Bonjour de Nouvelle York! Greetings from New York, the Big Apple, and the Chocolate Show. Yes, the Chocolate Show...again! Two weeks ago, four friends and I hopped the #12 metro toward Porte de Versailles, heading to the south west corner of Paris and the Paris Expo for an indulgence of chocolate the likes of which would make even Willy Wonka himself dizzy with excitement. Yesterday, I took the Uptown (2) (3) express to 14th Street to the Altman Building for the New York Chocolate Show and a continuation of my chocolate frenzy.
I was actually very interested in comparing the two events, to see if they were cookie cutter shows, no pun intended, or representative of the local culture. Both were a celebration to chocolate but in two very different environments and very contrasting styles. I found it dramatically disparate yet very symbolic and representative of our two societies. It was Paris vs. New York, Socialism vs. Capitalism, Product vs. Packaging, Catherine Deneuve vs. Paris Hilton all under the guise of chocolate.
The Paris show celebrated chocolate. Period. The product, the quality, the producer, the passion, and the joy that one derives from chocolate. Chocolate was everywhere. Mounds of chocolate cascaded across spacious, meticulous booths, hostesses circling the floor enticing us with trays of chocolate samples. Everywhere you turned, it was all about the chocolate. Walking into the Paris show was like jumping into a fuzzy robe on a rainy Sunday. Lush brown carpets, intoxicating aromas and dark brown and deep orange signs exuded a feeling of warmth and calm.
Like Penn Station at 6:00pm on a Friday night, the New York show was crowded, noisy, chaotic, cold. Stacks of boxes crowded the small, messy booths. Advertising, commercialism, packaging, SELL, SELL, SELL was the message that screamed from its core. Hardwood floors, cramped sloppy displays, narrow walkways, cranky people. The four people at the ticket counter must have had vinegar with their Wheaties that morning as the ones that "vhelped" me were ruder than anything I've ever encountered in France. Perhaps they trained by a United "customer service" representative. But I digress...
I actually had this exact discussion with the representative from Michel Cluizel, a French chocolatier just breaking into the US market. She wholeheartedly, sadly agreed. I switched on my chocolate radar and went in search of le vraiment chocolat—the real chocolate. Voila...