Every few months, a new study seems to emerge in the debate about the health benefits (and detriments) of chocolate. Some people say dark chocolate is good for you, while others argue all chocolate is bad. The popular stance tends to lean towards ‘everything in moderation’, and normally I would advocate this too.
But when a festival celebrating all things chocolate only comes around once a year, as a chocolate lover, you just need to put the calorie counter away and dive head first into a vat of that sugary goodness.
And while I may not have literally jumped into a bucket of chocolate, after eating my way through the Smooth Festival of Chocolate (held September 12-13 at the Rocks, Sydney) part of me does feel like I may have consumed a bucket or two’s worth of cacao. It was hard not to considering the variety of exhibitors at the festival this year – many of which were also favourites when the event launched last year (check out our feature of the Smooth Festival of Chocolate 2014).
We attended the festival on the Sunday, and rather than jumping straight into the heavy stuff at 10am, we watched Carlos Heng and Dan Pigott from MakMak Macarons in Newtown work their macaron magic at the Callebaut Test Kitchen.
They created the ‘Devonshire Sandwich’, a tribute to the savoury dish but with the sweet flavours of scones with strawberries and cream. Our mini sample of the macaron was adorable, with a thin layer of the berry mixture just peeking out from between the two macaron shells, representing the meat in the figurative sandwich. It had a pleasant taste, owed to the simple but delightful flavours. It’s no wonder why I Ate My Way Through’s appreciation of these macarons dates back a few years (have a read through our feature on MakMak Macarons from 2011).
From Messina, we bought ‘The Good One’ and ‘All Night Breakfast’ (each $9) – two ice cream bars we had been eager to try since they were announced on Messina’s Instagram page. The Good One featured hazelnut gelato with a wafer crunch and white chocolate hazelnut fudge encased in milk chocolate. I expected this bar to be really sweet, and wasn’t let down on that end. It tasted just like a kinder surprise and so, of course, I loved it.
All Night Breakfast was noticeably less sweet, but nevertheless was delicious with malted milk chocolate gelato, honey joys and milo and vanilla cream encased in white chocolate. Although we finished our bars, they were really heavy and left us in a pretty weak position to sample everything else at the festival. But we persevered!
The next stop for us was the ZumboTent, which was actually divided into three tents in order to showcase the creations of three competing chefs. Unable to resist the novelty of a large macaron shaped as a cheeseburger, we ordered the Snickers Burger ($9). After taking about a billion photos (it’s just so cute), we took our first bites and were hit with the intensity of the ganache. This dessert would probably epitomise all things sickly sweet, courtesy of the layers upon layers of ganache. When the caramel and nutty pieces came through though, the added texture and flavour helped to complete the macaron/burger/diabetes-inducing-dessert. In hindsight we would have fared better if we’d shared a single Snickers Burger, but being the ambitious ones we are we ordered a macaron each and couldn’t finish either of them. This was definitely something for those with a very high chocolate tolerance.
In an effort to walk off our sugar comas, we explored the rest of the stalls and became a little upset at the fact that we had so many options but so little stomach room. The savoury options looked just as tempting as the sweets.
We then headed to Bar 100 for the VIP lounge event. We admired the Tim Tam chocolate candy buffet from afar (the chocolate coma was still too strong) but did manage to order ourselves a cocktail from the bar. Of the two on offer, we had the ‘Chocolate Illusion’. This cocktail was creamy – as is my preference for cocktails – and included pleasant doses of Baileys, Chambord, cream and raspberry puree topped with a white chocolate Tim Tam.
Our next stop was the Chocolatier’s Quarters, which welcomed guests with three amazing chocolate displays. James Patrick’s sculpture featured a range of different Tim Tams suspended in air to create the appropriately named Tim Tam man, ‘Tim’. Karen Jung’s showpiece was so beautifully detailed that it was hard to believe it was made of chocolate. And Jodie Van Der Velden of Josophan’s Fine Chocolates wowed onlookers with her stunning trees made completely of chocolate.
Jodie’s creativity and ingenuity is woven throughout her entire business. Each chocolate is so craftily prepared with its own unique flavour that it becomes near impossible to choose your favourites. However, I can’t help but give a special mention to Josophan’s Lime and Basil Chocolate and the Mango and Chilli Chocolate. Both were absolutely divine and showcased perfectly the rich flavours and high quality that you get in any one of Jodie’s beautiful creations.
In an effort not to let my inner sweet tooth down, I took a few goodies home with me to enjoy later on once my sugar coma had died down a little. Among these goodies were six amazing chocolates from Josophan’s (courtesy of Jodie), the ‘Vaucluse’ chocolate bar ($9) from the ever quirky and delicious Sydney Chocolate, the Go-Nuts and Tim Tam caramel apples ($6 each) from Love Dem Apples and a Cookies and Cream Scroll ($8) from Scrollies by Oregano Bakery.
All in all, it was a sugar-packed day of chocolate sampling. There were so many other stalls that were on our hit list, but which we just didn’t have the stomach space for. I feel like this might be an event that I’d be willing to build up my chocolate tolerance for in anticipation of next year’s festival. So worth it.
Note: prices on the day of the festival may differ from regular retail prices.
To find out more about this year’s Smooth Festival of Chocolate, visit their website.