Nicholas Shade may not walk a mile for a Camel, as the old cigarette ad used to say, but he would gladly give up his day off and drive 20 miles for a piece of chocolate.
The self-described chocoholic made the trip from his home in Manassas to Fairfax City to attend the three-day 10th Annual Chocolate Lovers Festival, which ended yesterday.
“I developed a love of chocolate when I was very young and it has continued. I eat chocolate twice a week,” he said, flashing a brilliant cavity-free smile.
Mr. Shade, 24, tried the chocolate truffles first. Ummm. Then, he tossed a few chocolate hearts into his mouth. Ahhh.
The Manassas man wasn’t alone in his pursuit. Roughly 4,500 people from far and near flocked to Fairfax City’s Main Street to pop an assortment of raspberry, dark chocolate, toasted coconut truffles and other confections into their mouths at the Chocolate Lovers Festival’s “Taste of Chocolate” event at the Old Town Hall.
No fudging men, women and children stood in the cold, under sunny skies, to wait their turn to sample chocolate treats in exchange for a mere dollar bill.
The three-day celebration of chocolate was sponsored by the Central Fairfax Chamber of Commerce, Friends of Fairfax and the City of Fairfax.
Claire Luke, the president of the Central Fairfax Chamber of Commerce, said the Chocolate Lovers Festival was a way to attract people to the Old Town Fairfax area. There was no better month than February, with Valentine’s Day, to host the event. It all fit together, she said.
“The event is well attended calls come in from North Carolina, South Carolina and Ontario, Canada from people who want to attend the festival. Somehow, chocolate is it,” Mrs. Luke said.
Most importantly, she said, each year the Chocolate Lovers Committee selects a charity to receive a percentage of the proceeds from the event.
This year, the Salvation Army will benefit from America’s never-ending love affair with chocolate.
Hordes of visitors packed two floors of the Old Town Hall to feast their eyes and satisfy their sweet tooth, compliments of Red Hot & Blue on Chain Bridge Road in Fairfax.
Volunteer Jack Molinard who works at the Department of Justice and lives in Fairfax City wore a euphoric smile the whole time, helping visitors find their way to chocolate cream puffs, gourmet chocolate graham crackers, chocolate roses and sinful peanut-butter silk pie.
Could the chocolate have made him smile? Quite possibly.
“First of all, chocolate makes you feel good. The second part is the money [from the festival] goes to charities. So you can be sinful and feel good about it,” he said with a devlish glint in his eyes.
But the best part for him is watching people who love chocolate bite into the creamy delicacies.
“I see pure joy on their faces,” he said. At the end of the day, Mr. Molinard headed straight to Red Hot & Blue’s table on the second floor for his chocolate fix.
“I’m going to have not one, but two, slices of the Peanut Butter Silk pie,” he said with a smile. The dessert Mr. Molinard craves consists of a chocolate graham cracker crust, peanut butter mousse and chocolate drizzled on top.
Not far away, the Chocolate Challenge 2002 was under way as crowds streamed through the Noor Mahal Banquet Room at the Mehfil Restaurant to see juried chocolate art and bid on chocolate sculptures and cakes in a silent auction.
More than 20 local pastry chefs displayed decadent desserts in the shapes of vintage cars, hearts and round cakes piled high with mounds of ribbons that easily could pass for silk.
Pastry chef Jill Light of Jilly’s Cake Studio in Alexandria presented a “chess cake” that won Best in Show at the event.
Her chocolate pecan cake, layered with mocha ganache, Irish cream, butter cream and a delicate white cake combined to make a black and white cake complete with chess pieces. The icing was a dark- and white-chocolate fondant.
The price, based on the number of hours the Culinary Institute of America graduate put into her design, plus the ingredients, was a whooping $700.
White House executive pastry chef Roland Mesnier served as one of the judges for the Chocolate Challenge.
It took the judges more than two hours to make their decisions, Mrs. Luke said.
Fairfax City Mayor John Mason, one of the bidders in the silent auction, sauntered through the Challenge on Saturday afternoon.
“I love chocolate. It would be unpatriotic not to,” he said with a smile.