Chocolate by any other name would taste as sweet, to recast a line from Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” And while we all know that ended in tragedy, Featherstone’s 16th annual “Art of Chocolate Festival” promises to be an enduring romance for those of us who adore any form of the bean.
It originated with Malcom and Jeanne Campbell of Van Leer Chocolate company. They had a home on the Island for decades, and were very involved in Featherstone Center for the Arts. “Sixteen years ago,” says Ann Smith, executive director of Featherstone, “we were really struggling to bring in a fall audience. We were much more seasonal then, and looking to extend into the fall. When they thought about fall, they thought about chocolates. So, we created the ‘Art of Chocolate Festival,’ where we featured all of the local pastry chefs, bakers, and chocolatiers around the Island. Their daughter Jan was the founder of Chilmark Chocolates. It was a very nice connection in terms of chocolate in their life.”
Add to that the fact that Smith’s twin sister, Jan Smith, worked for M&M Mars, and her mom, Francine Smith, was director of Featherstone, and you have a perfect storm: “It was a really nice way to introduce the community to the art of chocolate.”
In the old days, the weekend started with a patron’s party on Friday night, with chocolate martinis on tap. Now the festival runs Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 13 and 14, for the public to come and taste chocolate. For $5 you get two tastes of chocolate, or five tastes for $10.
It would be hard to limit yourself to just two when the bounty includes slices of cake from Cakes by Liz. There’s a chocolate fountain where you can dip pretzels, strawberries, bananas, or even potato chips, for those who like that salty-sweet combination.
The ice cream sundae station uses Chilmark Chocolates’ incredible hot fudge. There’s Murdock’s fudge, blackout cakes from Black Dog Bakery, and flourless chocolate cake from Scottish Bakehouse, as well as its chocolate macaroons for those who want gluten-free indulgences.
“Really the entire Island food community participates,” Smith emphasized. “It’s a super fundraiser. Over 1,000 people come on the Saturday and Sunday to taste chocolate. What started as introducing new audiences to Featherstone has really become one of our signature fall events.
“It’s especially poignant this year, since it’s the last for Chilmark Chocolates. They are truly the signature sponsor. They provide all the chocolate for the chocolate fountain and the hot fudge, and because Chilmark Chocolates isn’t open that weekend, they provide chocolates for us to sell here.”
There can’t be a sweeter way to raise funds, or satisfy your sweet tooth.
The “Art of Chocolate Festival” runs Saturday, Oct. 13, and Sunday, Oct. 14, at Featherstone Center for the Arts, 12 to 4 pm both days.