There were 5 major areas to the festival: Chocolate Makers, Desserts, Aphrodisiacs, and two lecture rooms. The Chocolate Makers room had 18 makers letting you taste their chocolate and buy their products (most at a discount). The Desserts room had many booths with chocolatiers and others with chocolate-related products, as well as a culinary kitchen with different presentations every hour. The Aphrodisiacs room had several presentations on sensual experiences with chocolate. About half that room was roped off for adults to purchase wine, beer, or spirits, and there were seminars on chocolate drinks and pairing chocolate with other beverages. The two lecture rooms were always busy, with different classes each hour.
Overall, I was impressed by the Northwest Chocolate Festival and by the chocolate makers that attended. The event was focused on artisan chocolate, with a particular emphasis on quality in every step of the process: from tree to bar.
Every chocolate maker I met was passionate about creating the best chocolate they could and was interested in continually improving their craft. Many were new to the field, having started selling chocolate in the past couple of years (and one as recently as this July!) I ended up getting about 50 bars over the course of the weekend (and arranged to have some sent to us), so we'll have many new reviews in the months to come.
I was able to attend the excellent 2-hour keynote panel, as well as eight of the classes over the course of the weekend. Most were introductions to a variety of chocolate topics, such as the farming of cacao, the making of chocolate, and the qualities of chocolate. Many of the classes also used tasting some chocolate as part of the educational experience :) Nearly all of the talks I attended were good; one was great.
Over the course of the next week or so, I'll blog about a few of the themes that were emphasized or subjects that I found particularly interesting, such as labor-intensive farming, CCN51 and cross-pollination, financial disincentives, long term cacao pricing, etc.