Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Art of Chocolate 2016

Normally on Saturdays we have a Sacrament, our feature review, today instead of a chocolate item, a baking product, or a book review, we are going to do an event review. This is The Art of Chocolate, an event which is part of The Week of Chocolate. While The Art of Chocolate was marking its 10th anniversary, The Week of Chocolate has been around for almost as long as I've lived in Bloomington, Indiana. I've been The Art of Chocolate four times in the past when it was in the Indiana University Art Museum. I attended the first few Week of Chocolate events downtown in the Fountain Square Mall and I've attended other events over the years at various locations. I received a free ticket to the 10th The Art of Chocolate courtesy of Palette Cupcakes and LIFEDesigns, the organization that created The Week of Chocolate and The Art of Chocolate; no other form of compensation was received for this honest review.

The Art of Chocolate was a more formal event this year with a much smaller number of tasting businesses and a sit down dinner on the west side of Bloomington, Indiana, in the Liberty Ballroom. As always there was a live auction there as well and all proceeds help out LIFEDesigns which helps I took a lot of photos that I'll be sharing during this review. The email I received confirming that I was going said "formal dress" so I had to scramble to find something; I'm not a very formal sort of gal. However I notice a wide range of clothing including jeans and sweaters so I didn't need to worry. But thanks to my in-laws for jewelry and one of my dearest friends for the shirt, I think I did okay. That smile on my face was before the event, image how happy I'd look after getting a lot of wonderful chocolate?

Entry from parking lot
The venue was a very good size with ample parking but I don't think the space inside was used in the best way as I hope my photos will show. After figuring out where to hang up coats, you walk down a hallway then turn down a much shorter hallway and then into the ballroom space. I would have started with the food sampling and artists out in at least that shorter hallway. Why? because it got very, very crowded. Luckily I was there when it started and had some time to chat with some of the treat makers and artists but that didn't last. It actually was difficult to get to my table through the overflow groups chatting.

I think it was a great idea to mix the artists and the chocolate treats together so you had to look at everything. There were baked goods, candies, alcohol, cold, and hot goodies to sample. Let's look at some of these; this is not everyone but pretty close. The only artist I didn't get was Cassidy Young whose table was crowded whenever I went over there after my initial conversation with her. Next year (if I attend), I'm wearing pants with a pocket so I can handle my camera better and just do all the photos before the crowd arrives.

Function Brewing, 3 choices 1 with cacao nibs
No Coast Reserve's new desserts
Zeitgeist had two different products
LIFEDesigns Treats
Artist Anne-Karinne Bley

Palette Cupcakes had 4 Full-Sized Varieties
Sugar and Spice from the University with 5 Treats
Cynthia Moriarty Event and Banquet Catering but No Chocolate?
Oliver Winery is always at these events!

The guys from STIR BTown again!
Artist Jeanne Ellen Duttun's creations and chatting to guest.
Auction Items
Some More Auction Items

Look at the crowd!
This was table #25 where I was seated. As you can see, One World aid the table out nicely but the food was brought in odd fashion. First the Starter course came out before the Online Auction and Tastings were done. Then the Main course was served family style; luckily we were short one person at our table so we were able to set the bowls in that spot but otherwise it must have been crowded. The Dessert course, frankly unnecessary, was there from the very start.

After the meal the auction took place in the front of the ballroom. Here you can see the layout before then. They used the screens for a short video describing what LIFEDesigns does and also to show the items up for auction. This is just the shot to the left of where I was seated; there was another screen and more seating to the right as well as a keyboard player who played for 90 minutes and even took requests!
Peacetree Mountain Truffles (whose creations we've reviewed and whose owner we have interviewed in the past) also was one of the main backers for this event and they gave out these lovely little truffles at the end of the banquet part of the dinner. Cherry Cheesecake was delicious plus look at it, perfect heart shape with red highlight for Valentine's weekend, too. They also offered a free gift to anyone who used the Chocolate Passports and went to 6 events from February 5-22 but no one offered to stamp or mark the passport at The Art of Chocolate. Perhaps next year they'll promote this more.

The event was good but, as I said, a bit crowded into that ballroom. I suggest moving the tasting and auction parts elsewhere in the building if there is more room. Also I won't call it "formal wear" really unless you are going to have a formal sit-down meal that is served course by course at specific times. Otherwise, have a buffet that is served only after the tasting part is over, that would save time and frankly you don't need a dessert course given the tastings so you could have more options. As it was, it was only chicken, rice, and pumpkin for the main course. What if someone had a serious allergy to one of those? I'd also suggest starting the event earlier and having the tasting part be longer so that folks can chat and check out the auction items more. At our table we noticed that the big items up for auction weren't doing so well. Honestly, the bids were started much longer than the reserved prices but there wasn't anything in the information we received at the event about what that reserve price was. That was a bit awkward to listen to yet those items still didn't sale; there is only so much peer pressure can do at events like this.


Emilie Johnson said...

I wish I could have gone to this event, but I didn't find out about it soon enough to make plans. I am glad I got to enjoy it through your review. Were the samples of chocolate tasty? I've been to No Coast Reserve, but I never ordered dessert there. If they have new chocolate desserts, I might have to go back.

TammyJo Eckhart said...

The desserts are a new part of the No Coast Reserve menu that their restaurant move has allowed them to add. Everything I had was good to excellent. I just wish it had been easier to move around and really talk to the makers and enjoy the samples more. I'm hoping some of them will reply to me and I can do a feature review on their products as well as an interview with them.

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