The Continuing Adventures of a Chocoholic in Buffalo, NY. Final Installment

If you have been following my blog you know that I have spent the last week at a chocolate conference in Buffalo, New York.  It’s been a nice break from my everyday routine but I sure will happy to be back home in wonderful Asheville.

What does one do at a chocolate conference?  Of course I taste lots of delicious and sometimes not so delicious chocolates, and I also attend seminars about various topics including making candies and chocolates.  One of the seminars offered at this conference was titled, “Ganache Formulation for the Non-Food Scientist.”  During this seminar we learned how to formulate a ganache from a scientific perspective to be sure it has the ‘proper ratio’ of fats and sugars.  While this was interesting and useful information I think I’ll continue to make taste my number one priority.

This is an antique tin chocolate mold.  These days most chocolatiers use plastic, silicon, or polycarbonate molds.

This is an antique tin chocolate mold. These days most chocolatiers use plastic, silicon, or polycarbonate molds.

Another seminar I attended was titled “History & Use of Confectionery Molds around the World.”  During this seminar, presented by the author of a couple of fabulous books about chocolate and candy including Chocolate: the Sweet History, we learned all sorts of interesting tidbits about the development and use of molds for chocolate making.  Did you know that molding chocolates became popular as early as the 1830s and that early chocolateirs often hammered their own tin molds?

The best part of a chocolate conference is always the tours to various candy shops and manufactures.  On this tour we visited a number of family owned candy businesses some of whom have been in business for generations.

One of the companies we visited, Fowler’s, is credited with inventing sponge candy.  So what is Sponge Candy?  Sponge candy is made with caramelized sugar and has a honeycomb like texture.  It is sweet and crunchy but sort of melts in your mouth at the same time.  One of our hosts on the tour said they call it Sponge Candy because it acts like a sponge and absorbs moisture in the air.  In fact many of the places around here don’t even make it in the summer because it absorbs the humidity in the air so rapidly that it ruins the delicious crunchy texture.  We sell Sponge Candy covered in chocolate although we leave the making of the sponge to the experts and just do the chocolate covering part.  On this trip I learned that while Sponge Candy originated in Buffalo, variations of it are made in many areas of the United States and boast different names wherever you go; Fairy Food, Sponge Taffy, Cinderblock, Sea Foam, Molasses Puffs, and Honeycomb are all names you may see.

So did I fulfill my desire to find some really tasty chocolate while I was in Buffalo?  Sadly, no.  I know I am a bit biased but while I tasted some well made chocolate confections I never tasted anything I liked nearly as much as a decadent Chocolate Fetish truffle.   It’s always good to get away if only to remind us how good we have it back at home.  Absence really does make the heart grow fonder.

The continuing adventures of a chocoholic foodie in Buffalo, NY.
Buffalo's Art Deco City Hall.  Reminds me a lot of Asheville's City Hall... on steroids.

Buffalo’s Art Deco City Hall. Reminds me a lot of Asheville’s City Hall… on steroids.

I am definitely a foodie.  The first thing I look for in any town is where to eat, and where the locals eat.  I justify it as being part of my job but let’s face it, if it’s not dessert it probably isn’t work related.  

On my second night in Buffalo I had the pleasure of going to E.B. Greene’s Steakhouse.  This highly rated steakhouse happened to be the conference hotel’s restaurant so it was convenient and very delicious.  The steak was cooked perfectly… melt in your mouth delicious.  I am a self described customer service guru and E.B.Greene’s delivered with impeccable service, and I do not use the word impeccable lightly.  I was tempted with dessert but was saving room for my next adventure, in retrospect I wish I hadn’t.

My next stop, The Chocolate Bar left a lot to be desired.  Some may say I am a chocolate snob…. They may be right.  I do have the pleasure of eating really high quality chocolate on a regular basis but I don’t think it’s too much to ask to make your own desserts when your name is The Chocolate Bar.  When I called ahead I was told that everything was made in house or locally but when I pressed the bartender for information about the desserts he informed me that while they used to make all their desserts in house they are franchising now so they just can’t do both.  Too often quality places make the decision to forsake the thing that they built their reputation on.  It is always disappointing to see a place like this with a great name and a great concept ship in frozen desserts.  I was having a craving so I ordered the Belgian chocolate pyramid which was a dark chocolate pyramid filled with chocolate mousse.  It wasn’t very good but I still ate nearly the whole thing because I’m just that much of a chocoholic.

Every time I leave Asheville I am reminded just how special home is.  Our vibrant and bustling downtown is really something to be proud of, and the amount of support for local businesses like The Chocolate Fetish is heartwarming.  So far the most important thing I have learned on this trip is how important it is to support local independent businesses everywhere you go and especially at home.  Hopefully as my adventures in Buffalo continue I will find some quality chocolate that lives up to my expectations.  With tours to 5 different family owned candy and chocolate shops coming up I have high hopes.  Stay tuned to hear all about them and the rest of my adventures in Buffalo.

A Chocoholic in Buffalo, NY

Occasionally I get the opportunity to travel for my work, and it is always pretty sweet.  I have attended numerous workshops and classes to hone my chocolate making skills, frequently visit the merchandise mart in Atlanta (see blog post America’s Mart Atlanta from July 2011) to fill our retail store with fun merchandise and packaging and attend various trade shows across the country.  Right now I am in Buffalo, New York for one trade organization’s fall conference.  The three day conference is chock full of seminars like one titled, “The History and Use of Confectionary Molds Around the World”, panel discussions like, “Kettle Talk”, and my favorite part, tours!

While I am here I also plan to do a little touring of my own and I have already begun to compile a good list of intriguing places.  There are a handful of local chocolate shops, a couple iconic chickien wing restaurants, and a place called The Chocolate Bar.  The Chocolate Bar has a full menu, an extensive drink selection and lots of cake and desserts many of which are made in house or loccally.  I am looking forward to trying one of their signature hot chocolates, perhaps the Aztec flavor.
The first chocolate shop and factory that I visited in Buffalo, NY

The first chocolate shop and factory that I visited in Buffalo, NY

I have already visited one of the chocolate shops on my list.  Unfortunatly, as is so often the case, the first place left a lot to be desired and reminded me just how special the products we make are.  I was intrigued with flavors like Raspberry Habenero, Absinthe Lavender, and Paprika Caramel, but none of them delvivered.  Many of the pieces I tried from my first Buffalo chocolate shop were flavored too subtly, I couldn’t even tell there was spice in the Raspberry Habenero, and they just weren’t chocolatey enough.  Luckily I brought along a care package  of Chocolate Fetish treats so I don’t have to go without decadent chocolates.
I also visited the home of the original Buffalo wing, The Anchor Bar.  The Anchor Bar wins definite points for atmosphere and the wings were good.  I’m not going to say they were the best I have ever had but I have heard others say that.  They were nice and meaty, had the perfect amount of crispyness to the skin and the sauce was thick and buttery with just the right amount of spice.  I hear their is another place in town that the locals say is better so I guess I’ll have to suffer through another plate of hot wings while I’m here.
Later this week I will tour the first place to ever make sponge candy, the place that manufacturers most of our box packaging, and a company that manufactures molds for the candy industry.  Stay tuned to hear all about my chocolate adventures in Buffalo and if you have the inside scoop on the best chocolates, or the best wings, or other must see spots in Buffalo please share!
The Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY.   The place credited with creating the Buffalo Chicken WIng.

The Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY. The place credited with creating the Buffalo Chicken WIng.