We all associate it with love; it’s present on every holiday; and if you’re anything like me, it’s consumed every evening with a glass of red. Chocolate, made from the cacao bean (pronounced: ka-cow), has so assimilated itself into the indulgent milieu of our culture, it may as well be the fifth major food group. If like me, you too are a self proclaimed chocolat connoisseur, then mark your calendars: chocolate–and lots of it– is making its way to the Seattle Center for the Northwest Chocolate Festival, October 22nd-23rd. But don’t expect to see Hershey’s wrappers lying around, this chocolate is lauded as some of the finest in the world, all cultivated sustainably in accordance with fair-trade practices.
Last week I trekked over to Ballard to visit the festival’s outreach directors, Kate Selting and Brie Moulton, who enlightened me about the event and it’s star attraction: the cacao bean. Moulton, also a health consultant and owner of one of the few existing raw chocolate companies, Alive! Chocolate, informed me of the innumerable health benefits of the bean and its resulting end product. Used for thousands of years by South American cultures, cacao is natures superfood containing a plethora of antioxidants, flavanols, polyphenols, magnesium and fiber. “Other than possessing a wealth of matchless health benefits, cacao is also a well-known aphrodisiac,” Moulton said, “We will have an all-ages appropriate ‘aphrodisiac room’ [at the festival] where participants can interact with chocolate by smelling, tasting, and using all of ones senses to experience fully its soothing yet stimulating properties.” In the same vein, innovative local chef and food artist, Tiberio Simone, will be at the festival doing live body painting art demonstrations (rated PG!) as interpreted from his beautiful book,”La Figa: Visions of Food and Form“, co-written with Matt Freedman.
Selting, who did a stint in the Peace Corp working to improve the quality of cacao bean produced in Panama, shared with me the overarching goals of the NW Chocolate Festival from an agricultural angle. “We want to open people’s eyes to where their food comes from. [The festival] will have the largest gathering of ‘bean to bar’ chocolatiers– artisans who use highest quality cacao and are sourcing the beans themselves. We will offer two full days of talks on culture, trade equity and cocoa agriculture in the ‘World of Chocolate Room’, and to keep it light, we will also offer wine, coffee, tea, and beer chocolate pairings in the ‘Beer and Wine Garden’.” Through chocolate education, chocolate making classes and professional level tasting, they want to celebrate the farmers, the relationships cultivated between farmers and chocolatiers, and of course, the chocolate itself!
WHAT TO EXPECT AT THE FESTIVAL:
Two Days of Chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate. There will be over 16 hours of chocolate culinary demonstrations at the culinary kitchen in the ‘Chocolate Dessert and Confection Room’, along with over 70 classes. For a serious chocolate education, take The Masters in Chocolate Program. In this two-day guided program, participants will get to “visit with award-winning chocolate makers, taste the desserts of regional culinary masters, ask questions in the keynote panel and sample all the pieces of a tasteful chocolate education that will impress your chocolate loving friends and family.” There will also be workshops taught by top culinary professionals and award winning artisan chocolate makers.
This list goes on: Attendees will learn about chocolate with presentations by award winning chocolate makers; meet with cacao farmers from Ecuador and Peru; learn to taste and distinguish fine chocolate from different origins around the world; discover the health benefits of chocolate; learn how to temper chocolate, make truffles and ganaches, and fine desserts; and try a slew of chocolate and drink pairings. To top it off, there will be live music and DJ’s, wine-beer-cocktail garden (for those 21+), coffee and chocolate cafes, and a kids zone. Suggestion: Come hungry!
WHEN: October 22-23 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Seattle Center in the Northwest Rooms by the Key Arena and Vera Project.
305 Harrison St
Seattle, WA 98109
TICKETS: General Admission: $20 Advance, $25 Door. Youth Pass $5/day Ages 5-12 (Children under 4-years-old are free). Weekend Pass: $35 in Advance.
VIP Weekend Pass $85, Includes: Chocolate Academy Program Certificate; Invite to “Meet the Maker” opening reception wine & chocolate evening (VIP and media only); VIP Pre-Festival Chocolate Tasting & Pairing Event (VIP Only); Complimentary Drink Flight in the Cider, Wine, Beer and Spirit Garden.
Chocolate Academy: $8 in advance, $10 at the door.
Saturday Night Masquerade Ball, October 22, 2011; Party at 8 p.m. 21+, $40 in advance, $50 at the door.
An intimate Masquerade Ball featuring including a display of NW Chefs sampling desserts, a dessert showcase, chocolate painted models and cocktail demonstrations. A dessert competition and awards from 8:00-9:30pm (taste all the desserts and vote!), people’s choice best dessert award at 10:00pm and best costume award at 10:30pm. Attire is Black Tie or Masquerade Ball Costume.
Tickets available online at: NWchocolate.com