"Hi, I’m Norm and I’m a chocoholic." Many times over many years, I’ve uttered something like those words. However, this involved absolutely no attempt at group support from kindred chocoholics—or a group cry for abstinence—or participation in a recovery program. Far from it— I’m a chocoholic and want to stay that way for a lifetime. I don’t want to recover from my love—I want to expand and perpetuate it.
When I was a child, I remember seeing a full-length cartoon that featured Johnny Appleseed, a historical apple aficionado. At one point, he burst into a song, belting out the taste virtues of an entire cacophony of apples, and foods prepared from apples, one after another.
Well, not to deny Johnny his due, but for me, the infinite variety of chocolates and chocolate treats has it all over apples. I know this is a matter of taste and personal preference, and chocolates are definitely mine. Nowhere was this variety and taste more in evidence than the recent 5th Annual 2009 Chocolate Festival in Ashland, Oregon.
You might characterize this event as a kind of Chocolate Olympics. Of course, the contestants weren’t running or wrestling, but presenting their wares—and what presentations they made.
Just to name a few, the types of chocolates ranged from English toffee, "regular chocolates" (if there really is such a thing), truffles, chocolate-covered fruits, chocolate marshmallows, chocolate cookies, peppermint chocolate soda, chocolate bread, chocolate decorations and even raw chocolate.
There isn’t enough space to allow me to mention details about all of the presenters, so I’ll emphasize just a few.
The festival’s "Best of Show" winner was newcomer Coastal Mist/HV Cellars of Bandon, which also placed first in "Entrepreneurial Venture (Under 2 Years)," and was runner up for "Truffles." Coastal Mist featured truffles in addition to chocolate desserts and other out-of-this-world chocolate treats.
First place for "Truffles" went to another new company, Coco & Co. of Portland. Their truffles truly melt in your mouth and the taste is one to savor. They also were runner up for Entrepreneurial Venture (Under 2 Years).
Lillie Bell Farms of Central Point also featured truffles, with exquisite taste and placed first in the "Bean to Bar (Vendor control from bean to finished chocolate) Award."
Dagoba of Ashland featured just plain chocolates. However, that name lived up to the absolute best that chocolate taste has to offer. They were runner up for the "Bean to Bar (Vendor control from bean to finished chocolate) Award."
Cary’s of Oregon, headquartered in Grants Pass, has a well-deserved national reputation and markets all over the U.S. Its specialty is English toffee, which I experienced before and had given as gifts. At the festival, it tasted just as wonderful as I recalled. They were runner up for the "Chocolate Candy (Best Marriage of Chocolate and Candy)." I know I’m partial, but I love Cary’s and the soft crunch of its toffee.
First place for "Chocolate Candy (Best Marriage of Chocolate and Candy)" went to another new company, Homemade Confections of Medford. In addition to their English Toffee being very good, I liked their Gourmet Crumbles, a combination of English toffee, peanut and peanut brittle.
An unusual category was the award for "Non-Traditional & Innovative Use of Chocolate." The runner up was Organic Nation Spirits, who served an Organic Red Raspberry Sauce made with Organic Nation Vodka over chocolate cake.
The first place award for "Non-Traditional & Innovative Use of Chocolate" went to Deux Chats of Ashland. Their chocolate bread and crackers were unusual and tasty.
Brief descriptions like those above and listed below can’t do justice to the range of tastes and creativity exhibited by all the presenters at the 2009 Oregon Chocolate Festival. But for a chocoholic like me, memories and savoring of my enjoyment at the Festival will linger forever. Next time you visit Oregon, map out the Chocolate Trail—I know I will.
Attending this event introduced me to Oregon’s Chocolate Trail. I knew about their wonderful wine, cheese and food, but did not know it was a haven for chocoholics. You could combine a trip of wine and chocolate and experience utopian culinary delights. What I found amazing was the number and quality of chocolatiers just starting up. To avoid short-changing anyone, I must mention, however briefly, some of the other contestants and their specialties, as well as the award winners’ information:
www.chocolatechewies.com Baba Joon’s Chocolate Chewies, Eugene, chocolate cookies
bransonschocolates.com Branson’s Chocolates, Ashland—truffles
carysoforegon.com Cary’s of Oregon Grants Pass, English Toffee, Best Candy Runner Up
thecherrycountry.com The Cherry Country, chocolate covered fruits
www.thechocolatebeagle.com The Chocolate Beagle, Central Point, truffles
Chocolate Craft Kits, Portland, chocolate decorations
www.coastalmist.com Coastal Mist/HV Cellars, Bandon, Best of show
www.cocoandcochocolates.com Coco & Company , Portland, Truffles, First Place
www.dagobachocolate.com Dagoba, Ashland, Bean to Bar Runner Up
www.deuxchats.com Deux Chats, Ashland, Non -Traditional & Innovative Use of Chocolate, First Place
www.extremechocolates.com Extreme Chocolates, Salem, truffles
www.homemadeconfections.com Homemade Confections, Medford, First place for Chocolate Candy
www.lilliebellefarms.com Lillie Belle Farms, Central Point, Bean to Bar, First Place
www.luluschocolate.com Lulu’s Raw Chocolate Alchemy, Portland, raw chocolate
organicnationspirits.com/ Organic Nation Spirits ,Non -Traditional & Innovative Use of Chocolate Runner Up
www.penningtonfarms.net Pennington Farms, Grants Pass, pastries
www.petesgourmet.com Pete’s Gourmet Confections, Central Point, chocolate marshmallows
www.recessioncandy.com Recession Candy Company, Ashland, English toffee
www.risingsunfarms.com Rising Sun Farms, Phoenix, Oregon, cheese tortas
www.romanossoda.com Romano’s Italian Soda, Corvallis, peppermint chocolate soda
For information on the area including activities, wineries, dining, lodging and general information www.southernoregon.org has the answers.