Salon du Chocolat Extreme

Salon du Chocolat Extreme
  Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory was always one of my favorite books as a child. Poor little Charlie taken by his loving grand-dad into Willy Wonka’s magical world of delights… and traps. Of course, Dahl’s book has a dark edge to it that is far from sweet and milky, and all the naughty, spoilt and greedy children are soon found out, exposed, and rejected by Wonka, until only poor, humble Charlie and his grand-dad are left. Look at the Salon du Chocolat event–held at the Parc des Expositions in the 15th Arrondissement–from that perspective, and I was pretty much doomed from the start. The chocolate equivalent of gold-lust fever set in early. With no mobile-phone to help, I had waited at the Porte de Versailles metro stop for at least fifteen minutes with no sign of Gabrielle. The word was–as this was a journalists’ only evening–there would be a lot of free chocolate to be had, and Gabrielle and I had already started seeing each other as competition. Spying a second metro-exit across the road, I hopefully ran across. Still no Gabrielle. I started to get nervous, suspicious, even paranoid as I glanced hungrily around, unconsciously wiping drool away from my chin with the back of my hand. “She’s up there already,” I thought, “that evil minx. She gave me the wrong time and she’s up there right now, nice and warm, stuffing her face and laughing; chocolate-colored drool hanging from her lips. I bet Karen Fawcett, Sarah Gilbert Fox and the whole goddamn bunch are up there, giving each other the high-five, chomping and slobbering, while I starve outside, freezing like an idiot!” I stood there, transfixed, imagining the scene. The next thing I knew, I was running towards the huge hall with the Salon du Chocolat sign plastered across it, yelling, “Wait for me!” When I got to the entrance–after rolling over the bonnet of a car and knocking a couple of women off their bicycles–I saw a bunch of security guys guarding the doors and remembered that Gabrielle had cunningly offered to bring my Press Pass along with her. I was daunted only until the smell of chocolate from the Promised Land beyond the barrier drifted across to me. There were lights and music beyond there; hundreds of people milling around. The first singular thing I noticed was a large Hanzel & Gretal house made entirely from Lindt chocolate. “If I get in here,” I promised myself, “I’m going to eat it.” I immarched up to a security guy, asked him if he spoke English, and, before he could answer, told him I was press and that my colleague had entered, taking my pass with her. I mentioned the words “International Incident,” but he didn’t seemed phased. An international incident about a chocolate show? He stepped aside. It was a chocolate wonderland. Wonka would have been proud. I walked around and around the chocolate house, looking in through the glass at all the pretty parcels of chocolates in there, scoping it out like a pro before making my move, then skulked away, further into the huge hall where a stage was set up in a tent. A cool African band sang and beat on drums, showing teeth that looked as though chocolate had never touched them, as the audience smiled and clapped along, eating little delights that were being passed around, licking chocolate from their fingers. I was approached by a six-foot blonde, beaming from ear to ear, wearing a pair of huge fluffy pink boots and short-pink-pants several sizes too small for her. She held a tray out to me that had several bite-size chocolates on it. I wondered if I was dreaming, and if I was, why I had never thought to dream this before. I took a chocolate and popped it into my mouth. The moment the delicious, soft-orange taste opened up in there, the girl disappeared. This was a game that couldn’t be won. You can’t have everything. I turned around dreamily and saw Gabrielle walking towards me. I swallowed hard and quickly wiped my mouth. “Where the hell were you?!” I demanded, lurching straight into defensive mode. I looked at her mouth. No signs of chocolate-lust, but what did that prove? “I waited for ages!” I moaned, using my tongue to flick a bit of chocolate from a tooth cavity into the back of my throat. “And I’m starving!” Gabrielle just shook her head knowingly and suggested that we look around. It turned out that there was a second set of metro-exits nearby, and she had been waiting at one of those. Still, here we were, so we started snooping. Chocolate everywhere. All kinds, all shapes and sizes, each more mouth-wateringly tempting than the last. But there were prices attached. I bought a long stick of chocolate with green marshmallow goo inside and it was delicious; Gabrielle bought some chocolate-coated Marzipan snacks. Stall after stall of it… boxes, bows, ribbons… every make you can name and more. TV cameras moved to the tent as the mayor, Bertrand Delanoe, made a speech. Gabrielle seemed interested, but I just positioned myself next to a free samples bowl and nodded approvingly every so often whilst grabbing fistfuls of chocolate buttons. I didn’t know what he was talking about and I didn’t care. Yum, yum. Moving away from the tent and back to the chocolate house, I was thrown by the fact that Gabrielle spotted some guy picking a chocolate from a sculpture by the side of the house. Not wanting to be outdone, I grabbed one too, and spotted a little girl pointing at me, wide-eyed, as I popped the evidence into my mouth. I was busted, and I knew it. Within two seconds an embarrassed looking man–clearly the artist–was asking me in French not to eat his masterpiece. I pretended not to understand, and simply smiled and chewed, looking puzzled. Gabrielle was getting a lot out of the moment, though….
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