Friday, November 10, 2017

Chiles & Chocolate Festival @ DBG

Somehow I have managed over the years to never attend the Chiles & Chocolate Festival at the Desert Botanical Garden. This year, however, it was so easy to stop by on the first day of the event, which is running today, tomorrow, and Sunday from ten to five (the garden itself is open for its usual, longer hours, of course).

Everything is set up around Boppart Courtyard. Fabulous Fine Food Catering (who provides the food for the garden's Patio Cafe) had some special foods available; given that they always do a great job with the Patio Cafe foods, I would expect that these are a perfect option if you want to stop for lunch. Outside you will also find a few of the less heat-sensitive booths. Salsa, tea, and mole. Organic cotton candy (that looked absolutely beautiful), which came in a few flavors including chocolate and some sort of a chile chocolate combination. The majority of the booths, however, are inside the hall. All that chocolate has to stay out of the sun, you know. (And you'll have to forgive my lack of good pictures. I'm not very good at taking pictures in busy, packed-full-of-people events like this.)

On the chile side, there were some more salsas and spices and things like that, including some tempting-looking tamales (why did I get chocolate? I should have just bought tamales--I'm kidding, I don't regret the chocolate). There were all also pickled foods, honey, peanut butter (from PB Americano, a company I've reviewed before), and gelato. What's nice is that because the even it small enough to allow for it, your little info flyer has all of the companies listed on the back. So if you didn't feel like buying tea or spices at the festival but you want to remember the name of a company for the future, it's all right there.

Nothing against chiles, but I went for the chocolate and I feel like I wasn't the only one. The local companies showed up with some great booths. Zak's Chocolate was there with both bars and truffles and some displays about how they make their chocolate. Stone Grindz had a beautiful table set up with their bars and lots of cocoa pods. Wei of Chocolate had quite a few flavor options out. XO Confections had a big case full of chocolates (I didn't end up buying from them, though, because I was trying to limit myself and what I need to do is make it over to their shop sometime). And The Chocolate Smith was there from New Mexico; I had hoped to get some of their wax-covered ganache chocolate (they called them chocolate pate), but they just had bark, truffles, nuts, etc. Still, there was plenty to choose from. Now, I may have tried products from all of these companies before, but not everyone has. So an event like this is a great opportunity to get everyone all at once and just get familiar with what chocolate is around, particularly with the local companies.

There were also some companies new to me. While I've heard of Nutwhats, I've never tried their products before (I also thought they only made candy/confections, so the bean to bar chocolates caught my eye). And Black Mesa Ranch had some great goat milk fudge (they also had nuts and dessert sauces) for sale. I say that it was good because I have tried it already. Another nice thing about this event. You only have to pay admission to the garden (so it's free if, like me, you already have garden membership). Usually it's only paid ticket events that have plenty of samples available (which is completely understandable). Here you do have a chance to try before you buy, whether that's to see if the style of a company is what you're looking for or just to choose which flavor you want.

The current weather is a bit warmer than it was a week or so ago, so while the chocolate is for sale indoors, do remember that you're still going to need to walk outside with it (unless you're only buying chocolate to eat right, right away). So if you want to walk around the garden, too, or sit outside having lunch, do so before you buy your chocolate. Still worried? Zak's Chocolate has you covered. They had some of the small, brown, insulated bags that they sell at their shop at their booth (the price is $5, by the way); that should help protect your chocolate from the sun.

I walked out with three bars, two truffles, some fudge, a cylinder from Wei of Chocolate, and some Oaxacan hot chocolate. I don't even know if that's a lot or not. It will dominate my reviews for a while: at my usual pace, all of that would take seven weeks to get through. Given that Christmas is coming up and I might also be reviewing some holiday findings (I wouldn't mind some Thanksgiving offerings, too, if I can find any), I will likely have to double up on the reviews in the coming weeks. So we have that to look forward to. For anyone who's local, I do recommend stopping by the Chiles & Chocolate Festival this weekend. It's a great chance to see all of these companies and stock up your chocolate stash. There are also some food presentations (including one by the chef of Elote Cafe in Sedona) and dance performances scheduled throughout the weekend, so there is plenty to do if you want to stick around.

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