Ok, so this might be cheating just a little bit, but I went to a chocolate festival today and thought there was no way I could let it pass without some pictures and comments. Originally when my BFF brought up the idea of going, I thought it was going to be a bit like a typical “taste” event.
If you don’t know what I mean, there are tons of towns that do these sort of events. They get local business to line up by the truckload and offer a small sampling of their wares. The ones I have been to sell tickets and then different food vendors charge different numbers of tickets for their wares. For example, two meatballs from an Italian place might cost 1 ticket (or $1). I thought this event was going to be along the same lines: local chocolate places offering up bite-sized versions of their wares. Since there was a “gate” price of $10 and a promise of 80 different kinds of chocolate to choose from, I thought maybe we’d get so many tickets to spend however we wanted.
This was not what we were greeted with when the doors finally opened though. We were instead pointed to a pile of plates and napkins all stacked in cute spiral patterns next to several banquet length tables full of circular trays loaded with chocolate treats. Each treat had a label explaining the particular bite filling it’s circumference. To my surprise, there were no bakery or chocolate shop names anywhere on the cards.
As we made our way around the table, we started plucking yummy sounding flavor combinations off of the trays and piling them on our plates. I made grabs for several types of brownies (including German chocolate, mint, turtle and double fudge) as well as some fun sounding truffles (turtle cheesecake, chocolate peanut butter and something or other raspberry). I also snagged a cake sample, some toffee, and some sort of raspberry cookie looking thing. My plate was getting pretty full and I felt a momentary stab of guilt. I mean, the event had just started and there were three more hours to go, and here I was hogging everything I could. Then I looked at my BFF’s plate and it was stacked just as high. So was everyone else’s. I felt a tad better.
We decided to stake our claim to seats. We headed for the back tables where we’d be less likely to have to make small talk with strangers. Not that either of us are anti-social per say, but neither of us relish the idea of discussing someone’s grandchildren or ailments. We just wanted to snarf down some chocolate and enjoy a day out. On our way to the back, we spotted a chocolate fountain and after dropping our plates at an empty table, we headed back for second plates to get some angel food cake and strawberries to dip. We also stopped at the beverage station where we got some non-alcoholic champagne (read sparkling grape juice). My BFF was appalled to see they also had both milk and chocolate milk sitting out slowly warming to room temperature. We quickly walked away before she lost her super yummy lunch.
After my first bite of German chocolate brownie bite, I realized why there were no confectionary names on those little cards: they weren’t from local sweet shops at all. The chocolate tidbits were obviously made by volunteers, then cut into tiny pieces and placed in cute little wrappers. I was expecting to get a taste of local chocolates, and I did. I just wasn’t expecting them to come directly from the homes of those locals.
Now, I’m not mocking some no doubt very sweet animal lovers, whose hearts are no doubt in the right places. I’m just saying I didn’t get what I expected (or wanted). Every item was obviously made with cheap chocolate and inexpensive ingredients. The mint brownie for example, which looked a bit like a Mint Meltaway from Fannie May, was a very bland brownie (no real cocoa flavor to speak of) with an overly artificial mint flavoring nestled between it and the thin layer of what tasted like Hershey’s fudge on top. The peanut butter truffle, which actually was a nice mix of chocolate and peanut butter (even though it had a decidedly stretchy, non-truffle texture), was doused in what I’m pretty sure was just Hershey’s Cocoa powder (or possibly an even lower rent knock-off version of the stuff) and the slightly tinny tasting powder took a lot of the joy away from the candy.
The fondue was not even remotely warm, so biting in to the angel food cake was very odd. The chocolate was not the creamy milk I expected, but rather a watery semi-sweet which I think might have had some oil added to thin it out even more. There was nothing wrong with the cake or the strawberry dipped in it, but once again, I expected milk chocolate and got a slightly bitter semi-sweet. And by the way, what the hell is with people using semi-sweet in chocolate fountains? I know it’s cheaper in a lot of cases, but there is a reason for that. When there is a chocolate fountain, people want warm, creamy milk chocolate to dip their goodies in. If you can’t give it to them, don’t even bother with the fountain!
I will say the ambience was great. It was very elegant looking (considering it was in a room with Kountry Krap and antlers hanging on the walls). The soft music was a nice touch. So was the “champagne”–and they did have a cash bar as well. The people at my table, who did not seem to have any sort of refined chocolate pallet, really liked the food. They had piles which put mine to shame and gobbled it without any real thought. My BFF and I were quietly analyzing each piece.
Even though the chocolate wasn’t exactly top shelf, it was still a fun event. And, it was for a good cause, so I have to be ok with the $10 I dropped to get in. I thought it was a great idea for a fundraiser and now that I know what I’m getting in to, I’d definitely do it again. It was nice, after all, to have a day out with my BFF (we not only had chocolate, but a nice lunch at a place I almost never get to go to and we got to do some shopping). It was a bit of a drive, but that just meant more time to talk. Heck, good company and a good cause helps negate the mediocre chocolate.
Appearance: 7/10 (most items looked quite good but didn’t deliver on taste)
Value: 7/10 (since it was all you can eat and plates were piled high, I have to give it credit for filling me up).