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Monday, August 20, 2012

And the winners of the 2012 Bridal Chocolate Salon are...

Pinch me. Seriously. As a blogger I often do things I really don't want to do, like that time I walked atop Toronto's CN Tower Edgewalk to face my fear of heights. But there are also moments of pure bliss. Being invited to be a judge of The Bridal Chocolate Salon? Yeah, that's a no brainer. Imagine me, with a huge pile of chocolate, and not just wanting but having and needing to try all of it! How else could I be a fair judge? LOL

Bridal Chocolate Salon 2012

The winners of the 2012 Bridal Chocolate Salon have been announced! Categories included not only best flavors but also best packaging and presentation.

The funniest thing about being a judge this year was that right before I sat down and sampled all of this chocolate, I had literally just been to the dentist to have my teeth cleaned. LOL. With hindsight I realize I should have done it the other way around.

Judging Chocolates

This is what the process looks like. Glamorous? Not so much. Delicious? You bet :D As I sampled and photographed each piece I used Post Its to take notes and score each piece. When I was done with the eating portion I went back to vote for them in multiple categories.

With so many chocolates to choose from I was, again this year, a bit overwhelmed. But here were my favorites. Some I loved for their flavors and others for their packaging. Below I've listed the winners of the competition itself. Most I agree with spot on, a few not so much but because taste is subjective I think it's better to represent what the panel of judges decided rather than just my own opinion.

Forte Artisan Chocolates
First Place: Most Delicious Ingredient Combination

Spot on was Forte Artisan Chocolate's fantastic flavors. One bite and you could instantly tell you were enjoying a quality confection, made with care, from pure ingredients.

Forte Chocolate Flavors
Three Way Tie for First Place: Best Flavored Chocolates

Their favors were Lemon Pepper, Dark Sea Salt Caramel, and Rosemary Sea Salt.

Lemon Pepper Chocolate

The Lemon Pepper was my favorite. It was smooth, creamy, lemony and peppery. The flavors were rich and contrasting in the most pleasing way. And it didn't just taste good. It looked good too. It had edible iridescent glitter on one edge! Aesthetically I enjoyed the bright red paper wrappers.

Sea Salt Chocolate Caramel
Tied for First Place: Best Caramel

Oh, and the Dark Sea Salt Caramel is divine! The caramel really was perfection. So smooth, so rich, and luscious. Add to it the bittersweetness of the dark chocolate and tiny grains of crystalized sea salt and my mouth is starting to water just thinking about it.

First Place: Best Artistic Design and Most Gifted Chocolatier

Pretty packaging with even prettier chocolates was this truffle box by Chocolot. The molded and filled chocolates were very shiny. A few were extra colorful and some were even finished with edible metallic paint.

Chocolot Flavors
First Place Tie for: Most Artistic Designs Best Milk Chocolate and Best Chocolatier. Three Way Tie for First Place: Best Flavored Chocolates

My favorite flavors were the Mint Leaf (on the left) and the Fleur de Sel Caramel (on the right). The Mint Leaf had that pure, more fresh than sweet mint flavor that makes you feel like someone went out to the garden, grabbed a handful of fresh mint leaves and infused them into cream filling.

First Place Tie: Best Milk Chocolate

What do you get when you combine soft milk chocolate that melts in your mouth with crunchy toffee bits and sea salt? San Juan Sea Salt Truffles from Seattle Chocolates! For weddings their packaging is very cute and would be a welcome addition to any favor table.

San Juan Sea Salt

If this had been a competition based on taste only this chocolate would have been a tie with the Lemon Pepper Forte chocolate as my most favorite of all.

Sixth Course Chocolates
Three Way Tie for First Place: Best Flavored Chocolates

Because I don't drink alcohol Sixth Course was a real surprise because I liked their flavors so much. With Brandy Cherry & Black Pepper and Grand Marnier Twist I wasn't expecting to enjoy them. But I did! Their packaging is a bit modest for the formality of many weddings but the lack of a designer box is more than made up for by the quality and flavors of their chocolates.

Socola Chocolates
First Place: Best Dark Chocolate

Socola is the total package. Literally. With their attractive Tiffany blue favor box and the paper box band with their name in multi-flirty colors any guest would be pleased to receive a box of their truffles.

Ciel Truffle RIng Box
Raspberry Orange Blossom

The pièce de résistance of packaging was by Ciel Chocolatiers. Their presentations were over-the-top elegant. In fact, they were experiences. I mean when was the last time you found a perfect, shiny, metallic, red, edible heart chocolate nestled inside of a mirrored, silver lined, white ring box? Even the back of the chocolate was beautiful.

Ciel Chocolates
Ginger Rose and Amandine

Want to give your guests more than just a single chocolate? Ciel's two chocolate signature red favor box was even more elegant with a shiny, gold, mirrored finish lining the interior of the box.

Best Chocolate Presentation
Port Concerto and Paris Truffle

And this stunning, ultra-elegant, split top, presentation box, listed on their website for corporate gifts, well, it blew me away. And the chocolates within were equally impressive.

They also took first place in several categories including Best in Salon, Best Packaging, Best Truffle, Best Bridal Gift Set, Best for the Bride, and Most Luxurious Chocolate Experience. Ciel Chocolatiers also tied for first place as Best Chocolatier and tied as Best for the Wedding Reception.

Guylian Chocolates
First Place: Best Traditional Chocolates and tied for Best for the Wedding Reception.

The Belgian truffles by Guylian are 100% pure cocoa butter with centers made of a hazelnut praliné filling. I'm not sure why but European chocolates were my gateway to loving chocolate. Yeah, can you believe I didn't even like chocolate until I was in my early  20's? And I didn't start loving it until years later.

Unfortunately the chocolates had a slight "bloom" to them but beneath the white powder I could tell that originally they were both smooth and shiny as only molded chocolates can be.

Cocotutti sent not one. . . 

Not two. . .

But three selections! The packaging for all three were suitable for a wedding. Personally I liked both of the options with the clear finish so you can actually see how beautiful their painted chocolates are.

For those of you who love white chocolate this white chocolate truffle from the Chubby Chipmunk will be a morsel of happiness beautifully wrapped in custom tissue and a gold pyramid box with a cute chipmunk label sealing it shut.

And coming in First Place as Best Organic or Fair Trade Products was Toffee Talk. Interestingly it also tied for First Place as Best Caramel which I really didn't understand since toffee is technically toffee and not a caramel but the other judges loved it that much :)

The aftermath.

There was even a mishap this year. When the first box of chocolates arrived on my doorstep it had sustained heat damage during transit and all of the chocolates had melted. A quick phone call and a second box was shipped out that day and I was able to sample and photograph the chocolates in all of their glory. It was a happy ending to another grand adventure as a blogging foodie.

Congratulations to the winners and my thanks to the Bridal Chocolate Salon for inviting me to be a judge. The pleasure is always mine :)

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