ENCINITAS — The wait is finally over. Chocoholics eagerly anticipating the opening of the ninth annual Chocolate Festival at San Diego Botanic Garden will be able to indulge in mouth-watering confections all day May 12.
The event takes place between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Visitors can dip into a chocolate fountain and enjoy dozens of demonstrations and tastings to please every palate from tempting truffles and fudge to artisanal, hand-crafted chocolates.
Tasting tickets are priced at $1, $2 and $3. Boxed candy will also be sold.
This year’s purveyors include All Things Sweet and Wonderful, Belgium Gourmet, Caxao Chocolates, C.C.s Chocolate Etc., Chocolate Extraordinaire, Dallmann Fine Chocolates, David Bacco Chocolatier, Earth Source Organics, Eclipse Chocolat, Helen Grace Chocolates, Jer’s Chocolates, Leucadia Pizzeria Bakery, My Kitchen, Sea Salt Candy Company, Sweetfields, The Melting Pot and The Toffee Box.
Nikki Schaeffer, pastry chef at Leucadia Pizza, will offer a unique demonstration of summer desserts such as Bananas Foster, seasonal fruit pie and grilled pound cake topped with chocolate espresso sauce prepared on an outdoor barbecue.
“Cake that is grilled tastes very good — people will be surprised,” she said. “The open flame adds a little bit of crispiness on the outside. When the sugar begins to caramelize, it makes a sweet, smoky flavor without ruining the integrity of the pound cake.”
Audrey Darrow of Earth Source Organics will be on hand to answer questions about food allergies and sensitivities, and provide samples of her “Righteously Raw Chocolate.”
“This is our third show and we like to support the community,” she said. “We are certified organic, vegan, kosher and gluten-free. Our chocolate is also soy free, non-GMO, with no refined sugars, and prepared in a nut-free facility.
“We’ll teach people about the ingredients and certifications, and they’ll walk away with the information they need.”
Event coordinator Diana Goforth says the Chocolate Festival is one of the garden’s most popular celebrations.
“We have more people here in one day than any other day in the year,” she said. “We always schedule it the weekend before Mother’s Day.
“Kids love it because they get to do crafts. This year they’ll be able to make a keepsake for their mother. It’s a necklace with a wooden heart that they decorate here. They can also make a kite wind chime, a garden-themed plaster ornament or a plant in a pot that they decorate.”
In addition, children can get their face painted, then go Mother’s Day shopping with their fathers. This year’s gift vendors include Air and Sea Creations (air plants), Cam Delynn Creations (glass artist), Cookie Lee Jewelry, de Baay Enterprises (handcrafted jewelry), Elizabeth’s Kitchen (culinary items from Elizabeth Podsiadlo, “Opera Singing Chef”), Inspirational Designs (artistic bags and clothes), Jewelry by Olga, Lotion Lady, My Fair Lady’s Flowers (floral arrangements), Queen Eileen’s (gifts) and Sun Stones Garden Art.
In keeping with the theme, plants that look like chocolate will also be on sale.
“Everybody’s in such a good mood — chocolate makes you happy,” Goforth added.
Martin Espino will provide a program about the culture of ancient Mexico, showcasing authentic musical instruments, many made from gourds.
Food will be available from Divine Fresh (gyros, chicken kabobs, falafel, wraps, Greek salad, baklava) and The Coffee Hut (coffee, ice cream, hot dogs, snacks).
Cost is free with admission to the garden (adults are $12; seniors, students and active military are $8; children 3 to 12 are $6; and children 2 and under are free) or purchase of annual membership.
San Diego Botanic Garden is located at 230 Quail Gardens Drive in Encinitas. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. During summer hours are extended to 8 p.m. Thursdays. For more information, visit sdbgarden.org or call (760) 436-3036.