For the Love of Chocolate Benefit: French Pastry School

February 13 2008 - 7:26 AM

On Saturday, February 9th the For the Love of Chocolate Foundation hosted a black tie benefit to provide scholarships to pastry students for the French Pastry School for the City Colleges of Chicago.  Many of the students in attendance appeared to appreciate the support to this event.  Cooking school can be very expensive compared to other types of schools, so the money raised went to a very good cause.  Needless to say, chocolate was everywhere.

One of the first things we grabbed was a delicious cocktail made with wild elderflower liqueur from France called
St. Germain, mixed with champagne, sparkling water, and lemon.   This
was a superb drink, and I could write a separate article on this, but
for now let’s discuss the event.

Before starting on the
chocolate, we went straight to the Cocoa Couture section of the event,
which focused on savory dishes from some of the top restaurants in
Chicago.  My favorite was from NoMi, with bourgogne duck
confit risotto with pearl onions and baby carrots.   Art Smith’s Table
Fifty-Two provided a tasty arugula salad with goat cheese, pecans, and
apples.  Calahan Catering served seared Japanese sushi-grade scallops
with parsnip puree with braised oxtail ragu and pickled carrots, which
was good.   Everest/Brasserie Jo’s saucisson on brioche with French
lentil salad and dijon aioli was nice, and Bistro 110’s braised beef
shortribs with creme fraiche mashed potatoes were just okay at best,
but perhaps appealed to people with more Middle American tastes. 

In addition to the
restaurant personnel, there were a few artesian product distributors on
hand.  Restauranters and cheese shop owners don’t fly over to
Europe and
pack cheese wheels and charcuterie bought at town markets in their
suitcases.  The USDA food-sniffing dogs. would be howling mad; so the
distributors meet the need for food that the U.S. government approves.
One of the more interesting displays were the cheese and liqueur
combinations provided by a distributor, Great American Cheese
Collection, which served delicious combinations of burrata (made from
mozzarella and cream) and Chambord, as well as a Grand Marnier/cheese
pairing.  Once we had a belly full it was on to the chocolate.   

On our way in between
chocolate rooms, we stopped and took a glimpse at the Cocoa Couture
fashion show, which consisted models with wearable chocolate combined
with the latest fashions.  The room was crowded, and we were more
interested to try the chocolates so we took a peek and it was off to
the next room.

Vosges Haut-Chocolat,
one of the most creative outfits giving many people access to
combinations such as chocolate and bacon, unfortunately fell short with
their single-source chocolate display.  Don’t get me wrong here:  I
love
Vosges,
but I was not able to get the benefits of single-source chocolate when
only one of the three examples displayed was dark chocolate (the other
two were white chocolate and milk chocolate).  I like milk chocolate
and white chocolate, too, but I interpreted the point of the exercise
as highlighting the terroir of chocolate, and I guess I didn’t get it.
To me that would be like serving French champagne and California
Cabernet Sauvignon to the untrained observer and pointing out the
different in terroir,

The other big artesian
chocolate maker, Coco Rouge, had an amazing deconstructed champagne
truffle, with chenin blanc and chardonnay, served with artisan butter,
lightly carbonated ganache, and carbonated sugar.  The deconstruction
came from the carbonation being on the outside.

We walked through the
Cocoa Sutra, which had belly dancers, chocolate massages,chocolate body
art, and a sitar band in the background.  Charlie Trotter’s provided
complexity with an oaxacan chocolate with grilled cactus in cinnamon
syrup, along with lime foam and a frozen chocolate custard with lime
zest.  Wow! Tru was also represented, and had a chocolate carmel malt
lollipop.

The Cocoa Lounge was as
one would expect, loungy., and it featured a flautist and guitar player
to add ambiance,  and there were some cocoa and liqueur pairings, such
as a French Banyuls sweet wine combined with a dark chocolate, which
was quite good.  By that time it was getting a bit late in the evening,
and we could not eat any more, much as we wanted to.

It was a pleasure to be
able to attend this event:  it was well-organized, the students seemed
genuinely enthusiastic, the volunteers were very helpful, and most
importantly, money went to a good cause.

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