People come to Ashland for many reasons. Many across the country associate it with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Others love Southern Oregon outdoors and combine white water rafting escapade with wine tasting in the Rogue Valley. For others Ashland is just a sweet place to getaway after a busy week, where abundance of world-class spas, boutique shops and fine restaurants can seriously hurt once wallet. In the last couple of years Ashland has also established itself as the capital of all things chocolate! Over the course of one weekend in March Ashland welcomes over 40 chocolate companies at the annual Oregon Chocolate Festival.
The festival is completely dedicated to Oregon chocolatiers and their amazing creations. Vendors present a variety of fine chocolates and chocolate-inspired products that tease taste buds of over 1500 visitors. This year’s 7th annual Oregon Chocolate Festival takes place, as in previous years, at the Ashland Springs Hotel between March 4th and 6th.
You might have heard about Dagoba or Lillie Belle Farms. These are well established and nationally recognized chocolatiers, who originated right here in the Rogue Valley. Expect to meet them this year together with some less known companies including Sipping Dreams, Love Bucket Baking Co, Stirs the Soul Organic Raw Chocolates, BaBam Sweets & Treats and many other. Don’t they all have great names! That’s just the beginning. Wait to taste their products. Try unique combinations, flavor profiles, and decadent infusions with truffles, bars, crunchy toffees, marshmallows, drinking chocolate, chocolate flavored cheeses, chewy cookies, sauces and syrups, chocolate covered nuts, ice cram and other gooey, delicious goodness. Oregon Chocolate Festival vendors will be here to tickle your palate on Saturday and Sunday, March 5-6 from 11am till 3pm.
Besides sampling and purchasing chocolate, this year’s festival offers visitors a wonderful line up of events. Some of the events have a limited space and require reservations in advance, so look them over and reserve your space soon.
A great prelude to the weekend long chocolate activities is the CHOCOLATE MAKER’S DINNER scheduled on Friday night at the Ashland Springs Hotel. Two executive chefs from Larks Restaurant, Kate Cyr and David Georgeson, partnered in creating a delightful four-course dinner featuring chocolate in each dish. Reservations for this event are required and it sells out fast. $49 inclusive. To view menu and reserve your spot visit hotel website.
Also on Friday, festival organizers partner with the Science Works Museum. A casual, entertaining and educational CHOCOLATE & WINE TASTING event welcomes master chocolatier Kevin Shaw from Coastal Mist and the wine maker from HV Cellars. It’s a great idea for an after-dinner social. $15/person and includes $5 off towards festival admission.
Each month Ashland Gallery Association organizes the First Friday Art Walk. Check out Ashland galleries on Friday of the festival weekend and enjoy diverse forms of art, local wines and of course chocolates.
Planning to come to the festival with kids? Check out “The Science of Chocolate” Kids’ event at the ScienceWorks Hands on Museum, on Saturday, 1- 4pm. Children get to learn about the ‘bean to bar’ process of making chocolate. It’s an interactive event full of hands-on activities, fun and yummy surprises. The event is suitable for families and children of all ages. Museum fees apply. Free for museum members.
Saturday, at 4pm in the Palm Room of the hotel, gather with your friends for the Chocolate Facial Martini Spa Party – two hours of delicious cocktails and pampering! The Waterstone Spa estheticians will lead you through giving yourself a delicious and nutritious chocolate facial. Call Spa for reservations (541) 488-0325. $30/person includes two chocolate martinis. Don’t want to do it yourself? Then call Waterstone Spa & Salon to schedule blissful chocolate massage, facial, sugar scrub or even something called chocolate pedicure!
In addition to the tastings and treats offered throughout the weekend, festival goers can attend number of educational presentations and demos. Learn from experts about the history and mystery of chocolate. What makes it so attractive to us humans?
More information available at www.AshlandSpringsHotel.com.
During the festival, guest judges will pick their favorites and award them the title of the Best Chocolate Product in the following categories:
1. Best Non-Traditional & Innovative Use of Chocolate
2. Best Chocolate Candy
3. Best Truffle
4. Best Raw Chocolate Product
5. Best in Show
You get a chance to vote for your favorite product, too. Make sure to participate in the 2011 People’s Choice Award!
How about combining chocolate activities with theatre? Oregon Shakespeare Festival is offering a 50% discount during the festival weekend. Just call OSF box office and mention ‘chocolate’. Ph: 800-219-8161.
So, are you convinced yet? Have you marked your calendar and told all your family and friends that you will be unavailable the weekend of March 4-6? Take them with you and celebrate all things chocolate!
See you in Ashland!
Festival tickets $20 can be purchased at the Ashland Springs Hotel. (888-795-4545)
Current festival information can be found online www.AshlandSpringsHotel.com