To the gastronomical delight of local chocolate lovers, Portland’s 8th Annual ChocolateFest was held last weekend at the Oregon Convention Center. The festival showcased more than 80 chocolatiers and chocolate-related exhibitors, ranging from Pacific Northwest-based artisan dessert shops to nationally known chocolate companies. Attendees were invited to sample a diverse collection of chocolate creations, including assorted truffles, sustainably-sourced raw chocolate treats, decadent chocolate desserts, European-style drinking chocolate and tangy chocolate-infused red wine.
For exhibitors, ChocolateFest is an opportunity to advertise, connect with fellow chocolate makers, and tempt first-time (or returning) customers with endless treat samples.
Returning ChocolateFest exhibitor Bonnie Brasure of Bleu Door Bakery, based in Vancouver, Washington, featured her “Brownies from Heaven” at ChocolateFest: dense brownies stuffed with decadent truffles and covered in dark chocolate ganache.
According to Brasure, brownie enthusiasts request her presence at the event. “We’re on Facebook and tons of our fans are like, ‘Hey, are you at ChocolateFest this year? We want to come down and pick up some brownies!’ It’s the biggest event we have ever done, as far as volume-wise,” says Brasure. “It’s crazy. We baked 1,000 brownies for the weekend and we will have none left by the end of the weekend.”
Events like ChocolateFest allow distant chocolatiers to introduce their goods to Oregon audiences, as well as meet with other chocolatiers to troubleshooting chocolate-crafting issues.
“It’s fun for us to get our name out there. It’s also fun to connect with others in the industry,” says Adam Dick, of Arcata, California-based Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate, which features chocolate bars crafted from single-source cacao beans that they hand roast. “We’re always chatting with others and trying to figure out why we are having trouble with this or trouble with that,” he adds.
Another ChocolateFest exhibitor, Greg Tribbett of Central Point, Oregon-based bakery The Chocolate Beagle, believes that handing out samples of their classic truffle flavors, including raspberry, coconut and espresso, aids in snagging first-time customers. “You have to taste them [before buying] to kind of introduce the flavors and the texture of the chocolate,” he explains.
In addition to chocolates and desserts, ChocolateFest also featured local and national beer, wine, and spirit exhibits, chocolate-based cooking demonstrations and even chocolate-inspired educational presentations, such as the ecological history of the cacao tree.
In addition to showcasing a variety of chocolate, the festival is the largest public fundraiser for the World Forestry Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public on forests and environmental sustainability. To find out more about ChocolateFest, including which chocolate maker won People’s Choice for Best in Show, visit the ChocolateFest website.