Do you believe that everyone should have access to great chocolate? We sure do! Thankfully, our friends at The DC Chocolate House agree, which is why they organized and hosted the first annual Chocolate Festival in the heart of the nation’s capitol.
Held at The Westin Hotel in Washington, D.C.’s swanky City Center, more than 300 chocolatiers and chocoholics alike attended the festival to taste test, learn about chocolate from different makers, and mingle amongst one another to talk all things sugar and spice.
The smell of cocoa powder permeated the air as more than 30 vendors set up shop at the sold out event to showcase their sweets and gain “best chocolate” bragging rights.
Co-sponsored by Varlhona, Amedei, and Michel Cluizel, the festival brought together some of the industry’s most talented and successful artists to support the world’s many cacao farmers and makers that transform cacao into one of the most popular sweets throughout the world: chocolate.
We were lucky enough to attend the festival as VIP press (check out some of our goodies below!) and were granted access to a few of the event’s chocolate-making classes and unlimited taste testing.
Our first stop was the Pacari Premium Organic Chocolate booth. The colorful packaging immediately caught our eye! (But trust us when we say this family owned business has much more to offer than just their beautifully bundled chocolate bars).
Founded in 2002 by Santiago Peralta and Carla Barbotó, Pacari has since changed the history of chocolate making in Ecuador. Pacari works with small scale family farms using carefully selected ingredients to create 100 percent natural Ecuadorian chocolate that provides customers with a one-of-a-kind chocolate experience. Pacari is the only chocolate company that has 100 percent production within Ecuador, and has the Demeter Biodynamic Certification, which certifies that the raw material production is free from, chemicals, pesticides and fertilizers. Check out full lists of their ingredients and products here.
As we continued to make our way around the festival, a unique and delicious twist on a classic treat demanded our attention. “Have you tried your first dream bite?” asked a sweet and pleasant voice from behind the counter. Considering we hadn’t, we decided to let Sandie Diamond, the owner of D.C.-based Shameless Chef (pictured below) satisfy our curiosity – and our tastebuds!
Shameless Chef was born in the winter of 2014 after Sandie experienced a routine surgery that took longer than expected to heal. During this time, she pulled out numerous old family recipes and began to bake for the first time. What she discovered changed her life. Not only was she a talented baker, but her creations were organic and guilt-free (hence the name “Shameless Chef). Two years later, Sandie’s famous Dreambites and PB cups (pictured below) are enjoyed by thousands, and can be found at multiple vendors across the nation’s capitol. To shop Shameless Chef, check out their online store here.
After indulging in the creamy, bittersweet peaunt butter cups, another colorful display caught our attention (we blame it on all of the gorgeous packaging…and the fact that we are obsessed with elephants.) Cacao Prieto is a Brooklyn-based chocolate maker and liquor distillery that boasts a cocktail bar, tastings, and weekend tours for a mere $20. Side note: How cute are these post cards that come with their chocolate bars?
The artisan distillery, founded by founded by Daniel Prieto Preston, an inventor and aerospace engineer whose family has deep roots in the Dominican Republic, produces fresh, bean-to-bar chocolate made daily from organic, single origin Dominican Cacao (and we should also mention they craft a line of small batch, cacao-based liqueurs and rums). If you ever find yourself in Brooklyn, give them a visit! If not, do not fear! You can still get your chocolate fix by ordering from more than a dozen products in their online shop here.
The next chocolatier we visited decided to display his creations sans the pretty packaging, but only because he didn’t need it – his truffles were gorgeous enough by themselves! (see photos below for proof). Steven Howard Confections LLC is a small, fairly new candy & confectionery store in Olney, Maryland.
Steven Howard also features other unique flavors such as Luscious Lavender, Bailey’s Irish Cream, Chai Tiger, and Cherry Bomb. Since they are such a new venture, fans of these sugar bon bons can’t order them online just yet, but you can often find them at the Olney Farmer’s Market on weekends! (Trust us, you will want to get your hands on these to experience the smooth, even balance between the burst of creamy chocolate and the sensational fruity flavors!)
Since we always try to save the best for last (though we must admit, it was impossible to choose which vender truly offered the “best” chocolates) we made sure to pay a visit to one of our favorite vendors: Harper Macaw.
One of the many reasons why Harper Macaw is among our favorite local businesses, isn’t because of their eye-catching, political-yet-peaceful packaging that envelops their silky smooth bars (though as political junkies, that is certainly an added bonus), or even that their roots were planted and sowed in the heart of the nation’s capitol by a Brazilian chocolate maker and a former U.S. Marine. To us, the most heart warming and inspirational aspect of Harper Macaw’s work, is their dedication to protecting and preserving the earth’s rainforest ecosystem.
In fact, every Harper Macaw product sold helps restore and protect deforested or vulnerable rainforest habitats in northeast Brazil. If you don’t live in or near the D.C. metro area, don’t fret. You can still support Harper Macaw in their conservation efforts by shopping in their online store here. (And we highly recommend buying one of every chocolate bar included in their “(Very) Political Collection” before they disappear! It’s also worth mentioning that customers earn free shipping on all orders over $50.
So, dear foodie friends and fellow choco-holics: did we adequately inform you of the amazing (and often extremely complex) world of cacao farming and chocolate-making? If so, dive in! Get your hands on as many rich and decadent fine chocolate products as you can (we recommended ordering them from our fine friends mentioned above of course).
When you do, make sure you tell them we sent you.