experience with cacao.
And of course, I spent a good bit of time wandering around sampling chocolate.
I have decided I like business trips an awful lot.