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For chocolate lovers, Fine Chocolate Show is just the ticket

Chef Ann Schaeffer from Sulpice Chocolat

Chef Ann Schaeffer from Sulpice Chocolat

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Chicago Fine Chocolate Show

♦ Nov. 16-18

♦ Navy Pier Festival Hall,
600 E. Grand

♦ Hours: noon to 10 p.m. Nov. 16; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Nov. 18; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 18

♦ Tickets, $25 for adults and $10 for children, with five samples

♦ Visit chicagochocolate

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More chocolate than you can eat! If that’s your fantasy, make it real at Navy Pier this weekend during the Chicago Fine Chocolate Show, a first-of-its-kind event showcasing the art of fine chocolate.

Forget the old wives tales that chocolate gives you zits and makes you fat. Recent research shows that not only are people who eat moderate amounts of chocolate daily slimmer than the rest of us, according to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health, but a 2011 analysis of studies involving more than 100,000 people conducted at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom also showed the confection may help to lower risk of stroke and promotes cardiac health.

So browse to your heart’s content amid the wares of gourmet chocolate artisans, whose work will be available for sampling and for sale. These are no kiddie candies, but handmade truffles, bonbons and bars made from premium ingredients.

Among some 100 small producers exhibiting at the show will be such chocolatiers as Uzma Sharif of Chocolat, 1823 S. Halsted. Sharif, formerly pastry chef at the cafe at the Museum of Contemporary Art, creates South Asian-influenced truffles seasoned with rose petals and spices, inspired by her grandfather, a pastry chef in Pakistan, as well as other luxurious sweets.

Barrington resident Ann Schaeffer of Sulpice Chocolate, a 2011 graduate of the French Pastry School and a professional artist, will be there to show off her exotically seasoned, hand-painted chocolate bars, available at retailers such as Gene’s Sausage Shop & Delicatessen and Sunset Foods and on her website,

The $25 admission fee gets you tickets to sample 15 chocolates as well as admission to all the demos and seminars. You can try 15 different kinds. “Or you can spend all your tickets in one place,” said Jeneane Ally, the event’s marketing director.

For a $10 upcharge, you can also partake of fine chocolates paired with beer, wine and spirits in an adults-only pavilion. Expert Clay Gordon of “The Chocolate Life” will lead guided tastings, as well.

Since you can’t just eat chocolate all day (or can you?), a variety of seminars are planned. Chefs from the French Pastry School — World Pastry Champion Dimitri Fayard and National Pastry champs Della Gossett, Scott Green and Joshua Johnson — will demonstrate the art of chocolate sculpture throughout the weekend.

They’ll also show home cooks how to make chocolate truffles, chocolate marshmallows, chocolate ice cream and bouchon au chocolat, a French brownie-like treat. (Unfortunately, you’ll have to find ingredients for cooking elsewhere — the public exhibitors will only sell finished confections, Ally said. Bulk-chocolate producers, such as Chicago’s Blommer Chocolate Co., are slated to exhibit only in the simultaneous trade-only event dubbed the National Chocolate Show, although something may change before the show.)

In conjunction with the Fine Chocolate Show, this week local restaurants have been showcasing chocolate desserts and contributing a portion of sales to Share Our Strength, a charity fighting childhood hunger, so even if you can’t make it out to the Pier you can get a taste. The promotion continues through Sunday at avec, Aria, Bar Toma, Chicago Cut Steakhouse, Floriole Bakery, Filini Tavernita, Fritz Pastry, Hash House a Go Go, N9NE Steakhouse, Mercadito, Mexique, Perennial Virant, Storefront Company, Sable Kitchen & Bar, South Water Kitchen, Terzo Piano and Vie.

The new show is the brainchild of former Chicagoan Mario Pi, now based in Miami, who enlisted Ally, a onetime colleague, to help put on the event. While working as a sales consultant to Honduran cacao growers, Pi discovered that there was no trade show in the United States for fine chocolate.

“ ‘Fine’ means no preservatives,” Ally said.

Chicago’s location and position as a national confectionery center led them to put the show here, and along with the industry show for professionals, they decided to put on a public event to showcase the efforts of small, artisanal chocolatiers.

The event is designed to elevate and promote chocolate, Ally said. “It’s about glorifying it and magnifying it as an art form,” she said.

She urges attendees to step outside the familiar: “Taste something different than you would normally try.”

Leah A. Zeldes is a local free-lance writer.

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