The third annual Proctor Chocolate Festival is coming up, and in addition to excellent treats, a multitude of chocolate-related activities and events will be filling up the whole of Proctor District with sweet dreams from Oct. 7-10.
Judi Quilici, Proctor District former district promotions chair in 2006 and 30-year retailer and owner of Giardini's Gifts for Garden and Home, affirmed that chocolate has been gaining in popularity at an impressive rate over the past few years.
"I had seen a number of articles in various newspapers on chocolate and I went to a gift show in Atlanta, and my interest was piqued as far as chocolate was concerned. I had always been a chocolate lover, things starred to percolate...there was an overall trend towards chocolate," she said.
Focus on artisan chocolatiers has become a prominent trend, almost as renowned as fine wine, gourmet food and crafted beer, which have each grown strong niche markets here in the United States. Milk chocolate had reigned domestically for decades, but dark chocolate and unique mixtures of flavors such as cayenne spiced and other unexpected flavors have been coming to the forefront and are frequently sought out. As a result, demand is higher and company offerings of the products are ever-changing and developing.
Quilici noticed small things that were connected to the phenomenon as well, such as a fashion trend moving from blacks and gray colors toward chocolate brown colors, chocolate-colored flowers and candles. A whole world was opening up to the possibilities of chocolate besides the edible desserts. One unusual discovery was chocolate in the form of jewelry.
"Chocolate diamonds began to appear on the market three to four years ago and my husband bought me a chocolate diamond ring," she stated.
The idea for the festival came to Proctor District as a result of the fact that prior to this event, fall came without a celebration in the busy neighborhood. "Nothing was happening to kick off the fall season, so the first weekend in October seemed to be a good time to do something fun and yet have a focus on the Proctor District," Quilici said.
Participants pick up a Proctor Chocolate Festival passport to begin their chocolate-covered experience at any of the following Proctor locations: Knapps Restaurant, Metropolitan Market, Giardini's and Safeway. From there, they can go to as many as 44 participating businesses to get a code either inside or on the door of the location. Many places will be giving discounts, chocolate demonstrations and contests, free chocolate-themed desserts, drinks, food and more.
Local favorite Babblin' Babs Bistro will be serving up special menu items such as chocolate cornbread with chorizo gravy for breakfast, mole-style baby back ribs for lunch and will offer chocolate blood orange mimosas to drink throughout the days.
The Old House Cafe will be serving up broiled king salmon with a chocolate orange butter, pork medallions with chocolate demi glace and chocolate cups filled with lemon mousse. As another special, they will be offering a flight of wines on Oct. 8 from 4-7 p.m., which includes three red wines paired with three accompanying chocolates, which is sure to be a huge hit.
Cooper's Collision will be sponsoring prizes in the Community Bake-off, which will take place inside of Knapps Restaurant on Oct. 10 at 3 p.m. The event will feature two baking categories - cakes/brownies and bars/cookies and includes a rule that chocolate must be one of the main ingredients in the recipes. Prizes are to be awarded for first and second place in each of the categories, with the first-place winners taking home $50 in cash and the second-place winners receiving $25 for their baking expertise.
Proctor's Metropolitan Market will have a variety of activities taking place including daily chocolate demos, a chocolate fondue fountain from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 10, daily chocolate samples from noon-6 p.m. of Caudeaux chocolates, Twin Brooks Creamery and Voges Chocolate, Cupcake Royale and Foire Chocolates.
Wild Child Salon & Spa for Kids will be offering a unique treat for children: manicures will be only $10 for kids, an $8 savings off the regular price and kids can also get their faces painted while waiting.
Washington-Hoyt Elementary School will be holding an excellent group or family event. A free chocolate pancake breakfast will take place at the school on Saturday morning from 9-11 a.m. Though the event is free, donations to go toward the school will be gladly accepted.
Visitors who attend events and gain codes on their passports can redeem them for prizes at the end of the festival, so the more stops made, the better.
For a fun, family-friendly experience that will offer something sweet for everyone's tastes, visit the Proctor Chocolate Festival and enjoy.
The third annual Proctor Chocolate Festival will take place from Wednesday-Saturday, Oct. 7-10 all day at participating Proctor District retailers. For more information about the festival, entering the baking contest or passports, contact Shar of the Proctor District Association at Knapps Restaurant by calling (253) 759-9009.