Once or twice a year, Nassau County’s Cradle of Aviation is home to The Chocolate Expo. The name “The Chocolate Expo” is rather misleading, as many of the treats Alissa and I encountered were far from chocolate. While there were many chocolatiers on site, there were many other specialties, including beef jerky, hot sauce, peanut butter, peanut brittle, wine, moonshine, hard cider, cheese, and baked goods.
One of the most special parts about this Chocolate Expo is that it takes place in an aviation museum. The Cradle of Aviation is home to over 75 different air and space crafts, showcasing the history of flight. While Alissa and I didn’t pay too much attention to the exhibits in the museum, it was hard to avoid them as the event took place in the museum itself. You could be enjoying a bite of chocolate, turn around, and then see a lunar module.
Something else that made this event even more special was the fact that there were many vendors with gluten free options, some being exclusively gluten free. Shortly after arriving at the event, Alissa and I came upon a table of gourmet nut butters from the company The Peanut Principle. I really wanted to try one of their nut butters, especially the Honey, I Roasted the Peanuts flavor, but I was afraid that I couldn’t eat the pretzels that they were using to sample the nut butters. I went out on a limb and asked if they served gluten free pretzels to use in order to sample their peanut butter. Not only did they have gluten free pretzels, but they shared with us that they exclusively use gluten free pretzels and that all their nut butters were gluten free! While peanut butter is generally gluten free, they had many flavors that you’d imagine would have wheat, like I Want S’more, a s’more flavored peanut butter, or Dashing Thru the Dough, a cookie dough flavored peanut butter. They found creative and tasty ways to get around using wheat in their peanut butters and were one of my favorite booths.
Another booth we visited was Yankee Folly Cidery, a hard cider company located in New Paltz, New York. When one thinks of hard cider, they might think of brands like Angry Orchard or Redd’s Apple Ale. Yankee Folly is a different kind of hard cider, and instead of being bottled in the style of beer, it’s more of a wine. In fact, I’d say it was closer to a Riesling than to a hard cider. The apple flavor was there, as well as the buzz, but it didn’t have the heaviness of most hard ciders. One of the interesting parts about Yankee Folly Cidery is that I’ve driven past the eponymous road over a dozen times from which they derived their name. Yankee Folly Cidery is located on Yankee Folly Road, which is in between the small town of New Paltz and the Shawangunk Mountains. Many summer days were spent walking through those mountains after a few hours’ drive from Long Island. If you find yourself in New Paltz, either for the rock climbing, hiking, or small town charm, I highly recommend a trip to Yankee Folly Cidery for their fine fares.
If you know Alissa, you know that she is very fond of tea. While I would come to know just how fond of tea Alissa was later on in our relationship, it was on our first date that Alissa and I first drank tea together, sitting on opposite sides of a table at the bowling alley in between frames. It was Lipton’s black tea, and while it was good, it paled in comparison to the company. So, why do I bring this up, besides sharing a moment I look back on fondly? Not only does Alissa like tea, but she really enjoys it with honey. She truly enjoyed when we met Sandy Abrams and got the chance to taste her product, Magnolia House Honey. Her booth was filled with so many different flavors of honey to try and buy, ranging from raspberry, blossom (orange), and even mesquite. My favorite part about this booth was the way their display melded with the museum exhibit. It was fitting that the table displaying their product was housed under a U.S. Air Mail tent. It really enhanced the “Magnolia House” feeling.
I’m going to try to convey this next thought as kindly as possible. Everyone at the event had a gimmick. They had a characteristic about them to attract patrons. In a food event, one of the biggest attractions and gimmicks is bacon. I thought that the world lost its fascination with bacon back in 2014. I was wrong, so wrong. I kid you not, the line for Bacon Bites, chocolate covered bacon, was so long that it made me retract my previous notion. Bacon is still a gimmick that gets people’s attention.
Another gimmick is bro-chef, aka DJ Chef, the “Only Entertainer Who Simultaneously Cooks & DJ’s For Special Events World Wide.” DJ Chef had a team with him to promote his brand, and even though we caught him during his down time eating, he took the time to talk to Alissa and me. He shared with us that he had been on the first season of Cutthroat Kitchen and that he has been DJing just as long as he’s been cooking. It was very cool to meet him and chat for a bit.
The Bearded Baker not only specializes in French macarons, but also proves that you don’t have to start shaving come December. His gimmick is not only that he is a bearded man, but also that since studying chemistry, he has an advantage in bringing the best tasting French macarons to market. Scott, the bearded baker himself, was very cool and joyfully shared his wares. I must admit, there may be a bit of beard envy.
The next booth brought a tear to my eye, and it’s not only because it was for Eagle Rock and Wild Coyote Gourmet Sauces. Back in 2012, my life changed when Hurricane Sandy came through town and washed away most of my apartment’s contents. I came home the day after the hurricane to see everything in my apartment in complete disarray, including the fridge that had fallen over. Inside that fridge, I had a bottle of Eagle Rock and Wild Coyote Chipotle Hot Sauce that I had purchased at a street fair in Bethpage. I lost a lot that day back in 2012, but seeing a glimpse of my past at this event had me welling up. I made sure to bring home a bottle of that chipotle hot sauce, and I hope that I get to finish it this time.
Dragon’s Nest Baked Goods was a fun booth, specializing in gluten free treats. In fact, their motto is “Gluten free. Guilt free.” Their booth featured many baked goods, including cookies, breads, brownies, muffins, cupcakes, and scones. Alissa and I both took home a scone, and the next morning, after a few seconds in the microwave, I dove into a bacon and cheddar scone. The day before the Expo, while in Bay Shore at Local Burger, I had a cheeseburger on a gluten free bun. It is only today as I write this, and after a little research, that I discovered the bun at Local Burger was a freshly baked and delivered Dragon’s Nest product.
I want to take this moment to remind you that while we were walking around this Chocolate Expo, it was in a museum. There was an exhibit that featured three female figures dressed in the garb of the 1940’s. What made this exhibit special is that when I think of women during the 1940’s, Rosie the Riveter and A League of Their Own come to mind. It was this day that I learned a little more about the role of women during World War II. Women were called upon to take up roles as Red Cross Workers, tending to wounded soldiers returning from war, Army Corps Privates, and Air Raid Wardens. It was a prime moment to take a step back and take in a bit of history.
Alissa and I spent several hours at The Chocolate Expo and wished we could go into detail about the many booths we enjoyed. I’d like to thank some of our other favorite companies: Maiden + Liberty, The Cheese Guy, Chocolate Moonshine Co., Raw Chocolate Love, Chez Hedwige, Shrub & Co., and Lake George Distilling Company.
After the expo, Alissa and I took a time machine, back to the 90s. We visited the Nunley’s Carousel, housed adjacent to the museum. It should be noted that Nunley’s wasn’t the first home for this carousel. Having been constructed back in 1912, it first brought joy to world at Canarsie’s Golden City Park in Brooklyn, New York, until 1940 where it found a home at Nunley’s in Baldwin, New York. In 1995, Nunley’s closed their doors and in 2009, the carousel found its home on Museum Row, right next to the Cradle of Aviation.
This was not my first time riding this carousel, having grown up in Nassau County, only a short drive to Baldwin. I have some great memories at Nunley’s. This would be my first time riding it in over 20 years. For $2 apiece, Alissa and I took a ride on that carousel, laughing and enjoying every minute of it.
It was quite the great day, filled with tasty food, plenty of laughs, and we finished with a carousel ride. I would encourage everyone to take a trip to Garden City, New York the next time The Chocolate Expo rides into town. Make sure to check out their website for updates, as well as other locations where the expo appearing. I promise you that you will really make the most of the day if you come to the Cradle of Aviation. Don’t forget to visit the Nunley’s Carousel for some extra history and excitement. That’s all for me this week.
As always… stay kissing and stay cooking.