There's just something about chocolate that makes people happy. When you've got a whole festival-sized hall of it, you know you're going to see some smiles.
The Chicago Chocolate Festival filled Festival Hall B with grins this past weekend. Half of the hall was set up for trade and the other for consumers. While the trade side, as you'd expect, had tools and equipment in addition to chocolate, the consumer side was filled with goodies to taste.
Tasting the sweets was great, of course, but our favorite part of the show was meeting the people who create them. The Truffles In Paradise founder is a former attorney and she hand makes every beautiful, shimmering bite. The lady behind Quintessential Chocolate Company couldn't believe that other American companies weren't filling chocolates with things like scotch, bourbon, and tequila. I had a prescription for chocolate written by the doctor at Chocolate For The Spirit, which is from my home town of Indianapolis, and the Fudge Ladies' son was so proud of his mom you felt proud with him. "When she came up with eggnog," he said, "it was like she'd found a million dollars." We tried that decadent holiday fudge and maybe she has.
Fannie May Candies was on hand featuring their new artisan line, and we also were introduced to Four Brothers, a chocolate company out of Wheaton. We sampled their hot chocolate and whoa, nelly is it rich and delicious!
There were some downsides to the fest. One was the lack of water available, or anything savory. Even the biggest chocolate fans need a little something to counteract all that sugar, and water's a must. There wasn't even a place to purchase either, which seemed like a miss for both the festival's producers and for Navy Pier.
There was also limited signage and very limited liquor. The latter wouldn't be an issue at all except for the fact that when we checked in there was a big push to upgrade my partner's ticket for the alcohol tastings for $10. He received 15 tickets and as press I had five and we still couldn't get through our combined tickets, which isn't surprising considering there were only four vendors available. Even those only offered chocolate-flavored wine or liquor and one vendor had dessert wines, of which one was "port-like". In the future I'd hope to see more regular wines, beers, and liquors that would a) get you your money's worth and more importantly b) expand the chocolate lover's pairing knowledge. There was the "Louis Glunz Beer Experience", a tasting of beers that paired well with chocolate, but that was an additional $30 on top of the entrance fee.
Overall the fest was fun, and since it was chocolate we left happy. We also left with a few new friends and a lot more chocolate. Speaking of which, I'm off to get that prescription filled!