Chocolate, the subject of countless coffee mug and refrigerator magnet quotes, was the focus of Featherstone Center for the Arts last weekend. The 11th annual Art of Chocolate Festival brought chocoholics from all over to make the pilgrimage to the shrine of the cocoa bean.
Every October, Featherstone puts out a call to bakers and chocolatiers — amateur and professional — to donate creations for what has to be the most fantastic assemblage of chocolate goodies outside of Willy Wonka’s workshop. On Friday, guests at the preview party were treated to an all-you-can-eat experience. On Saturday and Sunday, visitors had to be a little more prudent with their choices. For $5 folks could sample two items, for $10 they were allotted five selections from the dozens of choices.
And what a tough decision. There were voluptuous cakes from the Black Dog and the Cheesecake Factory, creamy mousse from the Slice of Life, decadent flourless cake bites from Lucky Hank’s, chewy macaroons from the Scottish Bakehouse, and chocolate chip studded pastries from Waterside Market and Orange Peel Bakery. Plus, every imaginable type of hand-dipped chocolate from local candy makers.
Many of Featherstone’s cadre of artists contributed to the bounty as well. Marston Clough once again donated his scrumptious chocolate truffles. Karen Hough created a wonderfully light, not overwhelmingly chocolate, flourless cake with almonds. Nancy Blank offered her popular peanut butter buckeyes and Pam Flamm baked up two gluten-free offerings: brownies and chocolate chip cookies.
Adding something new to the mix for the preview party this year, the Featherstone staff set up stations where patrons could create works of art inspired, of course, by chocolate.
“We call it the Art of Chocolate Festival,” Featherstone director Ann Smith said at the introduction to the preview party. “But we’ve never had guests participate in art before. We want you to experience chocolate with all of the senses,” And, although some stuck to the taste bud experience, washing the goodies down with chocolate martinis and assorted cordials, many of the guests indulged their creative, as well as epicurean passions, by trying their hand at the arts and crafts projects.
Veronica Modini manned a screen-printing table where guests could make their own chocolate festival memento poster. Emmy Brown helped people make monoprints in chocolatey colors. Minor Knight encouraged guests to get creative using an array of sheet cakes as canvas and fun toppings as decorations. With the help of visitors, Billie Sullivan created two fun graphic style paintings of an oversized box of chocolates and a giant cake.
Monica Miller set up a table where guests could sample two of her Skye botanicals chocolate-based scents and a specialty product from Martha’s Vineyard Honey created by feeding bees concentrated cocoa extract.
Saturday’s rain drove visitors in hordes to the festival. “It was wall to wall people at one point,” Ms. Smith said. The samplers included lots of kids who invariably left with happy, chocolate-smeared faces.
The Saturday and Sunday selection was augmented with a few extra items including two of the most popular — a chocolate dipping fountain and a sundae station featuring hot fudge sauce (a festival exclusive) from Chilmark Chocolates. There were also a few items where chocolate and art collided. Two enormous Cakes by Liz “Jackson Pollack” cakes with colorful splatters of frosting were quickly devoured, as was a giant brownie decorated with a rendering of the Mona Lisa. The most photographed goodie, according to Ms. Smith, was the chocolate covered sushi, made entirely of sweets and complete with frosting wasabi and espresso dipping sauce.
The Featherstone staff will get a week off to recover from chocolate overload before the gallery reopens next Sunday with another food-inspired show. Eat Your Art Out will feature works in many media focusing on food. But this time around, none of it will be edible.
For more information, visit featherstoneart.org.