September 16th, 2008 5:33 pm | by Shefali Kulkarni News | Posted In: CLEAN UP

Warning: This Post May Induce Choco-Coma

There are two types of chocoholics in this world: those who know good chocolate and those who think they know good chocolate.

Forget the Hershey bars, and your standard supermarket fare of chocolates—those who attended the first annual Northwest Chocolate Festival in the Pearl District were the diehard aficionados who pair chocolate perfectly with wine, cheese, ginger, orange and spices. They'll tell you milk chocolate is an abomination, and they can taste a bite of chocolate and tell you the percentage of cacao in the bar.

But festival director Brian Cisneros says as much as his goal was to promote high-quality chocolate during the three-day festival, he also wanted to celebrate sustainable practices. Proceeds for the festival supported Oregon Tilth—a nonprofit group dedicated to the education of sustainable and organic agriculture—and Sustainable Harvest International—a group providing Central American families with the tools to overcome poverty and restore the environment. Fitting, since the festival was headquartered at the EcoTrust Building.

"It's what I like the best about all this," Cisneros told WW on Friday at a truffle and wine tasting. "This is a benefit event, so when we [the Chocolate Festival] succeed, they succeed."

Sampling savory, sweet and even vegan chocolates as well as ducking into the chocolate beer garden—featuring Rogue's Chocolate Stout as well as Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout—was just a fraction of the festival. Twenty bucks also got visitors a day pass to attend various seminars. Joe Whinney of Theo Chocolates in Seattle held a two-hour presentation highlighting their chocolate-making process, bean-to-bar philosophy and the company's history.

The real weekend treat was Saturday night's Northwest Chocolate Competition and Gala event that created a line nearly a block long outside of the Gerding Theater on Northwest 11th Avenue. For $10, guests sampled generous portions of the chocolate concoctions.

Olea pastry chef Kristi Varner's cocoa powder braised pork with a white chocolate navy bean paste and greens left sweet and savory smells wafting throughout the whole theater.

Daniel Jasso of Genoa created a pear torte with a pistachio dacquoise that tasted like a slice of autumn.

Park Kitchen sous chef David Briggs presented his goat cheese chocolates as part of a side-project he calls Xocolatl de David.

Piper Davis and Gina Langley of Grand Central Bakery made nearly 300 Triple Chocolate Cookies which were rich, gooey and deserved a tall glass of milk.

Best Presentation was given to 50 Plates Chef Randy St.Clair's Faux Ho's—a play on the Little Debbie Hoho, but with a fluffy whipped white chocolate cream surrounded by a moist chocolate cake.

Brownies from Heaven—a new brownie company based in Portland—wowed guests with rich brownies stuffed with peanut butter, coconut or rich raspberry jam and drenched in dark Belgium chocolate. The bite-size brownies melted in your mouth.

Olympia-based truffle maker Brother Bliss blew chocoholics away with his Venezuelan white chocolate rose truffle.

And Wildwood pastry chef Michelle Vernier created two tortes with a cocoa-infused pie crust that delicately crumbled in your mouth.

Keep a look out for the results from the Northwest Chocolate Competition as well as upcoming chocolate festivals. Rumor has it that next year's festival will be even bigger and located in Seattle.

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