The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

Chocolate Symposium 2007 Did Not Result in a Chocolate Coma

[Latest Gothamist post about Tiny's Giant Sandwich Shop is up!]

one way to start a conversation
oh dear.

More people would probably talk to me if I always wore a tag labeling me as "The Girl Who Ate Everything". Or if they didn't talk to me, their funny glances would burn a hole of insecurity into my soul.

So. I only wore the tag during last Friday's Chocolate Symposium, a meeting between big chocolate companies and various chocolate related people held by the Chocolate Manufacturer's Association at The Institute of Culinary Education. I didn't take as many photos as I did last year, nor do I think I paid as much attention due to an intense case of "god I'm sleepy, so sleepy, ahhh sleepies", but unlike last year they actually hired a professional photographer and I'm sure any other media they invited were much more professional than I am.

And now I present to you...stuff!

get yer breakfasts
omg, people

The day starts with breakfast and FREE CHOCOLATE (which was a theme throughout the day). As I was running a little late and I'm generally not hungry during the breakfast hours I just aimlessly tootled around the room while trying not to knock people over.

Mm, so much better than coffee
better than coffee

However, I couldn't resist a few sips of hot chocolate in the morning. It wasn't very strong chocolate-wise, but it did have an adequately spicy kick that lingered in my throat after the chocolateness went down. That was fine with me as I didn't want to start my day with a chocolate hangover. (Not that I'd want to end my day with a chocolate hangover either. Hangovers in any form = undesireable.)

bag o chocs
bag o chocs

Remember how awesome it was to get goody bags at parties when you were a little kid? ...What, you weren't invited to parties? Oh. Yeah, me neither. Anyhoo, imagine a huge-ass bag of CHOCOLATE! Sure, it ain't La Maison du Chocolat-quality stuff, but it's not bad. The contents were mainly solid chocolates of many kinds—milk, dark, from countries of different origins, with varying cocoa percentages.

beef jerky?

There were also non-chocolate items with cocoa in them, such as this beef jerky that didn't really have any cocoa taste as far as I could tell. There was also a bottle of cocoa butter, cocoa flavored tea, some chocolate-themed poetry magnets, a little shaker of cocoa powder and cocoa scented lip balm. DO YOU SENSE A THEM HERE?!

people who know stuff
people who know stuff

The first panel called "Chocolate Health and Wellness – What's New, What Lies Ahead" featured nutritionist Jackie Newgent, Tufts University nutrition professory Jeffery Blumburg and project director of HealthFocus International Doug Healy. They talked know, health. Cocoa is healthy. How healthy? I forget. But I think that was the message. However, I don't eat cocoa for health, so I honestly don't care too much if cocoa will give me a powerful boost of antioxidants considering that I would preferably eat it with a large dose of sugar and milk mixed in. The focus of the panel (or the day rather) seemed to be about getting cocoa in non-chocolate foods so that cocoa isn't always associated with sweet confections. BUT I LOVE MAH SWEEETS!...


Next was a special 3-course lunch that featured cocoa in every dish.

ice chocolate black tea

Okay, that's not a course; it's just iced black tea. With some cocoa. It was pretty good for not being sweet, not that I'd want to chug a glass of it or anything.


The appetizer of grilled radicchio, roasted grapes and cauliflower with cocoa-sea salt flatbread and warm fontina didn't really feature cocoa as a flavor but as a color for the flatbread. I found the radicchio too bitter, but the melted fontina helped to cut through it. If only there were more cheese. Such as a block of it. My favorite part was the roasted cauliflower nestled behind the flatbread.


The entree consisted of seared lamb loin rubbed with coffee, cocoa and ras el hanout, a Moroccan spice blend, with a Cabernet/cocoa reduction. On the side was carrot puree, spring peas, and sauteed greens with a splash of avocado oil. While the lamb was cooked nicely (tender and juicy), the spices and sauce didn't do much for me, possibly because my tastebuds don't work correctly. However, the carrot puree, made with cocoa butter, was so so so deliciously smooth, as though it were made with angel-derived butter. (I suppose that implies milking angels, but let's not think about that if possible. Except we already did. Nevermind.) Accompanied by fresh peas, one of my favorite things to eat for being little bubbles of green-ness that explode with the taste of morning dew and babies, or whateve it is they're made of (seriously, if you haven't eaten fresh peas out of a pod, DO IT, THEY ARE AWESOME) and nutty avocado oil (I need a bottle of that stuff ASAP), I would've happily eaten a bucket of it.

white chocolate and green tea panna cotta white chocolate and green tea panna cotta

For dessert, the best course of the meal (and I mean any meal, not just this one), we had white chocolate and green tea panna cotta with marsala poached apricots. Yet another thing I wouldn't mind eating a bucket of. I'm not a big fan of green tea (or tea in general), but matcha seems to go well with desserts for whatever reason, despite tasting bitter and vegetal on its own. The white chocolate evens out the flavor, resulting in something that's still kind of bitter and vegetal, but in a pleasant way. Or not. I dunno.


chocolate marketer chocolate people chocolate people chocolate dudes

We returned back to the conference room for another panel, "Trends and Surprising Roles of Cocoa and Chocolate". Joan Steuer, president of Chocolate Marketing, acted as moderator to Steve Laning, Directory of Technical Services of ADM Cocoa, Hands Vriens, Chiefe Innovations Officer (cool title?) of Callebaut, John Urbanski, VP of Technical Sales and Services at Cargill, Patricia Bowels, Manager at Nestlé USA, and Curtis Vreeland, Senior Chocolate Market Analyst of Packaged Facts. I didn't take notes, so I have to admit I forgot what was discussed. Disturbingly perhaps, the only thing I clearly remember is when Curtis Vreeland told us about when he went to the Hershey Spa and after bobbing around in a chocolate bath emerged feeling quite...refreshed. Or drugged. Or somewhere in between.

important chocolate related people?
last panel

The last panel, "Chocolate: Back to Its Roots", had lots of...testosterone? And although I could list all the people, there's just too many of them. Because seven is too many. And I think this was the panel that I absorbed the least information from, although I don't know why. No one talked about being dunked into a tub of chocolate—perhaps that's the reason. There was some talk about cocoa farms and chocolate origins and...stuff...

...sorry, this post is dissolving into poopiness. I guess this is what happens when you don't take notes because you figure your brain will remember everything, but it doesn't.

lots of tables chocolate tasting chocolate tasting
chocolate tasting

The day ended with a chocolate tasting where we were taken step-by-step through the tasting process involving smell, sound of the chocolate as we bit into each piece, mouthfeel, and flavor. I needed a lot of guidance as my tasting skills are nonexistent. Tasting chocolates of different cocoa percentages from different countries meant every bite was different, but I don't know what to tell you since I KIND OF FORGOT EVERYTHING. What I can tell you is some of the descriptive chocolate terms they gave us in our chocolate tasting booklets: burlap, cocoay, milk crumb (?), musty, green, and straw. DELICIOUS!

I had to rush out of there to return my Internet box to the Time Warner store and pack up my apartment belongings before my mum picked me up that night to move back to Jersey or else I would've been more likely to do the polite thing and say goodbye to the insanely nice people that I met there. Susan Smith, Senior VP of Public Affairs for the National Confectioners Association, recognized me from last year and made sure to say hello to me. During lunch I sat next to Leah Porter, VP of Scientific Affairs of the CMA, who's humor and fun personality made for a memorable meal. (After telling her that I was going to graduate soon, she recounted a story about when she unintentionally got arrested during a protest near the end of her college career. It seems like the scariest part of the whole ordeal was telling her mom.) During the panels I sat next to Tina Edwards van Muijen, consumer Specialist at Godiva who came to the symposium from PA, who I first met while getting a cup of hot chocolate that morning. It was impossible to think she could be anything less than awesome after she started asking me about good places to eat, in particular where to get xiao long bao or a good pastrami sandwich. Methinks she went to Katz's Deli later that afternoon. ;) I also met another freelance writer whose business card I unfortunately did not get (and I guess I could embarrass myself by guessing her name...Mikel?...something that STARS WITH AN M? Email me if you're reading this, please!), but she was also very excited by the prospect of finding good eats. People who care about their food in that way (seriously without being freakish?) make me happy.

Thank you to all the people who put the symposium together and the nice women who found me worth conversing with. I think my nametag worked wonders. ;)

People of Ohio, don't skip this

Update (6/6): I am afraid I am not visiting Ohio, not even if it were the foodie capital of the world. :( But thank you so much for your recommendations and suggestions!

It seemed like going to Virginia last December without first consulting my blog readers for advice was a bad idea, so I'm going to ask you for advice before I've even made any plans.

I might visit Tristan while he works Oberlin this summer. When? Dunno. What are the chances? No clue. So in case it sways my decision, I'm wondering what the area around Oberlin is like food-wise. In other words, I'm probably not going to eat chili in Cincinnati. How's Cleveland? Cities around there? I know nothing about the state that Google Maps says is a 7 hour drive from my house. Will the fooding please roboppy? Let me know. :)


ray / May 12, 2007 12:28 AM

hi, I'm a fan of your blog and actually saw you at Felissimo Design House during the Parsons Exhibition. That was a trip. Jennifer Inno is/was my student.

Beth / May 12, 2007 9:28 PM

aie! Come to Cleveland! There are many awesome restaurants in neighborhoods like Tremont and Ohio City. I don't know if this would interest you, but there's a whole bar/food place in Lakewood (where I live) centered around different kinds of grilled cheese and microbrews. I'll be around all summer if you'd like a tour, and then I'm probably moving to New York to live with my boyfriend in Westchestah. Also, because of your review of Bon Chon, everyone at my boyfriend's work is slightly in love with the place. I can link you to different food places' menus if you'd be interested. Let me know!

roboppy / May 13, 2007 2:10 AM

Kay: Wait...which event?

Maria: Get into the chocolate industry and BOOYA, you're in. :D

Beth: You had me hooked at "grilled cheese". GRILLED CHEESE. THAT IS ONE OF THE BEST THINGS EVER!!! Please tell me more. I will skip the microbrews (is it okay that all my knowledge of Cleveland is probably from the Drew Carey Show and I remember that it featured much beer drinking?) and go straight for the cheese. If I head towards your parts I'll let you know! So you can feed me the cheese of grilling! And I can tell you more about awesome things in NYC. I'm glad the fried chicken madness has touched so many lives, haha. ;)

Ezra / May 13, 2007 7:37 AM

There's no doubting that I LOVE Oberlin, but I have to warn you, there isn't a whole lot of fooding in town. We've just got your few basic restaurants. Greasy spoon Chinese, low-end Mexican (compared to what I eat in Portland, at least), burrito bar, pub burgers, that's about all. It's pretty hard to get over to Cleveland unless you drive, too...besides, why would you want to come if I'm not going to be there? Ha ha.

ray / May 13, 2007 7:34 PM

it was this past wednesday for the parsons product design senior show. what a trip!

roboppy / May 14, 2007 2:58 AM

Ezra: 'Tis true that Oberlin will be missing a lot of awesomeness without the Ezra to grace its presence. (;_;) But without any awesome food I guess THERE IS NO REASON TO GOOOO EVERRRR (sob). I guess the fooding landscape around Oberlin sounds like the one around Vassar.

Garrett: And bring an extra bag that you can shove free chocolate samples into!

Marvin / May 14, 2007 11:21 AM

Sweet media pass Robyn. You should try and reuse it to get into other events - like concerts, sporting events, white house dinners, the possibilities are endless. Just flash your badge and camera to the security guard and quickly walk in. It could work, or you may get tackled.

Annie / May 14, 2007 11:48 AM

Network, Robyn. Network. Michael Ruhlman is the go-to-man for fooding in Cleveland and, I think, the rest of Ohio as well. Contact him through his blog/website ( Also, there are wonderful macarons at a pastry shop in Columbus. I'll remember the name any moment now. Outside of that...the food wouldn't greatly displease you. But it is on the hearty and fried side.

Carl / May 14, 2007 4:43 PM

Wow, you're a lot shorter, younger, and awesomer (yes) than all the other people in the pictures. Rock on!

Charity / May 14, 2007 5:18 PM

Sweet! I'm a Clevelander who has been reading your blog for a while and I guess I should come out of hiding and get with the food recommendations in my fine area! Oberlin is a beautiful town, but it is lacking in foodie sustenance, but Cleveland and it's many deliciously-fueled suburbs is a short drive away. I'm a foodie, but am a foodie un a budget, so I can list some of the more expensive restaurants, but I have only been to a limited few.You can check them out, depending on your food budget - Most are downtown or near downtown.... Lola (Celeb-chef Michael Symon's baby) Pier W for great lake views and seafood (I've been there once - it was yummy), Blue Point Grille for steaks and seafood.

Now, these are the places I love and go to more often -
Commenter Beth is right - Melt Bar and Grilled (LINK: in Lakewood is wonderful! They serve like 20 different grilled cheese sammys and have over 100 verities of beer. If you have a chance, check out the Westside Market in Ohio City and taste the many flavors of Cleveburg all in one place. Some not-to-miss stands you might enjoy are the new crepe stand, Judy's Oasis (best Baba Ganoush and spanikopita ever!), Ohio City Pasta, Pierogi Palace, and all the fabulous cheese stands (LINK: Great Lakes Brewing company is right over by the market if you need a quick drink or nibble after the market - (LINK: Their beer tour is inexpensive and lets you try small glasses of all their brews. If you are craving some serious home cooking and don't mind an informal cafeteria-style atmosphere, there's Sokolowski's University Inn, which servers killer cabbage and noodles, stuffed cabbage, brats and kielbasa, etc... (LINK: Best local burgers are hands-down the Galley Boy at Swenson's drive ins (fast food drive in Seven Hills - and the Herb burger at Herb's on Lake ( ) Herb's Tavern (LINK:

For great Italian, check out Arrabiattas. (It's out special date-night place) Call ahead for reservations if it's a weekend....

And for your sweet tooth, my all-time fave bakery is Great Scott's Bakery in Rocky River - his tagline "Pastry so good, you'll dream about it" says it all. His cupcakes and crème brulee were both voted best in Cleveland, and his cheesecakes, brownies, macaroons and cookies and utterly divine! I crave his stuff like a junkie! (Address: 2214 Wooster Rd, Cleveland, OH 44116)

if you want anything more specific, just ask, I'd be happy to help you find something. It's always fun to share your city with someone, especially the food-side! :-)

Kathy / May 14, 2007 7:56 PM

hehe, I love the name tag, it must attract quite a bit of attention! ;) No more school for us, hooray! It feels kind of funny having no obligations for the summer, but I'm excited to move back this fall and hang out with you! :)

roboppy / May 15, 2007 1:27 AM

Marvin: Actually I do get offers to go to some concerts but I'm way too lazy to go to concerts just cos they're freeee. SOOO LAZY.

I think the tackling thing may occur. "I AM THE GIRL WHO ATE EVERYTHING LET ME..hey stop grabbing my arms!"

Annie: Ooh...I didn't know he was from Cleveland! I am bad at networking though. And I am easily intimidated. Especially by seasoned food writers. Euh. EUHHH [runs away, hides in a virtual corner of some sort]

Columbus is kinda far, but if you remember the name of the bakery please let me know! :D :D :D

Carl: Thanks! SHORTER AND AWESOMER, just the way God intended.

Charity: Um, you're kind of amazing, thank you so much for the recommendations! Beth also emailed me with some of the places you mentioned...sounds like YOU guys should meet up, hehe. ;) Your food list is killing me! I think I'd need a month to eat all that, unless I want to gain 10 pounds in one week. And now I'll feel bad if I don't go to Cleveland to try all these delicious sounding places. Especially the bakery. Cupcakes + creme brulee = two of my most favorite desserts! Wahahahrhr [sob]

Kathy: I'm excited to SEE THE KATHY in ALL HER EATING GLORY! You will take over my title!

Tess / May 15, 2007 11:17 AM

Hey Robin,
I read your posts quite a bit. I'm a jr. in high school and thinking about college. What do you say about NYU??
Great posts :)

Charise / May 15, 2007 12:27 PM

If you come to Columbus (I think 1.5-2 h from Oberlin), Pistachio is the bakery with the good macarons and other desserts, and Jeni's Ice Cream is also really well-known for its amazing-ness (I LOVE it!).

As far as food goes, I'm not sure we have anything we're "known" for, but there are several good restaurants; if you go to the Short North (the arts district just north of downtown), you'll be in walking distance to several good places (Rosendale's is a new place that's getting good buzz) and the indoor public market. German Village, just south of downtown, is quaint and charming and has several pretty good places as well.

If I remember correctly, you don't drink, so I'll just skip over bars.

Feel free to e-mail me if you want more suggestions/info!

The Home Cook / May 15, 2007 3:34 PM

I wanted to comment on the Shake Shack post but it wouldn't let me. :( I have seen so many photos of burgers from that place and they all look insanely good. Next time I'm in NYC I'm going to have to make a special trip.

roboppy / May 16, 2007 12:14 AM

Tess: How well you fit in at NYU depends on what program you want to go into and...probably a gazillion other things. .__. So I don't think I can help you much there. Having been to a small liberal arts college and the huge ass NYU, I know there are pros and cons to both. If you have specific questions, feel free to ask.

Charise: Thanks for your recommendations! There's a bakery called Pistachio? Aw...that sounds cute. And a German village! Yumyum. I hope I get to visit someday!

The Home Cook: They are gooood! I don't want to make them seem more amazing than they actually are, but there's no In-N-Out here, so...yup. It's a good burger and not girnomous. Goes well with a shake. Mmmhmm!

ParisBreakfasts / May 19, 2007 6:11 AM

THANKS so much for the writeup!
Interesting and sooooo much chocolate to discover!
I would love to try out the hot chocolates among others..
BIG Merci!!

bazu / May 19, 2007 5:42 PM

SWOON. This post is driving me insane!! Is that a goodie bag of chocolate bars? I'm drooling here. Well, at everything but the chocolate beef. Cause that's just wrong. ;-)

roboppy / May 19, 2007 10:53 PM

Carol: You're welcome! It's sad that I wasn't in more of a chocolate mood, or else..I would've had more hot chocolate..and eaten more chocolate...and everything else...

bazu: It's mainly chocolate bars, yup! And one bag o beef. Um.

william / June 5, 2007 1:01 PM

I am soooo slack (nearly a month after the post).
I think Charise nailed it with Pistachio. It's one of those fantastic places that most people in the city just don't know about. Jeni's Ice Cream is also fabulous. And I think she's right that there isn't anything that we're really known for. I think that the focus is more on quantity than anything around here. German Village has some good food, but not a lot I'd call amazing (I work two minutes out of GV and eat there a lot). I prefer the Short North and North Market. There is a ton of good stuff to eat there. There are a lot of good restaurants in the city, but the Short North has more than a few.

Anyway, if you do get down to Columbus then Pistachio is highly recommended.

As for Cleveland.... I've been there once. Like twenty years ago. So, yeah, I got no help for you there.

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