Sunday, May 26, 2013

What Chocolate Fest???

I'm adding my bit to the post Bruce put up yesterday regarding Burlington, Wisconsin's Chocolate Fest:

In one word, yuck.

If it's called Chocolate Fest, why is the carnival part so much larger than the chocolate part, which is supposed to be the main draw?  And why is there so little imagination to the whole thing?

The parking is $5, or if you're intrepid enough to walk two blocks, you can find it for free.  So we walked in along (cough!) a very dusty (cough! cough!) road.  At the ticket booth, we were unpleasantly surprised to find out that the entrance fee was $8 each.  We were given two tiny Nestle Crunch bars, then we walked two more blocks through the noise and chaos of a typical carnival, with the usual garishly lighted rides, blaring music, and hawkers.

We anticipated what we'd see approaching the big white tent housing the chocolate division of the festival.  Entering, we found the place hot (even though it was in the low 60s outside), and very chaotic.  I could hardly see anything because of people crowding the tables set along the edges of the tent.  Someone was yelling countdowns over a loudspeaker, which made conversation impossible.  People from Nestle, a Burlington-based company, were baking tiny cookies, but we had to get our hands stamped and stand in line to get the single-bite goodies.  The flavor was excellent, and they were right out of the oven.  At least Nestle wins points from us for that.

Bruce and I expected to see chocolate comparisons, gourmet chocolates of all sorts (including European), and chocolate experiments going on, but we were disappointed.  There were about 12 tables lining the outside edges of the tent that offered either hand-dipped or hand-made chocolates, but most of what I saw was chocolate-covered popcorn.  One booth had a little chocolate at the front, and several shelves of original-recipe jams.  That's not chocolate.  This is Chocolate Fest.  The countdowns being yelled over the loudspeaker were for a children's chocolate-eating contest, and there was a section where kids could beat on huge chocolate blocks with hand tools.  The only venue for adults to enjoy in that end of the tent was the man carving chocolate blocks into statuary.  That was fun for about a minute.

We discovered that to taste any chocolate in the room, we were expected to buy a $6 Tasting Ticket.  Another $6 on top of the $8 entrance fee, and the $5 parking?  Not on your life!  We didn't even taste the chocolate being offered at one table for fifty cents per one bite in a teeny muffin cup.  We did find other chocolate for sale, but it was bags of Nestle products that we can find in any local market.  Talk about frustration!

At that point, we were so disappointed that we left.  We had our hopes set on buying some really delicious gourmet chocolate to take home, and we exited with nothing but irritation.  Lesson learned.  Until Chocolate Fest expands to fit its name and gets some reasonably-priced samples in their tent, we won't be back.  We may never go back.  We're also telling all our friends about our terrible experience.

On the way home, we stopped at Gooseberries Market, and bought three bars of 60- and 70% non-alkali processed REAL chocolate for less than the price of one Tasting Ticket.  We went home and had our own Chocolate Fest, a much more satisfying one than the event we paid for.

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