Twin Cities sweetness

The Chocolate Extravaganza offers samples, demonstrations and a chocolate fashion show.

Stephanie Dickrell

The weekend after Halloween seems a fitting time to hold a chocolate show. After over-indulging in the milk-chocolate and tootsie rolls of childhood, the adult palette might be craving the good stuff.

Enter the Twin Cities Chocolate Extravaganza, complete with free samples. The show features 60 vendors, many of them local chocolatiers.

Twin Cities Chocolate Extravaganza

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Nov. 3 and 5
WHERE: Minneapolis Convention Center
TICKETS: Advance Tickets, Adults $20, Children (ages 6 to 12) $10, At the door, Adults $25, Children (ages 6 to 12) $15, under age 6, free, www.mspchocolateshow.com

The show is in its fourth year and has moved to a larger location due to its success. Last year’s show at the Global Market attracted more than 3,500 people.

The show’s owner and producer Shoma Hokanson came up with the idea for starting a chocolate show right here in the Twin Cities to mimic a chocolate show held in New York every year.

“It literally started with sitting down with a few potential vendors,” she said, and then expanded from there.

She soon discovered the Twin Cities is a sort of chocolate hub, she said, with lots of smaller, local chocolatiers.

In addition to all the free chocolate, there’s plenty to entertain, if only to provide a break before the sugar-coma ensues.

Nine demonstrations will take place over the two-day event, given by local chefs or chocolatiers, teaching the rest of us about the finer points of chocolate desserts, the history of chocolate and how best to pair wine and cheese and wine and chocolate.

Brian McElrath, the owner of B.T. McElrath Chocolatier, will be giving a demonstration on the hot trends of chocolate.

McElrath has been in the chocolate business for nearly 10 years after he stopped working as a professional chef to focus on chocolate.

“I’m living the dream,” he said, as he explained flavor combinations and the nitty-gritty of his business.

His passion for the confectionary was evident as he explained his flavor combinations and seeking the right balance of sweet and savory flavors in his chocolates.

One of the trends is pairing non-traditional savory flavors with chocolate. He used some of his own creation as an example, like his chili lemon chocolate or his lavender black peppercorn chocolate. He also uses sea salt on top of the chocolate.

People may be getting more particular with their chocolate, and knowing just what is in it. Another growing trend is to label chocolate with a percentage, which marks the amount of cacao beans in the product, the basis for chocolate. The higher the percentage, the more beans, the darker the chocolate, the taste more bitter.

Other demonstrations, done by local chocolatiers and chefs, include the history of chocolate and how to pair chocolate and wine, as well as cooking lessons.

Rose McGee, a part-time dessert maker, will be showing visitors how to make a chocolate sweet potato pie. Her small business, Deep Roots Desserts specializes in sweet potato pie and mango cobbler. She spends her days helping students plan for college with their parents, and on the side, makes her desserts for special orders and sells them at the Global Market on Saturdays.

Her chocolate sweet potato pie was inspired by a culinary accident involving her son. He spilled some chocolate ice cream toppings in his sweet potato pie one day, and then kept nagging his mother to try to make a recipe including chocolate.

“My son loves chocolate and he also loves sweet potato pie,” she said. The biggest challenge with this recipe is finding the right chocolate, finding the right balance of flavors.

In between demonstrations and chocolate sampling, visitors can take a look at chocolate inspired fashions made by University design students and local culinary students.

Juniors in the College of Design were paired with students from the Minneapolis Institute of Art and Le Cordon Bleu to make chocolate laced and inspired fashions.

Models will sport fashions and accessories with touches of chocolate. The challenge, as M&Ms remind us, is that chocolate melts at body temperature. The students worked together, with a little help from expert chocolatiers, this melting dilemma so their creations don’t melt off of their models.

University student Stacey Wenzel used Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups as the inspiration for her dress. Laura Musecamp made a dress and coat, the coat as the box and the dress as the chocolate. Her design will include chocolate accessories and maybe even shoes dipped in chocolate.

In addition to the fashion show, the sculptures in the chocolate molding competition will be on display.

Towers, human heads, five-tiered wedding cakes, all made out of chocolate were past competitors in the chocolate molding competition. The sculptures are judged prior to the event and left on display for the public to marvel at.

“It’s just something that will put you in awe,” show producer Hokanson said. “It’s a beautiful display of chocolate.”