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10 gift picks at the Chicago Fine Chocolate Show

Shari Wenzel center  pulls Valentine's Day cutter away from homemade lollipop she made with Deborah Gilbert left AllisGilbert 2nd

Shari Wenzel, center, pulls a Valentine's Day cutter away from a homemade lollipop she made with Deborah Gilbert, left, Allison Gilbert, 2nd from right, and Madeline Draper, right, during a "For The Love of Chocolate family art class at The Center in Palos Park, IL on Sunday February 13, 2011 | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media

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Chicago Fine Chocolate Show

When: Noon-10 p.m. Nov. 16; 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Nov. 17; 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Nov. 18

Where: Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand, Festival Hall B

Tickets: Starting at $25 for adults, $10 per child


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Updated: December 19, 2012 10:57AM

Those looking for unique holiday gift ideas this season may want to swing by Navy Pier this weekend as the inaugural Chicago Fine Chocolate Show brings chocolatiers from across the globe tothe city.

The celebration of top quality chocolates will feature everything from fudge to brioche, bonbons to hot cocoa, toffee to cream puffs, and beyond.

“You’re not going to be able to buy a candy bar there,” said Jeneane Ally, event director. “When I say fine chocolates, I don’t just mean ‘really good.’ It’s an industry term for artisan chocolates that have no preservatives or additives to help extend the chocolate’s shelf life.”

The event is part chocolate festival and part trade show. Paid admission includes a sampling of chocolate products from more than 50 vendors.

Ally said Chicago was a natural choice to host the Fine Chocolate Show because of the city’s ties to the early days of convection manufacturing. In addition to tasting samples, the event will feature live pastry demonstrations, chocolate-themed educational seminars, a pairings pavilion highlighting fine chocolate alongside craft beer, wine and spirits, and an art gallery.

Ally has been inundated with chocolate since signing on to help coordinate the fair, and she was happy to share a few chocolate-centric gift suggestions for this holiday season.

1. Mayan spice bars: Made with premium, organic chocolate and blend of cinnamon, chipotle, and chili spices for a slight Mesoamerican kick — spicy, but not too hot. Selected as a Top 5 Chocolate at the New York Chocolate Show; $6.75 2. Flying Noir chocolate box (9 pieces): A box filled with handpainted, handformed chocolate pieces created with natural ingredients. The current box’s packaging comes from a partnership with Art Explorers, Inc., a creative arts program serving artists with developmental and other disabilities. The artists utilized natural art supplies created by Flying Noir to create each individual packaging band; $25 www.flyingnoir .net3. Flavors of the Holidays tin box: A beautiful tin box filled with six fine, fresh, and beautiful holiday flavors (think gingerbread, hot chocolate, cranberry, peppermint). Each bright box is topped with a color-coordinated bow and can be used to hold trinkets long after the chocolates have been enjoyed; $13.99 www.stcroixchocola teco.com4. Merry Snow Mama with Snow Babies: Whimsical Snow Mama made of hand-painted, hollow molded milk chocolate — if you can bring yourself to break her open, you’ll find she’s carrying twins, two solid milk chocolate snow babies; $22.50,

5. Liquid chocolates: These aren’t the mass-produced, injection-filled chocolates Americans have been eating for decades. They utilize the European method called the Limoba process to cast the liquid centers. Flavors include amaretto liqueur, Irish cream liqueur, California cabernet sauvignon, raspberry wine, and non-alcoholic classics such as espresso and black cherry; $8.25 (6 pieces), www.liquidch ocolates.com6. Holiday Snowflake Gift: This silver and snowflake box includes 8 oz. of traditional toffee, 8 oz. cookies and cream toffee and four grand tortoises; $24.95,

7. Hot Drinking Chocolate Gift Box: Features a 1 lb. bag of drinking chocolate mix, two 3 oz. chocolate mugs, a petite French whisk and a recipe card. Drinking chocolate mix is a special blend of ground semisweet and bittersweet chocolates that, when whisked hot with milk and cream, becomes a rich liquid chocolate “experience” that puts typical hot chocolate to shame; $29.95,

Chocolate Shop wine: The chocolate lover’s wine, takes the perfect pairing — chocolate and wine — to the next level, marrying fine wine and rich, velvety chocolate, to create an indulgent wine experience like no other; $15,

9. SweetPea Cakes: With two locations in Crystal Lake and Barrington, this bakery creates customized baked goods for every occasion. Be sure to try their chocolaty cupcake flavors: chocolate peanut butter, hot chocolate (chocolate cayenne), white chocolate mocha, chocolate raspberry; $10-$15 (box of 4 cupcakes),

10. ChocoLava: Liquid chocolate line used for toppings, baking or simply squirted into your mouth. There is no need for melting, tempering or hassling with a double-boiler as this product is already in a liquid state. Available in milk, dark, white, peanut butter chocolate, hazelnut chocolate; $4.25 (10 oz.),

Tony A. Solano is a local free-lancer writer.

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