Choose your own adventure at The Oregon Chocolate Festival

Choose your own adventure at The Oregon Chocolate Festival

Remember the ‘Choose your own adventure’ books from the ‘80’s? You know you read a few pages, then in italics at the bottom of the page you get to choose where the rest of the story goes. Like, “To go with the pirates go to page 36, To keep hiding on the ship go to page 56.” Shields had the great idea that I write my experience at the Chocolate festival that way. It’s my first try so be easy on me. Here we go!

Once a year the Ashland Springs Hotel holds a festival of pure delight. A chance to sample some of the best made chocolate in the state. Chocolatiers from as far away as Portland were in attendance, but many based right here in the Rogue Valley came packing delectable treats.

As I walked into the main lobby of the Ashland Springs Hotel, I was immediately confronted with a huge colorful sculpture, made of solid chocolate. The sculptor is Jeff Shephard, of Lillie Belle farms, Central Point. Wandering around the lobby serving samples of butterscotch and chocolate sauce are the very symbol of Spring and chocolate…rabbits, not just rabbits, but silly rabbits, I will get to them later.

From the lobby, I got my pass, and headed upstairs to the Grand Ballroom.

To tour the tables outside the Grand Ballroom continue reading.

To go straight to the Grand Ballroom go to paragraph 2.

Outside the ballroom, above the lobby was…..well no chocolate… no real chocolate that is. The first the delicious morsel I reach to put in my mouth is a ceramic chocolate. Lisa Strout of Portland, has a business called Tilefish art (see ) Not only does she do mosaics, but sculpture and installations of handcrafted tiles. Imagine getting a room tiled in ceramic chocolates and decorative truffles!

Also in the hallway is Emily from our local Emz Blendz with chocolate soap! You can really smell the cocoa butter in it! Mmm, so good for your skin. She was cleverly giving a way little slivers of samples. Next, was soap’s friend in the wax world: candles, chocolate and brownie flavored. Of course scented candles aren’t ground breaking my any means, but all these scents were getting my mouth watering.

Next table was Waterstone spa. There were samples available of cocoa butter scrub and body cream. They were also offering their chocolate inspired treatments at the spa. Chocolate decadence is a 30-minute chocolate mineral bath, followed by an exfoliating chocolate scrub and finish with a chocolate shea butter cream body wrap and chocolate mousse mask. Which made me think: Doesn’t chocolate make you break out?

Okay, enough with the hall….time for the Grand Ballroom! All this messing around the hall with chocolate ceramics and chocolate scents is making me want to get the party in my mouth started.

(2) To my left as I walk in is Branson’s Chocolate from right here in Ashland. They sell their chocolate at Mix Sweet Shop and Greenleaf. I grabbed a truffle from a tray and popped it in my mouth. Finally sweet milky, silky, chocolate happiness unraveling. On down the line we move, going to another table, The Chocolate Beagle out of Central Point. The owner Greg Tribbett started this business a little over a year ago, and he’s already selling his chocolates in Albertson’s and B.Cazwell’s flower shop. When I tasted his chocolate, I was stunned. I really felt like this was the best ever, but I’ve only tasted one other chocolate so far!

Moving right along, there is a man giving out samples of vanilla ice cream with a choice of two chocolate sauces: chocolate peppermint and dark chocolate. The man says you can put chocolate sauce on anything! Waffles, bananas, strawberries, brownies, crepes. It makes me stop and think about how much I need to increase the chocolate sauce usage in my life.

After a few uneventful tastings, I come upon a rather dapper man in a tuxedo with a lime green bow and cummerbund. He has a chocolate cocktail concept. His name is Jim Sanders from Portland and he calls his company Brownie Shotz. Two products he has available to sample are the Chip & Ale brownie shot and Guiness and chocolate chip. See As of March 1st you can order right from their website, other flavors include: Irish Coffee Brownie Shot, French roast coffee flavored brownie with Irish cream flavored chocolate, nonalcoholic. As well as the Manhattan Brownie Shot, which has Bourbon flavor with maraschino cherry and coated in cherry chocolate.

As I move to next table, my attention is directed towards the middle of the room, where we have live music being played by a man with a guitar, a young lady playing a violin and a boy playing the saxophone. They were playing all kinds of festive music. I was devouring a sample of a flourless chocolate pudding cake.

To stay in the ballroom and keep tasting chocolate keep reading.

To go into the courtyard go to paragraph 3.

In the corner, what do I spy out of my little eye but another chocolate sculpture, and one of the largest sampling set ups. It’s KeKau from Eugene, the sleep deprived owners, Shane and Anne admit that they stayed up until 4am putting their sculpture together. Kakau had wonderful chocolates but something different was their Drinking Chocolate Mixes. With a small straw you sip out of a little tube a chocolate liquid in flavors like Orange and Pink Peppercorn or Dark Chocolate Hibiscus Mint. Honestly, the word on the street was ‘not so good’. But they looked pretty spiffy! They did have marvelous chocolates like one called the Earl Grey’s Blues, Earl Grey tea scented with bergamot milk chocolate. See .

Also fascinating were the different shapes some of the chocolatiers would put their chocolates in, my friend picked up one thinking it was a little chocolate grenade, but alas just an easter egg. I stop off at Silly Rabbit Chocolate Company to sample some Blood Orange Basil with Red Chile Flake chocolates. Surprisingly tasty! Also set hopping around mingling are his silly rabbits. “Bunnies” I cry out, wanting an interview with one, two hop up, serving trays in hand. They tell me that they are working with Silly Rabbit, but also for Relay for Life, for the American Cancer Society. The hourly wage they are earning through Silly Rabbit will be donated. Cute little generous bunnies that they are.

Next up is one of my favorite pairings! Marshmallow and chocolate. Pete’s Gourmet from Medford is displaying a chocolate salmon. The salmon turns out to be pure chocolate, no salmon flavor. Bring on the marshmallows! He makes a rocky road with espresso flavored marshmallows, vanilla marshmallows and toasted almond. I have to say, it’s right up there with moose munch, good stuff!!

(3) I wander into the entryway to the courtyard, where there is guess what? Even more chocolate, but one of my other favorites, wine. Front in center is the beautiful Stephannie Collier with long wavy red hair offering a taste of Rising Sun Farms, wine, along with their Chocolate Mocha Cheese Torta. Yes please! She pours a generous cup with a smile on her face, answering questions about the wine from the crowd. See for more of their Cheese Tortas.

Next to Stephannie of Rising Sun Farms, is Jim and his wife from the Chocolate Dude Tempering machines. From Roseburg they sell and rent Chocolate tempering machines. To rent a chocolate tempering machine from Friday to Monday, costing only about $50 you can get all your Christmas chocolates done in one weekend, or rent it out for a party. One of the samples they had were cinnamon bears dipped in chocolate. Jim insisted on taking my picture, while I sampled one, he said he wanted to see my eye light up. It’s strange picture of me to say the least. Thanks Jim!

On the other side of the room was Rogue microbrews Chocolate Stout. I love me a good stout, it’s a pretty smooth drink and Dave Chappell, of Rogue was good to check ID’s while he was talking with me. I looked at the woman next to me and said “what do you think of it?” She said. “ I don’t know, I’m a little high.”

Across from Rogue’s table is a familiar logo; Lulu’s Raw Chocolate Alchemy. A product I’m used to seeing sold at the Chai Hut. What makes her chocolate raw? Lulu only uses raw, organic ingredients for her chocolate. Her ingredients are Fair Trade and from eco-aware sources. The chocolate is sweetened with raw Agave Nectar and includes Maca root, a Peruvian superfood. Her chocolates come in flavors like; Velvet, Peppermint crunch, cayenne kiss, vanilla rose and lavender blueberry. See

As I wander out of the courtyard and back into the ballroom to get to a few tables that were a bit too crowded for me earlier, I find myself at Cary’s of Oregon. A sign at their table reads “Recently chosen Snack of the Day on the Rachel Ray Show”. As I chatted with Cary he tells me that Rachel Ray’s dad is a big fan of Cary’s Toffee’s and recommended them to Rachel, so they asked for some to try then featured it on her show. Cary goes on to say that he’s attended the Oregon Chocolate Festival for all 4 years now, and today’s attendance of people is the most he’s ever seen. I asked him why he thought that was, and he replied that “ Americans are developing a more refined taste in Coffee and wine, but also chocolate. Also Karolina of the Ashland Springs Hotel, does a lot of promoting of the festival and has done a great job of developing it over the years.”

Phew, by this time all the chocolate and wine, is making me want to take a nice little afternoon nap. I straighten up when I see officer Marcus Williams in full uniform walking next to me. He’s brought his daughter to festival, as we chatting a lady comes up with a little girl. She says the girl has lost her parents, and wants to know if the officer will help her find them. Officer Williams, smiles and has his daughter take the girls hand as they head downstairs to find mom.

Well the festival is starting to wind down as it approaches 4pm. I gather my companions and head downstairs. I come out of the Ashland Springs Hotel and walk out onto the sunny sidewalk. I don’t know that I’ve ever had so much chocolate in my life, and I don’t regret a single piece of it!

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