Lucky 7: Chocolate Festival Goodies

Every year, for the last seven, I’ve had the distinct pleasure to presenting beverage and chocolate pairing sessions at the venerable Oregon Chocolate Festival. With my hat off to the founder and brilliant colleague, Karolina, it was this year – the 7th anniversary for me – that just transpired, deliciously.

A few of the delicious DAGOBA chocolate we featured at the fest sessions.

As promised to my sold out Saturday session and my fabulous Sunday guests, here’s the menu we savored.

Openers, both sessions:

ScharffenBerger Unsweetened and Bittersweet chocolate squares

I hadn’t thought to offer this as a warm up to the pairing menu before; so this year, I did. Wow. What a way to welcome chocolate to the chops! These two in specific are quite astringent and eye-opening. They aren’t designed to be snackers – and they aren’t. It was enlightening to taste them with my guests, to reset and refresh what exactly bittersweet and unsweetened chocolates taste like, to keep their profile in mind when using them in cooking.

Main Menu Saturday:

Main Menu Sunday:

  • Harney & Sons Soho Flavored Black Tea paired with DAGBOA Lavender Blue chocolate (59% cocoa) and coconut slivers
  • Momokawa Organic Junmai Ginjo Sake paired with DAGOBA White Chocolate Raspberry Mint (0% cocoa) & DAGOBA Ginger Lime chocolate (37% cocoa)
  • Standing Stone Brewing Company Milk Chocolate Ale paired with DAGOBA Milk chocolate (37% cocoa)

It was the first year there was an alcohol free beverage in the mix. When I went to the DAGOBA showroom in Ashland to secure the chocolates, Jill (showroom manager + most excellent colleague) reminded me they carry plenty of chocolate AND other complementary goodies. As a tea drinker, I bought a tin of this tea, took it home, tried it and decided that it would be in the menu.

Is this a great (crazy) crew, or what!!??

What a fun surprise the final menu is for me, every year. I want to provide guests with unique flavor mixes and ideas. To that end, I believe I was successful.

The guests make the party – thanks to everyone who joined me. Apologies to the folks we turned away on Saturday (100 seats were full before we started!). Please come again next year – earlier, as well you can join us on Sundays. There are sometimes available seats then.

I’ll wrap with BIG THANKS to my venerable and unflagging chocolate partner, DAGOBA. From the first year where, 20 minutes before  my session I was combing the floor, asking people I’d never met before if they’d like me to feature their chocolate, they’ve generously given.

Enjoy tastings and pairings, mixing and matching as you and your taste buds find fun. Props to my crew who helped me taste in advance, helping the winners this year rise to the menu, letting the not-so-hot test pairings quietly disappear.

See you next year ~

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Lucky 13: Oregon Chocolate Festival Beer & Chocolate Menu

One of our fine team members getting the goods plated…

Mmmmmmmm

Ahhhhhhhhh

Ooooooooo!!

Robust crowd sounds abounded last weekend at the 13th annual Oregon Chocolate Festival, held at the Ashland Hills Hotel & Resort in Ashland Oregon. It was my 6th year presenting and they’ve come a loooooong way since they started. They’ve continued to see increased attendance, invite a variety of tasty and engaging vendors, host a line-up of educational presentations and have even added a run.

Six years ago when I started giving the classes, I literally didn’t know any chocolate makers. So – about twenty minutes before my talk, I ran around the festival floor, introducing myself and asking, “would you like me to feature your chocolates?” to a handful of vendors.

Great crew (slightly chocolate-goofy!) helping out

Dagoba was one of those vendors and they’ve become a long-term partner for me – and I’m so grateful and glad! World class organic chocolate, variety of flavors and styles (drinking chocolate powder, bars and so forth) and very easy to work with. Props to Jill and the Dagoba crew for their continued support. If you were there and liked the chocolates, be sure to let them know (they graciously give [read: donate] the goods each year).

This year was so much fun, as usual – because of the guests who come to partake of all the fest offers. And I’d like to give a special shout out to all the fine flavor lovers who attended one of my two Beer & Chocolate Classes! Thanks for everyone who came back and thanks to every one who experienced it for the first time.

My thanks as well to the fine volunteers from The Hospitality Club at Southern Oregon University, Asante, and the world class staff with the Neuman Hotel Group who makes sure everything is smooth and fabulous for me and our guests every year. To my captains, Katrina & Larry – you rocked it! Till next year ~

Love live the Festival!!

Here are the menus we enjoyed.

Saturday:

  • Standing Stone Brewing (all beers deliciously made by their brewer Larry Chase) Milk Chocolate Ale + Polenta with Dagoba Superberry + fresh blueberries & strawberries
  • Twin Plunge Double IPA + Dagoba Orange &  Lemonberry bars
  • Chocolate Porter + Ginger cookies with Dagoba Chai drinking chocolate & Xolcolatl chocolate chevre

Sunday:

  • Chocolate Porter + Dagoba Milk Chocolate bar
  • Twin Plunge + Lemonberry polenta & lemon zest
  • Milk Chocolate Ale + Ginger cookies with Dagoba Chai drinking chocolate & Authentic chocolate chevre

Recipes:

Chocolate Polenta

I made a large batch of polenta (to feed 100!) for each day. Essentially 12 cups of water + 4 cups of polenta; adding 2 bars of chocolate to each batch + 1 cup cream (not milk – it’ll separate). You can add more as desired – and I didn’t add any sugar at all, so the results were lovely and mild. Enhance and play with them as you wish.

Chocolate Chevre

Since I love love love goat cheeses, it was an easy pick to enhance chevre with the drinking chocolate powers. Allow the cheese to reach room temp and soften a bit more. When they’re room temp, sprinkle in the chocolate as desired. I highly recommend you add, mix & taste – following this pattern until you reach the flavor target desired.

Ginger cookies in testing mode

Ginger Cookies (on which we spread the chevre)

Yield = approximately 108 with a size 60 scoop dollops cut in half

Beat together until creamy: 1 + 1/8 c bacon fat* and 1.5 c sugar (mixing white and brown is a delight!)

Add: .25 c malt syrup or molasses + 2 large eggs

Sift together: 3 c flour, 1 t salt, 3 t baking soda, 1 heaping t powdered ginger, pinch cayenne, 1 heaping t cinnamon and .5 c Dagoba Drinking Chocolate powder of choice

Add dry ingredients to the wet, combine completely and don’t overbeat the batter.

Scoop or spoon out as desired. Note – with the bacon fat, they’ll spread so be conservative unless you want wide and flat cookies! Chilling the dough after mixed and before baking may help retard spread somewhat.

Bake at 350 for only 9 minutes; they can dry out and be really crumbly (if you like that style of cookie, go for it). Remove from the over after 9 minutes, cool for 1 minute, and remove to cooling racks. They cool and harden quickly too; store in airtight container. I surmise they’d freeze okay – and are always best fresh!

*I use Beeler’s 2# packages of bacon cuttings; it’s really low in salt and simple high quality bacon and a great value.

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Beer & Chocolate

It’s that time of year again – the Oregon Chocolate Festival is coming right up. And yours truly is again presenting lively & delicious chocolate and beer tasting sessions.

For the past 5 years (this year = 6th) it’s been a pleasure to be part of this event at the invite of my fine colleague, Karolina of the Neuman Hotel Group. As I look back at the previous years, I like what I see.

OCF 2012

2012: First year invited to the festival by Karolina. My Fine Husband is a brewer in the same town and he was invited to make a beer for and talk at the Friday night Chocolate Makers dinner. Yum! I was lucky enough to go along and enjoy the hospitality and get a glimpse of what was ahead. We also were given a booth in exchange for my presentation, wherein we sold WEB goodies.

It’s always fun to see returning guests like Michelle.

2013: On the grow – the festival keeps attracting return guests and new guests into the flavor fold. I’m invited back thanks to our success last year and it’s a great time again, this time with an even fuller room (2 sessions, one Sat & Sun) that last year. Returning guests provide a humbling bonus.

Felicia enjoys the festival, with a fresh beer in hand.

2014: Getting bigger! And our last year in the actual room inside the hotel. We’re bursting at the seams and I give away a few tickets to the event – even better to help the Hotel generate more enthusiasm for a consistently well run and well done event. Felicia is the Winner and I’m so glad to have her the other 40 – 50 guests for each session. The Hotel Group has a terrific team, year over year, too so that makes the life of a presenter so much easier and more fun.

2015: Last year at the Ashland Springs Hotel, Downtown Ashland. In the tent we had a ball with as many guests would fit on Saturday, as well as a robust audience on Sunday too. Still with chairs only, we can snugly fit 60ish guests seated, with a few standing in the back. Thankfully I had enough of everything to serve the groups. Even better, my filmmaker Sean and PR pro Erika are in the house to capture all this tasty fun (clip above).

Join us at the Hills for the Festival

2016: We made a big leap forward to the new location, Ashland Hills Hotel, where the room can seat significantly more. We set up for 80 (seats & tables) and had big overflow of likely 100 = 120! While it’s a thrill to get that many people in the room who want to take part, it’s a disappointment to not be able to fully serve everyone who wanted to be there.  Big thanks to my team, Stacy & Russ, for working with the NHG crew to make it sing for me and our fine guests. I also gave away some private beer & chocolate tasting sessions (only 1 of 3 was redeemed…).

Soon: March 3 – 5, 2017. We’ll seat 100 people only, making sure that those who get there in good time have a literal seat and chair to enjoy the fun. Saturday & Sunday will allow for two different sessions, separate menus and as likely a few surprises. I’m deep into the throes of menu planning and development – creating a fun and delicious & enlightening menu for the 100 guests we’ll have Saturday and the other 100 we’ll have Sunday. Plus Karolina has given me the opportunity to be the moderator of a panel of beverage & food specialists – can’t wait!

Paula, Cassie, Ginger & Karolina are ready for you to join the fun!

Why am I walking down this chocolate memory lane today? Because in a world of sometimes feeling like I didn’t accomplish anything some days, these events are incredibly tangible and real. They’re like my fairway: a successful event like this helps me keep moving forward, knowing what I do matters.

  • Thanks to all the guests – one timers, repeats and stalwarts.
  • Thank you to Karolina and my crews – you make it all the better and successful for everyone.
  • Thank you for my flavor partners, including Dagoba Organic Chocolate and Larry/Brewer and others.

I’m relishing the upcoming festival and hope to see you there. Here’s the agenda. Please, come join us.

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