Springtime peeks her head through winter’s doorway, and how does the Southern Oregon foodie town of Ashland celebrate? With a Chocolate Festival, of course!
Now in its 12th year, the annual Oregon Chocolate Festival has outgrown its original location and, for the first time, will be held March 4-6 at the stylish and spacious Ashland Hills Hotel & Suites (2525 Ashland Street, Ashland, OR).
Each year the festival features mouth-watering creations from dozens of West Coast chocolatiers. These food artisans present a variety of fine chocolates and chocolate-inspired products to tease the taste buds of 1,500+ visitors. This year, the list of vendors has grown to include many companies beyond Oregon.
You may know the names Dagoba Chocolate or Lillie Belle Farms, both well established, nationally recognized chocolatiers from the Rogue Valley. Visitors will meet them along with some up-and-coming companies, including Bransons Chocolates, Artisanne Chocolatier, Zhamaaru Chocolate, and many others.
Visitors can try unique combinations, unexpected flavor profiles, and decadent chocolate infusions. Samples will include truffles, bars, crunchy toffees, marshmallows, drinking chocolate, chocolate flavored cheeses, chewy cookies, cupcakes, sauces and syrups, chocolate covered nuts and much more.
Special Chocolate Events
Festival attendees look forward to many stand-alone events associated with the festival such as the annual Chocolate Maker’s Dinner. This year’s four-course dinner, held at the Ashland Springs Hotel, will feature wine pairings with every course. The menu includes: braised beef short ribs in a dark chocolate mole, with truffle & bone marrow whipped potatoes and thyme olive oil local carrots, paired with a 2012 Quady North GSM (a Rhone-style wine produced in the Rogue Valley). The fourth course is an espresso truffle cake with roasted hazelnuts, white chocolate crème anglaise, and raspberry coulis, paired with a 2012 Jaxon Syrah, also produced in the Rogue Valley.
Sold Out. The Chocolate Maker’s Dinner is so popular that reservations sell out quickly and, it’s completely sold out for 2016. Mark your calendars to attend this special chocolate celebration next year.
Another much-loved event is the annual Spa Party that brings the fun quotient of a “Girlfriends’ Night Out” to a whole new level. This is an evening of double chocolate indulgence where participants learn to make their own tantalizing (and effective) Chocolate Mojito Sugar Scrub while sipping a dreamy chocolate cocktail and nibbling appetizers. Larks Restaurant’s bartender has created a special cocktail for this occasion made with Crater Lake Hazelnut Espresso Vodka, Godiva Dark Chocolate Liquor, Almond Cream, and Cherry Bitters. Yum!
As part of a festival partnership with the Ashland Gallery Association, opening night of the festival has the whole town of Ashland celebrating with several galleries featuring chocolate-themed artwork. Many downtown businesses will also join the fun by offering chocolate-themed specials.
And the world-renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival is offering a 20% discount on all shows March 4-6 – just mention the discount code “chocolate.” (OSF 20% discount does not apply to previously purchased tickets, does not apply to C seats, and is subject to ticket availability. No refunds or exchanges.)
The annual Chocolate Product Competition creates such buzz among the chocolatiers and the fans that love them. 2015’s winners included Smitten Artisan Truffles for “Best Truffle” (with their Rosemary Caramel & Red Ridge Farms Tuscan Olive Oil Ganache) and Cocotutti for “Best in Show.”
This year’s competition will feature these categories:
• Best Non-Traditional Use of Chocolate
• Best Traditional Use of Chocolate
• Best Raw Chocolate
• Best Chocolate Candy
• Best Truffle
• Best in Show – Judges’ Choice (automatic entry for all vendors)
• Best Student Chocolate Creation
Real Food Traveler’s Editor-in-chief, Bobbie Hasselbring, who wrote The Chocolate Lover’s Guide to the Pacific Northwest and The Chocolate Lover’s Guide Cookbook, will be one of the featured judges. She’ll be joined by Timothy Keller, Executive Chef at Harry & David and Darrell Folck, Chef and Instructor from the Oregon Coast Culinary Institute.
Several workshops are offered throughout the festival, including presentations on wine and chocolate pairings, beer and chocolate pairings, and tasting the chocolate of different countries.
Nine chocolate demos have chefs divulging their secret recipes for:
• Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake
• A Modern Pairing of Black Olives, Eucalyptus, and Chocolate
• Signature Chocolate Hazelnut Tart
• Chocolate Cheesecake Bon Bons
• The Ultimate Chocolate Mocha Cheesecake
At noon on Saturday there’s a super fun Dessert Contest and Silent Auction featuring the creations of many local food artisans. Proceeds from the event will be donated to ACCESS, a local community support agency.
Chocolate Run, Mayan Cacao Ceremony
With the Festival’s new location, even more fun is possible this year, including a Sunday morning “Charlie’s 5K Chocolate Walk/Run.” The run, that starts and finishes at the Ashland Hills Hotel parking lot, will counteract any guilt from your chocolatey indulgences.
A traditional Mayan Cacao Ceremony will be offered off-site at a private residence in Ashland, where participants will learn the art of creating a Traditional Mayan Cacao Ceremony and how to utilize the plant medicine of cacao to open the heart. Participants will also learn to create cacao ceremonies at home. The ceremony will feature an original strain of cacao sourced from a cacao shaman in Guatemala. If you already love chocolate, you will grow to respect chocolate as a powerful healing plant. Ceremonies are accompanied by beautiful music and singing.
A 2-day pass to the festival costs $25; a 3-day pass is $30. An overnight stay and festival package is available with the Ashland Hills Hotel & Suites for $159 and at Ashland Springs Hotel from $189. Festival tickets are available on the website, at the front desks of several hotels (Ashland Hills Hotel, Ashland Springs Hotel, and Lithia Springs Resort) or by calling 541-631-2008.
The Oregon Chocolate Festival awaits…Head to Southern Oregon for this feast for the senses!
If You Go
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