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ChocolateFest agenda is a game changer

Joe V., KPTV Channel 12, never fails to intrigue me with his “On the Go With Joe” daily features.

Several weeks ago he talked about ChocolateFest, mentioning things like mole sauce, chocolate red wine and beer with chocolate. I must have heard that wrong. No one would mix beer and chocolate. Yes, they would. I heard it correctly.

I was so intrigued by the thought of combining beer and chocolate that when I came across a ChocolateFest insert in the Lake Oswego Review I decided to thumb through it.

What a game changer! I was forced to totally rethink the way I thought about chocolate. I read about products and demonstrations related to chocolate that are totally outside my realm of Hershey’s, See’s and chocolate milk. There was going to be chocolate art, sculptures made out of chocolate, paintings about chocolate and paintings painted with chocolate. "The Art of Painting With Chocolate" was the title of one of the seminars I saw listed.

I’m trying to imagine what “Meat Lover’s Guide to Chocolate” entailed. Meat marinated in chocolate? Sautéed in chocolate? Infused with chocolate? It wasn’t how to use mole, because that was a session all its own.

There was a session titled "Chocolate Body Care" featuring a chocolate spa; sounded a bit sticky — but intriguing. I was imagining something like the swirling chocolate fountains that are so popular at parties now. Hmmm … everyone washing their hands in chocolate? Slathering a chocolate paste on your face? Not sure I would go that far.

What about chocolate ravioli? Chocolate fettuccini? You’ve heard of bacon-flavored maple bars, now it’s bacon-covered chocolate. Last but not least — jalapeno toffee?! That’s where I draw the line.

After all of this intrigue, I didn’t make it to ChocolateFest. Too bad, I would like to have met Jeff Shepherd, owner of Lillie Belle Farms.

Located in Central Point, Lillie Belle Farms not only makes fine chocolate-covered berry confections but also grows the berries they use. Mr. Shepherd seems to have made a name for himself last year at ChocolateFest with his chocolate-covered bacon and this year with his chocolate fettuccini. He is also known for his chocolate sculptures.

Is there anything he can’t do with chocolate? Guess I’ll find out next year.

Did you know that cacao actually goes through a very complex process before it becomes chocolate as we know it? Cacao is harvested from beans that are found inside rather large pods. These pods sprout directly from the trunk of the cacao tree, not from a branch per usual. Once the cacao bean is released from the pod, it is harvested. Then they are fermented, dried, roasted and ground into a powder. The cocoa powder is usually liquefied then moulded with or without other ingredients to form a liqueur. The liqueur may then be processed into two components — cocoa solids (unsweetened baking chocolate) and cocoa butter. Much of the chocolate we consume is in the form of sweet chocolate – a combination of cocoa solids, cocoa butter or other fat and sugar.

Other game changing info for me: discovering that this event was not a food industry trade show. It was sponsored by the Oregon Convention Center as a way to give visitors a chance to sample chocolate products, to learn about the tropical cacao tree and how chocolate goes from bean to bar. Proceeds from the event support the Oregon Forestry Center’s education programs. What a surprise to read that ChocolateFest vendors come from all over the country and that this was year number eight!

The most game-changing piece of information was finding mention of Lillie Belle Farms chocolates on the back of last week’s Market of Choice ad.

Nancy Dunis is a member of Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.




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