My Experience At Chocofest 2013

Chocofest2013-1

Last night was the 5th Annual Chocofest down at Pike Brewing Company.  This annual Valentines-themed event is a gastronomic delight, featuring brewers, chocolatiers, vintners, cheese makers, bakers, restaurants and more, each sharing some of their best.  By the time the doors opened, the event was sold out.

We spent the evening sampling different foods and beverages from many of the vendors in attendance.  For the most part, everything was pretty good, but there were a few standouts – as well as one or two disappointments.  A few of the highlights of the evening for my wife, Lynn, and I included:

Ray’s Boathouse

Ray’s was serving F/V St. Jude Albacore Ginger Poke On A Brown Rice Crisp.  This one-bite dish was quite delicious. I went back for a few more.

Seastar:

I’m a big fan of good mushroom soup.  And Seastar’s Porcini Mushroom Soup With Black Truffle Cream was divine.  It was quite popular and disappeared long before the evening was over.

Seastar's Porcini Mushroom Soup With Black Truffle Cream

Seastar’s Porcini Mushroom Soup With Black Truffle Cream

Shelburne Inn:

Their Spicy Asian Sausage Pockets were deliciously flaky and savory.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get around to trying their Cranberry Chocolate Tartlets, but they looked just as tasty.

Woodinville Whiskey:

Woodinville was there with their Mash Bill No. 9 and 100% Rye Whiskey.  I’m becoming quite a fan of Woodinville Whiskey.  I hope to attend one of their ‘bottling party’ events this year.

Woodinville Whiskey at Chocofest 2013

Woodinville Whiskey at Chocofest 2013

Macrina Bakery:

This should be no surprise to anyone who knows Macrina.  They offered a Brioche Cocoa Puff – sweet brioche dough baked with a ganache chocolate center.  Quite decadent.

Airways Brewing:

Airways Brewing’s Chocolate Stout was just what the Dr. ordered for Chocofest.  This stout debuted at Chocofest 2013 and is available starting today (2/11), on draft and in 22oz bottles, around the sound – just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Airways Brewing's Chocolate Stout

Airways Brewing’s Chocolate Stout

Ethan Stowell Restaurants:

Their Lentil Soup With Chocolate-Infused Duck Confit was a huge hit.  People kept going back for more of this delicious dish, which they made just specially for Chocofest.  I wish I had a bowl of it right now.

Naked City Brewery & Taphouse:

Naked City was offering two different selections: Charlie’s Golden Ticket Chocolate Golden Ale and Mint Chocolate Porter.  I enjoyed both of them quite a bit.  The chocolate flavor was a bit subdued in the Golden Ale but still present, and the Mint Chocolate Porter was not over-done or over-sweet.  Naked City Head Brewer Don Webb has a passion for his work, and it shows.

Naked City's Isaac Hatter Dressed Like Willy Wonka

Naked City’s Isaac Hatter Dressed Like Willy Wonka

 

This year’s Chocofest, while quite enjoyable, had, somehow, a slightly different ‘feel’ to it than in previous years.  The format was the same (except for the fact that they now give each attendee taster tickets for alcoholic beverages – I don’t recall the exact number of tickets but it was quite enough per person), but the crowd seems to have changed.  I wasn’t the only one to notice this too, as I spoke with a few friends who also attended.  It seemed to have more of a ‘touristy’ feel to it rather than the more connected feeling I’ve gotten in year’s past.  It’s difficult to put my finger on.  It was just the way the evening felt.

There were also, unfortunately, a few disappointments from some of the vendors.  A couple that stood out for me included:

Far-Eats:

This Indian/Far-East restaurant was offering Coriander Crusted Chicken with a Curry Glaze.  I don’t know if it’s because the chicken was a bit on the cold side or that it has sat too long before being served, but it was not good.  It was dry and the coriander ‘crust’ was more like crumbs coating the outside.  Some people I spoke to didn’t even finish theirs.

Taylor Shellfish Farms:

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I love Taylor and the quality of their shellfish is, in my opinion, second to none in Seattle.  In fact, Taylor is the main shellfish supplier for many of Seattle’s high-end restaurants.  The issue here was not with the oysters they were serving: Shigoku, Kumamoto and Virginica, which were all excellent.  The problem was that they had a single shucker working their booth, and he took quite a bit of time (2-3 minutes) discussing the source/flavor profile/etc. of the oysters he was serving with each person as they reached the front of the line. This had the unfortunate effect of making the line for oysters quite long and extremely slow-moving.  Many of the people in line were visibly (and audibly) quite annoyed with the long wait, and many gave up after a while and got out of line.

For future events of this size, I would suggest that Taylor have a second shucker working their booth as well as a handout or a sign posted, with all the information about the oysters being served (rather than repeating this information over & over for each person in line).  That way the shucker(s) could concentrate just on shucking and get the line moving a bit faster.

Chocofest 2013 Taster Glasses Ready To Be Handed Out

Chocofest 2013 Taster Glasses Ready To Be Handed Out

Chocofest 2013 was definitely a fun evening and a great event to spend with someone special, trying all the various offerings and socializing with friends both old and new.  For a full listing of all vendors from this year’s Chocofest, check out this PDF from Pike Brewing: Chocofest 2013 (PDF).  Also, for more photos of the event, please follow Craft Beer Monger on Facebook and check out all out photos from the evening there.

Drink responsibly and stay safe out there.

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