A Sweet Night at the Y

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Chocolate Fest returns to the 92 Y on April 21st By Angela Barbuti "There's nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with chocolate," is a well-known quote from Linda Grayson. On Sunday, the 92 Y will celebrate this statement with their annual Chocolate Fest. Guests befriend chocolatiers and learn everything they ever wanted to know about caramel clusters, pralines, truffles, and toffee. "Education and tasting is what this event is all about," said Alexandra Leaf, the program's long-standing producer and host. This is unlike usual chocolate shows, where guests are overwhelmed by large-scale distributors who send representatives to stand behind their tables. Here, you will be able to converse and have your questions answered by the actual chocolatiers themselves. Many are small companies who make their delicacies in Manhattan and sell to gourmet shops throughout the city. "It's not that a person can just pay for their stand and be there. It's only the people who meet my extremely high standards of production, quality of beans, and quality of everything," Leaf explained. Similar to choosing the perfect piece of chocolate, Leaf, a culinary historian and food writer, carefully selects the vendors she wants to participate. "They are hand-picked by me," Leaf said about the 17 vendors that will be present. As a result, you will not find any massed-produced candy, but only fine chocolate. Leaf, a regular panel moderator at the Y, began moderating chocolate events there 12 years ago. They started on a smaller scale, as panel discussions with a few chocolatiers followed by a tasting. Because of the high demand for more chocolate and tastings, Leaf decided to take the event to a new level. What resulted is a walk-around tasting with the vendors very prominent. This event, Leaf promises, will be a "chocolate meet and greet" where guests will be able to ask questions about what they are tasting. Attendees will be indulging in fine chocolate in the midst of some of the world's best bean to bar makers. One is Grenada Chocolate Company, who will be bringing a documentary about their cocoa plantation, which will be playing throughout the evening. [caption id="attachment_62622" align="aligncenter" width="300"](http://nypress.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/LushToffee.jpg) Lush English Toffee[/caption] "I'm definitely bringing English toffee," said Laurie Pauker of Lush Candy. She is also working on a new caramel, which is a layered confection made of two parts of caramel and one part of freshly homemade marshmallow. The bottom layer is a Greek yogurt caramel. The sweet is then covered in 72 percent dark chocolate. "I'm trying to get the tang to come through in the caramel so they're interesting layers of flavors all put together," she said. [caption id="attachment_62620" align="alignright" width="300"](http://nypress.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/joanchocolatmodern.jpg) Joan Coukos[/caption] Hakan Martensson from FIKA, the ever-growing chocolate and coffee company with 5 stores in Manhattan, will bring his own chocolate sculpture. A native from Sweden, Martensson competed on culinary teams and won acclaim for his creations. To add to the decadence of the evening, Costas Mouzouras from the Upper West Side's Gotham Wines and Liquors will be there pairing chocolate with wine and cocktails. "Normally I will try to do something unusual, something people wouldn't try with the chocolate. That is the whole idea," Mouzouras, who has been working at the store since 1988, said. "When it comes to wine, it's a particular pairing. It's specifically that wine, that vintage with that particular chocolate." There will also be Murray's Cheese to be paired with the chocolate. Joan Coukos, President of Chocolat Moderne on West 20th Street, makes sure to provide chocolate that compliments the cheese selection. "People can go from the cheese table to us, or from us to the cheese table and find a match," she said. To buy tickets, visit [www.92y.org](http://www.92y.org)

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