Sunday, February 21, 2010

Chocolate Attack

Saturday morning, my friend Vicki posted to Twitter that she was on her way to watch the Chocolate Chariot races.

I responded asking whether this was an event that somehow involved the mass consumption of chocolate by spectators, and if so, whether it was too late to join her.

The Chocolate Chariot Race turned out to be a charity event, and if it did not involve the mass consumption of chocolate by spectators, it certainly sounds like it involves the mass consumption of chocolate by the participants. (If you didn't follow the link: chariot teams have to race along a 1.5 mile course through New Town, stopping at each of 10 local businesses, consuming a drink and chocolate dessert at each.)

Anyway, early that afternoon, Vicki called to see if I wanted to go with her to the related evening event, called the Chocolate Affair. Matt was willing to watch the kids, so I agreed to meet her there at 7. (Breaking already my diet promise regarding evening eating, but I'm pretty sure calories consumed for charity don't count. Right?) Of course, we'd gone out to eat for lunch, so I had the very smallest dinner I could possibly manage, then left to meet Vicki.

Oh. My. God.

Entrance tickets were $25 ($15 if you'd bought them early, but we hadn't). Was it worth it? Oh, yes. Each of 20 or so tables around the edges of the room hosted a local vendor: a restaurant, catering company, or other food store -- most of them from the upper echelons of quality: The Carrot Tree, Blue Talon, Fat Canary, the Trellis... Each vendor had a display, and each display featured chocolate, of course. And by "display" I mean "samples". Most of them had multiple offerings; a few only one, but everything was exquisite.

We started with hot chocolate topped with a handmade marshmallow. And when I say "hot chocolate," I mean, "high-quality dark chocolate that's been melted and just barely enough cream added to it to keep it from resolidifying before you drink it." (And yes, I'm pretty sure I mean "cream" and not "milk".)

At the next tables, we were given a chocolate mousse in a dark chocolate cup, topped with a white chocolate drizzle and raspberry liqueur. Next to that was a table featuring handmade caramels, caramel-chocolate brownies, and brownies. And then there were chocolate-dipped pretzel rods and squares of chocolate.

This is the point at which I started feeling like I'd already had too much. We weren't even a quarter of the way around the room, and it's not like I'd eaten everything on offer -- but what I'd had was incredibly rich. After that, I started getting really choosy, and collecting things to bring home to share with Matt. There were truffles and cookies and cakes and brownies galore, and a few more exotic offerings, like orange marmalade and chocolate spring rolls topped with a caramel sauce. Goat cheese and white chocolate truffles (no, really, that was good). There was coffee and ice cream. There were even a couple of savory offerings, like quail legs in mole sauce topped with pistachios. Vicki and I were completely bowled over by the meatballs with chocolate sauce over white chocolate mashed potatoes (Seriously. Completely amazing).

There were servers wandering through the crowds dressed in cow costumes, offering cups of milk. I like milk, mind you, but it's never tasted so good.

It wasn't just samples, of course. There was a bar at one end selling beer and wine and bottled water. There was a display from Colonial Williamsburg demonstrating the old-fashioned process for converting of cocoa beans into edible chocolate. There were videos from the Chocolate Chariot race, and a couple of the chariots themselves on display. There weren't many places to sit, but there were lots of tables gathered around the middles of the rooms for people to set their goodies down while they ate.

And of course the people-watching was choice. There were families plying toddlers with a year's worth of sugar. There were an amusingly high number of pencil-thin, older WASP women wearing expensive clothes and jewelery who were carrying heaps of chocolates, like they intended to use the event to cater their next bridge clubs, or something.

Which led to my biggest moment of amusement: On the tables were small bowls of Hershey's kisses. And people were eating them. Seriously? Seriously? I mean, I like Hershey's kisses as much as anyone, but when you are completely surrounded by gourmet chocolate in all varieties, are kisses really going to be your go-to item? (Which did not stop the older women from putting them in their boxes to take home.)

It was crowded and loud, but really fun, and really fantastic. Thanks, Vicki, for inviting me along! Next year, we'll plan ahead and make sure we can find a babysitter so Matt can come, too!

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