"Highlights from this year's annual chocolate festival, although different organisers, there were unique flavours, great talented chocolatiers and a lot of chocolate that lit up all our chocolate senses..."
*All pictures courtesy of Jessica Bruning and with thanks to Marianne Golde for contributing.
Hanan and I are huge chocolate lovers, sometimes I think he’d chose it over me ;). Last year also on Valentine’s Day the festival was fantastic with a wide array of chocolatiers coming from across the country. This year, I was somewhat disappointed, as there were only half the chocolatiers in comparison – to which I discovered this year’s event was managed by a different organiser. After a 15NIS entrance fee, expect to pay a lot more, as you will be wanting to try various chocolates!
The event took place for 3 days (12-14 February) at the Old Railway Station, Hatachana in Neve Tzedek, Tel Aviv – Shrewdly coinciding with Valentine’s Day. Luckily it was indoors, so we were safe from the elements (high winds and rain); as a result the festival was not too over-crowded which allowed us more time to peer at the various booths. There was a chocolate workshop that was about to start when we first arrived, but we were only interested in the tastings. A small, random smorgasbord of chocolate sculptures like dinosaur eggs, a chess board and a fairly weird piece were on display: A ball and claw bath tub filled with cocoa (probably mixed with water) under a fake blossom tree – wonder if anyone dared to taste it 😛
Some of the booths there also featured in last year’s event and there were probably more crêperies than needed for such a small exhibition, but perhaps each offered something a little different. As we arrived, we noticed Dip It , ‘personalised’ ice-cream (or marshmallows) to dip in either white, milk or dark chocolate with various toppings. Their services would be great for corporate and special events – it’s also kosher milky and parve (no dairy).
The Choco Kebab, [Their e-mail: email@example.com] seemed very popular with the children – A large chunk of mixed milk and white chocolate served on a laffa-style pancake (i.e. very thick pancake) and then finished off with your choice of toppings. At the same booth a crepery too and even more chocolate as bowls and spoons with additional chocolate! Probably a heart attack waiting to happen, certainly many parents would be dealing with children on a sugar high. Besides this and the various workshops for the children, they could also enjoy a syringe of either white, milk or dark chocolate (or mix it up) with some marshmallows from another booth.
For something a little ‘healthier’ fresh fruit salad cups were on sale with the added option of chocolate drizzled over from a chocolate fountain and topped with whipped cream … Or just plain chunks of pineapple and big fat, juicy strawberries. Kosher Italian wines from Cantina Gabriele Winery were also featured.
Despite there being fewer chocolate stands, we discovered many unusual and surprising taste combinations, each exhibitor offering something distinctive for their brand and all of course with their Valentine’s Day themed chocolates – I did not come for this commercial holiday, rather just to come and taste the various chocolates on offer … Here are the chocolatiers that featured:
reCholate, described as little treasures and they are just that, aesthetically pleasing and quality in every bite as well as their packaging. Lovely flavours and shapes of individual handmade chocolates, we tried their whisky, cherry and salted caramel which were all lovely; they had other flavours like Irish Cream, Coffee and pistachio. Their Valentine’s chocolates included moulded flowers on sticks and rectangular or heart slabs of dark, milk and white chocolate decorated with dried berries. They also do chocolate workshops for children and adults as well as for events (branded chocolates).
Debbie Iancu-Haddad, came with a different take on chocolate: Her personal card reads ‘Laughter and Chocolate Specialist’, she features various workshops including how chocolate was her savior in dieting. Besides the use of chocolate therapy, her chocolate stand was very girly and feminine, with several hearts and flowers on sticks and pink chocolate of course.
KimChocolate specialise in flowers made from colourful chocolate, workshops and birthdays. Their booth also had bright acid coloured cupcakes and a large cake, mainly aimed for children, with coloured chocolate cel phones and flowers. Cute individual chocolates in flavours of chili, nana (mint), orange, limonana (Israeli lemonade), chocolate ganache and ribat chalav (dulce de leche).
Schakolad Chocolate Factory. The name combines ‘almond’ and ‘chocolate’ in Hebrew, also kosher and for over Pesach (Passover). Various Belgian chocolate that are excellent for personalized gifts for special occasions or events, as they can be made to various shapes with a personal dedication. For those celebrating Valentine’s Day, this was certainly THE booth for it, love dedications in chocolate heart boxes including a lid, with pralines, truffles and other unique chocolates concealed inside, cute chocolate moulds and various love messages all written in Hebrew for a loved one. And if all of this is still not enough, they even offer various workshops!
Joya Chocolate Boutique offered a variety of macarons, their very own Crembo (famous Israeli treat, marshmallow fluff on a biscuit and coated in chocolate), chocolate cake pops and cups as well as chocolate tarts. We shared their giant chocolate chip cookie which was dense, moist and very rich – what a treat! Their handmade chocolates included interesting flavours like pineapple and white chocolate with passionfruit. Their website even shares some chocolate recipes, something to try if you missed the festival at least!
Doris – Beautifully packaged and finest quality, almost reminiscent of the famous Israeli Max Brenner Chocolates. A variety of amazing truffles, chocolate marshmallows, chocolate disks and cups with chocolate ‘shots’ to inject further chocolatiness. Pink Hello Kitty chocolates and even a chocolate cake in a jar were some of the highlights from this booth. They offer chocolate workshops and also make their own delicious creamy chocolate liqueurs – honey, dulche de leche and espresso are just some of the many flavours! Most of their chocolates are 70% cocoa so you know you’re biting into quality.
Hannalé – Stunning handmade chocolates that look too beautiful to bite into, nonetheless we had to ruin beauty and bit into cinnamon (rich and flavourful), Limonana – Israeli-style lemonade with lemon and mint (strong but beautifully balanced in white praline ganache) and coffee (fudgy bitter-sweet). Other lovely flavours included bitter orange, pistachio and blended chocolate with peanut butter and halva caught our eye. They also had rainbow-coloured macarons and various ganache. Kosher, dairy and also do workshops.
Chocolove also had an impressive booth, with various chocolatiers all under one name.
De Karina Further beautiful handmade individual chocolates, including 70% cocoa and most hand-painted with leaves or some geometric design. Truffles of champagne and champagne ganache, Limencello and packages of dried fruit dipped in chocolate. Kosher and parve chocolate available.
Lastly, in our opinion, the best chocolatier at the exhibition was Chacalad, offering something more creative and special than the usual Valentine’s Day theme stands: Whole chocolate portrait slabs of classic celebrities and musicians (John Lennon, Marilyn Monroe, Bob Marley and Arik Einstein) all painted in chocolate:
The artist and creator of these delights, Yael (who is lovely) explained she had brought back a variety of her ingredients (like the dried fruit and mint) from her travels, from places like Copenhagen, Johannesburg (my hometown) and even buys some dried fruits from Thailand. Cake pops, handmade colourful marshmallows in flavours like litchi and mango, varieties of chocolate bark, resembling Mekupelet here or Cadburys Flake, only triple the size! Their interesting version to the ice-cream and cone: A cone containing marshmallow, coated in chocolate and hundreds and thousands sprinkles. Fat disks of peanut butter and jam chocolate, pineapple and almond, praline of orange crème and caramel and mint (real pieces of mint) caramel and raspberries (dried). Thin disks of white chocolate with cashew and chili or dark chocolate with pineapple, coconut and other mixed fruits. Raw chocolate of red grapefruit (amazing), amaretto and even a vegan edition! Ganache of guava or strawberry in either white, milk or dark chocolate, we tried the dark guava and it was incredibly fruity, the taste of the guava felt very natural and refreshing. We also had her salty caramel ganache and lastly bought a fat disk of dark chocolate with pineapple and chili, this was THE best, you could really taste the heat of the chili – Yael wasn’t shy to tone down the heat like most chocolatiers; the tang from the pineapple with the spice really raised this chocolate above the rest.
At the end of the chocolate booths were some food stands with kubbeh, pizza and jacket potatoes, even some American-style pretzels and Danish pancake balls with a filling of apples, chocolate and various sauces to add on. I am not quite sure how well these people did, as I couldn’t look at any savory or sweet food after. Jess couldn’t escape the pleasant aroma of the pancake balls and tried one with apple, drizzled with maple syrup, they were light, fluffy and quite tasty – they are kosher and also do events [E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org].
I’ll be sure to keep my eyes peeled for the excellent organisers who did last year’s Valentine’s Event, where they will be hosting a special event for Sukkot Chol Hamoed later this year. Keep updated here. This is well worth the wait – especially if you didn’t make it to this event!